Category Archives: decorating

La Cuisine!

We moved into our newly remodeled house several months ago, but many of the finishing pieces are still trickling in ever. so. slowly. The arrival of the banquette  marked the (almost) completion of the kitchen and breakfast area, which I am happy to finally share with you. The kitchen was my favorite part of the remodel, and the part I thought about and researched the most. I wanted to make absolutely sure it suited my cooking style as well as my aesthetic. Because mine truly is a “working kitchen,” it was imperative that the lay-out of appliances, sinks, and storage were well planned and made sense for me. I am thrilled to report that so far I am totally loving cooking and baking in this space, and have not yet discovered anything I wish we had done differently.

This “before” picture shows the kitchen, which was about half the size of the new one, and flanked by a tall pantry. We ripped everything out and added two more windows on the right wall. This left us with a big open space to play with!



The two additional windows add light and fresh air on those rare days we can open them here in Austin. The window panel looks out onto a gravel courtyard surrounding a magnificent oak tree, and we plan to turn that area into a dining/entertaining space reminiscent of those we loved in Provence. Pass the wine and cheese, please.

Originally I thought I wanted a white marble countertop, but I was concerned about its durability. I am not a fastidious cook, and splashes of stuff have been known to sit on my counters longer than I care to admit. After much thought we opted for quartzite, a natural stone that can look much like marble but is more forgiving of cooks like me. We liked it so much that we put it on the backsplash as well. So far I have not had any problems with etching or staining, and  I love the veining and the shine.



The wall of windows meant that we couldn’t have many upper cabs. I have gotten used to the drawers, though, and use them to store dishes, glasses, and pots and pans. The slightly restricted storage was a good exercise in culling my cooking implements to the ones I really use. All duplicates went into boxes for the kids, or went to the lake, or were given away. I love opening a drawer and seeing exactly what I need, with no unstacking required. Less truly can be more!



This hand-me-down from my grandmother made the cut, though.

This freestanding open shelf unit was made from counter remnants and steel. The white stone shelves remind me of a display from a French patisserie (alas, without the pastries). I keep some of our every day dishes and glasses on it, and plan to rotate decorative pieces on it, as well.



I  love these two “floating shelves” on either side of my range. They are also steel, and were attached to the sheet rock before the stone backsplash was threaded over them. Amazing, non? I am glad I wasn’t there to see it happen.



Mark loves the look of clear counters, so we built a little storage area to keep our frequently used appliances hidden but still accessible. Not visible but also there are a toaster and a blender.


I kinda like these sleek electrical outlets, which are covered and lie flat along the back of the counter top.




My pantry space is to the left of the refrigerator. The pull-out unit takes some getting used to, but is an efficient use of space. I store a few extra items in an upper cabinet.



All of my dry goods live in this shallow cabinet next to the pantry. I found the containers at a restaurant supply store, and they have kind of changed my life. No more partially- used flour bags zipped up in plastic bags. No more dry beans slipping out of open packages. No more wondering what lurks in the depths of deep dark shelves.


This pantry is still evolving. I need some more containers (like one for that sad bag of powdered sugar) but haven’t made it back to the store for those yet. I really love that I can dip measuring cups into these wide containers without spilling contents onto the counter. It’s the little things, you know?

Another thing I planned out ahead of time was my spice drawer. I cannot stand pulling out bins of spices and lifting countless jars up in search of the cumin or the cream of tartar. I found these little cuties on-line, and they please me greatly. I like buying my spices in small quantities, so this small size works well for me.


My island is the size of a sedan. I KNOW. But it is so nice being able to spread out several kitchen projects at the same time. It also makes it very comfortable for more than one cook to be in the space. Also if we ever want to turn out house into a disco for a night, it will make a great dancing stage. Just gotta watch out for the prep sink.

The island is home to the microwave and the wine refrigerator and the trash/recycling/dog food bins. IMG_9153


To the left of the wine fridge is a handy lift for my mixer (which is heavy as hell). I can crank it up, slide it onto the island, and then say goodbye to it when the cookies are baked.  Sweeeeeet!


Thank you for your service now go away.

The banquette was a subject of debate, as Mark was not crazy about the idea of blocking the windows. He relented (thanks honey!) and I think it looks fine in that space.IMG_9147

So that’s it- my shiny bright brand new kitchen! Thanks for stopping by and please come again. And if you enjoyed your tour, please don’t forget to tip your guide.



Filed under Austin, cooking, decorating, design, kitchen, Uncategorized

Astier de Villatte


Those of you who have been on this Paris gig with me for a while will recognize these gorgeous ceramics made by Astier de  Villatte. I got a serIMG_5943ious crush on them early on, and have never tired of going to the tiny but amazing shop on Rue Saint Honore. I have been there so many times that the woman who works there greets me with a big smile and asks how I am doing. She saw me taking photos of their window this week and actually popped her head out of the door to say hello. Really? Like she thought I wouldn’t come inside?IMG_5945



As I have mentioned here before, these ceramics are made by hand in Paris. The pieces are left slightly imperfect- you can see bumps and dimples and some of the dark clay peeks out through the white veneer. That is part of their charm for me. Perfection is way overrated.



These beautiful things can be found in a few stores in the U.S., but I am not sure I will ever be able to buy them anywhere but in this tiny shop, with its distinctive scent and magical old-world charm.










While the dishes traditionally are white, some have images painted on them.



They also make these stunning blank notebooks.


I am pretty sure I took all my guests to the shop, and few could leave empty-handed, despite the challenges of carrying the precious packages home. We still laugh about the man at customs who tried (unsuccessfully) to shame my sister about her expensive cups. Nope. Ain’t no shame in these beauties.

I recently discovered this delightful video about the company and two of its designers. It’s about fifteen minutes long, so go pour yourself a glass of something French and enjoy. You deserve it.



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Filed under Astier Villatte, decorating, Paris, shopping, Uncategorized

Another Day of Decadence in Paris (Dare I?)

Mark warns me about gushing too much here about This Wonderful Life In Paris, and I do try to be sensitive to that issue on this blog (really, I do.)    But since I just shared  the trials and tribulations associated with simply trying to replace the flippin’ sugar in my pantry, I figure I can safely tell you about this fun day I spent with a friend not too long ago.  I can, right?

There is a really cool store here in Paris called Merci, which is larger and more open than most stores here, and is full of wonderful clothes and dishes and decorative accessories.  The best thing about it, however, is that 100% of the profits go to charity in Madagascar.  When I was looking for information about the store I came across this article, which is full of fabulous photos and details about the store.  Please check it out.  Until I read it, I had no idea that the owners also own the children’s store Bonpoint, whose windows I am always sharing here because they are so clever.

This Fiat 500 is part of the store’s decor.  When I was there it was painted a gorgeous blue and toted a simple red suitcase on the back.

I would love this under my Christmas tree.

Frontal view

While the Fiat was in the courtyard just outside the entrance , this precious little mini-van was inside the store.

This awesome bike was also in the store.  Love the handy-dandy wine carrier!

Everything about this store makes me wander around it slack-jawed at how beautifully designed it is.  I wish they would come to my house and work that magic.

Although there is a cafe at the store (of course there is), my friend and I scooted on over to the Marais and had lunch at Rose Bakery, which is a precious little place with delicious home-baked goodies you can take home.  Hint: if you go to the Marais location, be sure you have at least three people in your party or you will be seated in a narrow passageway between the kitchen and the front of the bakery (which is where you want to be), next to humming refrigerators and industrial- sized bottles of food stuffs.

Despite the imperfect ambience, we both enjoyed our  pizza and wine.


Here is the front of the bakery, with its  gorgeous steel and glass door and window.  Unfortunately, it is also directly behind a strip of motorcycle parking spaces.

Immediately upon leaving the bakery, we realized that we were perilously close to one of the most stylish chocolate and pastry shops in Paris, where one can actually sit down and enjoy rich hot chocolate and amazing pastries.  “One” =”We” and yes we did.  It was so wrong.

The shop is called Jacques Genin, and my friend and I had been dying to go there ever since David Lebovitz tempted us with his blog post about it here.  So we blame it all on David, who is responsible for leading us into temptation on other occasions, as well.  Bad David.  Bad.

So wrong. Should have gone with tea.

There were other acts of indulgence on that wonderful day, but (thankfully) not of the gastronomic variety.  I will save those for the stuff of future posts, I think.

We all owe it to ourselves to have days like this every once in a while, don’t you agree?  Please tell me you do.  And that you don’t judge me for my gluttony and any other unseemly conduct that may or may not have occurred on that day.


Filed under chocolate, decorating, Marais, Paris, pastries, shopping

A Fantasy House On The Champs-Elysees

When I was young, I used to love going with my parents to the yearly Parade of Homes, which was a collection of newly built homes that were furnished and decorated for the event and then sold.  I always thought they were so fancy and glamorous and imagined what it would be like to live in them.

None of them, however, were as glamorous as the “pretend”home I recently toured at the Artcurial on the Champs-Elysees.  This exhibit, “AD Interieurs 2012- Voyages Imaginaires”, featured 13 decorators and designers who were allowed to create “rooms” that flowed into each other as if they were part of a house.  According to this link from the Art Media Agency, “The carte blanche given to these decorators this year must allow them to express their relationship with art and emphasise the manpower in the creation sphere. Some of the decorators are experts, others emerging, however, they all follow the French tradition of large-scale events dedicated to decorative arts.”

The first room was labeled a library.  I love the light fixture.

Check out this bathroom.  It was impressive, even to someone from Texas who is accustomed to bathrooms big enough for entertaining.

A chaisse lounge? For resting apres le shower?

I thought this living room was really cool.  Everything in it was very textured.  The wall covering looked like tree bark.

I wasn’t sure what kind of room this was supposed to be.  Lounging on very uncomfortable furniture, perhaps?  But I loved the window treatments.

difficult shot- sorry about the glare

This next room was a dining room done entirely in Baccarat crystal.  My pictures didn’t come out well, but you get the idea.

This was some kind of living area.  It reminded me of an airline lounge, for some reason.

Cool acrylic bench- seemed to just hover in its space

Another crazy bathroom with three flat screens on the wall that showed different water scenes, with water sounds being piped into the room.  Kind of made me need to use it, actually.  This bathtub, made of wood,  was attached to the wall and the top folded down.  The faucets were all snakelike and appeared to simply rest on the bottom of the tub.

This was another living area.  It felt the most “homey” to me.  I loved the blue curtains and art.

My friend and I really enjoyed touring this “home”.  Before we returned to our own homes, we shared a delicious cappuccino on a terrace of Le Notre, which was just across the street.

A very happy ending to a fun afternoon on the Champs-Elysees!

I posted a few more pictures from the exhibit on my facebook page.


Filed under Artcurial, decorating