FIRE AND ICE WITH RAYMOUR & FLANIGAN

We’re just a couple of days shy of the winter solstice…and what better way to celebrate the arrival of Old Man Winter (who, admittedly, decided to show up MUCH earlier than desired this year…haha!) than with a good, old-fashioned fire in the snowy woods? If you’ve been following along, you know that we’ve been busy tying up all of our outdoor projects before the onset of the long, cold months ahead. The last of which was the creation of a permanent fire pit area in our backyard which we cast amidst a path of concrete pavers. Well, it took a little longer than anticipated, but it’s finally finished and already been put to good use, in partnership with my friends at Raymour & Flanigan!

Before we jump in, I thought I’d just share a quick, visual chronology of the basic steps of the fire pit project:

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The process was relatively straightforward and devoid of issues, until, a freak snowstorm hit – with no forecast in sight – about twelve hours after we had poured the final round of concrete in the form. Thankfully, my extremely patient and amazingly capacious Husband, who makes absolutely EVERYTHING possible around here, decided to quickly cover the fire pit with one of those collapsible shed structures, and rigged some heat lamps in the interior to keep the temperature above freezing so that the concrete would cure properly.

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And so thanks to his timely solution and efforts, our fire pit was saved! And ready to be used, even with arctic temperatures and snowdrifts dominating the landscaping…haha! Because we’re crazy like that. So long as the flames are persistent and the wine is flowing, there’s plenty of sustainable warmth to enjoy the picturesque surroundings!

In collaboration with Raymour & Flanigan, I’ve styled our outdoor fire pit area with very simple Adirondack-style chairs in white (Mopani Outdoor Chair), and a loveseat bench in the same style (Hantom Outdoor Bench). The simple lines of the Adirondack-inspired design of the chosen seating are just perfect for our rustic setting, and conjure up that quintessentially New England vibe regardless of the season. Because we’re in the throes of some seriously cold days here in New Hampshire, the only other elements that are necessary are some cozy layers in the form of plaid throws, pelts, kilim pillows and some lanterns for effect. Oh, and fire, of course! Accompanied by warming beverage(s) of choice. And there you have it…the makings of a simple, unfussy scene to enjoy the stark beauty of winter!

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Happy wintering, everybody…stay warm, safe and jolly, and may the season be merry and bright, well into the New Year!

  • I have partnered with Raymour & Flanigan and received product in exchange for this post. All expressed opinions are 100% my own.

* Images and text by Astrid Insieme

AN ECLECTIC HOLIDAY HOME TOUR

So, it’s that time of year…and how quickly it descended upon us! I’m very excited to be participating, alongside so many talented creatives, in the Winter Eclectic Home Tour hosted by the amazing Jess of Domicile 37 (thanks for organizing this blog hop and the invite, Jess!). If you’ve made your way over from Monica Wants It, welcome!

For those who are new here, I thought it would be apropos to preface by disclosing a few things about our lifestyle before jumping into the visuals. We are a family of three who live in the woods of New Hampshire, in a tiny A-frame cottage which is currently in the throes of a renovation; we’ve recently added on an addition which is still a work in progress, but for the moment, our actual living area is simply comprised of the A-frame which totals just under 800 square feet. With steeply angled walls. So as you can imagine, it is a very small home with some very particular and unusual spatial limitations! However, this conveniently aligns with my penchant for a “less is more” approach to decorating for the holidays, despite my otherwise maximalist leanings when it comes to interiors. As far as “decking our halls”, I prefer incorporating a few subtle and intentional flourishes which remind us of the celebratory season, and rely mostly on cultivating a cozy, layered, and wintry mood throughout. The vibe (hopefully!) translates to an unfussy melange of eclectic/bohemian/Scandinavian/rustic styles with a touch of Christmas cheer.

OK, that’s enough of my virtual babbling…come on in!

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So here is the entry to our little A-frame which I always spruce up with greenery this time of year, opting to keep things rather elemental and natural. Except, of course, for the star perched atop the peak of our roof…haha!

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This is the view from our front door as you enter a narrow foyer which leads into our open-plan downstairs.  The foyer essentially serves as a mudroom where we stash our shoes, hats, umbrellas, etc. and although the space is primarily utilitarian in purpose, there’s always room for some seasonal dressing in the form of garlands and wreaths, right?

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A square, boxwood wreath and some pine boughs gathered from trees on our property provide just enough deliberate doses of green while not overwhelming the tight space.

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From here, we enter into the tiniest of tiny kitchens. And I do mean that…its usable space measures roughly 10 x 7 feet (with an angled wall, no less)! Here is a vignette of the peninsula area where we eat:

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A view to the living room. We like to keep things abundantly layered and super cozy during the winter, as it gets brutally cold here in northern New England. I think perhaps you can now detect the “maximalist leanings” I had previously mentioned!

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This is a bit of an odd photo, but it shows the layout of the open-plan downstairs, and the placement of the kitchen (in the background) in relation to the living area. The stairs lead upstairs to two tiny bedrooms and an even tinier loft.

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I like surprising and unconventional mixes in my decor, as I tend to find beauty in the unexpected. Global, traditional and rustic aesthetics juxtapose effortlessly, I feel, and still manage to feel discreetly festive. I truly believe that if you do anything with conviction and wild abandon, it will always work!

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We can’t hang our stockings by the chimney with care…so they hang by our sliding glass doors, dangling (carefully?) from a curtain rod. And please behold our baby tree beneath…haha! Yep, that’s about as much tree as we can fit in our living room at the moment!

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Some more living room details, keeping it minimal but still evocative of the holiday spirit:

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And a close-up of our baby tree. All 15 inches of her! I love her though…she seriously cracks me up.

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Shall we head outside to our back deck? Here is where we can appreciate the woods on the edge of our property, so this space is all about experiencing the rusticity of cabin life. Bundled up, we can still enjoy a quick morning coffee or glass(es) of wine in the late afternoon here. But not for too much longer, as the temperatures are dropping quickly!

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So, the reality is that I had finished taking all the photos that I intended to include in this holiday home tour last week. But then Mother Nature intervened a few days ago, rather opportunely, and this happened…and so I thought it would be a perfect, final shot for this wintry blog hop!

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Or maybe this one would be more fitting? Apologies in advance for the atrocious quality of the photo, but it’s good enough to see how we do the most obvious thing one could do with an A-frame (and some Griswold-ian efforts) this time of year…

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And that’s how we do the holidays around here! Thanks so much for stopping by, and don’t forget to pay a visit next to Mila of Jest Cafe to see how she works her seasonal magic, as well as all of the other talented creatives (listed below) who participated in this week’s Winter Eclectic Home Tour. Happy Holidays, everyone!

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(Please Note: Links to Home Tours are not live until day of tour!)

Monday

Bright Green Door // Michelle Matangi Home // Sharon Williams // CAD Interiors // Domicile 37

Tuesday

Casa Watkins Living //  Maggie Overby Studios // House Homemade // French & French Interiors // Style Mutt Home

Wednesday

Up to Date Interiors // The Striped House // Designing Vibes // Iris Nacole // Fearfully & Wonderfully Made // Blue i Style

Thursday

PMQ for Two // Maker of Home // Go Haus Go // Whimsical Blue Living // FOXY OXIE

Friday

This is Our Bliss // Monica Wants It // Insieme House // Jest Cafe // The Gathered Home

ECO DEER – IN THE SPIRIT OF SPONTANEITY

It’s been such a busy season around here, with absurd numbers of ongoing outdoor projects being tackled as we try and get as much crossed off of our endless punch list before the advent of the colder days. Lots of things being built, and subsequently, lots and lots of mess…and more often than not, these new installations are pending true completion as they require more work before they can actually be deemed finished. Case in point: decks, pergolas and the like, which in our case, were constructed using pressure-treated wood and need considerable time before being painted or stained. Admittedly, I refuse to subscribe to the idea that we should wait to use our spaces and belongings only and until they are fully “done” or the timing is perfect, because I feel like those are absolutely illusory notions anyway. And so, prompted by a mix of impatience and a dedication to living in the moment as much as possible, I made it a point to set up and style our new outdoor areas to enjoy in the meanwhile, even if said set up is temporary.

So when the lovely people of Eco Deer contacted me about sharing their product,  I was elated. Not just because it is such a clever concept, but because there is something about the spontaneity of its application that deeply appeals to me. And I knew just the place where I wanted it to live. For now, anyhow. No clue what I am talking about? For those unfamiliar with the incredibly cool Eco Deer, here it is:

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Could there be a more perfect and creative format for displaying nature of your choosing? Shaped like a deer’s head, and when filled with foliage, flowers or branches – whatever you’re inclined to use – it mimics a trophy mount. Minimalist design genius, as far as I am concerned!

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They are handmade in Ukraine and come in several styles, including solid eco wood (both raw and painted) as well as metal. Simply hang, insert the two glass tubes in place, and fill with the foliage of your choosing. If you opt to fill it with blooms or leaves, add water to ensure their longevity, naturally. If you want to use thick branches instead, you could even forego the use of the tubes. And there you have it…an incredibly striking and sculptural, decorative statement in the form of a botanical wall display!

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My favorite aspect of the Eco Deer is how it can be used to create so many different looks, depending on what design direction you’re into at the moment. Leafy palm fronds in the summer, wispy wildflowers in the spring, and dried branches in the late fall and winter…I just love how it can be used so variably, so seasonally, so spontaneously! I intend on moving it indoors during the snowy months but until then, I adore seeing it mounted under our pergola on our back deck. Although this area is still very unfinished at the moment, it was all about having fun with the space in the meanwhile…spontaneously. And the Eco Deer came at just the right time, and seriously delivered. Serendipitously…and spontaneously!

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Visit the Eco Deer Etsy shop to check out their inventory and buy online…if you are an aficionado of plants and brilliant design, it is an absolute must for your home decor!

  • I have partnered with Eco Deer and received product in exchange for this post. All expressed opinions are 100% my own.

* Images and text by Astrid Insieme

THE MAKING OF A SHE SHED (OR SHEd)

This summer has been replete with seemingly endless outdoor projects in our quest to finalize the exterior of the addition, address some seriously daunting landscaping issues, and ultimately, to create usable spaces around our property for lounging and entertaining. Because let me tell you…it’s been obscenely muddy and chaotic around here for what seems like an eternity! We’ve just finished building front and back decks, and are in the throes of reconstructing the neighborhood’s old pump house (which was kindly given to us) in our backyard, which we will be using for storage of seasonal and recreational items. This new acquisition has left one of our existing sheds entirely freed up for…well, the possibilities were infinite. Admittedly, I’ve always been fascinated with the idea of creating a special space – a sort of fantastical retreat – in a tiny structure, and so here was my opportunity. The decision was an easy one, and I am ecstatic to have partnered with my friends at Raymour & Flanigan in the transformation of our 10 x 10 foot utilitarian shed into an outdoor oasis for summertime chilling!

Because the shed clearly has spatial limitations, I wanted to ensure that it efficiently served two functions: providing leisurely spots for seating, and offering surfaces for entertaining (and by that, I mean places to rest drinks and such…haha!). As far as its aesthetic direction, my vision was to create a space that was equal parts global and chic, with a subdued, tropical vibe. This little, outdoor room had to feel like a bit of a sanctuary, an inviting refuge. And here’s how I did it:

Giving the dingy, interior walls and floor a fresh coat of white paint was the first step.

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(Let us please ignore the newly hydro-seeded grass that has started to come in and that we have managed to kill. Despite obsessive watering.)

Once painted, then the true fun began!

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I had chosen some beautifully striking and functional pieces from Raymour & Flanigan and planned on mixing them with items from my own stash to decorate and style the space. Once all the wares had been delivered, it was time for installation! I laid down a sisal rug banded with a brown border that I had in storage to create a natural, neutral grounding for the colorful and bold furnishings and decorative accents that I would be layering in the SHEd. The gorgeous ikat settee (Emelio Loveseat) and luxuriously tufted chaise lounge in navy (Lansing Chaise Lounge) add the ideal dose of sophisticated, bohemian flavor and in addition to being supremely comfortable, feel perfectly scaled in this intimate setting. The turquoise coffee table is from India and is one of my most cherished pieces from my hoard…I mean collection. Gilded wall plates and a federal-style, convex mirror (also from my hoard) were added for a touch of gilded glam, and some greenery was brought in to inject a touch of tropicalia. Can you tell I have a penchant for blue? Probably not.

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Soft furnishings (pillows and suzani textiles from my hoard/collection) were added liberally. I am such a shameless fan of pattern mixing and believe it should be done with conviction…more is definitely more in this case! Saturated colors and ethnic prints always make an incredible visual impact, especially when juxtaposed against the crispness of white walls. Once all the final touches were made and everything was styled accordingly, the SHEd was ready for her debut…and here is how she looked!

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I also chose the Irina Outdoor Armchair and the Lodi Outdoor Serving Cart which collectively provide a wonderful, woodsy warmth to the space. Both are crafted from acacia wood and are such solid and functional pieces. No oasis would be complete without a station to replenish one’s drinks, right?

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Essentially, I couldn’t neglect the outside of the SHEd, now that she was all done up on the inside. The Karoo Outdoor Bench is truly the most perfect of outdoor benches that I could have placed alongside one of the exterior walls. It is beautifully crafted, super long, super sturdy and has absolutely gorgeous lines. Dressed with heaps of vintage kilim pillows from Turkey, it has become my favorite perch for indulging in extra-long morning coffees.

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And there you have it…as the old adage goes, good things (can) come in little packages! A huge thanks to Raymour & Flanigan for helping make this transformation happen. They have such an incredibly vast and varied array of inventory to suit any decor style, and have been such a dream to partner with!

  • I have partnered with Raymour & Flanigan and received product in exchange for this post. All expressed opinions are 100% my own.

 

 

* Images and text by Astrid Insieme

A TALE OF TRANSFORMATION

Just thought I’d begin by sharing a brief chronicle of the progress we have made transforming a once derelict (but teeming with potential) A-frame in the woods of New Hampshire into our year-round home! This particular story commences about five years ago, when my Husband, Brian, and I began tackling the initial phase of this remodel primarily on our own, except for the electrical and plumbing work which we (naturally) hired out. I should mention, if only to humor myself in remembrance of our joint insanity, that we were actually living onsite while carrying out this extremely laborious, messy and protracted renovation. This could have proven to be a very poor decision, as sleeping on a mattress on the floor, amidst power machinery and mammoth piles of construction debris, isn’t usually the prescribed formula for ensuring a newly married couple’s happiness and stability…haha! But thankfully, we have survived and are still at it!

So here is the evolution of phase one of the undertaking, which essentially involved a full exterior and interior facelift. (For more photos and details, you can check out our “Before & After” feature on Design*Sponge here from a couple of years ago.)

The exterior (before, during and after):

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The interior (before and after):

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(I have kindly spared you the sight of the bathroom in its unadulterated, “before” state. But if you are curious, I hope you will be satiated with the knowledge that there were relentless colonies of mushrooms growing from the soggy floorboards. And stenciled, green ducks on tongue and groove walls stained every hideous shade of orange imaginable.)

Once the A-frame was fully rehabilitated, we took about a year off to recuperate our energies before embarking on phase two of our grand plans for this property. For familial reasons, we knew that adding onto the tiny cottage was imperative, and fortunately, we had the land and the space to expand. So we drafted the design ourselves and once all the bureaucratic steps were taken to secure the go-ahead to build the addition, we enlisted a contractor to execute our vision. And here’s how that chapter of the story went:

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This is where we stepped back into the picture. Ambitious (read: crazy) people that we are, Brian and I have resumed putting our collective stamp on our home by beginning to paint the exterior (at the moment, we have only finished the facade), and initializing some minor hardscaping projects, such as laying a rustic entry path of bluestone pavers to the front deck. Which as you can see, clearly needs to be repainted at this point given the abuse it’s been taking as of late!

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The to-do list for this summer is frighteningly massive and involves: painting the rest of the house, installing shutters and flower boxes, extending and painting the front deck, building a back deck with an attached pergola, depositing loam around the remainder of the property in preparation for hydro seed, building a backyard fire pit, and giving three of our sheds facelifts. Reasonable or delusional? We shall see in a few months…haha!

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And that’s where we’re currently at! If all goes according to plan, this utilitarian shed in the foreground will be receiving a bit of an unexpected makeover very soon…stay tuned!

 

*Images and text by Astrid Insieme