A Vibrant Cottage with Floral Flair

This colorful Santa Monica home is full of cottage charm and vintage style.

Bright white is the background that allows every other color in the house to show off in comparison

You already know that to turn a house into a comfortable home you need to make it fit your style and lifestyle, but you are probably less certain of how to make all the elements come together in the most effective personal and functional ways. That’s when an interior designer can be your friend—and in homeowner Joan Swartz’s case, the designer actually was one.

A centerpiece in the family room showcases Joan’s pitcher collection. She enjoys using pitchers to hold flowers and likes to give them away as gifts. Amateur art found at flea markets lines the wall.

“We chose Santa Monica for the neighborhood and good public schools, and this house had enough bedrooms that even with a live‐in nanny and home office, I imagined we would never have to move again,” Joan explains. Although the house was two stories with six bedrooms, there was no real master suite, and it was in poor condition. It had also been remodeled with cheap finishes, such as aluminum sliding windows.

“So we tore it down to the studs and reorganized the entire floor plan and front elevation to restore it to look and live like an original, traditional Cape Cod‐style house,” Joan says. “I was determined to use every inch of this house—and I did.”

About 12 years later, Joan met interior designer Alison Kandler, who helped her remodel a second time, to redesign the kitchen/family room, entry and powder room on the first floor.

The former aluminum windows were replaced with Craftsman-style wood casement windows that accurately reflect the time period in which the home was built.
In the guest bedroom, quilts add color and softness to the white walls and floor.

“Another decade went by before we tackled the second story,” Joan says. “My sons were all out of the house by then, so we remodeled the master suit and kids’ bathroom, and cannibalized a couple of bedrooms to become my home office and an upstairs family room.”

A third remodel of the home included the attic area. Although the three remodels were done many years apart, Joan wanted them to look seamless. “I wanted to make it feel cohesive, like it was all done at the same time, even though it was a work in progress for 25 years,” she says.

Some of her favorite architectural details include sloped ceilings, dormers in the bedrooms, and niches that are very romantic and charming. “And a lot of windows—about 65 windows,” Joan says. “Windows on at least two sides of a room help to let light into a room at different times of the day. I love living so near the ocean for the constant ocean breeze and beautiful sunsets.”

Redecorating the Rooms

The double-wide armchair for two was found at a garage sale in lime green. Joan had it upholstered in her favorite cranberry color.

Through the years, Joan and Alison became business partners as well as close friends. Joan trusted Alison’s intuition and skills as an interior designer to achieve her desired décor. “You can’t collaborate well unless you feel comfortable with someone else having a better idea,” Joan says. “There’s an absence of competitive ego between us, so we work really well as a team. Alison is the keeper of the concept and helps me to balance all these beautiful colors without getting carried away.” Alison’s familiarity with Joan was a great asset in making decorating decisions. “Joan has a lot of personality; she’s very outgoing. She loves life and wanted her home to feel happy, warm and colorful,” she says.

On Joan’s request list was opening up the kitchen for entertaining, so Alison made some creative changes in design and functionality. “I opened it up by getting rid of the upper cabinets and rearranging the overall space,” Alison says. “We wanted to include an island with a stove on it, but the kitchen wasn’t quite big enough, so we created a C‐shaped island so Joan can stand on an angle to cook while seeing through to the family room and socializing with guests.”

Alison had to find another creative solution for a column next to the refrigerator that couldn’t be moved, so she hid it behind laminated glass. She chose American cherry wood for the countertops, since Joan loves the warmth of wood. “The wood counter is a bit of maintenance, so we put a fresh coat of polyurethane on it every year,” Joan says. Since Alison knew Joan loves color, she painted the island in eggplant (plum) and the chairs in different colors.

Joan says she feels like she’s showering in a flower garden thanks to this colorful custom-made tile floor.

Making a Splash in the Bath

“My favorite aspect of the project is the tiled shower floor in the master bathroom. It’s covered in a floral design,” Alison says. “An artist in Phoenix creates unusual tiles, so I gave him a color palette of purple and pink flowers, and I told him the kind of flowers I wanted to use.” Joan adores the floral shower floor. “I really like to bring the outdoors in. I feel like I’m showering in a flower garden,” she says.

The gingham pattern might look like it was painted, but the effect was actually produced with tiles. Mauve grout, rather than the traditional white, is responsible for making the transition appear seamless.

Another favorite is a guest bathroom that boasts a charming gingham purple floor. “Alison said to me, ‘When are we ever going to get to do a purple floor?’ So I trusted her and went with purple instead of green. It’s fabulous!” Joan says.

A built-in nook holds a house-shaped cookie jar, cookbooks and an assortment of Joan’s collectibles.

Adding a Personal Touch

An unexpected but enduring effect Alison has had on Joan was introducing her to the world of being a collector. “She didn’t have collections at the time, so we started going to flea markets, and she caught the bug.”

Joan has amassed several collections that she enjoys displaying. “I love to buy amateur art and paint‐by‐number paintings at flea markets. I’m a quilter, so I display them as well as my needlepoints, Sandy Kreyer floral ceramics, pitchers, miniature teapots and antique Barbola mirrors from the early 20th century.”

The architect and designer are both thrilled with the outcome. “We live in each other’s art,” Alison says. “You want the family to feel like they could never live anywhere else.” Joan says she is finally living in her dream home. “I feel like Cinderella. Every morning I wake up thinking how lucky I am to live here,” Joan says. “We have plenty of room to have friends stay with us and share our comfortable home. We are really blessed and grateful. It fits us like a glove!”

You can learn more about architect/homeowner Joan Swartz at Joan Swartz Design. To learn more about interior design Alison Kandler, visit Alison Kandler Interior Design.





How to Collect Quilts

If you are lucky enough to have inherited a handmade quilt from your grandmother or another maternal branch on your family tree, then you already know the sentimental value attached to it. The warmth it generates comes not only from its fabric but from the quilter who put her heart into every detail of its creation.

Perhaps you’ve thought about acquiring more quilts to spread the warmth throughout your home but were unsurewhere to begin the search. Suzanne Smith Arney, a freelance art writer with a special interest in quilts and textiles, offers her advice on collecting, displaying and caring for handmade quilts.

Collect Quilts

History: Suzanne suggests learning more about quilts by gleaning information from community colleges, books, quilting guilds, websites and quilt museums—an excellent source being the International Quilt Study Center & Museum (IQSC) in Lincoln, Nebraska (quiltstudy.org). “I’ve always had an appreciation and respect for traditional ‘women’s work.’ Learning about quilts, from antiquity to the most contemporary, has only increased my esteem and enjoyment at this astonishingly rich medium,” she says.


Keep Records: Appraise, document and label your quilt, Suzanne advises. Many museums have quilt identification days and workshops. IQSC has an interactive website and easily researched database. Meeting and learning about other collectors is very helpful and fascinating.Floral Quilt

Proper Care: Damaged quilts require special care, Suzanne says. Besides cleaning, you must decide whether to repair or stabilize the fabric. See a quilt appraiser or expert for advice on care of the quilt.

Where to Find Them: Good places to hunt include antiques stores, estate sales, online auction sites like eBay, upscale flea markets—and especially in your family home’s attic.


How to Display Them: Consider not only the visual effect but also the safest arrangement for each quilt when displaying it, Suzanne explains. Having assured a protective way to show off your quilt—hanging, folded in an open drawer, draped over the arm of a chair—consider creating a vignette. Put a picture of your grandparents or their marriage license beside it.

Floral Feast: All About Chintz China

Chintz china makes every meal a special event.

Imagine if you could bring your summer garden indoors to enjoy the brightly colored flowers year round. While that may not be possible, having a chintz china collection lets you do the next best thing.

Mix and match patterns by pairing the tiny print of chintz dishes with the bigger, but equally colorful, patterns of vintage table cloths.

Known for their delicate “all-over” floral designs (although there are some wonderful fruit patterns as well), these vintage porcelain pieces are like paintings for your table. Their bright colors will add cheer to any meal, from breakfast to dinner. (My weekend guests feel very honored when I serve them breakfast on my sunny yellow, flower-filled Welbeck dishes by Royal Winton.) Having the boss, a prospective client or the in-laws over for dinner? A table covered in a garden of chintz serving pieces is sure to impress.

And if you still need another reason to start collecting chintz, here’s one that I ascribe to: If cooking is not your strong suit, by setting your table with chintz pieces your guests may not remember your meal, but they will surely remember the dishes.




Named for the floral fabric pattern, the height of chintz production was in the 1920s through the 1960s at potteries, the most prolific ones being in Staffordshire, England. The serving pieces were originally sold for only a few dollars apiece in department stores in the United States.


Market appeal:

Chintz dishes are among the desirable collectibles that are as beautiful as they are utilitarian. They are sought-after by collectors of such categories as vintage, porcelain, floral, serveware and English pottery as well as collectors of pre- and post-war memorabilia.

Patterns and makers:

The pattern names are as wide-ranging as their designs, from the delicate
Sweet Pea to the dramatic Majestic. And yes, there is even one called Floral Feast. Among the most popular and valued are pieces designed by Royal Winton (formerly Grimwades, Ltd.); James Kent, Ltd.; Shelley Potteries Ltd. and Johnson Brothers Ltd.


Depending on whether it’s authentic or a reproduction and the venue where it was purchased, prices can range from $25 to thousands for a larger piece.

Where to find them:

Chintzware can be difficult to find unless you go to a venue such as an antiques store, estate sale or auction, so visit websites that sell them, which you can find by doing a simple search using the term “chintz china.” You can find some good deals on pieces at online auction sites such as eBay.


How to display them:

When entertaining, a simple but well-made white tablecloth is the best canvas to set off the colorful dishes. As decoration, a grouping of dishes in various patterns is a beautiful way to liven up a white wall or they can be the focal point of a table vignette. They are often placed on plate racks, on shelves or in cabinets. However you display them, they are guaranteed to be conversation pieces.

Holiday Getaway: The Charlotte Inn

The Charlotte Inn is not for everybody—and that’s exactly the way owner/innkeeper Gery Conover wants it. There are no computers, no children, no large groups, no t-shirts or hats, and no cell phones allowed on the premises (except in guest rooms). The owner says guests are more than happy to abide by the strict house rules to experience a truly restful getaway from their busy schedules.

“We don’t even have a computer at the reception desk, so when someone makes a reservation it is taken the old-fashioned way: written by hand, not by computer,” the innkeeper says. “We have the international symbol for ‘no cell phones’ posted on the front door, and if someone forgets the policy we gently remind them. We do not book parties of three or more couples; and at our restaurant, a party of 10 must sit at different tables so as not to be disruptive to other guests,” he explains. “But people keep coming back; some of our guests have been coming for 30 years. They tell us that it was exactly the kind of vacation they needed.”

The turn-of-the-century sensibility is fitting for the Edgartown, Massachusetts, inn as it was built by a sea merchant in 1864 as his private home and later became an inn in the 1920s. The Italian Romanesque-style architecture’s decor is a rich blend of traditional England and New England ambience.

“The inn’s decorating style is English Edwardian, from 1880 to 1900,” Gery explains. “Ninety percent of the antiques are English Edwardian. There is lots of wallpaper with red and green accents—predominantly jewel tones.” Original oil paintings, watercolors and English prints grace the walls. To achieve an authentic period look, Gery purchased most of the rooms’ furnishings in England—London and the Cotswolds countryside—as well as in New York, Philadelphia and Boston. He is particularly fond of the stately front desk in the reception area, which welcomes guests by instantly setting the tone for their visit. “It was a barrister’s desk from Edinburgh, Scotland, built in the early 1800s. I bought it from an antiques dealers in New York. We had to open the wall to accommodate the desk. I’ve had it for about 25 years,” he says.

To lighten up—both figuratively and literally—the rich colors and furnishings, Gery added accessories you might find in a classic New England home to give each room a lived-in attitude: a small letter box looks charming on a narrow wall, white wicker chairs invite guests to relax on the porch while brown wicker baskets and vintage suitcases are casually stacked against gleaming wood wainscot paneling, vintage egg cartons are displayed in a wire basket and a pair of old ice skates are hung from a chairback.

As a guest of the inn (which is not considered a bed-and-breakfast, as lunch is served as well), you have a choice of four buildings in which to stay: the Italianate main building, which sports a library, two living rooms and the main dining room; a clapboard summer house built in 1840 with eight guest rooms upstairs; a coach house, which houses the tack room and antique cars along with a guest suite; and the carriage house, with a suite on the second floor and two rooms on the first floor.

Gery has a passion for gardening, which is evident in the lush landscaping. “The gardens have lots of English boxwood, holly trees, ivy and summer flowers; they are very colorful in a subtle way,” he says. “There are lots of garden accessories: antique urns, fountains (including a three-tier Victorian fountain) and birdbaths. There’s a fish pond, lots of brick walks, wisteria and sitting areas for guests to enjoy the view,” he says.

The Charlotte Inn has received numerous awards and accolades from such notable travel sources as Fodor’s, the Tatler Travel Guide (which named it one of the top 101 hotels in the world in 2012) and The Boston Herald.