Thursday, June 30, 2011


It has been several years since I visited England (I try to go every other year, but this year has been too busy), so instead of a real life visit, I am contenting myself with virtual visits through books and the internet.

One place that has always intrigued me is Highgrove House, the family home of the Prince of Wales since 1980.  The house was built in 1798, and over the years passed through ownership of various families.  

This is the earliest picture of Highgrove that I could find from the 'Prince Charles era'.  When Prince Charles purchased the house in 1980, it increased speculation that he was preparing to settle down (and indeed, his marriage to Diana took place in February of 1981). Based on the aerial photograph of Highgrove, it appears that only one side has a driveway entrance - note the design of the facade of the house, with its limestone portico.  (image source)

According to Wikipedia, Prince Charles embellished the plain exterior of the building in the late 1980s by adding a new balustrade, pediment, and classical pilasters of Prince Charles' own design. I am guessing that this image (showing Prince William and Prince Harry at least a decade older) was after the front of the house was transformed.  The new pediment makes the three levels of the house relate to one another, and the front door seems more approachable and friendly.  The addition of the greenery also softens the look of the house.  (image source)

Another view from the same vantage point.  I really like the design of the double front doors and the overlight with an interesting pattern.  I wonder why the one window above the front door has shutters, when the other windows do not?

Prince Charles is an avid gardener, and the grounds of Highgrove have provided endless inspiration for him (it is reputed that he has spent more than £500,000 on the gardens).  Several books have been written on the gardens of Highgrove (which include a wild garden, a formal garden, and a kitchen garden), including the Gardens of Highgrove (click here) and Organic Gardening (click here).  There is also a book on the Highgrove Estate.  

The wild garden area changes appearance all year long. Image source

Oak pavilion in the gardens.  Note the chimney pots and urns on the balustrade. (image source)

The flickr account for the British Monarchy has some beautiful informal pictures from Highgrove.

An allee of trees leads to the side view of the house. Image via

A better view of the gate at the end of the vista. Image via

An interesting dovecote or gardening shed.  Image via

When researching this post, I came across an intricate chocolate replica of Highgrove.  Click here to read article.

For more English country house inspiration, I highly recommend the book The English Country House, by Mary Miers.  The book is my favorite coffee table book at the moment (taking a place of honor in the living room), but it is also a wonderful read full of the stories of quite a few remarkable houses in England.  Click here to view or order on Amazon.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

An author’s house

In May of 2010, Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles featured a small article on Atlanta based author Emily Giffin, timed to promote her latest novel, Heart of the Matter.   I am a fan of Emily’s books (including two of my favorites, Something Borrowed and Something Blue), and have met her on a few occasions as our children attend the same school.  When reading the article, I remember being quite intrigued with a glimpse of what appeared to be Emily's house.

The article was primarily about Emily and her new novel, not about Emily’s house, so there was only one picture to study.  One of my favorite designers, Beth Webb, was responsible for the interiors, and the image provided a tantalizing peek into one of her projects.  The art on the window is quite avant-garde, and the small glimpse of the decor looked intriguing. It left me wishing I could see more of the house (as well is piquing my interest in Emily’s book!).

A few months ago, I heard some real estate buzz that Emily and her family had purchased a house in Buckhead, so I checked on the real estate listings to see whether her old house was listed – and it was.  For a house aficionado like me, it is incredibly gratifying to be able to see inside a house that I have been curious about, and seeing the interiors of Emily’s house on the MLS was like hitting the jackpot of real estate listings.  It is a beautiful and gracious house, and the decor is casually elegant and quite inspirational.  I wasn’t planning a post about the house (respecting Emily’s privacy), however, given that the Wall Street Journal featured her house last week,  and Emily is discussing the selling process on her Facebook page, I thought it would make an interesting tour!

The house is located in Brookhaven, one of the most charming residential areas in Atlanta.  The style is traditional and beautifully symmetrical, and has one of my favorite features on a home, a porte cochere (a porch like structure on the side entrance of a house).  My new house has a porte cochere, and I anticipate parking there most of the time!

A view from the front door through to the back of the house – the Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles picture was taken in the room that can be seen in the distance.  I always like having an axial view from the front of the house through to the back, so this floorplan is quite pleasing to me.

A closer view of the living room.  Perhaps the art was taken off the window for the real estate photos, but I must admit that I prefer the window unobstructed (I also appreciate the urn that can be seen in the garden at the end of the view).  I love the new orange lampshades, which beautifully reflect the colors in the paintings on the wall.  The painting on the right appears to be by Jean Glenn, one of my favorite artists.  I have been keeping my eye on her work, waiting for the perfect piece for the new house.

A clean lined white kitchen, with great looking light fixtures, is a defined space yet also connected to the family room.

The family room has a lot of architectural character, with its detailed fireplace surround and coffered ceiling.  Note how the opening of the built-in to the right of the fireplace reflects the shape of the door to the left of the fireplace.  The family room opens up to the covered patio through double doors, creating a pleasing indoor-outdoor feel to the space.

A different view of the same space. I really like those chairs flanking the fireplace – the curve of the arms is beautiful.

I always love a blue bedroom (my own bedroom has been various shades of blue for 15 years), and I find this bedroom to be particularly attractive.  The bedside tables are pretty – anyone recognize them?  I also love how the triple window was handled, with the roman shades that are outlined with a contrasting color – this is exactly what I have in mind for the triple windows that are in my oldest daughter’s new bedroom. 

I first saw this picture soon after I wrote my post on childhood bedrooms, and thought that it was the perfect balance of the sweetness and simplicity that are ideal in a child’s room, with elements that will carry through as the child grows. The bedding appears to be Serena & Lily, and the art above the bed is by another favorite artist of mine, Christy Kinard.  I love that Emily has incorporated such wonderful art into her daughter’s bedroom. 

This charming bedroom belongs to Emily’s twin sons. 

The property features a guest house, and I suspect that this might be a bedroom in the guest house, although I am not certain.  It is a soothing and tranquil space for a guest wherever it is located!

The yard is largely hardscape, and is quite striking.  It reminds me of the yards that are often found in Georgetown, and as Emily notes on her FB page, it really reduces the amount of mowing that must be done!

This perspective of the house emphasizes the courtyard feel of the back, and the ‘L’ shape of the house.

I hope you enjoyed this tour – I certainly loved getting a view into this great house, and often find real estate listings to be more gratifying to study than magazine features; a more complete inside and outside perspective of a house can be gained. 

Interested?  The realtor representing the house is Sam Bayne, and can be reached through his web site

Visit author Emily Giffin’s website at

Beth Webb Interiors can be found here:

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

One of my favorite things

There are certain furniture pieces that really resonate with me.  When I saw the Tribeca chair by Jean De Merry (represented by the R. Hughes Showroom in Atlanta) on the Ragland Hill Social blog, I was smitten.   It is sculptural and sophisticated, and the low slung style makes it very versatile.

With the busyness of the past year, I had somewhat forgotten about this chair until Ryan Hughes posted this link on Facebook - a feature in Apartment Therapy on Jean De Merry's ten years in furniture design.  (Click here to see article).  

Ten tastemakers were invited to put their own spin on a piece from Jean De Merry's line, and artist Joel Morrison selected my favorite chair as his source for inspiration.

Tribeca chair
Tribeca medium tufted
Tribeca deep tufted

When looking through the Jean De Merry website, I noticed that the Tribeca chair comes in three different looks - no tufting, medium tufting, and deep tufting. Which look do you prefer?

For more information on Jean De Merry, please visit the website:
To see Jean De Merry in Atlanta, visit the R. Hughes showroom:

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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Cork floors

When I visited a magnificent James Means designed home last fall,  in preparation for writing up the home profiles for the Cathedral Tour of Homes, I was quite taken with the cork floors that were in the laundry room.  I had never seen cork floors, and I thought they were unique and beautiful.  The owners of the home selected them for their antibacterial quality, their ‘green’ character, and the softness and sound dampening quality that they provide.

When looking into a floor for the craft room, I kept thinking about cork.  It is a flooring surface that has been used for over 100 years, and is considered very green because it does not require the cork tree to be cut; cork is the outer material of the tree.  The quiet and soft feel of the cork, with its sound dampening qualities, is perfect for the space.  Cork has a consistent and springy texture, a great middle ground for a space that will partially be used for crafts, partially for playing.  The cork has a natural shock absorbing quality, which means that vibrations and noise will be absorbed effectively.  Cork is naturally moisture, mold, and insect repellant, and does not off gas.

Although cork is more expensive than other flooring options, I found a reasonable source at a local flooring retailer, and a full color spectrum including a lighter option that will work perfectly in the space.   According to the sales rep, cork has a very good ‘memory’ and wears very well – as well as hardwood floors.

One cork floor supplier that I found online has a wide variety of colors, and the cork tiles come in a variety of shapes and sizes, allowing for many design possibilities.  Source:  Alas, I am on a strict budget (and this is a simple space), so I am looking at standard 12”x36” planks.

Given that cork can be cut in an infinite variety of shapes, there are many interesting patterns seen on the internet. 

Cork tiles in a diamond pattern.

It seems that the pattern options are unlimited! Another cork floor using contrasting colors and shapes.

Cork planks in a casual dining area – the size and shape of these planks resemble a wood floor.

A cork floor pictured in a loft like art studio. Many cork plank or tile products already have a protective sealer on them, but additional layers of a sealer can be added to protect the cork or give the floor different levels of sheen. 

Light colored cork used in an exercise room.  A designer friend of mine said that he recently installed cork as the flooring in the basement of a beautiful home he just worked on, and said it looks and feels wonderful.

There are quite a few pictures of cork floors in kitchens, interestingly enough. The shock absorbing quality of cork apparently makes it a very comfortable surface to stand on for long stretches of time.

I am leaning towards getting a light bleached looking cork for the space (I prefer it over the standard honey brown).  Details are being worked on today – no final decisions have been made.  Cork definitely has a more contemporary look than other floor options, but since this room is on its own, I am intrigued with the thought of using it – it won’t define the decor of the home, after all, like the floors in the public areas of the house.  I would be very interested to hear any comments or feedback on those of you who have ever installed or experienced a cork floor.

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Saturday, June 4, 2011

Beautiful bedroom, and an inspirational design firm

Now that many of the big decisions on the house are behind me (although not all…still working on cabinet hardware), I am once again turning to the beautiful and inspirational interiors that originally inspired me to begin this blog.  When looking through my flickr files of bedroom pictures for headboard ideas for one of my daughters, I came across this lovely bedroom.  There is something about this room that really speaks to me.  It reminds me of a painting, with the splashes of chartreuse expertly woven through the room. It makes me wonder which element was chosen first – which item inspired the color scheme of the room? My guess is the rug.  The color is repeated in the curtains, the pillows on the bed, the monogram on the headboard, the art on the wall, and even in the stems of the lilies that are placed on the bedside table.  Clearly there is a trained, experienced, and artistic eye behind the design.

My notes indicated that Birmingham based Caldwell Flake Interiors created this room, so I decided to check out their website.  What I found was a visual treat – dozens of beautifully photographed, incredible interiors that embody the ‘new traditional’ look that I have come to love so much – traditional elements, mixed with transitional elements, carefully thought out details, clean lines and a neutral palette occasionally punctuated with bursts of color and pattern. 

Here is a small sampling of my favorite pictures from the Caldwell Flake portfolio:

I love that round table, and the mercury glass balls on the table are fantastic.  What keeps those balls from rolling off the table, I wonder?

The composition of this room is amazing – again, it reminds me of a piece of art, with the perfect balance of scale and proportion, lights and darks.

Although I don’t tend to be a color and pattern person, this bedroom scene caught my eye. I love how the headboard appears to use picture frame molding to border the fabric.

One of my favorite furniture arrangements in a living room – two sofas facing each other, centered on a fireplace.  This is an elegant space, yet the furniture pieces have a relaxed element to them.

To see more of this incredible design firm’s work, please visit the Caldwell Flake website:

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Friday, June 3, 2011

Painted wood floors

For more inspiration, please visit

In the new house, there is an extra space that ended up framing out quite nicely, so we have designated it ‘the craft room’.  We are finishing this space at a very basic level, and as such we were planning on using vinyl tiles on the floor. In a play on the 16”x16” limestone diamond pattern in the entry, we were planning on making the tiles tone on tone contrast in a similar pattern.

I have been looking for vinyl tiles over the past week, and have not been too thrilled with what I have found. I wanted a simple solid color, but what seems to be prevalent in the big box stores are vinyl tiles that are trying to emulate the look of stone. I am not opposed to that look, but it is not the look I have in mind for the space.  I am also having a hard time finding 16”x16” or 18”x18” size; most of the vinyl tiles I have seen are 12”x12”.  If I go the vinyl tile route, I might group four tiles of the same color to give the look of a 24”x24”.
When I visited my friend (and artist) Nancy Westfall a few weeks ago to look at a painting that was a prospect for the new house, she showed me the room that she had just redesigned for her 10 year old daughter.   A central design component of the room is the painted wood floor, which she created as a way to give the room personality and character without using an area rug (as her daughter has allergies and doesn’t do well with rugs).  Nancy did the project herself (she is an artist after all) using white floor paint and a stencil to create the pattern.  The light fixture is from Worlds Away.  The stencil came from Sunny's Good Time Paints (

I found this to be very inspirational, and thought it might be a good option for the craft room floor. As part of my research, I uncovered some beautiful pictures of painted wood floors. Painting wood floors is a centuries old tradition that was often employed in Colonial Days when carpets and rugs were luxuries that were simply not available to the average person.  Painting the floor allowed for an artistic design element that was not possible in any other way.

Elle Decor has an entire article on painted wood floors, noting that they were a standard in home decor by the late 1700s, and are now experiencing a resurgence in popularity.  This beautiful painted wood floor in an entry makes quite a design statement. Interiors by Suzanne Rheinstein.

Surprisingly, when looking through images of painted floors, there were a fair number of kitchens with this treatment.  Design by Gil Schafer.

Painted floors lend themselves to vibrant color selections, and the casual nature of a craft room would enable a bold choice that I would probably not choose to do in a public room.

When searching for painted floor inspiration, this picture that I featured on my blog a few months ago came up – a beautiful kitchen by Jackye Lanham.  Although I love the thought of a bold color for the floor, the tone of tone, soft contrast of the diamond pattern on this floor is what I originally had in mind for the craft room floor.

A painted wood floor in a  room designed by Phoebe Howard also has the soft contrast diamond pattern.

Here is a good middle ground: a classic diamond pattern, but use of green to contrast with the white. Source:

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This Brooklyn apartment, featured on apartment therapy (and also in Domino Magazine) Source, provides a lot of painted floor inspiration:  I love how they played with the natural pattern of the parquet floor to design the pattern. I also really like the solid edge of green used in the space.

This painted floor in a house with interiors by Nate Berkus connects the entire space together.  I love the pattern and colors that were selected.

Gracie Mansion, the official residents of the mayor of New York City, has painted wood floors that create the look of a marble foyer.  Source.

This Old House has a great tutorial on creating a diamond pattern when painting a wood floor:,,20312013,00.html

Another inspirational painted wood floor project – the before and after pictures are amazing to see.  The homeowner ripped up 5 layers of flooring and finally got to the original wood floors, and transformed them by painting a fun pattern with a foam core stencil that she designed.

Alas, any option that involves newly installing and finishing wood floors (and not resuscitating an old wood floor) is above my budget – even using the cheapest wood floor possible.  I am actually looking at commercial vinyl tile options for the simplicity, practicality, and budget friendly nature of the product – more to come later after I do my research!

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