We moved into our 1931 brick Tudor house about a year and a half ago now, and thankfully we didn’t have to do any major structural changes or pricey updates, but the house felt dark and cramped right away. If you’re familiar with Tudor homes, the rooms are traditionally quite small, so have a few friends over and things can quickly start to feel tight. Throw a dog or a baby into the mix and it feels downright tiny at times. It didn’t help that when we moved in, many of the rooms were painted dark shades of maroon and olive green, and the lighting fixtures were dated at best.
After Oliver was born, we had lots of visitors and the dining room is where people would often gather. And for that reason, it was always the space I wanted to work on — I was convinced this small, dark room could feel lighter and more spacious. So a few months ago I reached out to Rejuvenation to see if they were interested in working with me on styling the dining room and entry to make our home feel less dated and more open and welcoming. And it seemed after we were done, there was no better excuse for drinks and snacks.
When we bought our house, our tiny dining room (seats 4! And 1 robust bar!) was painted a very dark maroon and had an old, heavy chandelier. Before we even moved in, I promptly painted the room a soft gray and we hemmed and hawed about what would best replace the chandelier. Because the room is so small, we were tempted to go with a smaller flush-mount fixture to open up the space, but the folks at Rejuvenation encouraged us to try more of a statement piece, and after a few visits to the store and a bit of time online, I found this Linen Tiered Drum Pendant. While it’s certainly not small, the tiered shape and breezy linen shade help to add a focal point to the room without feeling clunky, and the antique brass finish fits in perfectly with the knobs and other fixtures throughout the house.
The dining room table belonged to my mom from her graduate school days in Burlington, Vermont. It’s an antique, and it’s pretty creaky but I love the dark wood and its slim, square shape fits perfectly into our small space. But the room started to feel like … a lot of wood and I wanted to find a rug to soften things up. The problem? Loud, graphic rugs can often make a space feel smaller, but I knew I could find one that had the opposite effect.
After visiting the Rejuvenation store, I fell in love with the Skyline rug and decided to try it out in the space. It has a soft palette that works well with the color of the walls, and really pulls together the room.
Now for something on the walls. In the dining room itself, we have hung some wedding photos (mostly of our friends) in simple brass frames, but we’re both pretty picky about what we want to stare at every day. It’s no small feat to find a clock with a clean, modern profile that you actually want to look at, and the Champagne Beech Clock is just that. It’s functional and beautiful, and such a remarkable upgrade from the retro diner clock we’d hung previously — a relic from my college days in Boulder, Colorado.
But no matter how inviting the dining room was (and how stocked the bar), there’s a limited window of time in which friends want to stand around the dining room table, so inevitably people trickle into the living room (you can see a photo of my friend Jen sitting on our couch, below, flanked by our Modernica ceramic planter and the Bruno Double Arm floor lamp which has proven to be my favorite spot to sit and read after putting Oliver to bed).
A welcoming space is all fine and good for get-togethers, but drinks and snacks are pretty important, too. For this gathering, we had some of our neighborhood friends over (most just walked — a huge bonus of living where we do) and Sam made cocktails. He worked off the cuff mostly, as he likes to do, but created a few that we all fell in love with (one which I’m sharing below). For snacks, I’m a big fan of keeping things simple with relatively little fuss. So I picked up a bunch of different cheeses, castelvetrano olives, seedy crackers, salami, salty almonds, and remember that cherry yogurt cake from last month? That, too. It was substantial enough to serve as a light meal, and after everyone left I wondered why we don’t have cheese, crackers, salami and cake for dinner more often. Noted.
While I initially set up all of the snacks in the dining room, as the evening went on we ended up bringing plates of cheese and crackers into the living room to lounge and catch up. The Holdridge Hook Rack in the entryway helped clear any coat/purse clutter, making sure we had room to spread out a bit. And as is often the case, we end up short on seating in the living room (or any room) so when we have people over, we inevitably end up grabbing some chairs from the kitchen or from my office. I think the mismatched, impromptu nature just makes people ultimately feel more at home.
When everyone was ready to leave, we did a lot of lingering by the front door saying long goodbyes. When we moved in, our entryway had a very standard, basic (and slightly rusty) lighting fixture that we decided to replace with the Cedar and Moss pendant (top left, below). You can adjust the length of these pendants, so we made ours super squatty — I was worried at first that it would feel a little too flashy for our space, but it actually adds an updated freshness and a muted modern sensibility which I love.
I realize up until now I haven’t shared many photos of our house since we moved in, and with the newly-redesigned site, I’m planning on featuring occasional home and gathering posts — giving you a bigger peek into our days — not just isolated shots of food on our table. I know I love to return to websites and blogs where I get a fuller sense for people’s lives, so hopefully – maybe, just maybe – you may feel similarly.
But for now: giveaways + cocktail recipes! Rejuvenation was kind enough to offer a reader of A Sweet Spoonful a chance to win $200 to spend in their store or online! Check out how to enter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
All photos in this post were taken by our friend Gabe Rodriguez of Gabriel Boone Photography. From weddings to babies to homes and events — Gabe does it all, and we were lucky to have him step in and make our home look so lovely!
Carpano is a smooth sweet vermouth with somewhat nutty, and almost – almost – chocolatey notes that dance really well with the Chartreuse (An alternative to the Carpano could be Punt e Mes, with a slightly more herbal taste). This helps make this a much more interesting and elegant drink than standard sweet vermouth, though you would still have a worthwhile drink if that’s all you have on hand.
Chartreuse is an elegant little garden of a liqueur, with lemon balm, spearmint, feverfew and quite a few other herbs layered over one another. With the dark elegance of the Carpano providing the drink more of a backbone, the chartreuse is the spirit and soul. The Campari (however you add it) and the orange bitters? That’s a little extra gleam in the eye.
Rinse a coupe glass with Campari (or just a dash, blended with the other ingredients) and pour out (or keep).
You can stir the other ingredients together in ice for 40 seconds, straining this into the coupe, for slightly stronger, less-diluted drink, or shake the ingredients together over ice, vigorously, and you’ll have a beautiful “crema” of sorts on the top of the drink (seen above).
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
We walked to the library last week and I had a strange realization standing in line watching Sam check out his usual massive stack of books: Will I ever have the time to read stacks of books again? I used to be much more of a reader than I am today -- a fact I'm not at all proud of. But when evening rolls around and the more formal workday ends, I find emails and other odds and ends creep in. Walking home from the library, I began obsessing over free time for reading, asking Sam if we'd ever be those two old people who study bird manuals and can recognize birds on walks. I want to have the time to read bird manuals someday. For now though, we're young and we're working a lot. We did sneak away on that one-night camping trip I told you about, and cooked some interesting, haphazard meals which I hope to share with you soon. For now though, for summer: a strawberry dessert recipe.
Much like friends, types of Sunday mornings, or books -- there are many different kinds of desserts. Sometimes you may be in the mood for a light French cake piled high with summer fruit. Other days, a thick slice of fragrant pound cake will do. And then there are those days when you crave a rich chocolate mousse that you share after a night of good conversation and a little too much wine. But let's be honest. When it comes right down to it, the most basic and unassuming dessert of all is sometimes the only one that will do. A good and simple affair. Vanilla ice cream. So I want to talk about that today--about a dessert that withstands the test of time, that will always be there for you. A dessert that is far from trendy, that doesn't play favorites or trick you into thinking it's something that it's not. It's a good foundation. A solid beginning.
[ Pie. if you've been around here much in the last few months, you know that I make pie. A lot of pie. And I'm particularly excited to share this pie with you today because it helped me break out of a rut. A pie rut. A baking rut. A Marge inspiration rut.