The MAR Blog

Up close and personal.
Where I've been, what I'm doing, what I’ve seen and what I’m up to next.

“Out with the old, in with the old” design

This week Rosebrook Gardens was somewhat of a construction zone as I began some dramatic exterior home improvements. I began with realizing I needed to finally replace my front balcony and back railing, but once I started my tally of tasks I found it hard not to do those other little things that have been annoying me. You know – something as simple as replacing the rotten wood on a window ledge or repairing the side gate so it opens properly. Stuff that I can never find the right tools for or time to do. So, like many Americans, I made a phone call, and before I knew it, I coordinated a date when I could oversee the projects, and of course, provide refreshments. That said, knowing I would be working in Connecticut this week, I scheduled them as soon as possible.

Rosebrook Gardens is all about the details, so I began my journey by sitting down to design something that, when executed, would be more substantial and more decorative than what was there. But where to start? I was sitting on the back porch when inspiration struck: over a ten years ago, while on a garden tour, I took a photo of a porch railing detail I so loved. I remembered that immediately I had thought “One day I will do something like this at my home.” Time came and went, and I didn’t use it, but looking back on it I realized that this design kept haunting me: two years after I saw it on a home in the Hamptons, a few years after that at an estate outside London, and last summer on a gazebo in San Francisco. But there was never an occasion to use the design. So here was my chance: it was time for me to replace my balcony ledge so I knew I would be able to provide my carpenters a design inspired by the one that spoke to me so many years ago. I quickly ran to my files, looked at my original photos, and started sketching; when they arrived I said, “I want it to look just like this.”

Marcos and Rodrigo, two very talented carpenters, quickly got to work translating my sketches into final designs – apparently, there is math involved! – but having several photos for their additional reference proved to be incredibly valuable as the design required some modifications to fit my specific needs and space. The end results are outstanding and I could not be more pleased. All I need now is my painter to arrive.

As for the mystery home that first inspired me? It was Martha Stewart’s former Westport home on Turkey Hill Road South. Many years ago, I was fortunate enough to go to the Westport Historical Society garden party hosted by Martha; I still remember what a magical event it was, and in a wonderful setting. I say: if you’re going to get inspired by anyone it better be someone you can look up to and learn from. Just like for many of us, finding inspiration can sometimes come from just about any place, shape or form; for me, it was right in my own town. I don’t know if Martha was responsible for the porch design or if it was the original federal farmhouse built by John Andrews in 1805, but regardless I was proud to pay homage to the estate by being inspired by the details and design elements for my home. An old design became a new design on a home built in 1996.

So you see: take inspiration today and create tomorrow. Since most phones have the ability to take photos this is easier to do. I had no idea then that I would refer back to my inspiration folder of photos today but how happy I was to have this on hand. More than ever I find myself doing this with magazines and catalogs, ripping out what I like as a resource for a day when I might want to wander through the things that caught my eye. My file is quite extensive today as I have many categories such as kitchen, living room, patio, front door, and gardens”_to name a few. When the time is ready I’ll have lots of ideas, and a Muse by my side. Do we ever really create something new? Yes, with our own take on a favorite design or recipe. But why reinvent the whole wheel – take a photo when you are inspired. It’s one photo you’ll never have to smile for, but you will smile at it later.

My peonies in my garden are out of control and I love it! My home is probably the most photographed and filmed home in Fairfield County, and my peonies have served as an inspiration for all who have visited Rosebrook Gardens. This spectacular display only comes once a year but it’s worth the wait. This year I did something new when I tied them back by using a beautiful nylon ribbon, adding a splash of color and a creative alternative to garden twine. The lavender tie-back helps each plant and flower stay upright and supported, resisting breaking. Thursday I began creating the endless bouquets that will bless my home for the next weeks, validating that the flower-picking season has begun. It’s a vision that takes me back to the day I planted them. Today they’re the perfect example of what a peony plant should look like and I’m delighted to have this magnificent display to share with all who love their goddess-like knockout effects. I say, “Pick the flowers, but make sure you share them with those people you love.”

Violet went back to the beauty parlor this morning, as she turned six months today. Better now than the messy girl she was last weekend – and I mean that in a “manners” way. Last weekend I was shopping with Barbara in Westport. Barbara needed something new to wear for the weekend – I was able to save the day by finding her a fabulous pencil skirt. Miss Violet showed her support in the way of a fresh “nugget” in the store. I was mortified and quickly brushed it under the table. No that’s not true! – I picked it up with the bags I always have on hand and took her out for a walk. When the damage was done I didn’t go back in – I’m sure we can never show our faces there again. Thanks, Violet! Truth be told, being in such a rush to get to the store and showered and changed for dinner I did not give my little girl ample time to poop. So she showed us exactly what she that about this impromptu shop. I could hear her say “If you only gave me more time you would don’t be picking up after me in public!”

As for Barbara, well she just said, “I told you so.” And so it goes, “Que sera, Sera”.

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