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).
The Thanksgiving Table
Today is a different kind of day. Usually posts on this blog come about with the narrative and I manage to squeeze in a recipe. But sometimes when you really stumble upon a winning recipe, it speaks for itself. We'll likely make these beans for Thanksgiving this year. They're one of those simple stunners that you initially think couldn't be much of a thing. And then they come out of the oven all sweet and withered and flecked with herbs. You try one and you realize they are, in fact, a pretty big thing.
I always force myself to wait until after Halloween to start thinking much about holiday pies or, really, future holidays in general. But this year I cheated a bit, tempted heavily by the lure of a warmly-spiced sweet potato pie that I used to make back when I baked pies for a living in the Bay Area (way back when). We seem to always have sweet potatoes around as they're one of Oliver's favorite foods, and when I roast them for his lunch I've been wishing I could turn them into a silky pie instead. So the other day I reserved part of the sweet potatoes for me. For a pie that I've made hundreds of times in the past, this time reimagined with fragrant brown butter, sweetened solely with maple syrup, and baked into a flaky kamut crust. We haven't started talking about the Thanksgiving menu yet this year, but I know one thing for sure: this sweet potato pie will make an appearance.
It has begun. Talk of who is bringing what, where we'll buy the turkey, what kind of pies I'll make, early morning texts concerning brussels sprouts. There's no getting around it: Thanksgiving is on its way. And with it comes the inevitable reflecting back and thinking about what we're thankful for. And about traditions. The funny thing about traditions is that they exist because they've been around for a long time. Year after year after year. But then, one Thanksgiving maybe there's something new at the table.
I didn't expect green beans to bring up such a great discussion on traditions, sharing of poems and how a piece of writing can linger with you. So thank you for that. Your comments pointed out how important people and place are and how food takes the back seat when it comes right down to it. Even if you feel quite warm towards Thanksgiving and are looking forward to next week, reading about recipe suggestions and meal planning online and in magazines can start to feel tiresome right about now. Why? Because I suppose when it all comes down to it, in the big picture it doesn't matter what we all serve anyway. Next year, you likely won't remember one year's vegetable side dish from another. What you'll remember are the markers that dotted the year for you: whom you sat next to at the table, a toast or grace, and the sense of gratitude you felt for something -- large or small.
I got a text from my mom the other day that read: demerara sugar? I responded back with a question mark, not sure what she was referencing. It turns out she was experimenting with a new pie recipe that called for the natural sugar and wasn't sure why she couldn't just use white sugar as that's what she's always done in the past. A few days later we talked on the phone and she mentioned she'd let me take charge of the salad for Thanksgiving this year as long as there was no kale. No kale! And I wanted to do the mashed potatoes? Would they still be made with butter and milk? In short, we're always willing to mix things up in the Gordon household. Whether it's inspiration from a food magazine, friend or coworker, either my mom or one of my sisters will often have an idea for something new to try at the holiday table. But what I've slowly learned is that it can't really be that different: there must be pumpkin pie, the can of cranberry sauce is necessary even though not many people actually eat it, the onion casserole is non-negotiable, the salad can't be too out there, and the potatoes must be made with ample butter and milk. And while I was really scheming up an epic kale salad to make this year, there's a big part of me that gets it, too: if we change things too much we won't recognize the part of the day that comes to mean so much: the pure recognition. We take comfort in traditions because we recognize them -- because they're always there, year after year. And so today I present to you (mom, are you reading?): this year's Gordon family Thanksgiving salad.