A Modern Irish Restaurant

I was planning on doing a post about designing with green today. Somehow though, my wheels started spinning. I daydreamed about how I would design my version of an Irish restaurant/pub here in the states. Having waitressed in one for several years and visited my fair share of them here and in Ireland, it somehow seemed fitting today. 

I envisioned it as a place for a casual meal but with a bit of refinement. You'd get a modern take on traditional Irish and American cuisine, but nothing would look or taste pretentious. It would be a simple space inspired by some rustic and traditional elements of Irish homes, warmed by a fire, reflecting the colors of the Irish flag ever so subtly. It would be a space to gather over delicious food and drink and share good craic. There'd be live music, both new and old, the artwork would reflect the history and culture of Ireland and the Irish in America, but simply done. There would be work from local artists of pastoral scenes, seascapes, cityscapes and photographs of smiling, laughing faces.

As you can see, there would be lots of texture, wood, linen, and leather (vinyl). The walls would be whitewashed. The dishware and glassware seen above is from the well know Irish glassblower, Simon Pearce, who now lives in Vermont.

For me, this embodies the warmth I remember from Irish homes and the comfort I've always found in special Irish haunts here in New York. I guess that's what was on my mind and in my heart today. There's more about that, in my extra post below this. I feel very lucky to have experienced these places in my life and to be able to express it in my work.  

Whadd'ya think? Read for some fish and  chips and a pint? I'd love to create this space somewhere for someone. 

If you're celebrating today, wherever you are or end up, I hope the gifts of the Irish that inspired me today, are with you.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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If you're lucky enough to be Irish...

St. Patrick's Day is nostalgic for me. In high school, I marched in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York each year with the marching band.  We always performed "New York, New York" and to this day, when I hear that song, I remember my whole swing flag routine. I also remember falling in my slippery white go-go boots in front of Central Park. Even with the drunks heckling me, I wasn't phased.

I was lucky enough to be Irish and marching down Fifth Avenue.

Then I went to school in Ireland for my last semester of college and felt more American than ever.

I remember sharing pints in Cavan when one of my Irish cousins asked me, "Do you feel Irish?" 

I didn't know how to answer that question.  In New York, people automatically assume that I'm Irish because of my name and how I look. 

In Ireland, there was no question I was a Yank.

My grandparents, Mary & Ben Conaty near their building in Greenwich Village, NY in the late 50's.

What I do know, is that St. Patrick's Day and feeling Irish have a lot to do with my family and traditions.

I love this photo of my grandparents for so many reasons:

The vintage quality. The window into that era. The story that I conjure when I look at it.

They look happy.

I don't have too many memories of my grandmother being well,
but I have a ton of my grandfather.

He was a tough man in many ways.

There was a lot about him that was hard to love.

There was a lot about him that was mysterious to me.

He was often grouchy and a curmudgeon.

He was a bit like Archie Bunker.

But to me, he was also funny and sarcastic, and I loved him.

I know he was not an easy man to have as a father.

He was not your typical doting grandfather either,

but he had a soft spot for me and we had a special bond.

I know his life was hard.

I'm not sure just how so, but I think it made

him who he was, for better or worse.

He was the oldest of many children.

He left Ireland alone, around the age of 20  and never went back.

Didn't keep in touch.

Didn't want to talk about it. 

Told me not to visit Ireland.
"They won't let you in when they hear your name is Conaty."

Mysterious. Curmudgeon. Grouchy. Sarcastic.

Not long before he died, over Thanksgiving dinner,
he told my brother and cousins and I
stories of his speakeasy hopping days with my grandmother.
Soon after that, over tea at his kitchen table,
he told me about meeting my grandmother on the ship
when he emigrated from Ireland.
They were both from Cavan, he from town, she from the country.
They lost track of each other until fate intervened
a couple of years later at a Cavan Ball in New York.

I am so grateful that as he aged, he told me these stories.
The man was usually an oyster,

but he was an impeccable dresser.
Even during a heat wave, he wore long slacks and a button down shirt. 

I remember seeing him in his fedora.

Maybe that's why I love that Eamon suddenly wants to wear bow ties.

He came to this country, worked hard and raised seven children with my grandmother, who I hear was pretty saintly. I wish I had known
her longer and better.

He died when I was nineteen.

I miss him and think of him nearly every day.

St. Patrick's Day is just a way for me to feel connected to him, to be proud to be his granddaughter, to have carried his name and hopefully have learned from his life. I think he would be proud and even softer today if he could see these two kiddos, who are lucky enough to carry a little piece of his Irish along with them.

My kiddos, back in 2012 when I originally wrote and shared this post.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

 

 

Living Room Progress

Well, it's been a couple of weeks, and slowly but surely, our living room is coming together. If you follow me on Instagram you've seen a bit of how it's evolving. Adding the new rug, sofa and dining area has already made a tremendous impact in brightening up the space and using it more efficiently. To recap, here are a couple of shots of the space a few weeks ago.

With northern light (and not much of it), an imbalanced layout and lots of beige and cool blue, the space felt dull and flat. The remedy? Working with the warm undertones of the floor to brighten up the palette.

And Here's where we are today. *Disclosure: These are real-life pictures. I live with children, a 100 pound dog and a constantly running washing machine. As soon as the place is straightened up, it's almost just as quickly not. 

I'm still not certain about this layout. From a functional standpoint, it works well. Aesthetically, I'm not so sure. I'd love to have the sofa under the window, but the tv watchers in the house are fighting me on that one. So far, though, I'm happy. Just the added color from the rug cheers things up so much.

And here's us actually using the space.

Left to do?

  • paint

Here's what I'm considering:

l-r, all Benjamin Moore: Opal Essence, Healing Aloe, Man on the Moon, Mayonnaise.

  • add new light fixtures
  • add new pillows to the sofa & church pew/dining bench
  • stencil or wallpaper entry and wall at top of stairs
  • add ship lap to the dining room wall
  • new blinds/drapes
  • new ottoman
  • new railing
  • add a coat closet to entry 
  • streamline the space under the window (it's bugging me)

Stay tuned for more. What projects are you working on these days? Has anyone gone with a creamy toned wall color? It's a tricky color to get right. I'd love to hear what your current favorite paint colors are.

Living Room Revamp

I'm going to preface this post by saying I know I think about these things way too much. Probably far more than is normal for most. Nothing you'll find here is earth shattering or terribly important in the grand scheme of what's going on in our world today. However, creating, puzzling over and enjoying my spaces really bring me great joy. They offer a soft place to land that can feel like a refuge from the stress of all the other stuff.  There's certainly enough to feel crabby and frustrated about outside these four walls. I need the ones inside to feel good. When they're not working, I feel off, and so does everyone else I live with.

Over the years, my living room has been the one room I've struggled to pull together well. It's one long, narrow room that only feels balanced when the Christmas tree is up. Not so helpful for the other eleven months of the year. It also has no overhead lighting, few windows, and the light we do get is cool, Northern light. In the dead of winter especially, this drives me bananas. Coupled with the beige walls, rug and sofa we have, there are days I feel like I'm living inside a cardboard box. It seems though, that the more I try to tweak and work something out, the more I get stuck. It's like I can't get out of my own way and see the space with any objectivity. I nitpick and hem and haw and become my own worst client.

Through trial and error over the last few months, (and lots of texts to good friends with great eyes) I think I've gotten to the bottom of it. The answer?  I need light. When you have none or very little, that means color. I think when I was in the thick of being a mom to toddlers, all the color that surrounded me everyday made me crave the neutral. The quiet. The tame. Now that we've all moved on a bit, it's time to bring in the bright, cheerful colors that reflect where we are in life now and how we feel today. (Trust me. That does not imply that we are bright and cheerful people all the time ; )

Here are a few recent shots of the room. 

Cardboard box syndrome: Lots of beige with some blue and white and laundry mixed in. 

Cardboard box syndrome: Lots of beige with some blue and white and laundry mixed in. 

Since this room was originally two spaces, it's rather lopsided with one end of the space being emptier than the other. This is usually where we drop the groceries. The coffee table is under the window here, in limbo, in the midst of my post-Christmas rearranging frenzy. 

Since this room was originally two spaces, it's rather lopsided with one end of the space being emptier than the other. This is usually where we drop the groceries. The coffee table is under the window here, in limbo, in the midst of my post-Christmas rearranging frenzy. 

One of many layouts I've tried since my husband picked these chairs out before Christmas.

One of many layouts I've tried since my husband picked these chairs out before Christmas.

The Chevron rug competes with the new chairs. The Ikea sofa table from our first apartment is too small. And I want color that starts from the ground up.

The Chevron rug competes with the new chairs. The Ikea sofa table from our first apartment is too small. And I want color that starts from the ground up.

There are some pieces that are newer purchases that I love, but after 13 years of not updating too much besides pillows, a little facelift is due. Out with the greige, overscaled, saggy, dirty sofa and in with cleaner lines and more contrast.

Here's the plan I've been working on.

The rug just arrived yesterday. It's a vintage Persian rug I scored on eBay for less than the price of something synthetic from a big box store. It's 100% wool so it will stand up to my kids and 100 pound dog and all the gross things that go along with having both. The rest of the plan sprang from pieces I already have and colors that will play well with them and bring light to the room. I wanted a sofa with washable (bleachable) slipcovers, hence the white sofa. I know it sounds insane. But after reading Emily A. Clark's take on them here, as well as a few others, I think I'm up for the challenge.

So here's the to-do list:

  • Add new sofa
  • Lay new rug
  • paint
  • add new light fixtures
  • add new pillows
  • stencil or wallpaper entry and wall at top of stairs
  • add ship lap to the dining room wall
  • have cushion made for dining bench/church pew
  • new blinds/drapes
  • add more light (opening up the ceiling or walls for new windows and recessed lighting, sadly, is out of the question right now.)

If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you can see some close-ups of new additions to the room as I add them.

Is there a space in your home that totally puzzles you? Please say that I'm not alone! Do any of you have a white slipcovered sofa? I'd love to hear your experience. My fingers are crossed that they're good.

 

 

 

Decorating on the fly...

I don't know about you, but Halloween is closing in on me pretty fast. I dragged up the boxes of decorations at the beginning of the month and felt pretty impressed that I got a head start. And then life happened. A family funeral, a visit from my parents and brother, a long weekend in Plymouth and short weekend upstate. Lo and behold, October is almost gone and said boxes are still sitting under my dining room table.  It's time to go with what I've got and finish up by decorating on the fly. 

Here are a few tips to help you make do with what you've got and not reinvent the wheel when you're decorating for the holidays.

 

Look to mother nature. 

Whenever I can, I try to incorporate the inevitable extra pumpkins we pick up throughout the month, both inside and out. In a small space like my living room, a little really goes a long way.

Here some small pumpkins and gourds sit atop a wooden tray and add a fun touch to an out of the way corner of our living room. With some dollar store decorations, they get a little spooky for Halloween.

Here some small pumpkins and gourds sit atop a wooden tray and add a fun touch to an out of the way corner of our living room. With some dollar store decorations, they get a little spooky for Halloween.

Embellish the ordinary.

With little time and budget to buy or make a new wreath last year, I added a Thanksgiving sign I already had to a simple grapevine wreath I found in my basement. (If you're local, you can get something similar made for you here.) Adding some faux and real pumpkins to our stairs creates a warm welcome to our tiny entry. 

Create a grouping of like items.

You don't need to spend a ton to make an impact. My husband is forever coming home with decorations from the drug store that I would never think to buy. Instead of "misplacing" them in the back of the closet (which is usually my first thought), I try to get creative to make them work. Here, I added a creepy bunch of styrofoam skulls that he bought last year to a glass hurricane. The kids love it and I don't have lots of little items scattered throughout the room.

Shop your home with color in mind.

Instead of immediately going to buy new items, shop your home first. Look around to see if you've got old books, tablecloths, pictures, etc. that suit a holiday or season's color scheme. I found these books in a box in my basement. Grouped together, they create a fun vignette and make another one of my husband's Rite Aid pick-ups work pretty well.

To add to this bargain item's "charm", it lights up and changes color each time the damn dog barks.

To add to this bargain item's "charm", it lights up and changes color each time the damn dog barks.

I'd love to see how you decorate for your kiddos' favorite holidays. Share your photos with me on Instagram or Facebook!

Ever tweaking

Just like my home, I am forever tinkering with my blog and website. It always seemed to feel off to me that my blog was identical to my business page. Blogging is really where everything started for me, so it made total sense for me to separate the two a bit. Since I wasn't able to export the content from the original site over to this new page, I'm starting fresh. There is nothing I love more than a clean slate!

So, bear with me as I create new content. I want this site to share my projects and offer me the freedom to write about the non-design inspired things that are just as much a part of my life and I'm guessing, yours too.

Thanks for sticking with me. I'll be back soon.