"Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.”
_ William Morris
, 19th century craftsman, designer, writer

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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Haunted Designer Showcase: Greystone Mansion

This weekend, the legendary Greystone Mansion of Beverly Hills will open its gates and welcome visitors to the Annual Greystone Mansion Designer Showcase House (Nov.2-24) --and more than 25 of Southern California's top designers will display interiors that promise to inspire, delight and amaze -- the estate's secrets, mysteries, and ghosts, however, may not reveal themselves as easily. If only these thick, limestone walls could talk.

You see, according to local lore, the stunning 56,000 square foot Tudor estate built in the late 1920's by oil tycoon, Edward L. Doheny, for his rakishly handsome son, E.L. "Ned" Doheny, Jr., is haunted.

On her blog, Walking With Dead People, Mary-Beth Brophy says witnesses have seen a ghost of a man wearing a black suit and a porkpie hat on Greystone's dramatic, main staircase, "while others claim to have seen phantom butlers and cooks". 

It is the spirit of a woman, however, who Brophy says is most often seen lingering in the lonely halls, accompanied by the unmistakable scent of lilac perfume.

Of course, any ghost with ironic tendencies and unrequited aspirations of stardom might choose to haunt a manse that has also been the location for films such as: Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters II (really!), There Will Be Blood, The Witches of Eastwick, Death Becomes Her, The Phantom, Dead Ringer, Memoirs of an Invisible Man, House of the Damned, All of Me, Hard to Kill and Picture Mommy Dead -in fact, the staircase alone is believed to be the most often filmed in movie-making history.

 The truth is, however, in real-life the photogenic home has been the unfortunate scene of several untimely suicides, a fatal accident, and two very mysterious murders.

After living in his new home with wife, Lucy, and their five children for only four months, the Oil Field Heir and his longtime friend/personal assistant, Hugh Plunkett, were found dead in a guest bedroom on the first floor.  Hasty reports of a murder-suicide were filed and the case was closed after only 36 hours. Officially, it was documented that Hugh shot Ned, then himself and was found with a pistol in his hand. However, accounts of admitted tampering with the crime scene and subsequent burial choices cast suspicion over the tragedy.

Rumors continue to this day.

In the month ahead, the scene of the long-ago crime will look quite different. Re-imagined for the Showcase House by designer, Victoria Reitz, the former guest room (now affectionately referred to as the Murder Room) has been transformed into a luxurious study, elegantly appointed and inspired by Reitz's client, Paul Mockapetris, creator of the ".com" Internet domain naming system.

Featuring floor-to-ceiling curtains, silk upholstery, whimsical details and a soothing, sophisticated color palette, the room is absolutely to die for.

Designer Suzanne Furst of Suzanne Furst Interiors believes the lingering spirits are, "friendly ghosts for the most part...I think they like me."

 "A few years ago when I was packing up the dining room [following a previous Greystone Mansion Showcase House], I was trying to open the door to get some boxes through -and the door wouldn't open. I was jammed. That door had never been jammed before, it always opened just like that," said Furst with a snap of her fingers. "I fought and fought and then, when I gave it a little push -I swear to you it slammed open so hard it hit the wall -if that isn't ghosts I don't know what is."

"I've never had a bad experience," says the designer who re-interpreted the library/game room this year with partner Estee Stanley, "but I've talked to people who have been in rooms where all of a sudden they get really cold, and there's like a 'whoosh' going through...and [Greystone Mansion Park Ranger] Steve has found weird things in the basement...he can tell you stories that make your hair stand on end."

Designer, Nicholas Hertneck of Nicholas Lawrence Design has a ghost story as well.

Not surprisingly, it happened as he finished up removing the last of his decor from the Murder Room.

"I stood in the middle of the empty room," remembers Hertneck, "and the paintings I had taken down, the last things to go, were stacked against the wall...and I just stomped my foot and said, I dare you! I dare you to show yourself! And it didn't. So I said, You're a coward or a fake! You don't exist!"


Hertneck says after his ghost-busting outburst, he went back to work putting spackle on the remaining holes the picture nails had made in the wall. I was going around the room systematically," says Herneck, "when I went to rub the spackle off my finger and there was something on it. I didn't think I scratched it...no cut."

When Hertneck looked up, the walls were bleeding. 

Hertneck says about five to six inches were dribbling down from the punctured plaster..."and I looked to my left where the other three nails had been pulled out and the [blood from those holes] was this far down the wall...I was like, holy sh#*!"

"I ran out of the room and brought back a bunch of people and we got pictures...and then it just faded away. It faded away."

For tickets and information about the Greystone Mansion Designer Showcase House, related lectures and book signings, check out the event website, at Design House International.

Photography by Bonnie McCarthy. 

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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Hip Flip: L.A. Story (part one in a series)

A visionary is someone with the ability to look beyond what exists and see what could be.

It's what the team at ReInhabit, Los Angeles's hippest home restoration search and rescue team strives for on a daily basis.

Meet: Rudy Dvorak, owner/founder of Los Angeles-based real estate development firm, ReInhabit, creative director, John Douglas and construction manager, Zerik Scales.

The idea: buy neglected, out-dated and sometimes tear-down homes in desirable, artsy, eclectic neighborhoods of L.A. (think: Silverlake, Echo Park, Hollywood Hills, Highland Park) and restore them with character, charm and integrity.

 If something functions, it usually stays.

It's not a look everyone is going to appreciate, but according to Dvork and Douglas, that's okay.

"Our customer is definitely more artistic leaning," says Douglas, who describes their clientele as, "...the creative crowd...East Siders. They want something interesting and unique." 

Translation: don't look for granite counter tops, Home Depot cabinetry, cheesy carpets and nothing but stainless --you won't find it.

Ditto for excessive square footage and mega-closets.

The ReInhabit philosophy: bigger, newer, shinier is not always better.

Instead, the team is hanging their shingle on individual style --and an uncanny knack for knowing intuitively what elements should stay and what needs to go.
"Each house has it’s own identity and that’s what I really get a kick out of," says Douglas, "giving each house it’s own kind of personality. There are some [house flippers] who do really great work, but they always use Ikea cabinets, and it’s like, that’s cool, but it begins to become formulaic and predictable... we want our audience to wonder: What are they going to come up with next."

In addition to great style, however, the team is also committed to quality construction, green building techniques and reclaimed materials. ReInhabit replaces all electrical, plumbing, heating and cooling in each of its properties.

"Our efforts are not just to create habitable dwellings," reads a description of the company's mission, "but to craft works of functional art that appeal to today's homebuyer."

It's a concept that seems to be working. 

The Hipster Flippers of ReInhabit have been doing things their way for the past four years and Douglas reports almost every ReInhabit-restored home has sold (at the asking price or above) almost the day it hits the market.

One ReInhabit home currently under construction (and pictured in photos here) is destined to find re-imagined glory as a modern-day "Urban Farmhouse". I love it already.

 The restored homestead will include: a loft space accessed by a rolling, vintage library ladder; a side wall of windows that rolls-up garage door style; exposed beams on a vaulted ceiling; a detached-garage-turned-studio space; built-in cabinets with original wallpaper; moldings; original hardware; vintage doors; wood floors -and oodles of old-school charm.

Coming soon... 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Home Sweet Home: The Sweet & Saucy Shop!

Leaving my house at a brisk walk, I could be inside the door of the Sweet and Saucy Shop within five minutes, which is why although it has been opened for weeks, I did not pay a visit until just the other day...

Let the temptation commence.

Scrumptious mini cupcakes, cake lollipops, hand pies, macaroons, sugar cookies, tartlets, specialty cakes, cheesecakes and more...although I didn't try everything (score one for restraint!) what I did sample tasted as good as it looked: fab-u-lous!

(...and may I recommend the Chocolate Toffee mini cupcake and the Lemon one as well...)

In fact, the newest addition to the neighborhood recently scored a spot on the Los Angeles Times' Daily Dish round up of 28 Great L.A. Bakeries! Sweet!

Part of what makes the shop especially charming is the amazing assortment of cake stands and decorative serving plates -and it turns out they are also for sale or rent!

I love the idea. 

Cake stands are the perfect way to create an interesting, multi-level buffet table and the concept is not limited to dessert-only spreads. The high-low presentation takes the table decor up a notch, and happily, it's an effect that is super easy to achieve.

Renting the lovely serving dishes and stands also means you don't have to store them! (Yay!) And remember to coordinate your choices with pieces you already own!

With a host of holidays coming our way, book early with the Sweet & Saucy Shop, or check with local bakeries and party rental services in your area.

Consider it one more reason to celebrate!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Shopping for Inspiration: Salvage Life

Last weekend, while making my way to the new (and dangerously close) neighborhood bakery (the Sweet & Saucy Shop...more on that later!), I had a chance to browse another recent addition to our 'hood, the cool, clever & creative women's boutique, Salvage Life.

They have been open since July!...What took me so long?

The shop offers a sophisticated, well-priced mix of stylish new designs -and carefully selected vintage pieces. Clearly, my neighborhood "friends" have been holding out...but the jig is up. 

A brick-and-mortar extension of owner and curator, Beth Gile's, online store by the same name, I discovered a plethora of crush-worthy clothing, accessories, gifts, stationary and children's items designed to inspire even the most seriously bakery-bound browsers to linger longer.

The creativity did not stop with the merchandise, however --and I couldn't wait to show you these shelves!

Designed and crafted by Gile's husband, several displays in the shop had been created using the top half of vintage suitcases. Brilliant!

How perfect would these be in a guest room!

And with all the money you save on making your own adorable new shelves, you can shop at the store guilt free! Win-win!

Go ahead, be shelf-ish!

(And welcome to the neighborhood Salvage Life!)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday Motivator: Shake It Up!

 It's Monday. Again. 

I was having a hard time getting motivated when I decided to wander into the kitchen and...browse...

 I realized what I needed was my favorite new chocolate shake, aka, the "Kid Smoothie" from Gwyneth Paltrow and Julia Turshen's new cookbook, It's All Good.

It figures that in a 303 page book of healthy, delicious recipes I would zoom in (and learn by heart) the recipe most likely to be a kid favorite, but I digress...

It's easy, super healthy, and most important: delish!

I have altered the recipe slightly to use ingredients I have on hand. Here goes:

My Monday Morning Motivator:
(aka) Kid Smoothie
(with apologies to Paltrow and Turshen)

1 scoop whey protein powder
1 cup cold almond milk
heaping spoonful raw cacao powder
1 banana

(Paltrow & Turshen suggest using Ultracare, a rice protein powder by Metagenics instead of the protein powder but I haven't found it yet; they also suggest instead of a banana or cacao powder, you could go fruity and add fresh or frozen blueberries or soaked Goji berries -which also sounds amazing!)

Blend & serve.

After receiving the cookbook as a gift (thank you, Dawn!) I have read it from cover to cover, and not only is it beautifully done -gorgeous photos! Great layout! Cool recipes! I have found it extremely inspirational.

Created in response to Gwyneth's own personal journey toward a healthier lifestyle the recipes are flagged with icons that let you know if the dish is part of the Elimination Diet; if it is Vegan; or Protein-Packed. I love it!

For me, it required a trip to the store for new pantry ingredients, but I am intrigued.

Of course, as you can see, I'm still starting with the chocolate-banana shake...well, baby steps...it's all good.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Organized Home: Lazy Susan To The Rescue!

If you're like me, on occasion, you may find Unidentified Molding Objects in the far reaches of your fridge; the wasteland (literally) where perfectly good food goes to die.

I have one savvy friend (yes, Candy Johnson, I mean you!), however, who solved this pickle years ago. I'm not sure why it took so long to follow in her organized footsteps, but I finally did, and now I'm sharing her fantastic fridge wisdom with you:

Lazy Susan + Refrigerator Shelf = Easy access for all!

Absolutely brilliant! A merry-go-round of groceries!


I found the 12" non-skid turntable by Copco (pictured here) at Bed, Bath & Beyond for less than $10.

It's an idea worth a spin!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Style File: Say Cheese!

When it comes to serving up an easy appetizer, one of my favorite things to throw together is a cheese plate -add some fruit, nuts a baguette and you're good to go. Added bonus: it usually looks nice too.

These cute state-shaped cheese boards from the clever folks at Totally Bamboo make the presentation even more special.

Priced under $20, it's a fun way to show off some state pride -and with the holidays fast approaching would make a great gift packaged with specialty cheeses and nuts.
Below, a cheesy quiz to test your geography skills -are you smarter than a fifth grader?

(1. Louisiana, The Pelican State 2. Texas, The Lone Star State
 3. Michigan, The Mitten State! (okay, that's my official name for the region...) 4. Wisconsin, The Forward State (and home of the Cheeseheads...)

(p.s. The darling knife pictured above is from Anthropologie! Thank you, Randi!)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Sailing Into the Long Beach Open Studio Tour

This weekend, for the fourth year in a row, I am participating in the Long Beach Open Studio Tour -an annual, city wide event in which artists of every stripe open their studio doors to local art lovers. It's a hoot, and I find I am continually inspired by the people I meet.

 This year, my photography looks a bit different. In addition to the style and themes I have always been drawn to, I am also including photos I took of wooden sailboats racing for the win in Nantucket's Opera House Cup.

 This annual summer regatta features sailboats that were previously raced for the America's Cup -when the boats were still made of wood. Last August, it was a gorgeous day out on the water "chasing" the sailboats in a viewing boat with friends, and I was completely inspired. 

Documentary film maker, John Stanton obviously felt the same way. In homage to these beautiful crafts, he created Wood, Sails, Dreams and I am including a clip of it below. If you happen to live in the Long Beach area, I hope you'll visit a few of the studios this weekend, it's fun -and it's free! Check out this link for a map with details! Enjoy the weekend -and may the wind be at your back. 
Wood • Sails • Dreams from John Stanton on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Inspired: Rainbow Fleet Brigade

Last summer on Nantucket, we had the great fortune to be on island during the Parade of the Rainbow Fleet --the official kick-off for the Opera House Cup Regatta. The small wooden "beetle cats" have been an important part of the island's history since 1930 when they were immortalized on a postcard by artist H. Marshall Gardiner. They reminded me of butterfly wings skimming across the water...

Like every other person with a camera that day I waded into the sand and sea to try and capture their charm and spirit. Honestly, it wasn't hard to do.

Over the past few weeks, I have created greeting cards and framed my favorite images of the beetle brigade for my presentation on the Long Beach Open Studio Tour taking place this weekend.

If you're in the neighborhood, stop by, and if not, I hope to have the cards available here on the blog sometime soon!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bibliostyle: Book Report

Give me an A! Or a D...or an R...

If you're like me and you've got kind of a thing for letters, words and books you're going to love my latest find at Anthropologie.

Old, upcycled books hand carved into alphabetical ingeniousness. Priced right at $20, the bookish initials would look smart in a home library or on a desk or bookshelf. Gift idea!

Yes, this is one of those novel ideas a crafty person might make for themselves, and if you've got the gear -I say go for it! And send me a picture when you're done!

For the rest of us, Anthropologie shoppers report these darlings are best purchased in-store rather than online due to the vintage nature of the materials. It's a personal choice as to how much shabby is actually chic -something best viewed in person. Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover.

...and they all shopped happily ever after.

The end. 


Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Morning Gratitude

During an excursion to Paper Source last Saturday, this little Gratitude journal caught my eye.

Designed to hold short, daily entries of the (big & small) things we are most thankful for --the book also includes helpful prompts and inspiring quotes.

Although we are weeks away from Thanksgiving, there is scientific evidence proving we should count our blessings more than once a year.

Author and researcher, Robert Emmons, of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier reports that one of his studies revealed that people who listed 5 things they were grateful for on a weekly basis felt better about their lives overall, were more optimistic about the future, and reported fewer health problems.

A similar study executed by researchers at the University of Connecticut found that gratitude can also have a protective effect against heart attacks.

Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier

Emmons' research asserts people who practice an attitude of gratitude are happier, have reduced stress, increased resilience, better sleep, better relationships and are more productive.

Obviously, we don't need a cute little book to write down what we are thankful for (although it really is darling and would make a great gift... Holidays here we come!) -but it might be nice to have a place to bank our thanks for those moments when gratitude doesn't flow as easily.

As for me, I'm grateful for so much: a short line at Target today, the people and things that lift me up, and the fact you took the time to stop by this little blog today. Thank you. Thank you very much.

What are you grateful for today? If you want to write it down in the comment section below, I'd be, well, grateful...(hey, it's cheaper than the journal...) xo

Friday, October 4, 2013

A Cottage By the Sea

This summer, we visited my sister-in-law, Shauna McCarthy and had dinner al fresco on the patio of her cottage by the sea. Food, family and lots of laughter were in abundance, and the warmth of her home enveloped us all.

Using a palette inspired by the sea glass that washes ashore steps from her door, the cottage decor flows from one room to the next in soft, serene hues. Original wood floors, glossy white molding, patterned pillows and art from local artists add eclectic charm and speak to the passion of the woman who lives there.

Sandy toes, candles burning late into the night, and a kayak just outside the door.

Life + style. Simplicity reigns. 

We can't wait to go back...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Trend Alert: Make Way for Hedgehogs

Hedgehog Pencil Holder

Prickly is the new cute.

Behold the hedgehog.

The humble woodland creature, previously relegated to sidekick status in Beatrix Potter children's books, has become a style icon in its own right.

They may not be cuddly, but they sure are cute -go hog wild! 

1. Measuring Hedgies, $36 at Anthropologie. 2. Redecker Hedgeghog Crumb Brush, $12.95 at Crate and Barrel. 3. Upcycled Hedgehog Pin Cushion, $15 by Green Child Creations on Etsy.  4. Hedgehog Woodland Creature decoration, $39.50 at Pottery Barn. 5. Hedgehog Pencil Holder (of course!), $32 at Anthropologie. 6. Hedgehog night light by Streamline, $15.81 on Amazon. 7. Hedgehog Change Purse, $12 by Happy Fantastic on Etsy. 8. Keep Calm and Love Hedgehogs poster, $10 by Keep Calm Shop on Etsy. 9. Modern Hedgehog Wall Clock, $56 by Decoylab on Etsy.

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