Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Deep Greens and Blues are the Colors I Choose…

That line from James Taylor’s “Sweet Baby James” fits me to a tee! The song has my name in it and mentions my favorite colors – deep greens and blues. Aqua, cerulean, jade, emerald, sea, turquoise, cobalt, navy, robin’s egg, grass, spring…  the shades and tints go on infinitum.

Mixing the green with its parental blue is a natural choice for any setting. I tend to collect linens, dinnerware, stemware and other tablescape items in these various shades for mixing and matching. These colors are seasonally delightful throughout the year, especially this time of year with hydrangeas blooming in batches of French blue, bluish lavender, and lapis.


Dear friends were moving from here to another town and Mother’s Day was here too; so, I combined a going away dinner and Mother’s Day supper - all set with deep greens and blues.


A tonal taupe damask tablecloth set the neutral mood for the tablescape. A bowl full of Nikko Blue hydrangeas mounded from a lavender-blue bowl. I used dishes in the same shades mixed with traditional Blue Willow to create the shades of blue I love. Linens from The Plantation Shop on Amelia Island boast the blues I was using. I like to pick up linens on my travels since they are easy to pack and bring home and The Plantation Shop is just one of favorite haunts in general. From antiques to dinnerware to lamps and books – the store has it all.


Antiqued mirror chargers denoted each place setting and melded with the large mirror dominating one wall in my dining room. When mixing and matching tablescapes, I like to use continual elements to give a note of balance. Linens, flatware, chargers, and goblets in this case add continuity to the tableau and the “every other” place settings add rhythm. Plus, when I do not have a complete set of this, that or the other, then a mix is just too much fun.

As for the greens, my stalwarts of the house are my antique French mutton leg dining chairs. The original green velvet is luscious and is neutral to my décor – I use them all over the house on either side of my entry chest, in my study, and to pull up at seating areas. My antique Depression glass goblets are another neutral green for my home. They go with just about any setting I have and I love that particular shade of glass green. Leaves from the hydrangeas poke from the fluffy blue blossoms too, nodding to nature’s neutral as well.

We all sat at the set table and reveled in the glories that are our mothers, told many a fun story, and toasted to our friends’  new adventure in another town. Grilled squash, chicken and steak shish kebobs, roasted onions with Brussels sprouts and okra, wilted green salad, pineapple blueberry upside down cake – a feast for my friends and family. I even used a Blue Willow bowl for my salt mix to flavor the grilled items. Sea salt, cracked black pepper, Nature’s Seasoning, and some white pepper too bring out the best of the grilled meats and veggies. I nor my family are never too stuffed for dessert and the upside down cake with berries and pineapple…. Strawberries and blueberries reduced with sugar and vanilla and then some pineapple and brown sugar – what a combo! The perfect blue ending to a charming evening.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Downton Abbey a la Old South

If I had the opportunity to host Lord and Lady Grantham and their daughters and of course the Dowager Countess too, I would hope they could feel right as rain and completely at ease in the Butler’s Pantry at the ASO Decorators Showhouse.

Whatever would I do without the amazing talent and charm of Mrs. Maggie Griffin?! I am quite the lucky man to have TWO Maggie’s – a sister and a BFF! Growing up together in Hawkinsville, we share a reverence for classic style and tastes such as chinoiserie, blue and white china, fun color and a gorgeous table setting. Besides, it is just too much fun to work with someone so talented – I love learning from her and she tolerates working with me! Ha! I needed a helping hand for this showhouse and thankfully Mrs. Griffin answered the call!

The home itself is reminiscent of the fine homes dotting the Atlanta landscape and those English manor homes such as Highclere Castle, where Downton is filmed. A Philip T. Shutze design, the home boasts fabulous Georgian architecture, balance and scale, deliciously proportioned moldings and built-ins, and now, thanks to Design Galleria , a modern kitchen (that this Farmer would give his eye-teeth for) and baths. Open through May 13, 2012, the showhouse is worth traipsing to Atlanta and soaking in the multifaceted design schemes throughout the home.


I channeled my inner Anglophile and ardently embraced my Southern heritage and filled the Butler’s Pantry, which the family who once resided in this home would use as a family dining room or casual dinners, with collections of collections that we Southerners share an affinity for. Blue and white Canton-ware, blanc de chine and creamware and white Limoge china with gold rims yet complemented with blue plaid linens, stacks of cookbooks from every Junior League and Lady’s Sunday School Circle throughout the last century, French chairs with their luscious original blue velvet, a divine Oushak rug, and oils depicting the finest of England’s bucolic farm land in gold frames. A nineteenth century lantern from Foxglove Antiques and Galleries commands from the ceiling with all its verdi gris glory and newly framed pages from an antique book of ornithology depicts eggs now set in birch frames.

David Austen garden roses scent the room with a floral/citrus/spicy scent and opened to saucer-sized blossoms down the table. Hydrangeas and terra cotta jardini̬res from one of my favorite haunts, Boxwoods, spill from planters and tureens and bring the garden indoors. Black, nearly lacquered, Chinese Chippendale chairs anchor the host and hostess ends of the magnificent Italian farm table from Beckett Antiques. I love the contrast of the rich patina that glows from this table and the black chairs anchoring either end Рall connected with blue velvet!

Anyone from upstairs or downstairs I hope would relish the opportunity to sit at our table in the Butler’s Pantry. Whether Lady Mary or Daisy was joining this Farmer for supper, I would surely show some true Southern hospitality in this room – or in any Southern home, at any Southern table for that matter. This space just happens to be that fun mix of English, Continental and Southern flair for this fantastic showhouse. Come one, come all!

PS… one of the great perks of working with Southern Living is meeting wonderful photographers at the photoshoots. Enjoy these pics from the darling Emily Jenkins Followill I met at one our shoots– she’s a delight and she captured the room perfectly! Another Southerner herself, this gal knows how to capture the feel of a room. Thank you my dear!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Happy Birthday Aunt Kat!

My mother and her sisters are “Irish Triplets.”  From April of 1957 to April of 1959, my grandmother, Mimi, had three daughters in said time span. My family has had this bizarre timing of doubling birthdays, these three gals’ birthdays are of no exception.

Mema (my great-grandmother), Mimi (my grandmother) and Mama (my mama) – all three generations– have the same birthday. Mama’s older sister and younger sister missed each other’s birthdays by two days, but to some avail, the younger sis was born on our dear Aunt Sally’s birthday, Mimi’s sister-in-law. Maggie and Granddaddy share the same birthday and my cousin Gray and I are only three days difference on the calendar. Anniversaries of no exception either, for Mimi and Granddaddy, my parents, and Aunt Kathy and Uncle Gerry all were married on the same date – different years of course.

So, birthdays are a fun monthly soiree for this clan. Rarely do we celebrate one. Yet, this latest birthday dinner I hosted was for one, since geography and schedules impeded us from gathering all three of the aunts with April 17th and 19th birthdays. I had the honor of hosting Aunt Kathy’s birthday dinner this year. As a multi-faceted and talented dame, she deserved a fabulous tablescape.

Since she actually owns a dinnerware company, I thought a stray from her deliciously beautiful dinnerware a fun vein to explore. I use her dinnerware daily, and I have used it in photo-shoots for magazines, my books, my blog and in clients homes. Most recently I stocked a whole cabinet full in my room at the ASO Decorators Show House Atlanta. I figured Aunt Kathy would not mind my veering from her line for a fun tablescape.

Color – marvelous colors – in the tints, tones and hues of jewels, flowers, and ceramics with metallic shades - all meld together on my table for a fun scene. Spring is in high fling here in my corner of Dixie and the colors of this season are found in the flowers abounding. Snapdragons  in particular are spectacular this time of year and the pops of coral, salmon, fuchsia, magenta and deep lilac – all set against the newness of the greens that have bravely and boldly told Winter to scram. These blossoms from my garden set in vintage bottles were the perfect floral accouterments for the dinnerware I chose for this evening, Nathalie Lete’s line for Anthropologie. The colors on these plates are delightful, charming and whimsical, as are the creatures featured on each. 

Mama helped me set the table and lent me her favorite stemware for the party. Shades of cobalt, chartreuse green, lavender, terra cotta and canary are held above frosted stems and these heavy glasses have graced many a tableau for my family. They even disappeared for a couple years and magically turned up in Aunt Kathy’s barn fairly lately. Perfectly apropos to use them for their reemergence at this event I felt! Decades old pea green linens, mother of pearl chargers and flatware all danced atop my table and a heard of cerulean Fu dogs gave an always fun nod to chinoiserie.  My black chiavari chairs further embraced the Chinese Chippendale/chinoiserie bend I relish. Besides, an element of black always adds drama and grace for any setting. 

We eat with our eyes first. Why not set a beautiful table and present your food elegantly. As for the latter, Mediterranean pork loin stuffed with goat cheese, spinach and wrapped in bacon with a wilted green salad, garlic biscuits with honey butter, snap beans with Vidalias, tomato and zucchini casserole and some birthday pie –  coconut cream and chocolate ganache. Pie Shop ATL... need I say more. Susie gilded the lily with her famous whipped cream piled high and garnished with toasted coconut and shaved chocolate respectively. When Susie, Mimi and I get in the kitchen, you know something good’s on the way!

We ate, we ate some more, and then we ate pie. Pies (plural of pie singular) to be exact. Ha! What a way to celebrate Aunt Kathy!
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