Sunday, March 29, 2015

Fireplace Pre-Reveal- The Inspiration Tour

In preparation for the reveal of our fireplace project in our family room, I wanted to share fireplace ideas and inspirations that influenced how we designed and executed our fireplace renovation (hopefully to be shared in a post next week).  I've included the source links to the original website location for each image for those that are interested in taking a tour of beautiful, breathtaking fireplaces, not to mention the interesting history of fireplace styles and design.

I never get tired of looking at the over-the-top, elaborate fireplaces found in the European palaces and estates as well as historical American homes.    These things were grand, architectural statements that not only reflected the design aesthetics of the period, whether it be Baroque, Rococo, Federal, Georgian, Art Deco, or any number of other styles, but were also intended as a symbol of the home owner's wealth and place in society.  

While our updated fireplace is no where near as grand and elaborate as the fireplaces in the next few photos, I'm showing them because (a) they are gorgeous works of art and (b) many of the features and details and overall proportions are still used in the design of modern-day fireplaces, albeit in a much simpler and more informal manner.

The detail and ornamentation in this Victorian fireplace is amazing.


The form and proportions of Federal fireplace mantels and surrounds have become the standard starting point for the design of many traditional fireplaces today.  


I find that I prefer Georgian and Federal fireplaces that use a lighter touch when it comes to the way classical forms and design motifs were handled-- including woodwork that was painted white or some other light color.


Most fireplaces in humbler early American homes were simple and utilitarian.  


Like their European counterparts, the fireplaces in the homes of wealthy early American landowners were more elaborate statement pieces. I couldn't verify it in a quick Internet search, but the man in the photo painting below certainly looks to me like George Washington. If it is him, this view of him sitting in an attitude of repose and reflection in front of his fireplace is a nice change from the usual depiction of the Father of Our Country-- where he is typically shown stalwartly crossing the Potomac or standing masterfully besides his eagerly pawing warhorse, resolutely looking off into the distance.  


Since the decor in my house is a casual mix of 
French Country, English Country, and eclectic-whatever-catches-my eye, I rounded up a couple of photos of fireplaces that fit into this theme and that I found especially appealing.  




Source: pinterest

However, as lovely as the fireplaces in the previous photos are, these styles are too grand and formal (and in a few cases, too feminine) for our family room. In deference to my husband, I have done my best to restrain myself and avoid an overload of more feminine French Country elements in our family room. 

Arts and Crafts fireplaces are more in keeping with the casual, informal look of our home and the style of our family room.  This is a style that is simpler, and often more masculine in its details, but with enough pretty, elegant details to satisfy me and work well with the molding and wainscoting we have added to the rest of our house.



Using stone was another consideration in the design of our updated fireplace.  My husband has long wanted to try his hand at stone masonry, especially in the context of renovating our fireplace.  Not a problem with me, since I have long wanted to try my hand at combining the rough, rustic elements of stone with the finer, more refined look of painted woodwork, which was, after all, necessary, since, as I note above, we had already installed a lot of painted white molding and millwork throughout our house.  The next few photos are great examples of how this combination of the fine with the rough has been successfully accomplished.



This fireplace shown below was the inspiration for the type of stone we chose as well as the application method. 


After completing our staircase-renovation project, I have had wall niches on my mind quite a lot because I love the way the little bookcase/wall niche turned out on the stairs (click here to see how that project turned out).  Wall niches add an extra dimension and depth to the architectural details and elements of a home, and of course, provide additional display area (I'm always in favor of that).  Our fireplace-update project was my chance to do it again.   



Since our fireplace is located in a corner, I was interested in examples of how other people handled this type of placement.


I also liked the idea of a simple 'shelf' mantle as opposed to a chunkier mantle made up of layers of moulding pieces ('shelf' mantles are also another common design element seen in Arts and Crafts fireplaces).  




There is no shortage of examples of how people decorate their mantles and I've only included a very few here.




Thanks for visiting and stay tuned for our fireplace reveal!

Linking to...
Best of the Weekend 97 at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes
Wow Us Wednesdays #215 at Savvy Southern Style
Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life
Share Your Style at No Minimalist Here
Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Creating a Pretty Blue and White Breakfast Tablescape

In our home, breakfast on the weekends is never a formal, sit-down affair; in fact most of the time my husband and I are parked in front of the TV (me still in my pajamas) with our coffee and cereal.  Very casual and easy and relaxing.  With my mom here for a visit, I thought I would dial it up just a bit and set a pretty breakfast table with some of my blue and white dishes, many of which were once hers.  I wanted to make it more of an occasion to be enjoyed and lingered over, but still keep it casual and easy, in line with our weekend breakfast tradition.   

My formula for a quick and easy sit-down breakfast is to use what I have on hand in terms of dishes, serving ware, napkins...

and roses from my garden.....

.....along with simple breakfast fare such as granola and fruit.  Taking this approach makes it easy to throw together something that feels special with a minimum amount of fuss and effort. 

Tablescapes that are lovely to the eye and a joy to experience are ones that engage most if not all the senses.  Flowers and food contribute as much to the pretty effect of the design as do the dishes and other decorative elements.  

The vibrant reds of the berries....

.....contrast beautifully with the blue and white bowls and dishes, as well as the fresh greens of the floral arrangements and grapes.

I've heard the advice many times to use non-scented flowers and candles at meals, but I can't say that I have ever found that the scent of flowers (or candles) detracts in any way from my enjoyment of a meal.  

In this case, the gorgeous scent of the Evelyn roses, stock, and jasmine only complemented our breakfast meal.

The only food preparation required was for the brown soda bread, which I had made previously (click here for my post on brown soda bread and the recipe). This is a very quick, easy bread to make since it isn't a yeast bread.  However, there are plenty of good breakfast-type breads and pastries available in grocery stores if you don't want to be bothered with any cooking at all.

My favorite store-bought jam is 'Bonne Maman', which comes in a jar pretty enough to fit right in with my table design.  All it needed was a pretty silver spoon, a pretty plate, a few luscious berries, and it was ready to go.

Much of my blue and white pieces were given to me by my mom, who loves blue and white plates.  These blue Furnival Denmark dishes are actually her dishes that she gave to me when she downsized and sold her house.   

The blue Furnival covered vegetable dish I bought as a gift for my mom during a long-ago trip to England-- something for her to add to her collection at the time.  I ended up inheriting this piece as well when she downsized.  The pretty floral pattern on these plates is simple and uncomplicated; perfect for a casual breakfast.

...and mixes well with other blue and white patterns.

Thanks for stopping by!

Linking up with the following:

Best of the Weekend Party at Little Miss Celebration
The Scoop #163 at Stone Gable Blog
Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life
Wow Us Wednesdays #214 at Savvy Southern Style
Share Your Style #6 at No Minimalist Here
Tweak It Tuesday #134 at Cozy Little House
That DIY Party at DIY Show Off
Your Turn to Shine Link Party #24 at Anderson + Grant
Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage
Idea Box -Thursday Link Party #3 at Mila's Little Things
Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home
Tablescape Thursday at BNOTP

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Irish Brown Soda Bread

'If you're enough lucky to be Irish..... You're lucky enough!'

'May you have the hindsight to know where you've been, the foresight to know where you are going, and the insight to know when you have gone too far.'

'May you have food and raiment, a soft pillow for your head. May you be forty years in heaven before the devil knows you’re dead.'

The Irish are certainly never at a loss for words and have no shortage of sayings and proverbs that are apt, colorful, and often spot-on with regards to how one should proceed through life (visit this website for more Irish sayings and proverbs).  

With my mom visiting, and since we are both part Irish, I thought I would celebrate St. Patrick's Day by making brown soda bread for breakfast this weekend.  

I love this recipe, which I adapted from a recipe in an old Crabtree & Evyline cookbook, and certainly don't limit myself to only making it around St. Patrick's Day.    

This is a rustic-looking bread with a sturdy, craggy, crust.....

 ......yet inside, its got a soft, crumbly, almost biscuit-like texture.

This is especially delicious toasted (I like the slices cut extra thick), with lots of butter and good jam.  

If you are a peanut butter fiend like me, this bread makes an excellent lunch or dinner-time meal, toasted and spread with peanut butter (and butter, good bread must always have a generous lick of butter). No peanut butter shown here; it doesn't look as pretty with my blue and white plates as the strawberry jam does.

This is a very quick and easy bread to make; no need to go through a long, tedious, bread-making process that requires multiple stages of kneeding, resting, and letting it rise.  This particular soda bread is made with white and wheat flour, buttermilk, butter, soda and baking powder.....

.......and currents to give it a little fruity zing.  

You mix it all together and use your hands to form the dough into an informal round.  Cut a little cross in the top with a knife, put it on a no-stick cookie sheet, bake it for an hour, and then out it comes, yummy and ready to be eaten.  You can eat it hot right out of the oven or keep it (wrapped in plastic) for a few days and eat it either cold or toasted.

Leaving you with one more bit of Irish philosophy from one of my favorite playwrights.

'A life making mistakes is not only more honourable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing at all.' --George Barnard Shaw

*Note: St. Patrick's Day graphic courtesy of The Graphics Fairy.

Linking to:

The Bouquet of Talent #132 at Life on Lakeshore Drive
Foodie Friday and Everything Else at Rattlebridge Farm
Best of the Weekend Party at Little Miss Celebration
The Scoop #162 at Cedar Hill Farmhouse
Inspire Me Tuesday at A Stroll Thru Life
What We Accomplished #74 at Green Willow Pond
Wow Us Wednesdays #213 at Savvy Southern Style
Share Your Style #5 at No Minimalist Here
Feathered Nest Friday at French Country Cottage