Color Story: Earthy, Rich, Bold + Textured

I went to Providence the other weekend for the Festival of Historic Houses and toured a handful of incredible homes in the city’s Paterson Park neighborhood. What a treat! It’s a tiny area made up of just a few streets, and it’s bursting with charm and personality. Every house in the neighborhood, whether it was on the tour or not, oozed curb appeal. Colorful front doors, inviting porches, creative gardens—there was something to admire about every single house!

Given my background in residential interior decorating, I was excited to see the inside of the homes on tour, as well. My favorite house was drenched in color and pattern. I could tell that the owner had done her homework. Each room had a color story, and she had installed some fantastic little surprises in the form of patterned draperies in several rooms, an antiqued mirror backsplash in the butler’s pantry, and playful wallpaper in a tucked-away powder room and hall (oh, and on a ceiling, too!). Walking from room to room felt like a treasure hunt because there was so much to discover and admire.

The decor reminded me of projects by some of my favorite designers like Katie Ridder, Bailey McCarthy, Steven Gambrel, John Robshaw, and Seema Krish. I cannot emphasize enough how wonderful it was to see someone embrace color instead of painting every room white! Don’t get me wrong—white can be wonderful, and it has its place. But using color (and using it well) requires planning and coordination and commitment—the things that make up a thoughtfully designed space.

I left the tour inspired to find more designers who decorate this way. I had to wade through a lot of white walls and shiplap to find them, but I was successful! I thought I’d share my findings here for those of you who might also be craving rich colors and texture.

First up is Indigo + Ochre, a design company based in Brooklyn. Their tile game is on point. That kitchen backsplash is so vibrant and cheerful. In the powder room photo, notice how much texture is apparent in the floor tiles, the sink and wall surfaces, the hardware, and the mirror frame. Even the hand towel is made of beautiful dyed linen threads.

Indigo-Ochre-Colorful-Backsplash.jpg
Indigo-Ochre-Bath.jpg

Isn’t this sliding door incredible? It’s such a refreshing take on the oh-so-ubiquitous barn door. First of all, it’s blue—YAY for saturated color! Secondly, the lattice screen and carvings give it visual interest beyond the bright color. I would take this door any day over a standard Shaker-style barn slider! It’s a work of art. I also appreciate how it forges a connection between the two rooms in the photo. It really allows the rugs to stand out, whereas they would be lost and look pretty bland if this door was plain white.

Indigo-Ochre-Moroccan-Barn-Sliding-Door.jpg

Robin Henry Studio is another designer I discovered in my quest for colorful interiors. Her portfolio reveals a knack for combining eclectic design elements with both bold and subdued colors. The result is rooms that feel timeless yet very much of-the-moment.

The room below features some classic midcentury furniture against the bones of traditional architecture. The pouf and side table are decidedly Moroccan while the lighting spans a variety of styles. The wallpaper, while bright and intensely patterned, nearly reads as a solid when you stop to analyze all of the other elements working together. The design is exciting yet also completely seamless.

Robin-Henry-Floral-Office-Niche.jpg
Robin-Henry-Flora-Office-Midcentury.jpg

I adore the use of the color in the following spaces. This kitchen is awash in soft green and blue hues with shades of red in the floor and woodwork, which provide a counterpoint for the cool colors.

Robin-Henry-Kitchen-Brick-Floors.jpg
Robin-Henry-Studio-Kitchen-Bistro-Stool.jpg
Robin-Henry-Wood-Kitchen.jpg

Things are amped up quite a bit in this space with a much bolder blue and shimmery gold-green backsplash. This butler’s pantry feels modern, but it’s actually grounded in quite a bit of traditional detail.

Robin-Henry-Blue-Butlers-Pantry.jpg

In a totally different room, this leafy green gives the impression of being nestled in the treetops.

Robin-Henry-Studio-Apple-Green-Playroom.jpg

Here, a library is painted a similar punchy green. It’s both vibrant and soothing—enveloping the space in one color creates a cozy atmosphere. Consider how different this room would feel if the green had been used sparingly against a white background. Such contrast would have created a livelier, more charged space. Instead, we have a room that feels very intimate and relaxed.

Robin-Henry-Studio-Apple-Green-Den.jpg

At some point, I came across the Instagram account of Reath Design, and before I knew it, I had tumbled down the rabbit hole of scrolling through their entire feed plus the whole website. I mean…wow. WHOA.

These interiors feel so organic to me. I know for many people, “organic” conjures images of white rooms with big windows, light wood tones, and streamlined furniture. For me, it means earthy, grounded, and inspired by nature. There are undertones of William Morris in the wallpaper with hints of Anthropolgie-esque bohemian decor fit for both a laid-back surfer’s beach house or an English gardener with a penchant for Farrow & Ball. In other words—it’s about LAYERS! I am forever in awe of designers who are able to successfully combine two seemingly opposite sensibilities.

Reath-Design-Purple-Piano.jpeg
Reath-Design-Wildflowers-Paper.jpeg
Reath-Design-Red-Backsplash.jpg
Reath-Design-Red-Kitchen.jpg
Reath-Design-Ochre.jpeg
Reath-Design-Brentwood-Kitchen.jpeg
Reath-Design-Brick-Kitchen.jpeg
Reath-Design-Kitchen-Soapstone.jpeg
Reath-Design-Living-Room.jpeg

Reath Design’s outdoor spaces are just as special as their interiors. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I want to read each and every one of these short stories.

Reath-Design-Beach-Brick.jpeg
Reath-Design-Patio-Green.jpeg
Reath-Design-Outdoor-Arch.jpeg
Reath-Design-Patio-Bluestone.jpeg

All of these designers have woven color into their interiors in fun, surprising, and elegant ways. What do you think—do you have a favorite among these three designers? Have you recently discovered anyone doing amazing things with color, texture, and natural elements?

Road Trip: A Return to Lehigh County

During my most recent visit to the Lehigh Valley, I was reminded just how splendid this little corner of the world is. The fact that you can drive around on random back roads and find gorgeous buildings like this is one of the reasons I love this area so much:

Laudenslager's-Mill-Lower-Macungie-PA_WM.jpg

This stone mill is located in Lower Macungie Township and is situated directly on the Little Lehigh Creek, which would have been a prime location when it was still in use. Some records refer to it as the Neumeyer grist mill, most likely for the builder, Conrad Nuemeyer. Other references call it Laudenslager’s Mill. It was built in 1831 and operated as a flour mill. I didn’t know any of this until after I got home and Googled the name of the road where it’s located and “stone mill.” It’s amazing what you can learn with a little curiosity, isn’t it?

Laudenslager's-Mill-Split-Level-Mill_WM.jpg

I happened to be driving by the mill as the sun was going down, and a soft, golden light streamed through the trees, casting a warm glow on the building. It was the perfect light for snapping a few pictures on my phone. I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the farmhouse that also shares the property.

White-Farmhouse-Porch_WM.jpg

At Kalmbach Memorial Park, also in Macungie, I spotted one of the two Singmaster barns in the area. This one was built sometime around 1850. The current iteration has a bright white exterior with deep green doors and trim, as well as two distinct hex signs above the second floor windows.

White-Barn-Kalmbach-Memorial-Park_WM.jpg

The property was originally the John Singmaster farm, later purchased by Fred Kalmbach, Sr., who loved the land’s natural beauty. The barn and house are surrounded by woods, fields, gardens, and a small stream. Kalmbach was adamant about the land being used as a public park after his passing, a place for the community to gather and appreciate nature. According to the park’s website, the property hosts lots of educational and recreational programs for adults and children.

White-Barn-Hex-Sign-Kalmbach_WM.jpg
Kalmbach-Flowers-Turquoise-Bench_WM.jpg
Kalmbach-Memorial-Park-Flowers_WM.jpg
Hex-Sign-White-Barn-Turquoise_WM.jpg

I couldn’t help but notice how quiet and peaceful the park is. My car was the only one in the lot, so I think I had the place to myself. I took my time strolling through the gardens, down to the water, and into the woods and through the fields. I appreciated how the signs throughout the park reminded visitors that it’s a place intended for quiet reflection.

Barn-Garden-Kalmbach-Memorial-Park-PA_WM.jpg
Kalmbach-Memorial-House_WM.jpg
Kalmbach-Garden-Birdhouse_WM.jpg
Kalmbach-Memorial-Park-Creek_WM.jpg
Kalmbach-Memorial-Park-Woods_WM.jpg

Not much farther afield is Kospia Farms. I noticed this garden center the first time I visited, and I would have stopped if it hadn’t been pouring rain. I made a point to go back this time and wandered through the greenhouses and retail shops. The colorful sign below caught my eye—I especially love the arrow pointing towards the dog! Much to my dismay, I only spotted the dog as I was driving away. He looked like a friendly pup eager to greet his visitors!

Kospia-Farms-Signs_WM.jpg
Kospia-Farms-Alburtis-PA_WM.jpg

Get a load of these succulent planters! This might have been my favorite section of the nursery. The variety of plants and containers creates a whimsical, perfectly-imperfect look, and the longer you look at the display, the more details reveal themselves.

Creative-Succulent-Planters-Large-Smalll_WM.jpg

Who knew cinder blocks could look so magical? I don’t know if this arrangement happened by design or as a matter of convenience, but I love the combination of the lush plants with what’s basically an unremarkable construction material. It works especially well as part of the larger display grouped with the tree stump, the Jonathan Adler-esque planter, and other containers. I’m also in love with all the prickly pear cacti!

Creative-Succulent-Planters-Ideas_WM.jpg

Later in the weekend, I went to the farmers market in downtown Emmaus followed by a trip to Funk Brewing. I passed this brick house while walking through a back alley to get to Funk. You never know what you’re going to find when you take the road less traveled, right?!

Brick-House-Weathervane-Emmaus_WM.jpg
Emmaus-Historic-House-Brick_WM.jpg
Brick-House-Window-Detail_WM.jpg

Funk Brewing was a great spot to hang out. I went with my husband and dad, and we sampled every beer on tap AND had some of the most delicious poutine from a food tent pop-up that set up shop for the afternoon. I didn’t take pictures of the food, which is a shame, but also maybe a blessing in disguise because looking at pictures of it would make me want to eat fries smothered with cheese and gravy nonstop!

Funk-Brewing-Emmaus_WM.jpg

I not-so-secretly want one of those Lehigh Valley Brewers Guild signs.

Funk-Brewing-Lehigh-Valley-Brewers-Guild_WM.jpg

My trip to Lehigh County was for a family visit, so all of my exploring happened by chance. It just so happens that there’s a lot to do here, and you’re never far from pretty scenery.

Hometown Nostalgia: Christmas City Charm

I recently travelled to my hometown of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania after years of being away. It’s possible that the last time I visited was for my wedding shower, which was more than ten years ago! Isn’t that wild?

historic-bethlehem-pennsylvania-house.JPG
historic-bethlehem-moravian-sisters-house-downtown.JPG

My family recently relocated to the area, so I anticipate spending a lot more time there. I’m so excited about that! It means being with my favorite people in some of my most favorite places in the Lehigh Valley, Bucks County, and Brandywine Valley. The culture in these areas did so much to shape my passion for design and architecture, and without my parents’ interest in the art and culture of the region, I wouldn’t have the appreciation for it that I do. There’s an aesthetic to this part of southeastern Pennsylvania that I have yet to see replicated anywhere else—the landscape and artistic renderings of it are truly distinct. I can’t wait to rediscover and explore the places I was once so familiar with!

That’s why I jumped at the chance to spend a day in downtown Bethlehem during my most recent visit. I always loved walking the tree-lined streets when I was growing up. As a kid, when I would go to the library with my mom, sometimes we’d have to park a few blocks away, and I never minded because it meant walking beneath the leafy canopy and admiring the gardens tucked away behind hedges and in the narrow spaces between houses.

historic-downtown-bethlehem-house-garden.JPG

I think these outdoor spaces are what sparked my love of urban gardens. There’s something magical about these small, semi-private areas shaded by trees, partially obscured by landscaping and garden gates. Despite being in the heart of a bustling city, they always seemed quiet and serene, as though their diminutive sizes naturally imposed a hush over street traffic and passersby.

downtown-bethlehem-house-gate.JPG

Porch style (and stoop style) is taken very seriously here, too.

historic-downtown-bethlehem-house-picket-fence.JPG
historic-downtown-bethlehem-inn.JPG

It makes me so happy to see how well-maintained the houses are. Keeping up with external maintenance on an old house is a constant process—there’s always something peeling, cracking, chipping, eroding, or breaking. I admire how effortless these homeowners have made it look.

historic-bethlehem-pennsylvania-house-downtown.JPG
historic-downtown-bethlehem-house-brick.JPG

One of my favorite accents used outdoors in Bethlehem is the Moravian star, which you’ll notice in several photos. The Moravian star, also known as the Star of Bethlehem, is the quintessential symbol of the city. There is even a giant, lighted version of the star that sits permanently at the top of South Mountain overlooking Bethlehem.

historic-bethlehem-house-front-porch-moravian-star.JPG
historic-downtown-bethlehem-stone-house.JPG
historic-downtown-bethlehem-moravian-star.JPG

I came across this quote a couple of months ago: “Home is a place you grow up wanting to leave and grow old wanting to get back to.” Certainly as the years have passed, I’ve found myself thinking more about my hometown and longing to spend more time there. I’m looking forward to future visits, and I can’t wait to share more of this wonderful little town with you.

A Scandinavian Saltbox Cottage in Litchfield County

This simple little saltbox house caught my attention as I was browsing real estate listings in Litchfield Co., Connecticut. It struck me as very Little House on the Prairie, the way it sits in the grass tucked beneath that enormous tree with the perfectly sculpted stone wall extending into its side yard. The gray clapboards, the stout central chimney, the shutter-free windows: it’s a quietly stunning example of American colonial architecture.

Litchfield 1.jpg

As I tend to do, I scrolled through the listing photos before reading the description, eager to see if the interior rooms and remaining property were just as appealing as this single perspective. I’ve been fooled before by cute, historic-looking exteriors that have been nothing more than cruel, hoax-ridden façades hiding dated renovations from the 80s, bathrooms clad in 50s-style tile, and junky DIY jobs. This particular exterior was extremely misleading—but in the best way possible.

Exhibit A: this photo of the pool (which is really just a teaser for what’s to come) tossed into the first three listing photos, no doubt to make viewers gasp and halt their scrolling to fully ogle the scene. I can practically feel the warm breeze playing off the surface of the water and smell the sweet scent of the lush landscape enveloping this secluded escape.

Litchfield 3.jpg

Under a sky that blue, the temptation to stay poolside all day is real, and I almost lost the urge to continue exploring the rest of the photos because I was absolutely mesmerized by the perfection of it all.

Litchfield 21.jpg

Moving on to the interior, another unexpected twist awaited my discovery: the walls and wooden beams have been washed in cool tones of white and gray. At first glance, it reads contemporary, but a closer look reveals the rustic nature of the original architecture has been preserved, from the exposed beams to the rough-hewn floors. The mix of midcentury and modern furniture with the subdued color palette and varied textures of the furnishings feels inspired by Scandinavian design, topped off with an obvious touch of hygge. It is both updated and ready to cater to the needs of modern-day living while also being completely in touch with its quaint, cozy roots.

Litchfield 4.jpg

The kitchen fully embraces the house’s rustic bones and cottage vibes, particularly through design details such as the open shelving, Shaker style cabinetry, and wide plank floors. However, the stainless steel appliances don’t seem out of place here.

Litchfield 7.jpg
Litchfield 8.jpg

A set of French doors opens onto the patio and outdoor seating area.

Litchfield 9.jpg

Where color is used, it is used sparingly yet playfully. Artwork in the kitchen and dining room punctuate the mostly white and neutral rooms.

Litchfield 6.jpg

The play between traditional and modern design elements continues throughout the rest of the house. The front hall expertly displays the juxtaposition of the smooth white walls against the grain-heavy floors. Thanks to their abundant texture, the floors prevent the house from appearing cold and out of touch with its 19th century provenance.

Litchfield 12.jpg

The bedrooms share the neutral aesthetic of the public rooms on the first floor. The exposed beams and hardwood floors create a nest-like backdrop for the streamlined furniture.

Litchfield 13.jpg
Litchfield 14.jpg
Litchfield 15.jpg
Litchfield 22.jpg

Outdoors, the property is connected by a series of gardens and intimate seating areas. Whether you fancy an outdoor breakfast, lunch with friends on the patio, a relaxing break by the gardens or pool, or an evening in front of the outdoor fire pit, the options for lounging while surrounded by nature are endless.

Litchfield 23.jpg
Litchfield 10.jpg

The dining table on the patio overlooks a grassy patch of lawn which connects to the pool behind the ample hedge.

Litchfield 2.jpg

A firepit centered in this tidy gravel circle fills out an outter nook in the grass.

Litchfield 18.jpg

A natural wooden pergola shields this seating area from the sun, providing a relaxing space to enjoy the outdoors even on the hottest of days.

Litchfield 20.jpg

The carefully planted yet carefree gardens add depth and whimsy to the landscape. Eventually, I did read the listing description, and in doing so I gleaned that this house has apparently caught the attention of more than one well-known house and garden publication. It’s not hard to see why Gardenista decided to share this property several years ago in a feature on secret gardens.

Litchfield 24.jpg
Litchfield 25.jpg

A parting view shows the Litchfield Hills in the distance.

Litchfield 19.jpg

It’s rare to find antique and current styles so beautifully intertwined. The modern updates in this home have been tastefully executed to maintain the original charm. The results are surprising and altogether way too tempting!

To see additional photos of this special country house in Roxbury, CT, check out the listing here. All photos of the house and property are from the listing.

Create an Urban Garden in the Suburbs

I've always had a soft spot for urban gardens. I tend to think of them as secret gardens, small oases carved out of tight quarters, nestled behind iron gates or wooden fences, hidden mostly out of view of the casual passerby. One of the best parts of walking around Beacon Hill or the South End is catching glimpses of these secluded outdoor spaces that have been transformed into verdant hideaways. The same can be said of Charleston or New Orleans—those cities know how to make small green spaces feel like they're worlds away from a bustling city.

Image is my own

Image is my own

Image is my own

Image is my own

Aside from actually being in a city, urban gardens are defined by their size (usually small, or at least not sprawling), their privacy (typically enclosed by tall plants, hedges, walls, or fences), their abundant plantings (multiple containers or a mix of in-ground plantings and containers), and their focal point (or two). The concept is easy enough to recreate in a suburban setting, and it's an easy way to make a big impact on your yard's appearance with minimal upkeep. Rather than keeping up with lots of plants spread throughout the entire yard, you can concentrate your watering and pruning efforts on one dedicated area.

No matter how big your yard, you probably have a patio, deck, or grassy area where you spend time outside lounging, eating, or entertaining. This is the area to focus on if the thought of doing a full-scale, whole-yard garden installation seems overwhelming. And if you do decide to tackle the whole yard at once, the elements of the urban garden can actually be applied on a bigger scale. Here are some ideas to get started planning your small, pseudo-urban space:

Designate seating zones. Identify places for seating, whether it's lounge furniture, a dining set, or a hammock. If you have room for multiple types of seating, leave a comfortable amount of breathing room between them. Benches can be placed along the outer edges of the area, creating extra seating that won't take up a lot of room in the middle of the space. Keep it neat. If one seating zone is all you have room for, don't try to cram everything together. Overcrowding the space will make it feel cluttered instead of cozy.

Build a buffer. The idea is to create a privacy screen to make your space feel more intimate. The level of privacy you want will depend on how exposed the space is to the rest of your yard and neighbors. If you have two exterior walls that meet in a corner, your home's architecture can lend a hand in creating a natural buffer. If your space is wide open, a pergola overhead or a series of trellises will enclose the space (and offer shade). Fences and hedges are good options if you want a low wall that doesn't necessarily offer complete privacy but sets the space apart from the rest of the yard.

Cluster containers and plant border gardens. It might seem redundant to add more greenery to an area surrounded by grass or shrubs, but potting plants or adding a row of flowers along the edge of a deck or patio adds layers of color and texture, which makes the space appear leafy and lush. Treat potted plants and flowers as accent pieces, and tuck them in corners or along the borders of your space. Fruit trees and tomato plants can make great privacy screens because they grow taller than most flowers and herbs.  

Figure out a focal point. Depending on the amount of space you have to work with, this could be anything from a fire pit to a small fountain or a bird bath or bird feeder. You could also position your furniture to take advantage of a nice view.

Don't forget to decorate. Stone statues, sundials, decorative bird houses, and wind chimes are fun finishing touches that your guests can discover as they look around your space. For a soft glow in the evening, hang string lights. Large lanterns that can be set up with battery-operated candles are a slightly easier, mess-free (and fire-free) option and still provide accent lighting after the sun goes down. 

The key to successfully recreating an urban garden in your suburban space is choosing a small area of your yard to focus on and maximizing its seating potential and privacy while filling in the nooks and niches with lighting and decor. Use flowering plants in one or two hues to create a cohesive, calming atmosphere, or plant multicolored flowers to cultivate a lively, eclectic vibe. Start small to avoid overfilling the space (and overcommitting to lots of plant maintenance). It's easy to change things up from year to year with potted plants and decorative accents, so don't be afraid to try out new flower varieties and swap decor items until you find the right mix.

Think of your small suburban urban garden as an extension of your house and treat it like you would any other room—have it reflect your style, and always make it inviting.