The Anti-McMansion

In this architectural age of McMansion hell, a house like this one is good for the symmetry soul.  The balance, the  the proportions, the rhythm – all perfect.   The materials and craftsmanship – all sound.  The house was built in 1919 and still looks as good, arguably as gorgeous, today.

I love a good, light-filled landing.  Today this entrance would be opened up with impossible-to-reach windows and a monstrous light fixture.

The house was built to maximize light and like Gil Shafer‘s “thinner builds”, this house doesn’t look more than 2-rooms deep.   And, because this house was built at a time when proportion of land to house was important, the views out each window are magnificent.

Most rooms in the house have a fireplace.  Even if you don’t use them, they add so much architecturally to a room.  Imagine this house at Christmastime!

A third-floor bedroom with charming ceiling lines.  

And my favorite spot – the courtyard.  Look at that wall!

The house sits on 10 acres and the trees are immense.  This is a patio off the sunroom.

Coffered ceiling and so much potential!  I would paint this room white, replace the floor and throw gorgeous parties here by candlelight.

The house has great flow, light and generously-sized rooms. And doors!  I love doors to close for privacy, heat/cooling conservation or just because.

You can see the full listing here.

Martha, Ina, and Edwina or A Hydrangea Story Part 1

The hydrangea was my wedding flower – the blue mophead – the kind best known for spilling over white picket fences on Martha’s Vineyard.  It’s an easy flower to love, and I remember tearing a page of Martha Stewart Living of a wedding bouquet of hydrangeas with stems wrapped in silk ribbon.  It was beautiful in its simplicity and timeless.  I recently learned from a floral designer that there are occasions where they will spray hydrangeas with paint (!) if the blooms are a bit mottled in color or they will order white hydrangeas which are far less expensive and hardier and simply spray them with the desired color.

Shortly after my wedding, Ina Garten arrived on the Food Network for the first time.  Her show was mesmerizing.  I watched it more for the sneak peeks into her Hamptons home.  The green striped wallpaper in her kitchen was a favorite of mine and anytime she snipped herbs from her garden, I would hit pause to admire her perfect boxwood parterres.  How she set a table inspired me to think differently and uncomplicate things.  Choose a flower and group them en masse.  And better yet if Miguel isn’t available, clip them from your garden.

I followed suit and took some cuttings from our garden today.  I cheated and bought a couple of stems on sale but for the most part the flowers came from our growing collection of hydrangeas.  Tomorrow evening I am hosting a fundraiser here and figured a couple of candles and flowers would go a long way.

The Phantom blooms are the white ones and they are enormous.  I am a bit worried as they are shedding a bit -but they should be fine for tomorrow.  The mopheads are the store-bought ones and the Limelights are the pop of green to the right in the picture below.

I found these wine and drink bins at Home Goods and love that they are easily stored but also simple and won’t take up so much visual space on the table.  

The candles and glass containers were on clearance at Hobby Lobby for 99 cents.  Clearly too difficult to pass up so four came home with me.

So back to Ina Garten.  Her houses, apartments and gardens are not heavily photographed much to my dismay but Elle Decor recently published an article about Ina’s Hamptons garden.  There aren’t hardly enough pictures for my liking but I’ll take what I can get at this point!

Check out the article but check back here as well because Part II details Ina’s landscape architect Edwina von Gal.  Martha Stewart introduced the two and although it’s been years since installation and Ina’s garden has evolved, von Gal’s vision is largely in tact.  Of course, there are hydrangeas galore.

Summer Garden Part II

Nearly everything is planted at this point and finally in the growing and filling out stage.  Our apple tree leaves get cedar rust – those little yellow spots on the leaves.  Unfortunately we planted fruit trees (pears and apple) near a cedar grove.  I need to try spraying at the right time next year and see if that helps.  Fortunately the rust is just unattractive but doesn’t hurt the health of the trees. 

The Mandevilla are taking off and the lanterns await new candles after the old ones melted in the heat.

A close up of one of our apple tree pots filled with petunias and moss.  Had I planted these petunias earlier in the season they would have likely been spilling over the sides.  This was a week ago when the Phantom Hydrangeas were just about ready to explode.

And, this picture is from yesterday.  Each morning there are more and more flowers and they just keep getting fuller.  This is my first time with Phantom Hydrangea and while I don’t quite like the blooms like I like the Limelight’s, the Phantom is supposed to have the strongest stems to prevent flopping.

I added an outdoor rug to cover up some cement sins on the landing near the back door.  

Grouping pots is a good lazy gardener strategy.  

Experimenting with some flowers for an upcoming fundraiser.  Um, these look more like church altar arrangements.  I guess I will be starting over!

The window boxes are enjoying the Amazon-like humidity.   


I lucked out and scored 8 Nellie Stevens hollies for our hedge for a song.  Pictures to come.  This is the garage that will be getting some paint and new lighting soon enough.  

Early Summer Garden

I am off to a very slow start this season but pots are finally being filled with annuals and perennials as well as a few additions to the garden.

These Boston ferns are a lifesaver.  They even do well in the full sun and prefer less than more water.  The white mandevilla vines are already flooded with flowers.

A view of the back patio area.  The apple trees in pots are going to be underplanted with some white wave petunias and vinca.  I was thrilled the trees made it through their first winter.  

Another view as the sun is setting.

The pots near the couches are filled with orange hibiscus.  The flowers are huge and beautiful but seem to be fleeting.  They drop off after a couple of days.  

The courtyard is a nice foil to the shiny, new patio area.  These urns are planted with allium that has been a reliable bloomer since 2010.  The two larger terra-cotta pots are lime and lemon trees.  Anxious to see how those do. 

Looking forward to the Phantom Hydrangeas blooming any day now.  The Willow standards got a haircut recently.  They were easily double the size.


The Phantom hedge has gone mad!  These grew at least 2 feet since last season.

My shade window boxes are doing well and are enjoyably low-maintenance.  They like a drink once a day but if I miss, they don’t seem to mind.

And, my favorite wire baskets finally were planted with some vinca and the cutest little violet bell looking flowers.

The front yard beds are starting to fill in.  Like the backyard, the palate is limited to varying shades of greens and pinks with the exception of the deep burgundy leaves of the Nine bark tree.  

Some new Shasta Daisies that should fill in and out. 

And, one of my favorite corners – the Little Limelight Hydrangea hedge.  TheLittle Limes are intermixed with Nandina and kept tidy with Chicagoland boxwoods up front.  These Limelights are a smaller version of their much larger predecessor though these little guys are looking pretty darn big.  Blooms are going to be beautiful this year.

A mulch refresh will be happening this weekend along with some vine planting.  There are some fences and bare spots that could use a climber or two.

Speaking of two.  We picked up our second little pup a week or so ago now.  She is a tiny little thing and weighed in at 10 lbs less than our older guy at the same age.  They were fast friends.

Almost forgot took a trip to our favorite nursery.  We are working on a hedge – Limelight (the big ones) backed by a line of Nellie Stevens behind to provide a nice wall of dark green to contrast with the white blooms.  The Nellie Stevens will eventually reach 15 feet and the Limelights 8 feet or more.  It should be a striking hedge. Nellie Stevens hollies waiting to be planted.

A mature Nellie Stevens hedge
A Limelight Hydrangea hedge

The Nellie Stevens will eventually provide a great backdrop for the Limelights.  Nellie Stevens will get their own pretty white blooms in the spring and a pop of red berries in the winter.  They are a hardy, not too prickly holly that is great for screening.

I have collected them from different nurseries over the past year and finally have enough for a true screen.  I didn’t want to pay more than $10 so time and patience were key.

Happy Fourth!