Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Landscape Progress: Backyard

Our nearly floor to ceiling living room windows look out onto a narrow breezeway that leads from the driveway to our backyard. Because it's such a high profile area, it was one of the first backyard projects I tackled last year.

As was most of the yard, the long planter bed was waist deep in overgrown succulents and geranium plants.  I couldn't wait to tear it all out and give it a contemporary facelift and in my haste, I forgot to snap a proper "before" photo to share with you.  You'll just have to take my word for it-- it was a hot mess.

So one mild weekend in January 2011, I worked over the soil and began the transformation.

I like the clean visual that comes with mass plantings and we've used (and will use more of) them throughout our landscaping endeavors thus far. You get a lot of impact and it can often be a less expensive option vs. layering a bed up with a bunch of different types of plants.

One of the first things I went for were these Kangaroo Paws. I love them for their height and their color, but also was thinking ahead to the day when the plants will be mature and yield some cuttings for indoor floral arrangements. Though the color will probably vary, these drought tolerant plants will likely make an appearance in other areas around Holtwood House this Spring.

I added Mexican Feather Grass in and around the Kangaroo Paw and polished off the look with pea gravel around the plantings. And that friends is how it sat for the last year as the plants have slowly taken root. We got a single shoot off each plant for the whole of a year and then nothing... until the New Year delivered a happy little surprise. Lots and lots of shoots.

The Paws reach nearly 4 feet high and are a spectacular little display, but still don't offer some of the fence coverage I was hoping for. I found a couple of Pink Jasmine Vines (white fragrant flowers) during my trip to Roger's on Sunday and placed them up against the fence. The vine's leaves are compact enough to compliment our modern xeriscape, but will trail up the fence nicely and hopefully give us a little more "show" through the window panes.

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Happiest Place on Earth

We had another wave of Santa Anas come through between Friday and Saturday, wreaking havoc on backyard landscapes and the allergy laden, but leaving us with summertime temperatures to enjoy smack dab in the middle of winter. Only in Southern California will you get 80 degrees in January.

Sunday was particularly surreal. Everybody was out. I'm talking t-shirts and shorts, biking, lunching on patios, driving the coastline. So I do what I always do when the weather is this nice. I headed to the Happiest Place on Earth. Disney has nothing on this place. 

Behold- Roger's Gardens in Corona Del Mar, California. 

This is not your regular garden variety garden center if you know what I mean. Roger's Gardens sits on seven acres, perched on a hilltop with ocean views just to the east of the famed Fashion Island in Newport Beach. It's laid out across several tiers of carefully curated landscape, with various indoor gift shops meandering off the perimeter featuring everything from a floral studio to candles to gourmet food fare.  They also host weekly classes and events that draw garden enthusiasts from all over Orange County, particularly in Springtime. 

Catering to the coastal gardner and the drought tolerant landscaping that has become so popular throughout Southern California, Roger's is just as famous for their selection of succulents as they are their rare rose bush offerings.

Though I always manage to take home a few things on each trip, I frequent the garden center mostly for inspiration. 

Potted Japanese Maples flanked with black beach pebble and Sedum
A colorful display of Coral Branch Maples awaiting their Spring leaves.
Those are Cherry Blossoms to the left. Told you it has been warm.
Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar on a trellis- very much a possible solution for our patio.
They did this with Japanese Maples last Spring as well and it was insane just how pretty it looked.
Funny little display of Owls as garden sculpture
Elegia- a non-running reed that eventually may find a home near our fountain.
How pretty would a few cut stems look in a floral arrangement?
My long lusted after Nagami Kumquat Tree. Someday you will be mine.
A raised vegetable bed display in the "Victory Garden"
Construction idea for our own eventual DIY

Lots of ideas and yes, a few things made it home with me like two Pink Jasmine vines which I promptly planted behind our row of Kangaroo paw and Feather Grass once I arrived home. But mostly it just felt good to defy the season and walk about, bare armed in the sun with the smell of a warm ocean breeze.

All images via Holtwood Hipster


Friday, January 27, 2012

My Week{end} With Marilyn


Have you seen it? I haven't yet. Hoping my schedule this weekend allows me to see what His week with Marilyn was really all about. Michelle Williams is darling nonetheless and I'm anxious to see her take on one of my faves.

I'm also hoping for a little sleep, time in the garden, maybe more painting and some little treasure to uncover at a local thrift store. Look, I even worked up a playlist for some weekend background jams:

Makin' it count friends. Seems like it's been a long one this week.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Architectural Pottery

I'm dying to own one of these babies.

I know exactly what to plant in it and where I'd put it.

Via 1 / 2 / 3 


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Hudson's Bay Point Blankets

These cold winter nights have me wanting to cozy up our own little lodge here at Holtwood House. So, it's no wonder my eye has turned back to these woolen Hudson's Bay Point Blankets I've long eyed at my local flea. These durable, long lasting blankets can be found in so many colors, but the most common (and by far my favorite) is the green, red, yellow, indigo combination- sometimes known as "Queen Anne's colors". 

I love that they provide the warmth warranted in winter, but the bright and happy colors can wear happily into the spring and summer months. Their unfussy character also brings a little of the outdoors into the home setting, something I'm consistently working towards here at the ol' homestead.

So we know they are cool looking, but how 'bout a little history? During the 18th and 19th century, these blankets were produced by the Hudson's Bay Company and were used primarily as barter items in the fur trade with First Nations people throughout Canada. They were produced in different sizes and thus held varying value. To avoid having to unfold and measure them, a clever "point system" was developed whereby thin indigo lines were sewn into the side, allowing the traders to easily identify the blanket's grade and size- and consequent value for trade.  They were weaved in England using wool from Britain and New Zealand and then sold by the Hudson's Bay Company in Canada. 

The indigo lines are known as "points". The colorful bands on the blankets are known as "headings". 

Two hundred and fifty years later, they are still so stylish and fresh.  

These blankets have become very collectible. On my latest flea market escapade, I spotted so many color variations of the blanket, in varying levels of condition. Though labels offer some clues, for a novice admirer like myself, it can be tricky these days to understand the true worth of a vintage blanket when bargaining with sellers.  Thankfully, there are some online resources to help break down some of the facts and provide a little direction:

Though the vintage blankets obviously hold greater collectible value, Hudson's Bay Company also continues to produce new blankets. In the US, they are most readily available through Woolrich and LL Bean.  Previously used versions can also be found on ebay and Etsy.

Via 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Lotsa Mozza

The Mister took me on a little date Friday night. The newest installment of the popular Mario Batali eatery Mozza had recently opened to rave reviews in Newport Beach. Though we had an 8:30 reservation, we arrived much earlier hoping to grab an early table. To our delight, we landed at the Pizza Bar and were entertained throughout our meal by sous chefs whirling pizza dough and carefully plating the creamiest burrata cheese I have ever seen.

We were well into our meal and so absorbed in the live cooking show before us that I almost- read almost- missed a glimpse of Jeff Lewis and entourage eating at a nearby table. Like for real. The end all be all as far as I'm concerned.

Pure insanity ensued.

No picture... I'm a lady after all.

Back to the food. We ordered up a Neapolitan Pizza, decked out with anchovies, fried capers and olives. Perfection. But what really took the prize for the night was the restaurant's version of Caprese- a heaping plateful of the creamiest burrata (found nowhere), topped with roasted still on the vine cherry tomatoes, pesto and drizzled in olive oil. We paired it up with the Pane Bianco- a riff on crostini that served up two 2- inch thick slices of the greatest glistening, crusty bread.  A little Birra Morretti washed it down just fine.

The food was sensational and we barely cracked a menu full of oohs and ahhs. The atmosphere was on point, complete with edgy classic rock music and dimly lit by high hanging, vintage looking pendants reminiscent of an old New York pizza parlor. The statement bar was built around racks of backlit wine bottles, the backside of which helped make up part of the building's front facade- quite a bit of curb appeal as far as I'm concerned.

We are already planning our return. I see lot of Mozza in our future.

Monday, January 23, 2012

{Re} Werked

Remember how I recently posted about my riff on a Franz Kline painting for my living room? There were actually two canvases I painted in black and white to hang side by side above the couch. Well, I knew I'd eventually want to layer it up a bit more and had planned to go with some more white painted over the bold black strokes. I had also gotten a few comments that the former version (shown above) looked a lot like chinese calligraphy. Not the look I was going for.

Over the weekend I pulled both canvases off the wall and layered on not only some more white, but nude, some more white, some more black and then some more nude as well. I think I'm finally pleased with how they turned out- so chunky and layered. I keep walking in the room to stare at them.

How 'bout a closer look?

Unfortunately the reworked versions may warrant some edits to the rest of the living room decor in order to better compliment the paintings. The paintings were initially intended to compliment the existing decor. Figures. After getting an early peek at the new look, a good friend shared this perspective:  

I definitely think it can be applied to my ongoing quest for home decor nirvana as well.

Friday, January 20, 2012


The approaching rainy Southern California weekend has me daydreaming about napping in front of the fireplace. Sometimes nothing is better than the couch, a fire and an old movie, no?

We have a gas fireplace ourselves and maybe it's because of this that I used to think everyone kept their firewood piled up out back somewhere. But it seems far more romantic these days to flank your fireplace with beautifully stacked wood that almost becomes part of the mantle itself. 

Via 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 

Geometry Lesson

Tell me you saw this. The interwebs were all abuzz last week with this amazingness from Danika Herrick over at Gorgeous Shiny Things. I consider myself quite the project warrior, but Danika might be the ultimate as far as I'm concerned. Click over to check out her full post and see how her home office wall came together.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Model Home

The Mister and I spent at least a year and half looking at dozens of distressed properties in nice neighborhoods and iffy properties in iffy neighborhoods before one auspicious afternoon in September, we found ourselves standing on the sidewalk in front of Holtwood House. See, we each had slightly different and specific ideas about what we were looking for, which let's face it, rarely works out when you're in the market for your first home. I tend to gravitate toward mid-century floor plans- the sweet spot being somewhere between 1960 and 1969.  The Mister grew up in a 2400 sq. ft 1980's hillside development and had other ideas about what we should be looking at. I'm a DIY kind of gal with instant visualization. He, one with style, but not with hammer and nail. So, it was quite the fun little battle when looking at listings and interviewing prospective candidates for our new abode.

A bit of serendipity provided a compromise better than we could have hoped for. The house had surfaced on my radar a good 3-6 months before we ever viewed it, but had been quickly picked up by another buyer. In the meantime, we found another home and decided it was the house of our dreams, only to watch it go to another buyer who bid well past the already overpriced listing. A bit depressed and certainly frustrated, we jetted off to Palm Springs for the weekend to soak and sulk. On a whim, I had printed off a couple of homes we could potentially look at on the way back into LA and a bit recharged, we decided to take a peek at the house that had just come back on the market.

I knew it when I saw it. Nice neighborhood. Clean lines and mid-century vibe with vaulted, beamed ceilings and so, so many windows. Though decor-wise, it had probably not been updated since it was built in '67, the house itself was in great condition. Quite honestly, the fact that it had not been updated appealed to me. We saw so many great houses defaced with quick and cheap Home Depot upgrades during our search and I was determined to find something we could make our own. Did I mention it was also sporting a gigantic swimming pool to boot? Apparently it had just fallen through with a previous buyer the week before. The Mister grew up in the adjacent city, so we already had some familiarity with the area as well. It felt meant to be.

We're a year in as new home owners and though much has been done to upgrade the inside, Holtwood House still is in need of a bit of curb appeal.

I'm always running with ideas and I've been prone to crude drawings that sometimes get polished up graphically. But I've always longed to frame them up more formally- sort of a sneak peak of what might work aesthetically before we commit to the investment. Recently, I was turned onto SketchUp, a modeling software that Morgan Satterfield has been using as she renovates The Brick House.

I'm still learning how to use the software, but over a couple of evenings I've come to at least one version of Holtwood House re-imagined.

Here's a quick rundown:

Though my imagination would like to take the final design a little more modern, in the end I think we'll go with an update strategy that will compliment other homes on our street while staying true to the mid century lines that drew us in in the first place. We also have some budget limitations. Renovating an entire house is rough on the pocket book and admittingly, we will be doing a lot of the work ourselves. I'm still tinkering with some ideas and I'm sure the final result will have gone through many mock ups. But it's nice to be able to take the idea beyond simple lists, doodles and even element laden concept board as we make decisions.

We'll be kicking off this project soon. Don't be surprised if I impulsively start ripping off old fascia boards and dig our way out the forest of unwanted plants sitting out there this weekend.  I'll be sure to post final plans and progress shots throughout in all their dirty, messy, frustrating glory.

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