It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas! The Romantic Homes November issue inspires your creativity with recipes, DIYs and décor that captures the magic of the holiday season. Take cues for opulent, classical Christmas décor from Carolyne Roehm, learn how to bake and display gingerbread creations with Marian Parsons, explore Rachel Ashwell's soft and sweet color palettes and tour Janice Marrow's flower-filled festive abode. A sweet bonus? She shares her recipe for German Gingerbread Cake!
Also: Joann Coletti's Project Refresh continues with a carriage house transformed into a practical and beautiful studio space. Step inside Liz Fourez's neutral and natural holiday farmhouse where meaningful décor creates Christmas magic to charm the whole family and escape to Bianca Planner's winter wonderland home filled with Old World charm and meaningful memories.
The Cook’s Atelier, a French culinary boutique, cooking school and wine shop in Beaune, France, started out as a dream shared by a mother and daughter with a passion for food and wine.
“We wanted to create a convivial gathering place where we could share our love of food and wine with other home cooks from around the world,” says Marjorie Taylor, who co-founded The Cook’s Atelier, along with daughter, Kendall Smith Franchini.
Combining their years of cooking, viticulture and oenology expertise, they’ve turned their knowledge of the foods and wines of France into a family business and brand (Kendall’s husband, Laurent, is the shopkeeper).
“We envisioned taking guests to the market to purchase local produce, artisanal cheeses, meats, charcuterie, and freshly baked bread from our favorite artisan food producers,” explains Marjorie. “We dreamed of teaching hands-on cooking classes and workshops, using classic French techniques, followed by long, leisurely French lunches around our table. In the evenings, we imagined hosting candlelit dinner parties with new and old friends.”
The American expats now living in France set up shop in a 17th-century building in the center of historic Beaune. The Cook’s Atelier highlights local artisan food producers and winemakers from Burgundy and throughout France. Guests come to their culinary workshops in their “teaching kitchen” and intimate gatherings to learn about Burgundy, one bite and cooking lesson at a time. Their menus are “inspired by the bountiful markets of Beaune.”
The Cook’s Atelier culinary boutique has a curated selection of unique items for the kitchen and home. Their online shop ships internationally. “Everything is hand-sourced,” says Marjorie. “We’ve been collecting our vintage items for over three generations. We enjoy using the things we love daily rather than saving them only for special occasions. We are particularly drawn to natural and white linens, copper and zinc elements, French vintage finds, marble, shades of white and gray, and plenty of patina.”
This year, they will be launching their own line of provisions, which will include organic first-pressed French olive oil, local Burgundian honey and spices. “We feel that people are drawn to the act of returning to the table and sharing a meal with family and friends,” Marjorie says. “It’s about much more than just the cooking. It is the overall experience of cooking and gathering.”
Few homes in southern California have the architectural character or timeless appeal of older homes. If a classic style of home is at the top or your list of must-haves, you often have to search high and low for the right house.
But when Rachel Ashwell, designer and founder of Shabby Chic, stumbled across this Brentwood house eight years ago, she fell in love with its quirks and knew it would be just the place to call home.
“The architectural style is a hodgepodge,” Rachel says. “It has a bit of a Southern feel, but it also has a Spanish, an English and an Irish flair.”
In the main living room, a large brick fireplace is the focal point of the room and sets the warm, comforting tone of the rest of the home. The fireplace is so large you can walk inside of it, Rachel says, which is common in Scottish or Irish houses. “It’s actually what drew me to buy the house to begin with.”
While the home already had many exceptional details, including arched walkways, beautiful balconies, and original doors and hardware, Rachel decided to restore some of the key design aspects to a more classic style.
“As often is the case, the baths and kitchen had been renovated, but in a slick and polished style, so I restored them and put them back to what I consider would have been the authentic style for the house,” Rachel says.
For the kitchen, she found some white subway tiles from an old Belgian subway that offer just a slight hint of sheen and contribute to the simplicity of the space. Other elements that bring her kitchen together are dainty pendants above the farmhouse sink, simple white floating shelves neatly stacked with plates, and white painted barnwood-style cabinets. “It has the illusion of a funky little kitchen, but it’s a really good, functional one.”
When Rachel moved in, walls separated the kitchen from the main living room; she opened everything up so it’s all one large space. “It feels like New York loft living, and I have a lot of guests stay here, so I wanted it to have a feeling of a lot of space and not lonely with all these closed-off rooms,” Rachel says. Now with multiple seating areas and dining and workshop areas, it’s an ideal multipurpose room for everyday use.
A big part of the home’s charm—and what Rachel is very well known for—are the many floral designs in fabric prints and small-scale use of wallpaper patterns you’ll find throughout the home. They add a soft and sophisticated touch in her signature Shabby Chic style.
“I like to do the patterned wallpaper in these little nook areas,” Rachel says. “I tend to use vintage wallpaper. Often you can’t find a large quantity of vintage wallpaper, so that’s why it’s confined to one space, but it’s easy to do.”
Another design trick for bringing in soft color: Rachel paints the walls white, but from the floor to about 3 feet off the ground, she paints it over with a light gray, pink or blue for a two-tone look. “It [adds] color in an unassuming, subtle way,” she says. “They did that a lot in Morocco, and that’s where I got the idea.” These small but impactful design details give Rachel’s home its personality.
Antiques add patina and character, and Rachel looks to flea-market pieces to create the look of timeworn elegance she loves. “Nearly all the cabinets, tables and chairs are flea market-found and refurbished to the point that they’re functional and clean, but I try to hold on to the authentic patinas and textures,” Rachel says.
She also mixes in a few reproduction furniture pieces from the Rachel Ashwell Furniture collection to achieve the style, scale and function she wants. Many of her antique pieces are recovered in machine-washable fabric for durability since they’re white. Her collections of antique dishes, trays, vases and containers decorate hutches, tabletops and shelves for a cozy, charming look. All the bedding, in fabric patterns or soft hues, is romantic and vintage inspired.
What is the essence of Rachel’s decorating style? “I guess I would call myself a bit boho, but it’s also very classic. I don’t like things that go in and out of style,” Rachel says. “My mantra is ‘beauty, comfort and function.’ Everything in my house needs to be inviting and needs to be useful. That’s where I start.”
4 Elements of Rachel Ashwell’s Style
Want to emulate Rachel’s signature style? Learn how with her tips.
Soft color: “My palette tends to be on the softer side,” Rachel says. From various pinks and raspberries to teal, the look is fresh and inviting.
Eclectic: “I like things to be eclectic but not chaotic. I might organize it or give it a theme with color. Think expensive mixed with flea market and Target.”
Glamour: “I always like a little bit of glamour.” These bits of bling can be crystal chandeliers or a rug with silver threading through it.
Timeworn: “Embracing the beauty of imperfections and faded grandeur is a big thing for me. I don’t get too neurotic if something gets chipped.
Sometimes all you need for a new beginning is to start right where you’re at. Rather than move to a new place, opt for a top-to-bottom makeover and turn your house into the home you’ve always dreamed of.
Wanting a fresh start for herself and her two children after a divorce, this homeowner seized the opportunity to redesign every room in her own style. “It was a full facelift for the entire home, and her way of reflecting the new season she was entering with her kids,” says interior designer Kathryn Ivey.
Leaving no detail untouched, they infused her personal style into every design decision, making over the once-ordinary home in suburban Washington, D.C. with heavy, ornate furniture into a more transitional style of home with a light and airy feminine flair.
“Along with bringing the interior up to date, she had a clear aesthetic in terms of what she enjoys, which is very feminine colors and soft textures, and she wanted it to be a relaxing space,” Kathryn says. Here are the details behind creating the soothing, cohesive look.
Delicate hues of cream, white, gray and blue were key to the home’s transformation. Continuing the color scheme keeps the rooms flowing from one to the next and brings the entire design together.
Like most other family houses, the kitchen is the heart of the home and connects to the breakfast area. They elected to remove the kitchen cabinet fronts for show-off open shelving, which the homeowner loves to decorate with her colorful glassware.
The breakfast room serves as a sort of pass-through area, but they covered the walls here in a Phillip Jeffries woven grasscloth to give it a sense of place. “It has a beautiful texture to it with blues, grays and greens in it that lead into the family room where we used Farrow & Ball Blackened paint, which is the faintest blue-gray,” Kathryn says.
While the soft color palette visually expands the space, other design tricks create the light and bright feeling throughout. To bring in as much light as possible, they opted not to hide the windows behind window treatments.
With a little help from furnishings such as glass coffee tables, mirrored chests and a buffet, and transparent lucite chairs that reflect light, the clean and simple palette feels very feminine and glamorous.
Maximizing storage and space
Even in a spacious home, storage is necessary. Kathryn worked with the family to figure out how they used every space in the home—and what would make sense for storage and minimizing clutter.
They created storage to fit each space such as custom built-in cabinetry or large bookshelves. In the case of the family room, Kathryn explains, “It was a need for storage, but also a need to take up space because the rooms are so large. You have these large blank walls that need a focal point, but you’re always going to need storage.”
They added a custom uphostered daybed to the master bedroom, daybed surrounded by bookshelves as a casual reading spot. “Her daughter loves to come in and hang out so we upholstered the daybed in a blush linen fabric and added a grasscloth wallpaper behind it and bookshelves as well,” Kathryn says.
One pretty focal point in the entire home is a space that solely belongs to mom: her master closet, which was completely designed as an elegant dressing area.
With such high ceilings, Kathryn decided to use the top perimeter of the closet to add small cabinets for storing hats and seasonal items. “If you have a lack of space, height is your friend,” Kathryn says.
Then in the adjoining master bathroom, they created two pretty vanities with Venetian mirrors, one with a mirrored glass makeup tabletop.
“She loved the idea of white-washed wood floors, which isn’t practical for a bathroom, so we went with a porcelain floor that looked like white painted wood and it turned out absolutely beautiful,” Kathryn says.
3 Ways to Balance Comfort and Clutter:
Choose attractive furniture pieces you love that are also practical. For example, opt for soft furnishings that save space and are easy to clean, like upholstered ottomans and slipcovered sofas.
Add storage to every space, no matter its size. Whether you add built-in cabinets or some sort of shelves, storage is a must. Don’t just go for utilitarian pieces; select the prettiest storage pieces you can find that become design features in a space.
Accessorize, but continue to cull. “The small things (throws, art and lighting) are as important as the large pieces, like the sofas, chairs and bookcases, but they add warmth and personality,” Kathryn says. “You need to always be cultivating your spaces with an edited eye and add those things that mean a lot to you,” Kathryn says.
Every spring, Washington, D.C. resembles a dreamy landscape painting come to life, as the city is blanketed in pink and white cherry blossoms, announcing that spring is here. Soft and romantic, these cherry trees were planted in 1912 as a gift from the mayor of Tokyo to symbolize the growing friendship between Japan and the United States.
Peak bloom occurs around April 4, although it can vary from year to year. The annual National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 20 to April 15 this year, celebrates this glorious season with a variety of community events celebrating the arts, culture and more. Come see why 1.5 million people make the trip every year to experience the cherry blossoms. nationalcherryblossomfestival.org.
Mark your calendar for the following events at the National Cherry Blossom Festival.
Saturday, March 31: Blossom Kite Festival
Saturday, April 7: Petalpalooza live music, entertainment and fireworks
Saturday, April 14: National Cherry Blossom Parade
Saturday, April 14: Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival
Who doesn’t love the look of antiques and the unique lines, shapes and patina they bring to a room? Today you don’t have to be a collector to have the look because, thankfully, we have many beautiful reproductions and curated selections to choose from.
Eloquence, founded by husband and wife, Kim and Amelia Redmond, is one such company that creates furniture pieces inspired by antique craftsmanship. “Eloquence is a modern interpretation of something classic,” says Amelia. “It is romantic, chic and casual. [Our] handcrafted re-editions are inspired by European antiques. Each piece is hand finished with original aged markings that show our appreciation for time-worn beauty.”
In addition to designing pieces for the furniture line, Eloquence also sources antiques from Europe that boast beautiful proportions and time-faded patinas. “The beauty in French interiors is that there are so many different looks,” Amelia says. “Regardless of the style, the key is mixing the items you love to make your home personal. French homes have a beautiful story to tell … it’s personal and curated.”
Here are Amelia’s favorite ways to create a French mood:
Beautiful textiles (mixing linens with velvets and silks)
A gorgeous chandelier or exceptional mirror
Scented candles and fresh-cut flowers for a glamorous touch
A new home is like a blank canvas, waiting for the new inhabitants to put their mark on it. When the Gavaris family moved into their home in Ontario, Canada, about five years ago, they wanted to repaint and redesign each room to show their style.
The couple runs the home design blog, A Burst of Beautiful. Alicia, the editor and designer, draws up her ideas, while her husband, Nick, builds much of the DIY furniture and creates the architectural details. Working as a team, they explain how they personalized every room in their home.
While the 1,700-square-foot home was a standard builder home, they added character and interest with new wainscoting, board and batten, and built-in storage. “We’ve been moving through room to room and putting our own touch on it,” says Alicia. “It’s a modern farmhouse with lots of light, natural wood, fibers and textures. I love blue, so it’s in almost every room in our house, from rugs and cushions to throws and art.”
Repainting the entire house from the former taupey-beige to soft grays and whites was the couple’s solution to merging their two styles together. (Nick prefers a masculine look, while Alicia likes light and bright.)
“I keep the big pieces, like our walls, all very neutral and classic so we don’t have to change them out all the time,” Alicia says. “I’ll add throws, pillows and decorative accents like bowls and vases. It’s relaxed, and nothing is too fussy, formal or matchy-matchy. Most items are hand-me-down pieces that we put a fresh coat of paint on.”
While the layout of the house wasn’t changed much, the couple incorporated many space-saving ideas to accommodate the hustle and bustle of family life, which includes daughter, Zoe, two dogs and a cat.
“The biggest change was the kitchen. We rejigged that space, repainted the oak cabinets ourselves, redid the lighting, added an island, and Nick put in cabinets and floating shelves,” Alicia says.
At the entry of the home, a closet off the garage was converted into a mini mudroom area with a shelf above and wall hooks below. “We had coats and everything jammed in there, so we took the bifold doors off, and it’s nice and bright now,” Nick says. “People ask us if it really looks like this every day. It stays pretty neat because when it’s open like that, it forces you to keep it clean.”
With a small child and pets at home, you would think white sofas might be off-limits, but they work for this family. “I wanted a white sofa, but I went with a slipcover because I know there are going to be spills and sticky fingers. You can always have them dry-cleaned and looking good as new,” Alicia says.
While white looks crisp and clean, the overall effect is a comforting, casual vibe. “We want our guests to feel comfortable when they’re here,” says Alicia.
Family-friendly design and luxury do not usually mix, but they cozily coexist at the home of Missy Walsh. Set on 42 acres of land in Potomac, Maryland, a suburb of Washington, D.C., the 13,000-square-foot, four-story colonial, where Missy and her husband raised their three sons for the past decade, was renovated extensively to fit their family’s lifestyle.
“We took about a third of the house away and rebuilt it,” says Missy, a photographer, stylist and former interior designer, who owns the website, Love Your Perch. The process took about two years and now they have a more spacious family room, updated bathrooms and finishes, a basketball court in the basement and an office suite for her husband.
For additional curb appeal, they refaced the exterior with new clapboard and raised the roof by about two feet, because the house looked a little squatty. “The pitch of the roof sat on top of the second-floor windows. With the renovation, the house got a lot wider and with the additional height, it gave it more proportion,” Missy says.
Taking every opportunity to add her own personal touches throughout, Missy’s hand and designer eye are involved in every detail.
In the family room, walls adorned in a grassy green custom paint color Missy selected surround a bank of windows with a view of the expansive backyard, creating a serene atmosphere. “I like for the interiors to blend with the exteriors, and the windows are huge in here, so it flows better that way,” Missy says.
Another gorgeous focal point in the home, Missy came up with the concept for the dining room wall mural and hired an artist to execute it. “We specifically asked for my three boys and dog to be hidden in the mural, so it’s very personal,” Missy says.
While the kitchen had been renovated by prior owners, Missy recently revamped it with new appliances, counters, painted cabinetry and updated lighting and hardware. “We redid a little bit of everything, except for cabinets themselves—they got a facelift [with paint],” explains Missy.
Classic Appeal, Modern Livability
The home’s overall style is quite elegant, but Missy assures that it’s all designed with a busy family lifestyle in mind.
“Because we have the three boys, it’s very family-friendly,” Missy says. “The slipcovers in the family room are removable and washable. We added the basketball court, gym, volleyball court and tennis court, so it was designed with kids in mind. We also entertain a lot, and it’s a great house to entertain in.”
Choosing finishes and materials wisely, Missy says, is key to keeping a home that’s equally stylish and comfortable. “Sofas get worn a lot, so I put linen on them so they could be laundered, and we have a nice mix of antiques and new. The antiques are in areas that don’t have to be used a lot. I wouldn’t want to live in a house where every single thing was new.”
Missy shares her tips for creating a home that’s elegant, yet family-friendly.
Old and new: For an instantly stylish look, curate a mix of antiques and vintage décor as well as newer furnishings. Combine old family heirlooms with newer mementos and accessories for modern appeal.
Durable comfort: Always keep aesthetics and function in mind. While a sofa may look beautiful, consider how its fabric will wear over the years. If you must have it, see if a slipcover will do the trick.
Bring the outdoors in: Find ways to connect the interior of the home to the exterior, not only through beautiful windows, but also by matching your décor with the natural surroundings.
Take the indoors out: Create cozy outdoor entertaining spaces by turning them into alfresco dining and living rooms with plush seating, accent pillows and beautiful decorative accessories.
Every year, I roll out my rolling pin to make a special batch of cookies as a sweet treat to my nearest and dearest. My all-time favorite recipe is the raspberry Linzer cookie. Its charming “windowpane” cutout design and wintry sprinkling of confectioner’s sugar make this the perfect gift to share with neighbors and friends.
Linzer Cookies with Raspberry Jam
This version features the flavors of vanilla and cinnamon, while whole-wheat flour adds depth. But linzer cookies are perfect for a bit of customizing to enhance your favorite flavors. Feel free to add some finely chopped almond bits or swap in almond flour for a nuttier flavor. Not a fan of raspberry? Use your favorite jam! Make sure you have a Linzer cookie cutter set to create the cutouts.
Recipe by Margie Monin Dombrowski
Makes about 20 cookies
You will need:
2 cups all-purpose whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
raspberry jam for filling
confectioner’s sugar for dusting
You will do:
Spoon flour into measuring cups and level with a knife. Combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon into a large bowl.
Using a an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar and vanilla together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and beat at a low speed until well blended, being careful not to over-beat.
Add the mixture of dry ingredients to the bowl until just combined and it forms a dough.
Divide the dough in half and wrap both in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 F.
Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper to ensure non-stick and even baking.
Roll out each portion of dough to about 1/4 inch thickness with a lightly floured rolling pin on a lightly floured surface.
Use your large cookie cutters to cut out the cookie shapes, then use the small cookie cutters for the “windowpane” cutout on half of the cutouts. These “windowpane” shapes can be fragile, so carefully transfer these shapes to your parchment paper.
If your cookies fall apart after the cutout, try cutting out the smaller shapes while on the cookie sheet.
Bake cookies for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Allow cookies to completely cool.
Spread raspberry jam over the cookies without the cutout shape. Add the cutout cookie on top to create a sandwich with the raspberry jam peeking through. Dust the top of each cookie with confectioner’s sugar. Serve and enjoy!
The holiday décor of this home in Williamsburg, Virginia, is a perfect balance of charming, cozy and elegant. It belongs to Jenni Holmes of the Dear Lillie Studio, her husband, Jonathan, and their two daughters Lillian and Lorelei. Her style shows that you don’t need a total makeover to create a little holiday magic. Use these tips to inspire you to make your home feel festive and nostalgic with an effortless flair.
“My overall style is traditional with a little bit of a twist,” Jenni explains. To keep her look versatile from season to season and year to year, she sticks with a neutral and monochromatic color scheme. “Most rooms have a relatively neutral base with creams, grays, blacks, navy or chocolate brown, so I can easily mix things up seasonally. If I want to bring in different colors for Christmas, summer or fall, it’s easy to do that.”
Accessories with bronze, brass or gold trim details not only look on-trend, but they can also create a Christmas look in an instant when combined with gold ball ornaments and handmade wreaths.
A simple way to make any home feel merry and bright for the holidays? Just add greenery and natural branches and twigs, fresh or faux. “A lot of the time I’ll use clippings from outside. I’ll find branches and berries and just layer them in,” Jenni says.
For Jenni, this also means fresh roses, which are a tried and true way to add a romantic ambience. “Around the holidays you usually can’t get a lot of fresh flowers, but no matter what your holiday color scheme is, roses look pretty,” she says. “If you stick with one color and cluster them together, it makes a statement.”
Casual, but with an elevated personality, Jenni’s home feels warm and inviting through the use of sophisticated furnishings with comfortable textures, metal accessories and dark neutral colors. A mix of hand-me-down antiques and vintage-style furniture creates a collected and approachable ambiance.
Finding the right pieces is key to creating a livable look, whether it’s an heirloom mirror handed down from Jenni’s great-great-grandmother, vintage skis or sleds, or a new-but-made-to-look-antique dresser.
“We just like it to be a welcoming place so that when people walk in and it’s decorated [for Christmas], it makes you feel right at home,” Jenni says.
Lastly, what’s a surefire way to personalize your home for the holidays? Jenni insists on adding homespun decorations for a family-friendly and sentimental touch. “There are so many ways to make it look and feel ‘holiday’; you don’t have to buy your decorations at the store,” Jenni says. “You could make gingerbread men and string them onto ornaments. You can string popcorn or cranberries on a garland—those are some of my favorite memories. You could just make a few things and make it feel special.”