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Wednesday, March 25, 2015


Let's get it out of the way early.  I realize that there are many purists out there who will flat out tell you that you never, ever paint brick in the same vein that wood enthusiasts will implore you to restore wood, but never paint it. If I'm being completely honest, I myself have a hard time seeing the original state of any crafted surface irreparably changed. Even still, I want to explore another way of looking at things and maybe even convert the traditionalist in you by praising the virtues of painted brick.

It's true. I may just be the girl most likely to wield a paint brush, but there are plenty of good reasons to consider painting out that brick wall you've been giving dirty looks to for the past 5 years. First and foremost- I am always a supporter of changing anything in your home that you are having a hard time living with. If you're unhappy with your brick wall or fireplace and think you'd be happier painting it out a bright white or gray or blue or yellow- by all means, go for it. Just know that once you do, you can't go back (well, you might be able to, but trust me when I say you really don't want to go through that hassle). 

Your gut is probably right in telling you that you can brighten up an otherwise dark and dated room by painting out the multi-colored brick walls in a bright white. One of my favorite aspects of a painted brick wall is the architectural interest you'll achieve or keep simply through texture variation. It may not have to be a different color than the rest of the room.  You can still break up what might otherwise be a white box of a room simply through a tone on tone accent wall of brick.

Achieve a more striking, yet neutral backdrop by painting out the brick in a dark charcoal tone. Be prepared to fall in love with all of your warm hued and brightly colored furnishings all over again. The wall plays a pivotal role, but will probably take a back seat to anything you put in front of it. 

We chose to paint out some accent brickwork around our back patio with a dark gray, much like the photo above. It was a bit of a game changer for us. We saved money by not having to replace brick that was not aesthetically pleasing and once painted, found that it neutralized an area that would have otherwise been an unwanted focal point. 

The virtues of paint stand well enough on their own. But I think by retaining the brick, we are still using the texture variation to our advantage. Take the room below for example. There is clear evidence that this was likely once a more rustic space. But what understated grandeur came from painting out the herringbone floors and that beautiful accent archway just a shade darker than the adjacent walls. It's clean, updated and elegant and arguably more striking because the renovators retained the pattern in the floors and ruggedness of the brick.

I would argue that painting brick is in a way preserving the original craftsmanship - not disposing of it. Making use of the existing material is an eco-concious compromise. Why tear down a well built structure simply because a more modern look is desired? A freshly painted brick exterior can be just as synonymous with classic tradition as unaltered brick. But I also think there's something to be said for bringing a fresh perspective to an older building or outdated space through unified color. 

Not all brickwork is created equal. You may love everything about that new house you just bought, except for the 1980's all-red brick everything kitchen that nearly broke the deal. Likewise, brick that has been repaired and patched over may have lost its once more polished look. If you find yourself considering an impulsive 10pm paint job, know that there is some prep-work and a few bigger considerations to vet out before you go at it. 

I focused primarily on paint here, but a wash or stain might actually be a better alternative for your particular situation. Here are some helpful links to help you do your own research. 

image sources: 
1/ via Rue Magazine  2/ via int2architecture  3/ Creative Flats via Airbnb  4/ Mercer Street Loft by Martin Raffone via Houzz  5/ House to Home via Happy Interiors Blog  6/ Studio Eginstill via  7/ Hays Town Makeover by Ty Larkins  8/Sara Blee  9/Designer Nancy Duffey via Romabio

Monday, March 23, 2015


It's been over two months since I've written a post for this blog. I've wanted to write many times since then, I've even had "write blog post" on my daily list more times than I can count. It's not that this blog hasn't been important to me, it's just that I had to let other things be important too. 

The upside is that over the last 10 weeks, I've accumulated so many wonderful tales and projects to talk to you about and I can't wait. I also took the time to sort of reset - both goals and personal aspirations within my own life, as well as my point of view for future posts here on the blog. I took time away from other blogs as well so that I could remember to hear my own voice. When creating content for five posts a week, I think its entirely too easy to get caught up in a vacuum of expectations about what you think people want to see and hear. In the end, I have a clearer vision for what I want to share with you all here at Holtwood Hipster and as fresh posts unfold over the next days and weeks, I hope you'll have a clearer vision about me and what I want to put out there in the world. 

I'm anxious to share and if you are still checking in here once in a while to see if a new post has been written, I am also very, very grateful that you do. 


image source:  for the love of the south

Wednesday, January 14, 2015


Admittingly, I always feel a little guilty putting out any sort of "wish list".  In the grand scheme of things, life is pretty good and I'm content - in fact, in some ways I'm trying to live better with less stuff. But inevitably, I will be asked by people in my life who are so very good to me what it is I may need or wish for this year when I blow out my birthday candles. So with three weeks still to go until the big day, I've pulled together a list of stuff I will probably get around to buying at some point anyway. There are a few nice to have goodies, but most of them will be replacement items for those truly needed for my adventures in the garden this year. I also have this little romantic daydream of building out a collection of stag horn ferns from those I might receive on special occasions like my birthday or an anniversary. On the surface it may seem silly, but I'm looking for deeper meaning or to make better use of the "stuff" I do accumulate. 

1 (or available locally at exotic plant nurseries like one of my favorites) / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Go Here // Flora Farms, Los Cabos

I came across Flora Farms some time ago and I recall that it immediately struck me as one of those perfectly mythical places, the kind I daydream about owning and running should my lottery windfall ever come to fruition. But in fact, this 10-acre working farm actually exists in the mountains above Los Cabos, offering visitors a farm to table experience through their on-site bar and restaurant.  A lucky few have the opportunity to own a part of it through one of several "cottages" that also dot the property.

The farm began 10 years ago, serving local chefs and hotels through the weekly farmers market. Eventually, it opened its doors to the public with its own kitchen, serving up a gourmet brunch, lunch and dinner menu with fresh fruits and vegetables grown on-site in fields still worked largely by hand. Meats served at the restaurant are humanely raised on a nearby ranch also owned by Flora Farms.

In addition to the kitchen and bar, which serves up carrot margaritas and other organic concoctions, visitors can also pick up fresh produce from the grocery to enjoy back home. Farm tours are also available to patrons, providing a holistic look at the history and hormone/pesticide free farming methods the farm is committed to. 

There are 10 luxury culinary cottages that dot the property, offering an upscale stay right on the farm with privileges that include a private harvesting privileges from the farm, pool and spa, private beach club and a family pond for swimming.

Properties have been sold, but some offer rental stays with all the privileges of ownership extended. 

What I wouldn't give for an extended stay, with time to cook in that kitchen!  For now, I'm content to long for the day when I can visit the Field Kitchen restaurant and sample homegrown and hand-prepared dishes like radish ravioli and Neopolitan style pizzas prepared in their authentic brick oven. Authentic Italian food with a beach view in Mexico, the stuff my vacation dreams are made of.

Monday, January 12, 2015


I took the photo above while on a whirlwind visit to Paris last November. It was early morning, wet and biting cold as we sat aloft a hop on / hop off bus circling around the city. We had arrived just the evening before for what was my second trip and decided to jump on the bus just to get our bearings. I can tell you that even all these months later, it's easy to remember the pure joy and exhilaration I felt finally getting a good look in the daylight at this majestic place I loved so very much. As we wound through the route, I was anxious for the perspective I finally snapped with my camera when the bus momentarily stopped behind the Trocadero. I remember I turned to my husband and remarked that we had been given an extraordinary gift in that fleeting moment, a sunlit pause in the downpour that allowed us to get a clear glimpse of the Old Lady.

There were of course many extraordinary gifts encountered during our time in Paris, a trip we worked hard and fought for over many preceding months. These are scenes and moments I still carry with me every day. I can tell you that walking that great city only reaffirmed to me that I am a citizen of the world. 

I typically focus on other topics here on the blog, but in that spirit, I felt compelled to pause and reflect on the unfathomable events that unfolded last week in France. I will choose not to discuss politics, freedom of the press or religion here - though arguably, it all does matter. But I simply won't because I've realized in the days that followed, whats at stake is really about something entirely bigger and inclusive of us all- regardless of where we are born and what we are born into. At its finest point, it's humanity that is being victimized again and again. Its all I can think about when I turn on the nightly news to see the headlines of the day, something I feel like doing so less and less. Its appalling what we as the human race do to our own beyond any justification.  I'm not insensitive to the arguments related to marginalization and socio-economic disparities that we also have a hand in creating and do exist in this world of ours.  Life is not an equal playing field - it just isn't and you know what, it's not fair. We all need a closer look at our world and collectively, we absolutely must do better. But there is nothing that rationalizes what took place in France, Syria, Nigeria or the US last week - nothing.

What are we doing to ourselves? It just hurts to the depths of my soul. It keeps me awake at a night when I realize just how complicated it has become to go to work, to go to the market or take a jog down the street, to remember that we are all one in the same - even if we are not. 5,000 miles away, I am affected by the terror and violence that took place in Paris - not just because I realize it can just as easily happen here or because it happened there, but frankly because it happened at all. 

Similarly, I am just as moved by the millions that took to the streets of Paris on Sunday, a show of humanity in its finest hour. I actually set an alarm and woke up early on a weekend morning to witness it, even if just as evidence that there is still good among us. I know there are many that may disagree, but that is what #jesuischarlie is to me at its heart - beyond the magazine, beyond freedom of the press, beyond France. It's a way of supporting, recommitting and binding us back together in the modern age, beyond race, religion or border.  What a cost though for such a reminder. May it not be in vain.

Honestly, I have more questions than answers and so much still to learn. But in the midst of such a profound sadness and alarm, I just could not pretend I'm going about my business with recipes, renovations and pretty pictures and not say something about what is happening. 

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Throughout my web-travels during the back half of last year, I came across quite a few online boutiques I think everyone should know about. One of the things I hope to do more of here on the blog is share these little retail treasures I come across with you. I'm a big believer in small business and have a special affection for handmade goods and Etsy in particular.  I have so much respect and admiration for folks who put their talents out there for the world and nurture and grow something they love to do into a full or part time business. 

One of these finds speaks to my current state of mind. A new year has me seeking all sorts of new adventures both stateside and abroad. There is little I love more than to put a map in my hand and walk unfamiliar city streets, discovering and observing the landscape and architecture of a place not previously visited. I always marvel at how cartographers can capture even the smallest details of a city and make it easy for a traveler like me to find my way.  Even more interesting are views into older maps and city structures. It's amazing to see a city grow over time on paper. 

I came across Etsy boutique GeoArtShed while searching for some new art for a future project here at the house and was mesmerized by the simple, black and white city grids they turned into bonafide works of art. No buildings or icons needed. Here, the lines, curves and waterways forge a fingerprint of sorts for many of the world's biggest cities - places like my beloved Los Angeles, but also New York, Dallas, Tokyo, Paris and others. 

They offer both a black or white background for most prints which come affordably priced and ready to frame in several sizes. The date listed below the map identifies the historical view depicted, a special detail that provides context, while adding a vintage feel to a modern interpretation. 

The shop owner Joey is based in Los Angeles and his bio hints at a childhood spent moving about and exploring new cities as his parents rehabbed homes, a personal detail that endeared his work even more to this serial renovator.

 So go check out GeoArtShed and look for your favorite city. There are many others not featured here. Each listing includes informational tidbits on the corresponding map date which make them even more interesting. Adventurer, map-lover or maybe just homesick for a city you once visited or lived in, there's quite possibly a print deserving of a place in your home or one that can be framed and wrapped as a gift for a beloved traveler.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015


To kick off 2015, we skipped the big midnight fete and opted instead to host an informal New Year's brunch for friends and family. While there was some pre-party prep involved, for the most part this was one of our easiest gatherings yet - made simple by two build-your own stations we set up in the dining/bar area of our home. Our best parties are always those where guests participate in some form or another and to be honest, my favorite celebratory activities have always been - food and drink.

You guys, set up and clean up was so seamless and the cost was so minimal,  I had to share our strategy with you so that you too can host an impromptu party you will have the budget and energy to enjoy.

No rules really apply here. Just keep in mind that the more options you lay out, the more fun it will be for your guests. Remember, we eat with our eyes first! Much of what we displayed we already had in our pantry or fridge. We did some chopping and prepping of garnishes, but the most difficult part of this set up was organizing the condiments and toppings to allow easy access for all. 

A Bloody Mary bar allows non-drinkers to build their own cocktail as well, though we had other non-alcoholic options on hand also. 

Be sure to keep a trash can close at hand for discarded drink garnishes (everyone likes a fresh glass!) and periodically check ice both in the bucket and on any seafood you have at the bar. We like to use highball glasses when making Bloody Marys, so that is what we offered. We also used our stack of ceramic dinner party plates still unpacked from Thanksgiving and Christmas. As a suggestion:  empty the dishwasher before guests arrive and encourage them to toss their plate in the dishwasher when done. I ran a load mid-party and had very little clean up as a result.

One of the things that added to the fun was seeing all the clever creations our friends would make from what we had laid out for them. There were competitions and dares (and of course, Instagram photos to prove it) to see who could come up with the most loaded glass (and then drink it all down). The bagel buffet was replenished when needed and was well preserved on a cool California morning, while we all sat fireside, visiting and talking about vacations and plans for the upcoming year.