Archives for February 2012

A Fireplace makes everything better

I am spending a rare weekend away {sans children} with my husband at Skamania Lodge, along the Columbia River Gorge, in Washington. We’ve come here a half-dozen times, & what brings us back again & again is the massive wood-burning fireplace and the view {it’s definitely NOT the food}. The size of the logs used in the fireplace are gigantic.

Skamania Lodge Fireplace

Logs waiting for the huge Skamania fireplace

My favorite smell of all time is wood smoke {followed closely by the smell of daphne}. Cedar is best, and while on a crisp fall walk is the preferable time. But really, I like it at anytime and anywhere. Even when I go into a home where the fireplace isn’t properly venting and it has that weird, musty, wet wood smoke smell, I like that too.

I have a pretty short list of absolute wants in my next home:

1. Wood-burning Fireplace (2-3 would be nice too).

2. Some place that gets good afternoon sun for a garden.

3. Gas cook-top.

4. Potential.

I know…not closet space, not a huge master bath, not a 3-car garage, not even the more virtuous home attributes like hardwood floors & original charm. Those are all nice, but I think a fireplace covers over a multitude of house flaws. In one of our previous houses we took out the perfectly good, relatively new, gas insert and converted it back to wood.

Fireplace before (after insert was taken out)

Fireplace After (back to a functional wood-burning fp)

Some people thought it was weird and very un-modern of us. But other true fire lovers understood. I hear all the time about all the mess & effort of real wood – – but if you are honest with yourself is gas even remotely in the same category as homey, delicious, soothing, inviting, ancient wood fire? I think not! Here are some of my favorite applications of the wood-burning fireplace:

originally found at the elements of style blog

originally found at

This Wittus design is my personal favorite because it can be added to a home that didn’t come equipped with a fireplace and has a real minimal beauty to it:

Wittus fireplace original found on

The Kitchen Island

I have a pet-peeve about homes with tiles counter-tops, all that grout, all the cleaning. I realize solid surfaces are more expensive than tile, but they are also much, much more practical for the person who actually uses their kitchen to cook. Since we can’t all afford to rip out that awful tile and replace it right away, why not at least consider a kitchen Island {one with a solid surface of course}. There are so many options and almost every kitchen can find space to tuck one away. Rolling out pizza dough will become an enjoyable task once again, when all you have to do is grab your pastry scraper, pull up the trash, whisk all the post-dough rolling junk away & give it a quick wipe-down. No more wasting time cleaning out all the flour goo from the grout. Here are some beautiful & functional options:

2 carts from the thrifty Ikea Stenstorp line. One is a smaller sized cart {a mere 31×20 inches & only $199} and the other a more substantial full-sized Island {50×31 inches & $379}.

Smaller sized cart {with wheels to easily move around}

Full-sized Kitchen Island

They both have solid oak tops and have nice straight, simple lines that would work with a variety of kitchen styles {plus, you could always paint over the white if you wanted a bit of color in your kitchen, or if you wanted to match them to your cabinets}. I like that they both have open shelving on the bottom where you can store your prettiest {& most used} pots & pans, or you could get some baskets in there for kitchen linens & odds & ends.


For the DIY lover, or if you just like something a little more unique {i do}, I think this island is completely fabulous, with one obvious exception. It needs a solid surface on the top. You could get a few pieces of nice wood & glue them together, or splurge and find one solid piece for the top, or possibly carrera marble, or quartz, or anything that would fit your style. The possibilities are endless.

Kitchen Island made from Pallets [originally found on jennyshus]


For the ultra modern home I think this Island by Shulte Design is pretty hard to beat:

It’s huge, it’s gorgeous & underneath that little plexi-glass looking thing there is a plug-in station for all your goodies, so you can listen to the splendid table, while cooking up a feast & have your laptop open to your recipe {& then hide it away when things get messy}.

Plus it is available in a variety of wood options, so you can choose what works with your space. {I personally love this walnut one in the photos, just gorgeous!}. Unfortunately, I can’t find where you can actually purchase it in the US, and on their website there is no price, which generally indicates high price – – so for now I will just have to look at it longingly.


My absolute favorite find during my hunt for functional island options were the many re-purposed furniture items that made there way into the kitchen as an Island. Really you could use anything, so long as you put it at the right height {which depends on how tall or short you are, but generally around 36 inches} & put a solid surface on top. Some of what I saw was a little kitschy for my taste, but I would LOVE to have this one in my next kitchen:

{originally found on bh&g}

Pottery love

I am not sure what it is about the feel of something that started as a lump of clay and is turned into an everyday useful object, but I like it! My mom is an antique dealer and for the most past all the estate sales, antique shows & thrift store stops of my childhood turned me off from collections of old junk. And, while I wouldn’t say I have a full blown-collection, I do have a good little pile of bowls & mugs in my favorite ringed style. This is the one thing I am looking for every time I go in my mom’s shop, or get dragged into an antique store. There are quite a few pottery brands that did this style to some extent, here are a few of the most popular:

{Wouldn’t you like to start your day drinking coffee from these cheery Bauer mugs?}

{Or have your cereal in these pretty pink & blue McCoy bowls? I know, I would}

This gorgeous collection of vintage Pacific & Bauer Pottery was showcased in country living magazine. I love the greens & blues – perfect for the beach house that they live in.


I have one of these McCoy bowls. I actually think that most everyone knows someone with this bowl. They must have made a lot of them, because so many are still in circulation. They are seriously heavy, but so pretty.


If you aren’t willing to wait & hunt for an original collection, you can purchase reproductions from Bauer Pottery. They aren’t cheap, but are still made in the USA and made to last. Here are a few pieces from their collection:

things that last, part 2

I saw this on pinterest and thought it went well with what I am feeling about my next kitchen {and whole house really} for more on the subject read yesterdays post:

We have been using wood cutting boards exclusively in the recent months & not only are they better for your knives than most other surfaces, but they are just prettier than a plastic cutting board. These ones from Black Creek Mt. are almost art-Which is one more reason to buy things for longevity, they are almost always more lovely than their plastic counterparts & can save you on cupboard space since you will want to display them.

This butter dish from the adorable shop pot & pantry is so far superior to it’s plastic tub counterpart primarily because it holds actual butter-at room temperature! Even better if it is butter from a cow you know {a girl can dream}. I have one very similar to this one. I tried finding a fancy-pants french style dish with the water in the bottom…but, eventually gave up because I couldn’t find it in the color I wanted & in the end it is no matter, because we eat enough butter that it never goes bad sitting pretty on the counter in it’s dish.

things that last, part 1

First things, first: I’ve been homeless for a few months {well not homeless exactly, living with some lovely folks from our church while we transition to a new home, in a new location, sometime soonish…} But, homeless in the sense that I have no place to hang my photos, paint a wall or be a “homemaker” as my present title demands. It has it’s downsides, but the upsides are all the possibilities. We get to start from scratch in our next home with projects & design & style, etc. It’s so exciting. For now, I have had plenty of time to think about what is important in our next home & for me the absolutely most important space is the kitchen. I spend half my life there, so I want it to be beautiful & functional. Here are some of my finds:

I have been thinking about how much stuff we buy & re-buy over the years, when we would be better off investing in good, lasting things in the beginning.

We have been cooking with cast iron again. This time with well-seasoned, naturally non-stick, old, loved pans. Unfortunately for us they belong to our house-mates, so they will stay when we go. We had perfectly useful cast-iron years ago, but we gave up in rusty, non-seasoned frustration and sold them in a garage sale {for a nickle, I’m sure!}. Soooooo, we will be in the market for some new cast-iron here shortly. I actually would love to buy someone’s old cast-iron to save the frustration, but we won’t give up this time until we get it right. When we do buy, I wouldn’t mind some of the simple, lovely wares from finnish design shop, but the plain-old skillet has it’s own beauty too!