December 28, 2012

 It's looming...... large
How do you feel about New Years Eve? Sad for the passing of another year or thrilled at what lies beyond? I am both.
Time marches on and I think of those who went before us every time I hear 'Auld Lang Syne'. Being a romantic for history and having a respect for tradition I was wondering about the origins as I prepare to host a New Years Eve celebration this year. Then I came across a post from a friend, Brion Judge of 'Bastion and Lark'
Nothing I could write would be as sumptuous as Brian's. Brimming with tales of Scotland, the origins of Auld Lang Syne, the wind torn views of the Highlands and bagpipes, need there be more? Oh yes, one more next post will be a "visit" to Scotland and their hauntingly beautiful country houses, via a newly published book, for one of you to take home. Until then treat your senses........

As I close, I wish to extend a profound thank you to the readers of this blog for visiting, my friends at home and friends made here, my treasured clients and my family (well, make that my Mother). Wishing everyone blessings of joy, peace and harmony in the new year!
With gratitude,

December 16, 2012

Our Christmas Showhouse

Whew, where has time gone!
How are you doing with your holiday plans? Decorated, gifts bought, parties planned? Hope you are finally able to sit back and enjoy this magical season with loved ones. As I write this I also hope there are very few out there like me.........still wondering what to buy, resigned that once again I will not get Christmas cards out, etc., etc...... B U T, my clients are happy and that is what matters! 
My primary store, Scentimental Gardens, is located in the quaint, historic town of Geneva, Illinois. We are honored annually to participate in the Christmas House Walk; five homes in their finest holiday dress. People flew in, as far as Texas this year. We heard this home had a 1-2 hour wait most of the time. All then converge at night to walk the business district brilliantly lit, that takes one back to an  old fashioned Christmas era
This particular home is very close to my heart. Over time we designed the landscape and then the interiors, and with a dream of a family. Any of you in design know the value of such a treasured relationship.

The hanging baskets filled with summer ferns were saved and filled with winter greens and battery operated lights. The vintage Santa is from the clients Grandmother. Oddly enough our shop manager, Robyn, had purchased this identical Santa for the walk, never imagining the homeowner possessed the same version, they are at least 50 years old. Anyone want a Santa? 
While waiting in line one could see the cottage this Father built for his children

Let's go in!
An unused staircase was festooned with greens, garland and a new version of flameless candles. Have you seen these? New to the market these candles have an actual moving, visible "flame". In the shop people are stopped in their tracks then hesitantly run their hands high above the "flame", they are that lifelike! My sick sided sense of humor loves to put these in wood cabinets and watch men in particular gasp :-)
This 1860's home boasts two parlors. We opted for a more contemporary look in the first with a nice mix of new and old. The fabric on this antique settee is from the  Kravet 'Couture' line. The rug is Dash and Albert
The owners purchased from us the two French wine barrels and in this case to house the trees. I took the trees and opened them up, that is instead of a thick tree, cutting many branches away to make them more architectural in appearance, to see the wall behind them and to house the lanterns shown below, glowing from battery votives. The string of lights was strung up the stem and artichokes in a cool green/grey splayed from the top
Looking original to the home, I had found this aged sconce that once graced an antebellum home in Louisiana
For a small space; Louis Phillipe styled acrylic chairs work perfectly

Let's head towards the second parlor
Italianate fireplaces, floor to ceiling windows and all the furniture in these two rooms were reupholstered.
The client made this gorgeous mirror from panels originally gracing a carousel in France
For the weekend we brought in the pair of pedestaled urns and the faux boxwood topiaries and love the effect! My husband's back is feeling the effort
The same Dash and Albert rug pattern in a differing but complimentary color way.
Reupholstered in faux ostrich
Just months ago this cozy dining room had colonial blue walls. Robyn picked out with the clients, while I was in England, the orange grass cloth wallpaper. Don't you love it?
Above each window is a lead valance from France

The four garland strands was attached to the chandelier and then swaged to each corner
Robyn's arrangements of birch and glitter sticks in trophies with greens and the flameless pillar candles
Onwards to the kitchen
As you make your way to the kitchen your eyes are immediately drawn to this castle hand crafted by Chef Alain Roby of Geneva's renown 'All Chocolate Kitchen'
Chef Roby and his wife Esther are treasured friends, he from France, she from Italy
Everything they touch/create is magical. This year's event had them hosting a 50' candy cane pull in the closed down main street. Guinness was there to award this a world record

Our clients found this beautiful prayer. Our in-house artist, Stephania, painted this, the owner created the frame. Have something, anything you want duplicated? Contact me, she refers to herself as a "human copy machine!"
Now the family room where the Ralph Lauren/equestrian theme really takes hold. 
The lamps are vintage, the console is concrete, the armoire was made by the homeowner
Living in an equestrian village, many of my friends had the authentic I do not ride, too busy!

From another vantage point. The client made the planter box from old floor boards, all the wainscoting, coffered ceilings............not his profession but his hobby.
and this entire fireplace surround. See what I mean? This family is a dream to collaborate with!
As we depart through the rear foyer there are many bits I would love to bring to your attention;
-The client crafted the wooden console facing us
-Again, the client added all of the molding shown here
-The plaid on the other console is Ralph Lauren
-I love a gloss finish on ceilings, it reflects the glow of the lighting so beautifully. Additionally a dark ceiling warms a room
-My favorite are the walls, see a close-up below. My friend, Patrick Roullier of Chicago is a master decorative artist. See a previous post on Patrick here. Other than the molding, what appears to be wood paneling is instead hand painted drywall!!! Every knot, every all Patrick. You want to touch it as your eyes are being deceived!

Out the door is my "new" 1935 Ford truck, perfect in British green for the holidays. It remains elusive to me, the double clutch system that is as I continue to violently stop and start on back roads.....sigh....Anyways, it was fun to decorate, complete with a lit tree in the open back

Yes dear pooch, we are done and out of your hair, come back in!

With 10 days to Christmas, panic is setting in and I did exaggerate, I do have one gift and it is for one of you, next post.  Thank you for visiting!

If we can assist with design, interiors and exterior, just email me, we would love to assist

December 2, 2012

A Birch wood Christmas

Let's think about a rustic take on Christmas, birch in particular, and all it's uses
What a prominent landscape tree, particularly in winter. It's logs, skins and overall look contribute mightily to a holiday decorating scheme
While guiding my tour group through a stunning private garden once, in the Cotswolds, England, we turned a bend and came upon a glistening spread of birch. Shockingly white I asked our hostess how the birch stand remained so white. "My maid fairies them weekly", she replied flippantly without losing stride. 
Not wanting to be visibly ignorant I just nodded. Later i discovered that 'Fairy' was a widely used dish detergent. THIS WOMAN HAD HER STAFF WASH THE BIRCH TREES WEEKLY!

I digress..........

A stand of ready to use logs fires my imagination.
Even the skins hold promise. Prior to wholesale purchasing capabilities, I would go to firewood lots and pick up the skins of birch fallen to the pavement, no one ever minded

Here we are looking down on one of my containers. The birch used is a skin, held in place with boughs inside that are penetrating the soil beneath.

In home decor.......... Can you locate the birch?

The obvious siting is the fireplace

For this post's research I found fascinating the story of burning the decorated yule log.
Traditionally the log was signed by all guests and family entertained over the holiday season. Only the whitest and smoothest was chosen. On Christmas Eve the log was burned with the family's collective sins, trespasses and negative experiences. The ashes were spread where new crops were to sprout the following spring in the spirit of reconciliation and renewal.

Source: via Jennifer on Pinterest

Materials used in order; birch, nandina, yew, magnolia, seeded eucalyptus and cedar

This and the following winter containers are very popular on pinterest. In case you are not a follower
(how could that be?!), feast your eyes on these gorgeous outdoor containers

Birch logs, grapevine ball, balsam, magnolia, seeded eucalyptus and long needle pine.

Source: via Anne on Pinterest

Some of my examples; Here we have two side by side extra large wooden planters. Each interior hosts two plastic pots filled with soil. The space between the two pots nicely houses an upright log

Here we followed a clients request for a rustic look with birch, cones and burlap. Two logs of differing heights are buried deeply within the soil and a strip of burlap was centered and secured with cones. Add a supporting cast of greens and faux holly berries.

Wishing all of you a lovely week of decorating, friends and family, parties & shopping!

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