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Dinner Chez Claire

My friend and neighbor, Claire, is starting a dinner series. She has a vision of curating fabulous dinners in unusual places be that a bank, a boutique, or a wildflower field. Last weekend, I joined her for the first iteration at her apartment and snapped a few pictures of the evening. As guests arrived they were greeted by Sangria, passed hors d’oeuvres, and an inviting tablescape on a terrace overlooking downtown Charlottesville. I fell in love with the turquoise plates, which set the stage for a beautiful meal. The three-course dinner prepared by a local chef featured a colorful summer salad, delicious paella, and to top off the meal, a trio of desserts. Not only does Claire have a knack for creating a visual feast, but she always makes sure to include the most interesting people in order to create a night to remember. I’m already looking forward to dinner number two!

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Meet Me at Congress Hall

I had the unexpected opportunity to go to Cape May last weekend. If you had asked me two weeks ago about Cape May, I could have told you absolutely nothing. However it is absolutely charming and historic to boot. Cape May is one of the country’s oldest vacation resort destinations. The whole town is a a National Historic Landmark because of the concentration of Victorian buildings.

While we stayed in the historic Bradford Cottage on Franklin Street, I spent a day at Congress Hall. Congress Hall is America’s Oldest Seaside Resort. Four different presidents have vacationed there and it was the official Summer White House for President Benjamin Harrison.

I fell in love – mostly with the colors. The outside of the hotel is the perfect shade of yellow and four enormous American flags greet you upon approach. The lobby is a gorgeous shade of green punctuated by a fantastic floral print. The restaurant, The Blue Pig Tavern, where we had lunch has the cutest napkins in a fabulous shade of light blue. Congress Hall also has it’s own farm, Beach Plum Farm, which harvests the most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever tasted. I highly recommend the BLT – perfect for a post beach snack. On the beach, you have the choice of a gorgeous yellow and white striped tent or chaise lounges and umbrellas with a pink star. The hotel definitely has me rethinking my use of color. Often times I tend to favor neutrals, but I was amazed to see how well a multitude of vastly different colors paired so fabulously together.

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Independence Day at Monticello

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 Ray Ban Sunglasses//J.Crew Blazer (similar)//Petit Bateau Tee//Citizens of Humanity Jeans//Steven Madden Wedges//Ithaca Cuff (similar)//Essie ‘Bikini So Teeny’ Nailpolish//Tom Ford ‘Scarlet Rouge’ Lipstick (similar)

It’s become a tradition in our family to go the the Naturalization Ceremony at Monticello on the Fourth of July. There’s just nothing like hearing first hand why new citizens wanted to become Americans to put you in the spirit. The scenery and free coke floats don’t hurt either.

When I was thinking about what I might wear for the ceremony, I knew it needed to strike the balance between the casualness of the holiday and the seriousness of being a witness to 70 people from 40 different countries becoming citizens at an American landmark. For this reason, I chose my most comfortable pair of jeans, walkable wedges, and a sharp blazer to punctuate the look. To make a gesture towards the holiday, I added my favorite red lipstick and painted my toes in my favorite blue polish.

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1-Front Door Comparison

Entryways: A comparison

One of my favorite things to do is walk around neighborhoods. One of the things I absolutely loved about London was how much fun it was to walk around various different neighborhoods, and it’s part of the reason I fell in love with the city from the get go.

Since being back in the States, I’ve been thinking a lot about what made walking around London so pleasurable, and I’ve decided that Londoner’s think a lot about curb appeal making the streets particularly nice for passersby.

To illustrate my point, I thought I’d do an old-school art history-style slide comparison. On the left, you see a well appointed townhouse in the Chelsea neighboorhood of London. On the right, you see a townhouse from the historic district in the town where I live.

Let’s start with the similarities, first both townhouses have steps with wrought-iron railings that lead up to a dark door with a white, architectural surround. Each surround has faux columns and a transom above the window. Each door is painted and has brass hardware. As you can see, each door is quite similar and both are working with similar bones. However, the Chelsea door is much more inviting.

The first thing that makes the Chelsea door more inviting is the addition of plants. They add a little liveliness to the door that says someone lives here and offers a nice subtle softening to the entrance as well. I like the choice of white planter boxes as it reiterates the white of the walls and the steps. On the right door, there are no plants welcoming you to the front of the house, and as this porch is slightly bigger, it makes the space feel cold and empty.

The second thing to note on the Chelsea entrance is the door itself. First, the high gloss paint serves to catch your attention and give you a focal point as you approach the door. I also like the subtle rivets on the door as they make a traditional door slightly more interesting. Second, the brass hardware is more substantial and more numerous than on the historic home on the left. I think the addition of the doorknocker and the house number are quite important. The door number ensures that guests immediately feel comfortable as their is no confusion that they are in the wrong place. The doorknocker, with it’s lion theme, shows us a little bit about the personality of the owners even before we enter their home. I find the hardware on the Chelsea door to be much more successful, almost like well-chosen jewelry on an outfit. It adds refinement and a subtle sheen that elevates the whole look.

Finally, there is a cohesion to the Chelsea entrance that the historic home just doesn’t have. The Chelsea entrance uses the power of repetition to make the entrance pleasing. The black is repeated on the door, the railings, and the light fixture. The white is repeated on the walls, flowers, planters, and steps. The brass is repeated on the door. On the historic home, there is no sense of repetition and materials seem to be used willy nilly. The steps are different from the landing, which is different from the walls. Another thing that adds to the cohesion of the Chelsea entrance is the use of quality materials across the board. The steps are marble, the railings are thick, the brass is heavy. While you can tell many quality materials were used on the historic home, the cement steps, flimsy railings, and barely-there door hardware take away from the appeal of the beautiful door and surround.

What I ultimately love about the Chelsea entrance is the fact that it seems to welcome you inside. You simultaneously know where you are headed and that you will be taken care of once you get there. There is something that puts you at ease as you approach the London door, whereas there is a slight apprehension as you approach the American home. Are you in the right place? Will you make it up the steps? Are these people friendly? These are not questions you want guests to your home to ask on approach. You want your guests to have a sigh of relief as they have made it to their destination, and they know there is refreshment, relaxation, and friendship waiting for them on the other side of the door.

Have you come across any particularly appealing entryways recently? Is your own entryway more like the one on the left or the right?