It’s there in black & white 

Okay, the sunroom in the “house that got away” was empty, but look what it could have become? 

Do you decorate your house the way you dress? If you looked in my closet, you would see that it’s easily three-quarters black dresses, slacks and tops and the rest jeans (some of them black) and white shirts. I do have a navy dress and my spring/summer wardrobe is a little more colorful, but still built on black & white bones. So is it a surprise that this is the combo that’s catching my decorating eye?  

In a season of design trends and color picks for the new year, I’m throwing a curve and going for black and white. It’s crisp, it’s classic, it’s terribly chic. And as I recently discovered reviewing my Instagram favorites and saves, I have been consciously or subconsciously collecting examples of black & white home style. Take a look at just a few of my Instagram favorites to see what I mean.

I first fell in love with black & white floors at “the house that got away.” I think everyone has one of these — a house they fell for, that was perfect but sold too fast or was too expensive. If you love houses, it always rests there, in the back of your brain in the “would have/should have/could have file.” This happened for me when we were buying our first house. My “house that got away” was a stately older home, part of which had been converted into a rental apartment (the only reason we could have afforded it). The space that made the house for me was a black and white checked marble floor in the sunroom off the living room. (Actually, in retrospect, I’m sure the sunroom was part of the charm.)

All of which is a long way of saying, look at these floors: 

This must be a huge foyer, considering all the furniture. But the floor! 

The black & white entry floor, above, is classic, but also a grand space, not my style (or budget) at all. But those floors are hard to ignore. On the other hand, the kitchen below is not that big and carries the black and white into the adjacent dining area. I have always been drawn to black cabinets. Originally, I wanted my kitchen island to be black, then fell for the trendier gray. I still wonder if there are black cabinets in my future.



I love this country island, and it takes some of the edge off the floor and over-sized hood while still making the  black and white statement. 

One of the things I’ve noticed in looking over these photos is that it would be easy to introduce smaller bits of black into an already neutral room. Picture and mirror frames, lamps and shades as well as other accessories can add a subtle or substantial impact, depending on their use. And of course there is fabric. The decorator friend that helped me with the house we did buy (after the one that got away) found me polished chintz curtains on a black ground (rejected by a client who clearly had a lack of vision) that I acquired “for a song.” Unfortunately I had to leave them behind when we sold the house.

The black & white in this kitchen is subtler, but appealing.

Obviously the oversized french stove makes a real statement, but that’s softened by the open shelves, white dishes, baskets, and even the lamp on the counter. 

Actually, kitchens are a big commitment. How about a powder room or bathroom in black and white. What do you think? It’s a smaller “serving” of black & white, but with a timeless feel.

Steve Cordony is an IG favorite now. Look how he balances a double black vanity with some gold on the mirrors and brass hardware.  P.S., see the reflection of a black-framed shower door in the mirror on the left?
Again, the vanity and a mirror, fixtures and painting. Love the black liner worked into the simple subway tile! This feels do-able and live-able to me. 

Black & white decor is not limited to kitchens & baths. How about this bedroom. The black bed with crisp white bedding is neatly balanced by the antique screen and table. If the entire room had been decked out in antiques as on the left, it might come off as a bit fussy. But the black bed and nightstand balance that. I wonder what the rest of the room looks like?


This hallway vignette is simple and contemporary, but hardly boring. I love the contrast between the traditional floral painting and the more modern vase and table. A transitional space like this is perfect for introducing a clean black & white arrangement. Sort of a visual palate cleanser.


I have always been a sucker for dark artwork in a light room.  I adore the image of this small kitchen and have kept it in my idea file for years. I love that the dark background in the painting picks up the black in the ceiling lantern and the lamp on the counter. What genuinely thoughtful choices.

Dark art cream walls

The same is true in the living room below, where well-placed accessories introduce a bit of black into an essentially light room. The black coffee table calls out the black trim around the firebox and a few black accessories on the bookshelves help tie it together.

Black Accessories Shelves

So, now I’m prowling thru my house looking for more black & white and/or ways to incorporate it. And I have a start:


So, my plan is to add a little black & white throughout our house. I actually have a bit of a start in the living room. This lamp with the black shade was my mother’s choice (she was the real design maven). We purchased the two large prints on the street in Rome and had them framed in black. I think there needs to be something more on the wall here, but I just haven’t decided what, so stay tuned.

Thanks for stopping by and scrolling all the way thru. (I know I can get really carried away.) What about you, any decorating plans for the new year?

See you next time!




In my January Kitchen

Mise en place on the new cutting board.

January has been a fun month in my kitchen thanks to some new tools from my family. And with new tools, of course, come new recipes and a few new lessons. 

For starters, I have been wanting one of these Boos wooden cutting blocks since I worked on a smaller one at The Cook’s Atelier in France. Working on wood is much kinder to my knives than the vinyl and ceramic mats I have been using. This one is large  ( 15” by 20”) and therefore genuinely heavy. I can’t just snatch it up with one hand, and I may have to re-think how & where I store it, but it’s a delight to work on. It stays in place on the counter and is roomy enough to work with large vegetables, meats, etc.

Wood boards are a bit picky about maintenance. They clean up with soap & water, but must be immediately dried. Wood can be sprinkled with salt, then wiped with lemon  to eliminate strong odors (a.k.a. garlic); wiping with distilled vinegar disinfects the board after cutting raw meat. Treated to regular coats of oil, my board should last a life time. 

Plenty of yummy comfort here. 

I was eager to give the block a work out, so I launched a two-day soup-making marathon using recipes from Ina Garten’s new book, Modern Comfort Food, a gift from my son & daughter-in-law. Ina’s Chicken Pot Pie soup is fabulous, every bit as delicious as her recipe for the pot pies in Make It Ahead, but with a flavorful broth instead of white sauce. There are a few ingredients that give it an edge over standard chicken soups: leeks, fennel, tarragon and a piece of parmesan cheesed rind that adds a subtle but yummy flavor dimension. 

Then, because I had a hambone left from Christmas and a bag of split peas, I made her pea soup, also in New Comfort Cooking. I love pea soup and this one is delicious and pretty much what I have always made based on my mother’s recipe which was my grandmother’s recipe. (As I write this I realize that my family recipe was never written down. I’d call Mom and say how do I do this and she would walk me through it. I’m sure she learned it from watching Grandma. Do you use recipes like this?)

Each tray section is marked for 1 and 2 cups. This is a 2-cup porti0n.

Both recipes gave me plenty of chopping and dicing practice on my new board, but making the pots of soup also exhausted my supply of homemade chicken stock. So a few days ago I got out the pot, a cut-up chicken and the requisite fresh veggies to make more. This time in addition to a few quarts of stock for the freezer I also have frozen, 2-cup blocks of stock thanks to these silicone soup blocks, also from my daughter-in-law. Each section holds up to 2 cups of liquid. After freezing, you can pop them out of the tray (like ice cubes) and keep them frozen in a bag. They should be the perfect quantity for recipes calling for a lesser amount of chicken stock and they take less freezer space. Win/win!

And look: My name is on the cover!

I hope you are’t too bored yet because I have one more tool to share and it’s this kitchen journal from my daughter. I have wanted something like this for some time, initially to track menus and what I served and to whom and when. Sometimes it would also be nice to refer back to how much of a given dish/appetizer/dessert I served. (As in, what cheeses were the favorites on the cheese board and what did everyone pass on?) It’s perfect for recording those unwritten recipes, like Grandma’s pea soup, my stuffing recipe, and how I prep and freeze summer vegetables.

There’s probably an app to track this on my computer, but since I am a paper and pen girl at heart, I love the idea of writing it down.

I know these are essentially small things, details perhaps in the grand scheme. But I am grateful to have this interest to fall back on during the continuing pandemic. Cooking is creating as much as painting, drawing, knitting, sewing, and all the other pursuits so many of us have adopted to stay engaged, to look forward. 

What about you? What’s keeping you going these winter days?

Thanks for stopping by. See you again soon!

January landed with a thud

CherryBlossoms2I had planned to talk about the to-be-read and to-be-cooked lists I’ve been compiling for the new year, along with a few stabs I’ve made at de-cluttering and the other ways in which I was planning to entertain myself while we wait out the pandemic. (In the county were I live the Health Department describes the risk of infection as “substantial.” I don’t know what that means but it doesn’t sound good, does it? 

Then, on last Wednesday afternoon while I was on a Zoom call, my husband passed me a note that read, “The protesters have breached the capitol, and Congress is under lockdown.”

When my call was over and I joined my husband in front iof the television, we both watched, jaws dropping, at the sight of protesters over-running the Capitol Police inside that space. What a stunning violation in the seat of our democracy!

My husband and I have personal connections to the Capitol. Steve grew up in suburban Washington D.C. and spent a fair amount of time working summers on The Hill. I spent a semester off-campus in Washington, where my roommate and I had little blue passes that got us into the House and Senate visitors galleries whenever we wanted. As political junkies we spent a lot of time there. Obviously security has necessarily grown tighter since then, but Steve and I have visited with our son and daughter more than once. On our last visit, my daughter actually led the tour as a summer Senate intern.

I can’t explain the sinking, sick feeling I had when sign-carrying protesters, some of them wrapped in flags, wandered on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives, sat in the Speakers’ chair, and pushed and shouted their way thru Statuary Hall. I can count a number of friends from both political parties who I’m sure had the same gut reaction. It was so out of time and place. But that was just the beginning.

Sadly, as the news continues to unfold, the dark, dangerous intent behind this protest becomes darker and clearer. And that raises even more questions. It’s heartbreaking, infuriating, ugly and frightening.

This blog is intended to weigh in on life’s lighter side — on looks, cooks, books, and occasional travels — and I’ll certainly get back to that soon.  But January 6, 2021,  is a seminal moment in American history, as stunning as 9/11. This time the enemy came from within. That it was endorsed by a sitting president makes it unspeakable.

I realize we all have a lot to unpack and sort out here. I just had to pause.