13 July 2010

Moving forward - new house, honed sensibilities

We are still unpacking boxes at our new house, and I already have paint swatches on several different walls. Truth be told, I started thinking about the decoration of this house months before we actually moved in. But going even farther back in time, I have to say this house is a continuation - a moving forward - of the design and lifestyle sensibilities I have been garnering and building upon since I was a little girl. And after 25 years together, it's like Jack and I are constantly honing our desires and needs for a perfect home, and getting ever closer to our absolute dream. For me/us the ultimate would be a house similar to this, but at least 100 years old, and in the south of France (or possibly Italy, for Jack), with the simple addition of a small vineyard...not too much to ask, huh? Frankly, this new house, while stateside, is pretty darn close!! (No vineyard, but...)

I've been thinking about what contributes to the quality of life I want in my home - that joie de vivre I adore. Well for starters it includes living in a pretty area and being surrounded by nice people. That may sound obvious, but, hey, we all know this combination does not exist everywhere. Brewster, our new hometown, is charming and laid back, close to the ocean, and seemingly populated with genuine, good people. Everyone we've met so far has been so friendly and helpful. There are certainly many artists and organic farmers around, so the deck is stacked in our favor!

Next, my home and garden should provide everything I need to live, work and relax, including home-grown food, just outside my door. My home is my comfort zone and should fulfill as many of my needs as possible. Also, I seriously consider interior and exterior decoration to be a necessity, as well as a pure joy. I have a need to think about it, create it, and constantly tweek my own decoration, practically 24/7. (Yes, I do dream about it!)

When Jack and I first saw this house online, we laughed since it was so unlike a typical Cape Cod house. It is, in fact, loaded with Mediterranean style inside an out. The previous owners' taste was dramatically different from ours, yet we could imagine our furnishings here so easily, once we actually saw it in person. Most importantly, the house just felt right. Thank heaven we sold our house in Hingham so quickly, as our lawyer and dear friend, Dan, hastened to tell us that we were going about things all wrong by falling in love with a new house even before putting our current house on the market.

I invite you to join me on my continuing journey, making a new house into a home that suits our style and our needs.

Since it's July, we've decided to start with the exterior of this house, which is so important! Well, okay, I admit that I have already bought paint for both the living room and Madeleine's room (I just couldn't wait!), but I am forcing myself to get the outside trim painted first, while it's sunny and warm. Whenever I arrive at my house, I want to feel welcomed by the colors and the landscaping. And we want our guests to feel the same way.

Here's the deal: neither of us ever considered that we'd live in a pink stucco house, but now that we are here and living in the house, we are growing to like it. It's really a pinkish version of taupe, and the paint is even named "Montego Tan" so I feel it's not really PINK. Mary and Robert (of Bloomy Rind) say it reminds them of houses in California, where they used to live. Other friends find it reminiscent of Spain, Italy or the Caribbean. The only thing we find off-putting about the exterior is the trim color - a deep brown, which seems heavy for the house, and certainly too dark for our joie de vivre style. So, we are repainting the exterior trim to a soft lichen-y green.

Choosing a paint color is always easy for me in my imagination and yet, involves so much persnickety choosiness to get just exactly the perfect hue. We knew we wanted a trim color that was soft, Cape Cod-y, friendly, and welcoming, not just because this is our home, but also since the front part of the building is Jack's art gallery, so we have to project the right kind of welcoming feel that will go with his paintings and colors, enticing passers by to stop in.
So many possibilities - only one perfect choice

Green seemed to be the perfect color, but we didn't want the house to look "pink and green" (read Lily Pulitzer). Even though I have been known to dress that way, I don't want my house to scream it! We ended up with a lovely greyish green, called "Garden Path" by Benjamin Moore. To me it says understated, but still cheerful...pretty in all four seasons, without being obnoxious.

The front doors here were the first thing to be changed. They were a bright violet, with dark brown outlines, just not at all what we are about. The color we ended up with for the doors is actually in a different green family from the Garden Path, but still works. As it turned out, the darker version of Garden Path contained too much grey and didn't have as much of a welcoming feel as the "Cedar Path" we ended up using. I did also try using the companion to Cedar Path for the trim, but even though the difference was minute, it still felt more Lily P than the Garden Path. (Tip: it saves a lot of money and aggravation to start with pint-size sample pots of paint, rather than leaping into a full gallon.)

A note about paints: As many of you know, I adore C2 paints. Their colors are rich and complex, and they cover in one coat, in many circumstances, besides being low in VOC's; ie, good for the earth. However, I couldn't find it near me, so I thought I'd try out the Benjamin Moore Aura paint, and I am very impressed! While I will be putting a second coat of paint on the doors and trim, the first coat has really covered well, something I would not normally expect from a light green over a dark brown. I have the feeling that paints have all improved dramatically in the past few years, due to consumer demand for superior quality and earth-friendliness.

Here's a peak at the new softer trim and door colors. I hope to get the rest of the trim painted by this weekend, so the house will look uniform and say "welcome" to passers-by.

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The other project I wanted to get done right away is planting some herbs for cooking. Next summer, we will have a full vegetable, herb and fruit garden, but it's too late to get that going this year, since the New England growing season is half over.

So here's what I planted in pots, just outside the kitchen door, for easy access:

Italian basil, French tarragon (from my mom's garden), lemon thyme, lemon basil

German thyme, silver sage, Italian oregano & dill

Red patio tomatoes, yellow grape tomatoes, lemon verbena,
applemint & chives

Normally, I wouldn't plant these so close together, but, as I said, I'm late getting a garden at all for this year, so I'm trying to squeeze all my favorites in for a few months. I got loads of rich, dark, organic potting soil at a local farm supply store. I never use chemicals with the plants I am going to eat!

Last night Jack made farm fresh ratatouille, heavily seasoned with some of the fresh thyme. It was out of this world with grilled chicken!

I can't wait to make lemon verbena ice cream with a recipe I got from Patricia Wells, when we cooked with her in Provence, years ago. This is the first time I've had my own lemon verbena to pick from. In the past, I've purchased the leaves dried from an organic purveyor, but this will be so much better. Stay tuned for recipe and photos...coming soon!

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