For those of you that know me, I enjoy the outdoor rooms of my home as much as the inside; certainly more so in the summerstonelionheadmonths when this born and bred Texan can warm her bones.  As I write this, my vegetable garden is not yet blanketed in snow but rather layered in the washed out golds and coppers of Fall’s  confettied leaves. The pale, vertical stalks of brocolli still offer tiny, silvered florets for one last harvest while the whispy green ferns of the asparagus bed and yellowed vines of squash remain neatly edged in the royal purples of robust, round cabbages.  I know this landscape will soon leave behind these warm colors and take on the chiseled characteristics of an Ansel Adams still life.

What makes a garden hold its beauty when all the color has been removed is the architecture itself – the teasing of past perennials with a white dusting, the arch of an arbor, the invitational reminder of gates, patterns of picket fencing and lattice, softening evergreen boxwoods holding the curves in place, the courtly concrete sculptures left to critique winter’s  canvass.

Take the time to study your gardens now and note how and if your outdoor rooms still have the power to beckon and fascinate the eye. If not, we can change that come spring.

 

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coop

I recently had a client share with me his plans to build the most charming Cape Cod style chicken coop with crisp white siding, forged iron hinges and even a cupola. Of course I found myself pouring over my own collection of articles and books and longing for the same. How many of us daydream of a few chickens to bring some animation to the garden and hardscape? Quite a few, I suspect. Chickens connect us to the land and offer the sweetest displays of mothering.

If you are a gardener, a few bantams are the perfect recyclers. They eat leftovers, garden weeds, lawn mowings, slugs, snails and even mice. If you are of vegetarian persuasion, as I am, eggs offer a perfect protein source along with amino acids, minerals, vitamin A, B and D.  If you are of visual persuasion, as I am, you will love just looking at the shell variations from browns and blue-greens to olive.

I bought the plans for the same Cape Cod style coop as my friend and cannot wait to study them over the winter months. You can buy the plans, too, by visiting countryliving.com/coop where they sell for $39.00. As for books, I like the one pictured called Keeping Chickens by Jeremy Hobson and Celia Lewis. I also love referencing MaryJane’s Lifebook For The Farmgirl In All Of Us by Mary Jane Butters which is where the spectacular fall shot came from.

Can’t have the real thing? We sell lovely, patinaed concrete hens, lambs & rabbits!

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With fall and the holidays right around the corner, it’s a perfect time to give some thought to a welcoming fire in the fireplace. And fireplaces are always one of my favorite ways to find a focal point in a room be it living room, dining room, kitchen or master bedroom.  If you have one, use this wall as your starting point for both setting the tone of the room and arranging the conversational area.

Fireplace mantels and hearths can be as stylized as the exterior of the home and can reflect a traditional, old world, rustic or contemporary style.  And today, the availability of different materials and craftsmen make  a wooden mantel kit a rather stale option.

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Elegantlots of wooden moldings and intricate details that continue to the ceiling for vertical sophistication. Either stain a rich color to mirror wooden beams or paint and glaze.

Lakehome – mix up stone at the base for a casual touch, then switch to an elegant tumbled marble up to the ceiling and top with a rich painted or custom stained mantel.

Genteel – flank the fireplace with symmetrical library units. Have the mantel shelf mirror the wood tone or paint color of the library unit and bridge the gap in depth.

French Country – exaggerated plaster face inset with tumbled marble or hand painted, imported tiles.

 

We may not depend upon the fireplace as our source of heat or cooking fuel anylonger but don’t let it sit idle, use it as a draw for conversation and take advantage of the visual warmth it brings. Allow it to suffuse not only the room but your spirit with an impassioned glow.

 

 

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If you have an active household like I do, consider slip covering dated or worn furniture. I know you are probably familiar with the looser, “pre-made” versions available at big box stores and they do serve a purpose. But I am referring to custom made slipcovers made of lush velvets, silk blends, woven wools or blended linen weaves that have been typically reserved for formal rooms. Use these gorgeous fabrics as slipcovers and you will have a high-end look with the added ability to dry-clean yearly not to mention the bonus of having reserve cushion covers on hand should you need them quickly.

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Custom slipcovers are measured in the home, cut and pinned on the piece of furniture and then installed with zippers for an extra tight fit. Slipcovers from French Country take about 2-3 weeks from the time the fabric arrives to installation. The price will depend upon the grade of material you choose. Make two different slipcovers and you can switch out a room from summer to winter. Add 30" down filled custom pillows and you can take a 1970’s sofa and turn it into today’s showpiece. Have the bottom cushions rewrapped if looking flat.  Tear off an outdated skirt and add turned legs for a cleaner look. Add some decadent corded fringe at the bottom and you will have a classic jewel.

 

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