Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Adventures in Wales: Bodysgallen Hall

Bodysgallen Hall
Two years ago, we started saving. We knew it would take a bit of time to save up enough. We were dreaming of getting away, of having an adventure. So we said....if we can save enough, we will go....for a few weeks....or better...a month. So we saved...and when we saved what we thought was enough to start making a plan, I took to planning with a passion. I had not been to Europe for many many years, and we thought it was long overdue. So where to go? We could go anywhere, but knowing how to narrow it down was the challenge. To fit as much in as possible without feeling too rushed is a balance. Adventure is not about rushing but having time to take it all in, after all. 

Tim has family in Wales. We had been in touch over the years with Christmas cards and letters (yes, actual letters! It is very satisfying to see an airmail letter in the mailbox.) We decided that Wales was definitely on the list. The family lives in beautiful  Beaumaris which is in North Wales on Anglesey Island. We wanted to stay close by to see them and also see the surrounding countryside. Some of the castles built by Edward I are very close by in the towns of Conwy and Caernarfon

On this trip, I wanted to sleep in places that were just as memorable as everything else we came to see. I wanted something that perhaps fit the fairytale I had in my head. I was not sure it was possible with our budget, but I will let you in on how we did it in a little bit. To be clear.... I thought that maybe what I was looking for was just a fantasy.....I was thinking a little Downton Abbey, a little Secret Garden, a little Jane Austin and throw some green fields, sheep, rock walls, gardens overrun with boxwood and kitchen herbs....maybe a Gothic ruin or two. Could I find it? I did a little digging and and yes....it was amazingly easy to find.......thanks to Trip Advisor. 

I am speaking of Bodysgallen Hall. One always takes things with a grain of salt when seeing a place for the first time on the internet. A second opinion is always a good thing. We really had nothing to worry about. Bodysgallen is breathtaking. It is a National Heritage Hotel with quite a history. It is believed that the original tower may have been a lookout for the castle in Conwy (built by Edward I in the 13th century) It grew over the next 600 years and was eventually refurbished in the mid-1900's. After that, it fell into disrepair until it came under the umbrella of the National Trust becoming the hotel and Spa it is today.

We spent as much time as we could possibly fit in roaming the grounds, and we still did not see everything we wanted to. We totally missed the Gothic tower on the hilltop above the manor house.  But I hope our glimpse might be enough to tempt you to explore this part of the world yourselves. 

The interior was as captivating to me as the exterior. When we arrived, our bags were taken to our room and we were offered tea in the front hall, tea sandwiches and all. It was a lovely way to start our first afternoon in Wales. It took me very little time to start taking pictures....

The Bar was perfect for an evening cocktail

I was half expecting Lady Mary Crawley or Mr. Carson around every corner. Just the feeling I was hoping to find.

As soon as we had our fill of tea and cucumber sandwiches, we headed back outside....more exploring.....

Peonies the size of my head were in bloom

The formal garden

A wander in the woods

And here were just a few of the sheep we came across

Notice the headstones?

If you look closely, you can see Conwy Castle dead center in this view from Bodysgallen Hall

If you are thinking of visiting Wales.... and I strongly recommend that you do....Bodysgallen is an amazing place to call home base. The hotel itself has a very good restaurant as well as a cafe, a very well equipped Spa/Gym building with sauna and indoor pool, garden tours, and amazing grounds. The staff were very attentive and kind and helpful with everything we needed, even when we returned very late one evening. They helped us order a wonderful in-room breakfast which came just when desired the next morning since we had to get up early to leave. 

There are any number of tour companies that can pick you up in the morning, give you a private or group tour of the Northern Wales area and bring you back in the evening for a very reasonable price. We had arranged for a private tour and were able to see everything we were hoping to see at a very leisurely pace with the knowledge we had Bodysgallen Hall to come back to at the end of the day. It was amazing how much we were able to see in one day! (I will show you soon, don't worry!)

Originally, Wales was not going to be on our itinerary. It seemed a bit our of the way and hard to get to. We were basing that belief on dated information since high speed rail has cut travel time to Northern Wales to about three hours from London. I am so very glad we came. It turned out to be perhaps my favorite leg of our month long adventure. Whether it was my longtime interest in English History, or a girl's fascination with castles, kings and queens..... this place exceeded my great expectations. It was a bit of magic staying here that I will never forget, and hope to relive soon!

More about Wales very soon!

Hwyl fawr am nawr!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Taking a Break: India Hicks Island Style

So, my friends..........I have been away! From the blog. I am sorry I did not give a warning, but a break was needed. Nothing earth shattering.....just things to attend to. Children to send out into the world. Business to work on. Trips to plan. In short......I needed to let go of the blog for awhile and figure out a new type of life with kids gone from the nest. It was not easy to take the blog break. It was like moving to a new town...saying goodbye to old friends.....for awhile. But I hoped I could come back at some point, or try to if any of you are still here. Are you?....still here? I hope so. I hope you understand. 

So, the thing I have come to understand is that we all need a break now and again.......and again.....and perhaps again. But if something is important, we make the effort to come back around and restart. Begin again.......and what better way to begin.....than by taking a break.  
India Hicks and her dreamy new book, India Hicks Island Style..... what a fabulous break!....

It is full of images that will let your body stay right at your desk, but will take your mind away on a relaxing vacation. It might even get you thinking that perhaps it would be a good idea to move that desk to a new location altogether. The Bahamas perhaps?

Many of you know of India Hicks and her fabulous life. But for those who do not......Her father was David Hicks, iconic decorator...... She was a flower girl in the wedding of her godfather Prince Charles and Princess Diana...... Her grandfather, Lord Mountbatten, was the last viceroy to India. Quite a background! India Hicks grew up in Oxfordshire, England, but lives now on Harbour island in the Bahamas with partner David Flint Wood and their five children.

This book is about her life, where it started and where it is now in the Bahamas. It is about how she got there and what life is like on an island paradise. It is about the connection between her past and present and the things in her home that tie the two together. Mostly it is a journal about how her home has become what it is today......casual, care-free and beautiful.

A beautiful life makes for a beautiful book! The images throughout this book are inspiring. There are many of the island itself and more about the house that India built with her many memories showing up in every corner.

Now....just a word on the quality of the book......I always like to know, and maybe you do too! really nice coffee table size book about 9.25" x 11" x 1.25".....nice matt finish to the cover.....and nicely formatted full bleed photos as well as framed.....more photos than prose, but prose are very interesting! Because the style of India's home is so classic, this book will be a keeper pretty much for the life of your library. 

India's concluding words in this book must be true for pretty much everyone....
"In those moments of silence I realize that my house is simply a series of rooms. What makes it a home are the memories, the objects, and, above all, my family."

It is certain that each object in this home calls forth a memory worth keeping.

So, with that said, it is time for me to make more memories of my own! I am planning a trip, and will be walking the old stomping grounds of India Hicks by starting off the trip in England. We will be traipsing across the country from London to Wales, and then off to Netherlands, Belgium, France and Italy over 4 weeks in May. My husband and I are celebrating our 25th anniversary. Celebrating 25 years of amazing memories and looking forward to many more.....

It is time for adventures.....

Real and imagined.....

And India Hicks knows how to imagine a life and make it reality.

My wish is for us all to do the same!

India Hicks Island Style , Published by the wonderful folks at Rizzoli, is available now!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Lunching with Creative Minds at Coup d'Etat

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of lunching with a bevy of creative souls at one of my favorite San Francisco Showrooms, Coup d'Etat and hosted by the indomitable Jeff Schlarb of the Interior Design firm Green Couch

I was a bit late getting to the event after navigating the bumper to bumper gridlock over the Bay Bridge. Getting to view the San Francisco skyline with the sea air floating through the sunroof....really, I could not complain. When I arrived, most of the attendees had already served themselves a delicious lunch of salads, beautiful fruits, chicken and corn  and were sitting at tables chatting and eating....waiting for the panel discussion to begin. So I followed suit and found myself a seat with minutes to spare.....

Jeff Schlarb of Green Couch
Jeff Schlarb was the moderator, and his enthusiasm is so infectious, I knew we were in for a good time. The panelists were selected to represent creative minds in architecture, design, art and dance. They included Stephen Sutro of Sutro Architects, fine artist Katina Huston, and Alonzo King of LINES Ballet. Amazing talents, all.

Stephen Sutro, Katina Huston and Alonzo King
I have to say, it was one of the most inspirational panels I have seen. It was especially interesting to hear how these three panelists each approached creativity in a different way, no doubt influenced by there respective disciplines. Jeff led them through a series of questions that unearthed their attitudes about tapping into their inner creative genius. I took lots of notes and was ready to share all of the intricate insights with you, but then I was lucky enough to receive a little recap of what we all got to experience. Jeff sent out a vimeo teaser which you all can see here:

SF Design Salon 2014 - Trailer from Green Couch Interior Design on Vimeo.

(Somehow, I unknowingly ended up in this video more than once. Clearly I have a habit of chewing my lip and nodding in agreement when listening intently..... Jeez.) But seriously, many thanks to the film Producer/Director/Editor, Hunter Preston Boucher. Nicely done!

 For the full presentation in four parts....hop on over HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE!

After being thoroughly inspired to return home and get going with my own creative process, I still needed to get my Coup d'Etat fix before leaving. It never fails to remind me why I am in this biz. I hope you enjoy a little design jolt to spark your imagination.......

Happy Monday!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Come Right In: 2014 San Francisco Decorator Showcase

Isn't always nice when visiting your friends to be greeted at the door with a little champagne? Jonathan Rachman did just that when I found him in the Entry Hall and Main Stairway at the 2014 San Francisco Decorator Showcase. Jonathan just seems to know how to entertain, and he does it with great finesse in this space. He was inspired by fashion icon Kate Moss and the song "Royales" by music artist Lourdes....and I did feel a bit royal walking in. Gold and crystal, neutrals and white all combine in a luxurious way and just make one feel pampered and a bit special! 

Have a spin around this space before we move along into House Beautiful's 2014 Kitchen of the Year designed by San Francisco's very own Steven Miller.....

Jonathan Rachman
I walked through the Dining Room next, (but we will get to that later) and then into the Butler's Pantry, which, as it turns out, was a perfect precursor to the House Beautiful Kitchen of the Year. Steven Miller is no stranger to a Decorator Showcase Kitchen ( he designed THIS spectacular kitchen for the 2009 Modern by Design Showhouse in San Francisco). He hit it out of the park again here. Quite the sophisticated take with the glittering mica wall covering my Phillip Jeffries, and iridescent back splash tile from Ann Sacks and black lacquer cabinets from Kitchenmaid all warmed up with walnut wood drain board by Grothouse Lumber at the Kohler sink.....

The main kitchen also has the black cabinets making the black appliances from Whirlpool right at home. White floors and walnut counters make for a very handsome impression....sort of "white tie and tails" glamour...

One of the most eye popping details in this space was the custom quartz crystal ceiling cove lighting installation by lighting designer Christopher Boots. Steve and Christopher collaborated and the original recessed box ceiling was transformed into a white surface with a recessed space for the light sculpture. Fantastic!

Just a little info on the generous sponsors for the kitchen:
Whirlpool brand provided their Black Ice Collection of appliances
Kraftmaid Cabinetry supplied those black enameled cabinets
Kohler for the sinks
Caesarstone countertops
Grothouse Lumber supplied the very beautiful Walnut counters
Wallcovering by Phillip Jeffries
Backsplash Tile by Ann Sacks
Paint by Valspar
Some Furniture items by Made Goods

Steven also took possession of the Family Room and adjacent Deck space.....lots of greys, white an black make this space the perfect calling card for Steven Miller's new gallery aptly titled The NWBLK (read: "the new black") . Many of the peices are from the gallery, which is a new showplace for outstanding furniture, lighting and accessories. All of you design junkies have a new place to get your fix!

Just off the Family Room is the Deck, also appointed with items from The NWBLK. Just another reinforcement of Steven's "cool" factor, in case you needed another reminder.....

Steven Miller
I hope you all have a chance to head over to the 2014 San Francisco Decorator Showcase! It runs through May 26th....this weekend....so hop on over!

More to come soon!