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).
Healthy Comfort Food
People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.
Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.
I just finished washing out Oliver's lunchbox and laying it out to dry for the weekend. My favorite time of day is (finally) here: the quiet of the evening when I can actually talk to Sam about our day or sit and reflect on my own thoughts after the inevitable dance party or band practice that precedes the bedtime routine lately. Before becoming pregnant for the second time, I'd have had a glass of wine with the back door propped open right about now -- these days though, I have sparkling water or occasionally take a sip from one of Sam's hard ciders. Except now the back door's closed and we even turned on the heat for the first time yesterday. The racing to water the lawn and clean the grill have been replaced by cozier dinners at home and longer baths in the evening. You blink and it's the first day of fall.
I'd heard from many friends that buying a house wasn't for the faint of heart. But I always shrugged it off, figuring I probably kept better files or was more organized and, really, how hard could it be? Well, I've started (and stopped) writing this post a good fifteen times which may indicate something. BUT! First thing's first: we bought a house! I think! I'm pretty sure! We're still waiting for some tax transcripts to come through and barring any hiccough with that, we'll be moving out of our beloved craftsman in a few weeks and down the block to a great, brick Tudor house that we wanted the second we laid eyes on it. The only problem: it seemed everyone else in Seattle had also laid eyes on it, and wanted it equally as much. I'm not really sure why the homeowner chose us in the end. Our offer actually wasn't the highest, but apparently there were some issues with a few of them. We wrote a letter introducing ourselves and describing why we'd be the best candidates and why we were so drawn to the house; we have a really wonderful broker who pulled out all the stops, and after sifting through 10 offers and spending a number of hours deliberating, they ended up going with ours. We were at a friend's book event at the time when Sam showed me the text from our broker and I kind of just collapsed into his arms. We were both in ecstatic denial (wait, is this real?! Did we just buy a house?) and celebrated by getting chicken salad and potato salad from the neighborhood grocery store and eating it, dazed, on our living room floor. Potato salad never tasted so good.
If your house is anything like ours, last week wasn't our most inspired in terms of cooking. We're all suffering from the post-election blues -- the sole upside being Oliver's decision to sleep-in until 7 am for the first time in many, many months; I think he's trying to tell us that pulling the covers over our heads and hibernating for awhile is ok. It's half-convincing. For much of the week, instead of cooking, there'd been takeout pizza and canned soup before, at week's end, I decided it was time to pour a glass of wine and get back into the kitchen. I was craving something hearty and comforting that we could eat for a few days. Something that wouldn't remind me too much of Thanksgiving because, frankly, I can't quite gather the steam to start planning for that yet. It was time for a big bowl of chili.
Porridge is not the sexiest of breakfasts, it's true. It doesn't have a stylish name like strata or shakshuka, and it doesn't have perfectly domed tops like your favorite fruity muffin. It doesn't crumble into delightful bits like a good scone nor does it fall into buttery shards like a well-made croissant. But when you wake up and it's 17 degrees outside (as it has been, give or take a few, for the last week), there's nothing that satisfies like a bowl of porridge or oatmeal. It's warm and hearty and can be made sweet or savory with any number of toppings. The problem? Over the years, it's gotten a bad rap as gluey or gummy or just downright boring or dutiful -- and it's because not everyone knows the secrets to making a great pot of warm morning cereal. So let's talk porridge (also: my cookbook comes out this month! So let's take a peek inside, shall we?)