I have had the benefit of watching so many families, usually younger ones, tear down walls or build-on in order to have a “great room.” Often,  this not only encompasses the kitchen and eat-in area, but a play zone for children combined with a mult-media family room.  While I enjoy the “open plan” so that more family functions are within eye and ear shot, the one thing I cannot endorse is the office center in the kitchen.  Many kitchen designers love to put the “work station” in the kitchen area so that busy mothers can gather school papers and oversee the family calendar. But many of these mothers also work outside the home. Even if they don’t, why would one want to have spaghetti on the permission slip or review the plumber’s bill while preparing lasagna?

These great rooms have become all noise and no refuge. The 24/7 electronic communication center is already enough to sap the joy out of cooking. The task of paying bills and filing away medical records should not be intermingled with kitchen tasks. Do yourself the greatest of favors and allow yourself the pleasure of repurposing another area of the unused house to gift yourself an office. Claim a bedroom or hall nook and give yourself a quiet place with a desk, comfortable chair and storage to do your own homework with attention to detail.

Cooking should be enjoyable and an invitation to the senses: smell, touch, color and taste. Opening up that space to include conversational areas and gathering spots is a welcomed progression in design but throwing in an office is one spice too many.





Planning a bathroom should not begin with toilets, bathtubs and sinks. Anyone can address the function of a bathroom so instead, imagine the bathroom as just a room first and foremost. Look around. What room does the bathroom flow from and do you wish to create an extension of its already established  décor? Is it a room unto itself in which case you envision it as its own composition? Once you figure out how to establish the feeling you want to elicit, you can move forward.

bathroompic1smBegin by compiling your materials while keeping in mind a balance of glass to tile, to textile, to color and pattern. Give some thought to lighting and what will greet you at the onset and end of each day with a glow not a glare. Texture is widely overlooked in many bathrooms as oftentimes everything is smooth porcelain which feels cold and sterile. Covering every square inch of a bathroom in outrageously expensive tile might scream status, but it doesn’t always speak of good taste. Don’t let any professional, be it tile pro or wallpaper pro, talk you into all of one kind of product. Balance it out with a plan before you start.

Now, you are ready to think sink bowl vs pedestal vs undermount. Antique or new? Soaking tub or jacuzzi tub? Perhaps a shower with a seat? Warming wire in the floors? Sconce lights through the mirror or outside? The possibilities are endless  and we have not even begun to discuss your own physical needs.  Retirement age with comfort and ease in mind or young ones with energy and movement to spare.  We still have much to consider.

As a final thought, I am reminded of my Mother's 1960's master bathroom which she remodeled a few years ago.  Master bathrooms, at that time, were considered irrelevant and pure function.   This one now greets you with the sweetest antique armoire with arched glass doors that reveal bright white, rolled towels, beautiful bottles and a porcelain bowl with soaps. On the walls she hung a collection of diminutive oil paintings by Jessica Durnell whose work makes you smile the second you enter the bathroom. The richness of color from the antiques and paintings offset the cooler whites and creams of the marble field tile and strong black of the marble floor which has now worn down to a leisurely mat finish. She wouldn't change a thing. It is her harbor at the beginning and end of each day.





Bedrooms are private sanctums and should by definition provide refuge from the world at large and a retreat from the demands of our public selves. At the very least, they should offer a place of safety and rest. Rather than luxuries, they are in my opinion, bare minimums in order to feel well and function at your best. With all the pressures to do more and faster, we need this nesting spot more than ever to counter stress levels, heal wounds and recharge our creative energies.

 bedroompic1smI don’t think most Americans put enough effort into the quality of support systems within their bedrooms. Things such as having the most comfortable bed you can afford, the softest sheets you can buy,  30”oversized down pillows to support the head if you are a reader, soft light if you are a talker, enough lamps so that overhead lighting is NEVER necessary, eastern light that awakens you without  the need for an alarm clock, a touch of silk to keep it alluring, a down comforter on top of you and a down mattress cover beneath you, at least four down pillows, your favorite books,  tea service and tray,  fresh flowers, artwork, an armoire, a desk, two comfortable chairs or an ottoman for removing one’s shoes, a soft rug, candles and time to nestle – are all part of a symphony of nourishment and rebirth, a rekindling of the spirit for the next day.

Review the emotions coming from your bedroom. Is it puritanical and sterile which might be telling in and of itself? Is it a messy heap of unaddressed issues? Is it so large that it feels cold, empty and unprotected? Either way, it speaks to what you think you deserve and how you nourish your inner self.


Think of this room in the house as being the most beneficial for your spirit.

Start from there.






Seeing as the sun has graced us with a bit more each day, let’s talk lighting this month. With the lack of light in the winter, most of us turn to sugar, caffeine or shopping to get us through the dull, grey days. But what if I told you that just investing in some gorgeous lighting would affect your mood far more than any of those fixes? It’s true.

If I had to name the one thing that clients neglect but which makes a colossal difference in any space, it would be lamps. Low, structured, opulent lamp light acts like the frame on an artful corner. Or, it can create a corner in the middle of nothing with its tender blush of light. Allow the luminescence to pull you into a  chair and melt into its soft hum. And while I adore gorgeous chandeliers and pendants, they do not come close to offering the same intimacy gradient that every well planned space needs to feel welcoming. Lighting from chandeliers and pendants shout one thing, lamps whisper another. Sconce lights are breathy punctuation but that’s another blog.

Now let’s talk beauty. Don’t just reuse your mother’s old lamps unless she happens to be my mother. And don’t think you can go out and buy one or two generic lamps for $30 each and feel inspired. Lamps should be works of art from the base to the shade and you need groupings not one per room.  And please, throw away anything other than a silk shade. You deserve nothing less in the sanctuary you call home. Considering they are a lifetime possession for most of us, invest in something you LOVE.





If you know me, you know I love dark chocolate. And for those of you who can relate to food beyond mere appreciation but rather amorous devotion, you will want to try this flourless chocolate cake recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, My French Kitchen (2vol) by Joanne Harris .  It is one of those recipes that has become almost illegible in the book due to my obsessive use. My children will have little trouble identifying which cookbooks and specific recipes I have grown to love as the stains and dog-eared pages are obvious markers.  This cake is simple in regards to preparation and isn’t anything fussy that requires a cake server and fine china. Most definitely, it will fix anything that has gone wrong in the day if eaten warm, right out of the pan. I promise.

febGateau Lawrence

6 ½ ounces (70% cocoa) chocolate - I personally buy dark chocolate bars w/ sea salt

12 Tablespoons unsalted butter (softened)

2/3 cups sugar or less

1 2/3 cups of ground almonds (Trader Joes sells large bags)

4 large eggs (separated)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Break chocolate into small pieces. Melt on stovetop at lowest setting in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Remove from heat. Cream together butter (room temp) and sugar. Add ground almonds, egg yolks, melted chocoate and beat until evenly blended. Beat egg whites until stiff and fold into batter gently. Poor into a cake pan ( I like a fluted 9” tart pan) and bake 35 minutes.

It will have a light crust on the outside but the inside will be soft with a moist, dense sponge.  It should neither be dry nor goey. The book calls for a chocolate icing but personally, I think it is overkill. Typically, my children and I eat this right out of the oven gathered around the kitchen island. The sighs and smiles are gateways to open hearted conversations. But sometimes, I make this just for me and eat it in bed with a good book and cup of tea. Happy Valentines!



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