As the moon set I set the alarm for two am, yet by midnight I was still awake.  I could not shake the events of the past few days and I could not get this phrase out of my head: “More being, less doing.”

 

The moon setting over "our" mountain

 

It is no secret that we love our life in the country. We have managed to rebuild a slow home that we have furnished with vintage and mid century pieces and live an intentionally slower life that we fully embrace.  We even held off bringing internet into our home for over ten years, fearing that it might inhibit the quality of life we enjoy here.  I write about it all the time, the slower pace, the thoughtful lifestyle, paying attention to the little things, making memories, taking the time to smell thethe rebirth of spring, but never had the importance of this lifestyle become clearer to me than this past week.

I attended the memorial service of a friend’s sibling, an extraordinary individual who passed away too soon. Although the situation was tragic, the celebration of his being was stunning and I walked away wishing I had known him in life. His wife’s words resonated in my head as she reflected upon their life together, wishing that there were “more being and less doing”.

More Bee-ing

 

So simply stated, it was profound: More being, less doing. Which brings me back to Friday night.  Setting the alarm and getting up at 2am would probably have not been a priority two or three years ago.  I would have probably set the alarm with good intentions and then shut if off and gone back to sleep.  I now know better.  Given the finite amount of time we are privileged to be here and how quickly it flutters by, every day & every experience is a gift to be savored. The time spent “being” is why we do all the ”doing” in the first place.

Life Flutters by

 

Although I know that inherently, and write as well as talk about it, I often forget to do it.  My children remind me of this all the time and to be honest, I am not always the best at practicing what I preach, but I am going to try each and every day as I chant my new mantra: More being, less doing.

So, Irwin and I took a blanket outdoors after 2am and lay under several more as we faced the Northern sky awaiting a five thousand year old event that did not disappoint.  We spent over three hours gazing at the meteor shower and the enormity of the heavens; just being, not doing.

Perseid Meteor Shower

 

The Best Nest

When we awoke yesterday morning and saw what a glorious day it was, Irwin and I were excited to hit the road for some R&R in the country.  But after dallying far too long, and with the expectation of bad weather the following day, we toyed with the idea of blowing off the two-hour drive and just chilling in the city. However, when Irwin and I realized that obligations the following weekend would probably not allow us any retreat time, we grabbed a bag and headed out despite the late hour because the idea of missing two weeks of seasonal transformation in the country was more than either one of us could accept.

We could not wait to get back and see what had transpired over the previous six days and we were not disappointed by the array of changes that welcomed us. 

As we pulled into the driveway a single daffodil that had bloomed by the magnolia greeted us.  Further up the driveway, our fragrantly blooming cherry tree welcomed us right outside the mudroom door.  We found a new guest preparing for residence in a sweet nest located in a burning bush next to the porch while another feathered friend was considering a flat in an architectural trellis.

Daffodil

 

 

Cherry Blossoms

 

New Guest

 

Architectural Trellis
  

But the most profound change was the drastic addition to a nest that seemed complete last week and was in fact last Monday’s Photo of the Day, "Perfect Project".  A once neat nest had been transformed into something much more extravagant and I couldn’t imagine why.

 

the nest last week

 

The nest when we arrived this week
 
 

This morning the explanation was revealed .  Last week's guests had abruptly departed and ownership of the nest had flipped.  The new nesters were a pair of robins who, despite the wet weather, were busy making some additions to suit there own needs and tastes; not so dissimilar from what we do when we want to make our homes our own. Fortunately for the robins, they were left a nest with a solid foundation and good bones to build upon, which made the transition easy.

New Nester

 

The rain continued to fall throughout the afternoon as the robins maintained a low profile, making it difficult for me to capture their DIY project in action, but the lesson that they shared with me was very clear.  A solid foundation is the key to good design.

The latest incarnation of the nest

As we create and personalize our living spaces it is important that they be built on a solid design foundation that can adapt to both our changing needs and tastes as well as the needs and wants of others who may inhabit our nests after we leave.

Who could argue with the simple truth that a little birdie shared with me?

 

 

Cues & A's

This past weekend, Irwin and I made a briefer than expected jaunt to our much beloved country house.  When we last visited, it was clearly still summer even with the scattered leaves blanketing the driveway.  Our return, although only three weeks later, revealed autumn’s almost complete conquest. 

We arrived late on Friday afternoon and were immediately struck by the transformation both visual and textural.  Armed with my camera and laptop, I eagerly anticipated capturing the grandeur of the changing foliage through images and words.

Sitting by our first fire of the season, in our newly completed DIY Great Room, we enjoyed the surprisingly early change of season, even for Upstate New York.  Looking at our fireplace surround and the contrasting wall color I began to think about how the seasons affect our design aesthetic. Now I know this is not a new concept, but it does bear repeating.

The next morning, I looked at the changing foliage outside the sunroom window and remembered how different it appeared in late May with all the greenery in new bloom and the fresh lilacs on the coffee table.  Now, the bright green had been replaced with the rich golds, amber and russets of fall and on the table, the vestiges of a summer orchid past its prime.  I was just about to run over to the farm store to pick up some beautiful mums to “Fall-ify” the house, and photograph the seasonal change when I received a call from our son back in the city telling us he had a fever. It was a low-grade fever, but a fever nevertheless.

Sunroom in may        

 

            

Sunroom in October

Well, I did what any mother would do.  Fearing a rocketing temperature, I grabbed my bag and we headed home.  No mums, no crunching through the crispy leaves, no photos of pumpkins, or foliage.

As disappointed as I was, it was no reason to forsake this post, or for that matter, the rest of the plans we had for the country.  So, I decided to try to take my cues from nature right here in NYC and headed out, camera in hand to capture the changing season, NYC style.

With chilly morning temperatures and blustery winds, autumn has arrived in NYC despite the fact that the leaves on the trees have not really begun to change.  Just strolling through my neighborhood, I was able to capture the sights and textures of this amazing season, which I am delighted to be able to share with you.

 


 

 

 

  

 

Pumpkins & Peppers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pomegranates & Gourds


 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple & Green Cabbage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mums

 

Corn, Coleus & More

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Plantings &Pashmina

and of course, trees

So, relax with a warm mug of apple cider and drink in the seasonal colors and textures that surround you.  Bring them into your home via plants or pillows, pumpkins or Pashmina, and take your design cues from nature. 

 

 Fireplace Wall Before

Irwin and I have been married for almost twenty-nine years and like most married couples, our lives are often like Ground Hog Day where we relive the same conversations over and over and over again.  

I am the neurotic one. I always worry about the completion of a project and its result.  Irwin is the visionary who has already planned the entire project in his head and can see the finish line before the start of the race.

This DIY project was no different.  With the new finish of the fireplace wall complete, Irwin and I waited for the furniture delivery from the gallery the following day.  I knew what we were sending back to Connecticut, but had no idea what Irwin had selected for our Great Room.  Despite knowing that Irwin’s record spoke for itself, I worried about how the room would look and how this initial infusion of Mid Century Modern design into our country home would meld with the clean yet relaxed country feel of the rest of the house.

In our ten years of country life, we have had deliveries in rain, sleet and snow.  We have had trucks that were unable to make it up the driveway, bookshelves that would not fit through the front door and mattresses that did not fit up stairways.  Delivery day arrived, and true to form, it poured. The Bobs (our wonderful delivery company) finally arrived and carefully wiped their muddy shoes before entering the house and revealing the choices for the fireplace wall area of the Great Room.  

 Credenza Wall

 

 Close up of Mid Century lamps & Industrial Sculpture

The first piece to make its entrance was the Mid Century gold credenza. As the Bobs centered it on the wall, I was amazed by its perfect fit. Although originally designed to be a filing cabinet by General Fireproofing, this beautiful MCM filing cabinet offered us clean, modern design with quite a bit of storage.  Irwin coupled the cabinet with a pair of Italian blue glazed lamps that were Mid Century in design but were more organic in both shape as well as materials.  The focal piece on that wall became a repurposed industrial sculpture, which in reality was the discarded portion of sheet metal that had been stamped out.  We had originally placed it against one of our outbuildings where it acquired its beautiful patina, but when Irwin placed it on the credenza, we knew it had found a new home.  The mixing of MCM design with Industrial pieces from the same time period added a new layer of interest to the room and a new area of interest for Irwin.

 French Deco cowhide Club Chair

The two oversized southwestern club chairs that we had inherited from my mother-in-law were sent to that infamous underground Green Room in Stamford, otherwise known as “The Basement” and were replaced with a pair of French Deco cowhide club chairs that once graced our living room in NYC.  The chairs were perfect in front of the fireplace wall and visual proof that it is entirely possible to mix periods within a room or a home and that doing so often enriches the design aesthetic.  Besides, the chairs will offer much welcomed warmth on a cold night.

 Mid century sofa

The shallow, more formal sofa that originally occupied the fireplace area of the room was unsuitable for lounging so we replaced it with a low profile modern sofa, covered in brown velvet.  The newly covered MCM piece allowed for a flawless vista of the entire fireplace area from the other side of the Great Room and beyond.  From the front, the sofa revealed deep plush seats with oversized comfy pillows ideal for lounging or conversation and is a favorite respite for our family pet Charlie.

 Repurposed bedside tables

Bedside tables turned sideways in lieu of end tables flanked the sofa.  The tables, topped with white marble accentuate the light carpet and added to the expansive feel of the room.

 Patchwork Coffee Table

The patchwork copper and brass coffee table with its glass top was a perfect addition to the room supplying yet another layer of organic Mid Century design to the room along with the19th Century hand forged farm tools and…that graced either side of the fireplace wall.

 Fireplace wall after Close Up

Fireplace Area of great room after I

fireplace area of great room after II

additional views

Whew. What a surprisingly easy transformation in just forty-eight hours.  This was truly our favorite DIY project to date: An enormous return on a minimal amount of work and a brand new polished space to entertain in. Who could ask for anything more?

Well, we could.  The space still needs custom pillows and window treatments along with a bluestone mantle, but for now, we’re just happy to kick back and enjoy our tenth year in the country.

After posting the last blog entry at the library, I stopped by our local home store and picked up the paints and glaze that Irwin had ordered.  Anxious to begin the project in earnest, I raced back up the mountain, ready to begin the next phase of our project: preparing and painting the fireplace wall. 

When we removed the fireplace enclosure and other décor from the wall, we realized that the wall required more TLC than originally anticipated.  So, with putty knife in hand and a mega tub of joint compound, we began to repair the wall.

 

Compounding the wall 

  

  Wall Repair Close- Up

 

 

Paint Swatch

After several hours of coating and sanding, the wall was finally ready for a first coat of paint.  Giddy with excitement and anticipation, Irwin cracked open the can of base color paint:  Benjamin Moore #2130-50 New Hope Gray.  He peeled back the cover only to reveal… WHITE paint.  Thinking that perhaps the color (like the fruit in a Dannon yogurt) was at the bottom, Irwin began to stir the paint but no color appeared.  He then closed the can and shook it, but even after a thorough aerobic workout, the paint in the can was still …WHITE.  By this time our local home store was closed and our DIY activity for the day was finished.

Colorblind we were not, so the obvious conclusion was that our friendly local store forgot to add the color to the base paint.  The following morning, Irwin returned, paint in hand, to the store where Andy, our favorite paint person, had to admit that although the can was marked correctly, color was never put into the can and he quickly corrected the problem.

Armed with the correct paint colors we began to paint the fireplace wall with the base color.  As we painted the wall, it began to take on a purple hue and Irwin & I began to think that perhaps the white paint in the can was an omen and that this was NOT the color for our wall.  Because we are trained professionals (and the trip down the mountain was far too long) we quelled our impulse to grasp the car keys and decided to wait until the paint dried before panicking.

 Waiting for 1st coat to dry

 

1st Coat dry

And this is a very important lesson to learn.  Even Irwin, with years of experience and amazing color sense can experience “color doubt”.  Like any other form of change, color sometimes requires some acclimation time.

If you experience “color doubt”, take a deep breath and wait.   As we waited for the wall to dry, our “color doubt” dissipated along with the purple hue and Irwin’s vision for the room began to emerge.  We put the car keys away and opened up the topcoat color:  Benjamin Moore #2130-40 Black pepper.  Irwin mixed four parts glaze with one part paint and applied it on top of the base color.  He then went over it with a wallpaper brush to create the striated effect and the result was incredible.

2nd Coat & striae

 

 Striated Finish 

Color is not something to fear, but rather, something to embrace; its power to affect change is enormous.  Like any source of power, color must be harnessed properly and its use tempered.

So, take the color plunge.  Try a new finish or glaze and always allow yourself some time to get used to the spectacular results.

As for our DIY project, the best is yet to come so stay tuned.

 

 

 

Greetings from the Country

 

 

The fireplace wall and surrounding area of our Great Room have been through several incarnations in the past nine years (photos on last blog post) and this summer, we are planning on finalizing its design. 

When we originally purchased the house, we had almost no furnishings for it and spent much of that first summer purchasing vintage essentials to satisfy our basic living needs.  Then, over the years we not only made additional purchases but also created DIY pieces and inherited other furnishings as well.  The result was a somewhat successful eclectic mix. 

Last summer, we began paring down our furnishings and replacing some of the inherited pieces with pieces that were more appropriate for our lifestyle.  The fireplace wall as well as its surrounding area is one of our “final frontiers”. 

From the beginning, we made a point of repurposing wherever possible and this DIY project is no exception.  For this room, we are drawing inspiration from a number of areas.

1.  The floor in the Great Room is a porcelain tile that resembles Bluestone.  We laid it in a running bond pattern and selected two bronze tile patterns that we have inserted to provide additional interest.  The first bronze tile pattern is textured and the second pattern includes oak leaves and acorns that celebrate the nature that surrounds us. 

Oak & Acorn Pattern

                  Textured Pattern                        

2.  The floor covering we will be using in this area is a cotton plaid rug designed by Elizabeth Eakins. The rug was originally purchased for our master bedroom but after last summer’s paring down, it no longer worked there so we are planning on repurposing it here where the light pattern will contrast nicely with the dark floor.

 

 Elizabeth Eakins Rug

 

3.  Irwin and I laid the stonework under the hearth several summers ago.  We used the extra stone we had from another DIY project that we completed.

Stonework under hearth 

4.  The Bluestone that we laid on top of the hearth blends seamlessly with our flooring as well as the stonework.

 Bluestone on hearth

5.  We purchased the French antique iron enclosure our first year here. We immediately fell in love with the piece and were amazed to find out that its door opening was the same size as the opening of our fireplace.  We knew immediately that this piece was meant to be ours and that it would be the focal point of the fireplace.

 

Motif on iron enclosure

6.  The oil painting originally hung in our dining room but somehow did not work in that spot.  We love the painting because it reflects the simplicity of our country life and its background mimics the Bluestone of the floor and hearth. We plan on hanging it on the fireplace wall.

 

oil painting

With some of the key elements of the fireplace area in place, we are off to our local home center to look for paint colors and possible finishes for the wall itself.  We will share what we have found in the next post.  Until then...

Part IV of Our Summer Series: Ten Years and Going Strong, a DIY Celebration

 

Home Sweet Home 2009

 

 

Nothing says “Happy Anniversary” better than a DIY project!  That is, if the celebrants are Irwin & myself.  We are happily celebrating our 10th year in the country, and thought we’d invite you to join the celebration.  Accompany us as we attempt to conquer one of our final frontiers: The fireplace wall and surrounding area of our Great Room.  Although the wall is light-years ahead from where it started, it is by no means complete.

The last ten years have been an odyssey and the 1827 eyebrow colonial that we initially eyed as a “starter home” in the hills, has become both our physical and emotional center.

This ten-year journey has been remarkable.  We have given our home nothing less than an extreme make over and in the process; we’ve supplied our friends with countless rip-roaring, belly laughing tales of our “country style” life.

 

 

 

 

 

Original fireplace wall in Great Room in 1999

 

 

 

 

 Fireplace wall  today-Before our DIY project

 

Now, we'd like to share our latest adventure with you.  So strap on your tool belt, put on your safety glasses and join us, as we get ready for a “Feld Style” DIY project.

 

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