Archives for the month of: December, 2011

Happy New Year!

Well, almost.

We’re here in Provincetown for a long weekend with our surly dachshund Winnie to ring in the new year in low key style. Well, kind of low key. Last night we joined friends on a cocktail crawl as we made our way from one bar to the next.

If you haven’t heard of Ptown, it’s located at the tip of Cape Cod. So look at a map of the U.S. and look for Massachusetts. That piece of land that sticks out into the sea…the very furthest point is Ptown. It is very much the end of the earth surrounded by beaches and sand dunes.

Ptown is a coastal fishing town, of Portuguese descent, and is just beautiful. One of my favorite places to be in the world. It’s steeped in history and goes back decades as an artist colony. You’ll find narrow streets that twist and turn with one interesting weathered home following the next. Charming small gardens protected by picket fences. And architecture that crosses many genres from classic capes, to greek revivals to other styles surprisingly unorthodox in their design. (I’ll try and write more about this before we leave town.)

It’s unseasonably warm for this time of year and the locals and visitors are out in droves. Tonight we’ll join another couple for a wonderful dinner and make our way out into the streets at midnight to ring in the new year.

For now, I want to share some photos of the festive lights that populate the town’s different neighborhoods.

Wishing you a very healthy and prosperous 2012,


Lobster pot Christmas tree

Pilgrim Monument


The holidays for my family are filled with get togethers — and lots and lots of eating.

Our housekeeper Alda is part of our family and so it makes sense that she too contribute to this excessive indulgence. In fact, last week, a few days before Christmas, Alda showed up with a box of pastries from a local portugese bakery as well as her beautiful homemade flan.

Alda and her beautiful flan

The flan was topped with a caramel sauce. It was extraordinarily good. Rich and buttery. The perfect holiday dessert.

Naturally, I also found the metal pan that Alda brough the flan in to be beautiful. I asked her about it and she explained its been in her family for generations. I think this is the secret behind the flan’s perfect form.

If I had the recipe, I would pass it along. Alas, according to Alda it’s a secret. My apologies.

I’ve been going to Portland, Maine on a regular basis for probably 16 years now. My husband is from that area and we even contemplated moving up there at one point. It is a beautiful, small city situated on the water with an exciting vibe. There are amazing restaurants, all kinds of things to do outdoors, a thriving artist and design community, and overall the quality of life is very high. So it’s not surprising an artist like Angela Adams would call Portland home for her business, Angela Adams. I’ve seen Angela Adams rugs in various design magazines and have always been amazed. She elevates the utilitarian rug to a piece of pure art. Her patterns and colors are unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a rug.

There is an Angela Adams retail store in Portland, which we visited in early December while in town for a family getaway. We’ve been in the market for a new rug for our living room. I’ve been wondering whether to stay with a neutral, sisal or seagrass style of rug or introduce something with a bit more color. We’re lucky to have views of our town’s harbor outside our windows, so I’ve always hesitated with anything or color that might fight the natural beauty of the view. But then I saw Angela Adams’ “Grace” rug, I was pretty sure right away that it would work well in the room. We ended up buying the rug from their extremely pleasant staff and it efficiently arrived two days later. Here’s how it looks…

Angela Adams' Grace rug at home

It’s a soft blue with a very subtle starburst towards one of the corner. Though, it changes color depending on the sunlight, which I love. Just like a great painting. Like most AA rugs, this rug is hand-tufted and made of New Zealand wool.

Oh, and that orange patterened pillow you see is also from Angela Adams. The Angela Adams brand is becoming very much of a lifestyle brand and I suspect we’ll see much more of her inspired designs across a whole range of products for the home. Speaking of which…if the rug and pillow weren’t enough Angela Adams for us for one shopping trip, there is one more AA product in our home at the moment.

When we were in her store I was curious about a series of terrariums they had displayed on different tables throughout the store. Did you ever make a terrarium when you were a little kid? I did. My mom still has the glass jar I made it in. Terrariums are a unique accent for any home. I love houseplants and this is an easy way to bring some green into your living environment…which very little care needed for those brown thumbs.

Soo…for Christmas, Vince got me an Angela Adams terrarium. Which I love.

Our new terrarium

I think we just need a small lizzard to call the terrarium home.

I recently returned from a long weekend in Stockholm where my husband and I visited some friends and did some research for our upcoming retail & web shop project. At every turn I found some form of inspirational design — from our hotel room to the most basic public streetlamp to wonderfully diverse storefronts. Aside from the time we spent visiting with our friends, eating, drinking (oiy…akvavit!) and walking around the city, the rest of our short time there was spent visiting a handful of vintage and modern home furnishings shops.

We started and ended every day at the Hotel Rival, a small 99 room boutique hotel overlooking Maria Square in Stockholm’s Sodermalm neigborhood.

Maria Square

Our room was very comfortable and had a mix of traditional and vintage swedish pieces. We had a “superior” room which still isn’t that big compared to US standards…which isn’t so bad. The Swedes are efficient designers and utilize every square inch.

Hotel Rival guest room

If by chance you’re an ABBA fan, take note…the hotel is owned by Benny Andersson. ABBA is something of a Swedish national treasure.

As I mentioned, one of the things that struck me about Stockholm is how much they can fit into so little. This certainly holds true for storefronts. From this adorable flower shop around the corner from our hotel…

…to this coffee shop. Fika anyone?

One classic Stockholm retail institution we were told we must visit is Svenskt Tenn. This place is an institution. Founded by Estrid Erikson in 1924, it may be most well known for working with the architect Josef Frank whose fabrics and wallcoverings continue to be sold through the store today…albeit fabric is around $250/yard. (Btw, nothing is cheap in Stockholm. The current exchange rate (Nov/Dec ’11) does not help things as well. But this didn’t stop us from making a few purchases.)

Every corner of Svenskt Tenn was filled with something more beautiful than before. They are most well known for their bold patterns and classic Swedish design. I love the Scandi/Swedish aesthetic for its subdued palette. Layer on Josef Frank bold patterns and colors to a white/creamy/neutral backdrop and you have an environment that makes you smile. I have to imagine the cold, long, dark winter has something to do with this approach to design.

Svenskt Tenn couch

My new favorite quote.

The store was decked out for the Christmas season. Filled with decorations, trees and seasonal flowers.

Ho Ho Ho

Love this vase as much as I love the flower

The store is both a retail destination as well as an interior design powerhouse. I snapped a shot of a designer in her studio hard at work. I want my office to look like this someday.

Interior design studio

The store is owned by a private foundation which keeps watch over things. It’s history appears to be an important one and everywhere you turn is some homage to the past. Whether it’s this…

A little history

…or this.

Josef Frank patterns behind glass

After spending a couple hours in the store, we said our goodbyes to this well kept, classic instiution and moved on to a bit of mid century/vintage and a bit of modern Stockholm.

Our next stop was Malmstenbutiken. This shop was founded by Swedish furniture designer Carl Malmsten (1888 – 1972) and is now run by his grandson. Malmsten’s style is represented by light wooden furniture with a blonde range of colours, very much typically Swedish, with strong references to Swedish nature and cultural traditions. Malmsten’s influence on Swedish furniture design is particularly significant through the schools he founded, including Carl Malmsten Furniture Studies in Stockholm and Capellagården on the island of Öland, both of which are still in operation.

Malmstenbutiken interior

We bought this pretty ceramic piece by Karin Meijer at Malmstenbutiken which looks great on our dining table. Though, it’s very delicate and I’m still amazed it made it home from Stockholm in our carry-on without breaking.

Karin Meijer ceramic

Moving on to a more modern Sweden, Asplund is a company and store I’ve fallen in love with. Their designs are clean and elegant. Timeless without being trendy. And range in tone from that typical Swedish neutral to vibrant colors. Their carpet line is particularly impressive. The texture and patterns are amazing.The two story, small store is filled with furniture, lighting and homegoods and it’s a place I’d like to return to when I have more time.

Asplund window




Ok, now on to some vintage Sweden. We probably visited 3 or 4 vintage shops on our trip. There are hundreds more. Next trip back we’re making a list and planning an itinerary! Some of the shops we did visit though we’re pretty terrific. From the lighting shop…

Gamla Lampor

There goes my husband

Shop poster

To this shop (oops, I forget the name)…

And to a very elegant little shop called Modernity which seems to represent every scandinavian mid century designer you can think of.

Modernity interior

One of the last impressions I have of Stockholm is how welcoming the Swedish people are. We attended a very fun dinner party the first weekend of their Advent season and the party has obviously been going on for years and steeped in tradition. We were made to feel like we’ve been attending it year after year. There was wonderful food, lots of singing of traditional Christmas songs (the evening’s events even came with a handout for singing along, thank god) and once again, lots of drinking. We had to, I repeat, had to take a shot of something or another after each song. It was a very fun night. A handsome Santa Clause even arrived.

Need I say more..

I have a theory that with the long, cold and dark winters Sweden is known for, a person’s home becomes something of a nest in those insular months. There is an inherent comfortable casualness of every interior we found ourselves in. The crisp and neutral whites serve as backdrops while practical, comfortable, and equally neutral — though at times colorful — furniture brighten the spirit. Candles — both the Advent season’s electrical window candles — as well as wax candles seemed to populate every sill, ledge and counter. Homes and storefronts leave beauftiful lanterns on the sidewalk to welcome guests.

Returning home is always filled with mixed emotions. You miss where you’re leaving but look forward to coming home to your own home and loved ones. I can’t wait to go back to Sweden, but it’s always good to come home to our small piece of heaven. This was the sunrise the morning after we arrived in Mattapoisett. Good to be home.

Sunrise at home

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