Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Grimsthorpe Castle

While the Mid-Atlantic digs itself out of our winter storm I thought I would share some pictures of a  warmer time sent to me by my Penpal Neil from his last trip to Great Britain.
Grimsthorpe Castle is a fascinating place that received a renovation by Sir John Vanbrugh in 1715, which was never completed, as well as gardens designed by Capability Brown in 1771.
The front elevation was renovated to Vanbrugh's baroque design but the sides of the castle were left with their much older facades left intact. It's like having a facelife but leaving your saggy neck alone!
The earliest parts of the castle date to the 12th century!  I'm sure Vanbrugh's extravagant designs were too costly to produce so the 1st Duke made due with a new front facade and entry hall.
Capability Brown was brought on by the 3rd Duke Ancaster to design the parkland around the house and to gracefully lead one into the nearby woodland.
 The front 'yard' is enclosed by gates and beautiful stone walls.
The guardhouses at the very front, seen above, are probably my favorite part. Imagine the views from their roofs!
 Brown designed many garden rooms and planted acres of roses and herbs.
The castle is open to tour a good portion of the year although no interior photography is allowed as the(scandalous) Lady Willoughby de Eresby is still in residence. Read more about planning your visit on their website.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Artisan Lamp - DC lighting sale!

I've blogged about Artisan Lamp many times, an antique lighting store here in DC in the historic Cleveland Park neighborhood. Starting TODAY (January 22, 2016) they're having a store wide sale with substantial discounts on many fixtures.
 I always think lighting (and hardware) are the jewels of any home -now is your chance to get something special affordably!
 These are some of the items from the sale that I've actually had my eye on for some time! Click on the picture to be directed to the online listing.
If you can't brave the snowstorm be sure to check out their website HERE or their 1stDibs page.  Happy shopping and let them know I sent you!
No compensation was received for this post -just sharing a great resource and sale with my readers! Pictures from ArtisanLamp

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Bunny Williams at the Southern Living Design house

I'm a bit late to the party but better late than never! You've already missed your chance to see the Southern Living ideahouse by Rosney Co architects and decorated by Bunny Williams but I hope you'll find this tour inspiring none the less.
The stone house is built in the (very) rolling hills outside of Charlottesville, Virginia, where these type of new "old" farm houses are in their native climate. 

The architects designed a house with a traditional floor-plan where an old house appears to have been added onto over time. I love the flow of this first floor; very open but still distinct spaces. No separate dining room but then again this is a country house for family living; you always have your formal dining room at your place in the city, right? hehe
While the master bedroom is on the first floor to take advantage of a beautiful porch, 3 more bedrooms are located upstairs with an additional guest suite above the garage.
Hands down my favorite room was the 'tavern'; a sort of cozy library space with knotty pine paneling.  I would happy live in this one room! Notice the comfy sofa, fireplace, and bar (hence 'tavern' on the floorplan).
This is where Bunny Williams excels. The showhouse felt very much like a family home;  Art collected during your travels, grandma's chair in the corner, etc.
The bookcases flank the window on the front of the house -instant library.  Never trust a house without books (even show houses).
 I loved the basket holding fire starter and a cozy bench from which to tend the fire.
Everyone lives in their kitchen today: parties gravitate there, families hang out there, so why not make it THE best space in the house.
This kitchen is literally at the very center of the plan, flooded with natural light and views of the entire property so you can't miss out on anything.
Great idea to have these corner cabinets for extra storage where it becomes difficult to seat people anyway (always bumping knees!).
The room is large enough to hold this elegant 'kitchen table'.  The dining area is grounded by a rug and still has the ubiquitous tv hung on the wall nearby.
 Where do all of your extra dishes go in such an open kitchen? In the pantry!  I love that in the pantry which is the only room in the house to lack natural light, it's taken dramatically opposite. It's never going to be light so embrace it and paint it DARK - charcoal in this case.
 A large sunny family room on the back of the house affords the best views, access to the screened porch (a necessity in this part of the world), and another beautiful fireplace.
 Always the problem -how do you hide those HVAC grilles? At least this one is high up enough that you barely notice it above the deep mirror frame.
 This cozy chair by the family room fireplace is the perfect place to curl up with a good book.
The master bedroom, opposite the library (sorry I can't call it a tavern, it's a ridiculous name), feels like a serene sanctuary from the house with its' own porch and fireplace.
The breezeway between the pantry and garage is the actual front door which anyone would naturally use. The bench is  a good idea - take off those muddy boots, set down your bag to find your keys, etc.
The 2 rocking chairs remind me of that Jerome Kern song I love 'the folks who live on the hill'.
That long bank of windows above to the right of the breezeway are above the kitchen sink,  with the library located to the far right.
 Not a bad looking house really - no?
A house like this is made for outdoor living and this one has plenty of entertaining areas for all types of weather.
 And you can't beat those views.
 Upstairs are 3 bedrooms off a cozy den.
 Each of the 3 bears has their room to choose.
 Notice a lot of Bunny William's furniture collection in the house, like her elegant 'star chair' above.
 I loved this charming art, a box of crayons was painted onto an antique (looking) metal ceiling tile.
The bunk room is a great space for kids - lots of play area, 2 built-in beds, and a desk for homework.
You've missed your chance to visit the idea house (I saw it before my recent visit to Monticello) but you can still read all about it, and Bundoran Farms, on their website HERE.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Thomas Jefferson's Monticello


One of the many great things about living in Washington is the proximity to so much of our nation's history. Last weekend, during unprecedented warm December weather, I took a day trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, home to our third president Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson was a renaissance man and one of his many hobbies was architecture.  He designed his own home, Monticello, over the course of many years and spent his retirement between here and nearby Poplar Forest, his country house he also designed (see my post of Poplar Forest from my visit there in 2009 HERE). 

Jefferson was a man of many extraordinary ideas; one of which was building this classically Palladian structure on top of a country mountain overlooking Charlottesville. Interesting to note that his baby, the University of Virginia, is visible from the house down the mountain. Building here was not practical at the time (and even today). How did one get water to the top of such a tall hill in 1800? Everything had to come up and down the very steep mountain in all sorts of weather; It was worth it for the view! 

One arrives at the north side of the house and into a deep entry porch which features both a clock (the chimes of which could be heard throughout his working farm) and the information from a roof mounted weather vane in the ceiling (seen above).  Notice the clock isn't perfectly centered over the door!
As it is the holiday season simple & natural Christmas decorations are to be found tastefully throughout the house. I loved these wreaths featuring natural decoration; apples, pine cones, dried flowers and the like. 

While a large house it is by no means a mansion; Generations of Jefferson's family lived here in his time and shared 2 privy's found on either side of the house. 

Jefferson's personal accommodations were much more spacious than that of the rest of his family, including this conservatory above off his office.

The iconic rear facade has been featured on the back of the 'Jefferson' nickel since 1938 when it replaced the buffalo nickel. 

As you can see we could not have asked for nicer weather, particularly in mid December: 72 degrees F and sunny!

The rear yard reminds me of his design for the University of Virginia Mall, with dependency buildings linked through walkways covering service spaces. 

This unique sundial below features ears of corn, this is a farm afterall! 
The passageway seen below goes underneath the house to provide access to the lower levels. It also has the advantage of  keeping servants (who were slaves at Jefferson's time) out of the eye-site of the house and to provide protection from the weather.
Underneath the walkways seen at the rear of the house are the other service spaces; kitchens, storerooms, etc; Everything necessary to keep an estate house in running order.
Just below the house are a number of other service buildings including the iconic pavilion with beautiful mountaintop views located on the edge of the mountain top vegetable garden.
Now with electric waterpumps it's much easier to achieve a house with such views but at the time it was a burden!

These western views are stunning at sundown. 
No doors, just large triple hung windows. The bottom 2 sashes move up into the wall to allow access into the room.
 Chairs of the type that were common at Jefferson's time reside in the space.
 Many of the out buildings from Jefferson's time have been torn down or lost over the years but the foundation has plans to restore them all.
You can't beat the classical architecture nor the mountain top views! Be sure to drop in for a tour of Monticello if you are in the mid-Atlantic region. Charming Charlottesville offers great shopping and restaurants as well for a weekend getaway.