Weekend Link Love

InstagramApril (5) 2014

It’s been a week of unseasonably hot and sunny weather here in Seattle, with lots of gardening (or at least gardening plans), grilling on the deck and glorious golden hour walks by Green Lake. Also frustrating problems with technology – updating the operating system on my phone required it to be taken back to factory settings (seriously Apple?) and it still hasn’t fully recovered from its ordeal (and neither have I), and my computer has been most unhappy.

Last weekend I attended a class at the Pantry at Delancey on Square Foot Gardening which was hugely inspiring and went to the Seattle Tilth Edible Plant Sale  (one more day tomorrow)  yesterday evening to buy new plants for my raised beds. Stand by for Instagram pictures! The botanical theme continued with an evening at The Little Shop of Horrors. A really good production with a uniformly excellent cast that I highly recommend to Seattle folk.

Tacos - photography by www.paolathomas.com

Finally it’s also been a very taco-y week. I had great fun running round Seattle shooting Seattle’s Ten Best Tacos for Zagats and discovering some seriously good taco trucks. And this morning the Minx and I took a kid’s taco-making class at the Pantry. Above is one of the tacos we made from scratch, while the Minx got absorbed in her guacamole. I’ve just invested in a serious tortilla press. Heaven knows where I’m going to put it.

Tacos - photography by www.paolathomas.com

And finally a few fun links:

Deep clean your Facebook page. Have added this to my To Do list.

Apparently walking enhances creativity, I’d be out there if it ever stopped raining today.

My friend Tina at LifeInSketch is hosting the most amazing competition to win a trip to New York and meet A-list interior designer Vicente Wolf (whose new paint colours are GORGEOUS). I won’t be able to enter as I will be in Europe on the day in question, so now you guys stand a chance. Ha!

Yet another fabulously good photography portfolio.

On the blog this week I made Candied Kumquat Panna Cotta from Peasant in NYC and we learned about John Ruskin through the medium of kitchen cabinets.


Weekend Link Love

Double Rainbow Over Seattle - photography by www.paolathomas.com

It’s been a week of sunsets and showers, flowers and sunshine, hot cross buns and Cadbury’s Mini Eggs – and the most extraordinary rainbow that I think I’ve ever seen. And you really can’t get much better than that. (Also it’s astonishing what one can do nowadays with the pano feature on the iPhone).


I will be spending the weekend baking a Simnel cake and hosting a traditional Easter Sunday lunch with lots of roast lamb for some British friends here.

Simnel Cake photography by www.paolathomas.com

If you want to do the same, my recipe for Simnel cake – the traditional English Easter cake – is here.


If you want to make dye eggs using natural dyes, my friends Leigh and Pamela had fun this week.

This his and hers food photography is insanely beautiful.

Saveur magazine came up with this list of the best food blogs around. I’m looking forward to looking and drooling.

Brene Brown and Chase Jarvis did an amazing interview about Unlocking Your Creativity  which is worth watching in its entirety.

Here’s a little post on capturing authentic ‘moments’ with photography. I always think my photography is too contrived, so this is something I’m striving for.

And here’s an interesting piece on how Facebook manages its filtered feed, though not terribly helpful for those of us trying to get even a few organic viewers to our Facebook pages.


On the blog this week, we discussed New Trends in Kitchen Design, read Don Draper’s Tarot Cards and worked out how Mad Men is going to end, visited Bunny William’s amazing New York shop Treillage and the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival, and had a stressful time baking a Roller Skate Cake.

Hope you are all having a wonderful and relaxing weekend.


Skagit Valley Tulip Fest

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography by www.paolathomas.com

It’s the that time of year again where I bore you with photos from Skagit Valley Tulip Fest, about ninety minutes drive from Seattle. For those of you still in the depths of winter, I apologise.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

You’ve gotta love a road trip where you get to see this out of the car window.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

But unfortunately several thousand other people had the same idea.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

I even got to try out the pano feature on the iPhone for the very first time (no one can accuse me of being a gearhead) which was super duper impressive.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

After a glorious day we chased the sunset back to Everett, where we stopped off for fish and chips.

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Skagit Valley Tulip Fest - photography www.paolathomas.com

Not a bad day on the whole.

If you’re in Seattle the fields are at their absolute peak right now. I’ve never seen them so pretty. Previous dispatches from the tulips here, here and here.


Treillage with Bunny Williams

One doesn’t expect to trek up to the Upper East Side in NYC and then be overcome with an overwhelming wave of nostalgia for London.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage, the shop owned by Bunny Williams, the doyenne of American interior decorating and her husband, antique dealer John Rosselli, reminded me so much of several shops in London, where antiques, and outdoor furniture, art and objets are all displayed together in a slightly higgledy-piggledy way, and you feel like you’ve just walked into a gigantic treasure chest.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

This effect is not entirely unintentional, Bunny told us that she wanted to create a shop similar to her favourite London shops and, though the store doesn’t sell plants or gardening equipment, if the General Trading Co. and the Chelsea Gardener had a love child it would come pretty close to Treillage.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Visiting the shop is like visiting the country home of a favourite aunt – you might not entirely share her taste, but every single piece will have a story attached and you are bound to find something you adore. Eclectic doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Bunny pulled together the shop herself and stripped off an old tin ceiling to uncover beautiful skylights which flood the store with light. The slightly industrial feel of the shop’s bones contrast well with the ornate antiques and intricate objets.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

So many food photography props. If only there had been more room in my suitcase. And of course you can never go wrong with a shop that sells blue ceramic chickens.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Bunny’s husband John is also a huge character and he regaled us with stories of his collecting trips all over the world. As a couple they, and the very obvious affection they feel for each other, are cuteness personified. Such great adverts both of them for loving what you and doing what you love.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com treillage-12

If you aren’t lucky enough to be able to get to New York, you can buy many of the treasures online including the fruits of Bunny’s collaborations with rug manufacturers Dash & Albert and pillow and throws producers Pine Cone Hill. I loved the indoor/outdoor jute rug Bunny is standing on above.

And what treasure did I uncover? Well drinks were served in some beautiful fluted bubbled glassware which ended up coming home with me. I just love these glasses – they make every drink, even still water, seem festive and and special, and they will always serve as a reminder of a very fun morning spent in wonderfully inspiring company.

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com

Treillage with Bunny Williams -  photography by www.paolathomas.com


Whimsy & Tea Towels


Whimy & Tea Towels photography by www.paolathomas.com

As you know one of the most inspiring and life-changing things I did this year was to attend a fabulous food photography workshop in Gulf Shores, Alabama with Helene Dujardin and Clare Barboza. It was probably the highlight of my year and certainly a turning point for me, and I wanted to celebrate/commemorate it if I could.

During that workshop I happened to share a room with weaver Marilyn Webster of Whimsy & Tea, and we went on several long walks along that perfect beach, chatting about fibre arts, colours, photography, creativity, her childhood in India, US politics, life, the universe and everything in between. So she seemed to be the perfect person to commission to weave a couple of commemorative tea towels, inspired by that exquisite beach beside an emerald ocean and fringed with macaron-coloured houses.

Whimsy & Tea Towels photography by www.paolathomas.com

Whimsy & Tea Towels photography by www.paolathomas.com

Marilyn is a joy to work with, is full of ideas and sends lots of pictures along the way. It was huge fun to collaborate with her on colour choices and design and to see the beach come to life in tea towel form.

Whimsy & Tea Towels photography by www.paolathomas.com

Although they are expensive, the towels are handmade, of FABULOUS quality and will last a lifetime. Marilyn wants her towels to bring beauty to people’s every day lives, and not just tucked away in a drawer for a special occasion. There’s an important message in there somewhere.

And, as you can see, they go fabulously with a certain pistachio-coloured fridge and my crazy colourful kitchen shelves. They also provided the perfect backdrop for some pistachio shortbread cookies I just happened to have lying around. (Recipe on blog later this week)

Whimsy & Tea Towels photography by www.paolathomas.com

If you’re looking for a special Christmas present for someone who would appreciate some real beauty in their kitchen, then look no further than the Whimsy & Tea online shop or else if you’re looking to commemorate a special vacation, trip or other occasion then Marilyn is happy to work on commissions, she just needs photos.

See more of the beach that inspired the towels here. And Marilyn has written a blog post where she explains all the work that goes into her towels here.

Ha! I’ve also noticed that they go superbly well with my new blog too…


The Bathroom Is Finished


Delighted as I am with the kitchen, I am almost happier with the way the bathroom turned out. 

What used to be such an actively unpleasant, uncomfortable space now feels peaceful, clean and soothing and is filled with the most beautiful light.

Again I took these photos just after it was completed.  I’ll do some more when all the details are finished and it’s fully ‘styled’.




We’re really delighted with the vanity units, which we designed ourselves and had made up by our contractors (again heartfelt thanks to the utterly amazing craftsmen at GTR Residential Contracting). We’ve kept the old round medicine cabinets for the moment (which are chipped and can’t be opened with the taps in the way) but they will be replaced with round mirrors which should be arriving shortly.




We wanted this bathroom to be in keeping with a craftsman house, but also fresh and modern and so decided to use ceramic tile in a non-traditional way, particular as this is in a non-Craftsman part of the house.



As you know we were thrilled with how the large hex tiles on the floor worked out (now complete with delicious underfloor heating) and decide to complement them with smaller hexagons around the bathtub and shower.


bathroomremodel-3 bathroomremodel-10


As with the kitchen, the hideous panelled ceiling has been transformed into a beautiful design feature now that is painted with a coat of gloss paint (all the trim is Benjamin Moore’s Simply White).




And yes we replaced the even more hideous glass brick window with something a little more pleasing.

The paint colours ended up being inspired by my trip to Gulf Shores and the beautiful white-trimmed pale aqua houses near the almost white sand beach. (And I like to think that the emerald green leaves shining through the window look like the emerald green sea).




It took me a long time to hit on a perfect aqua, that wavers just at the midpoint between blue and green and found it with Benjamin Moore’s Lido Green.  I’m SO in love with this colour.

The alcove at the back where the toilets (and also the washing machines) are situated was painted in Benjamin Moore’s Lychee, a soft luminous colour like a shell-sand beach. The colours work so well together and I am thrilled.

bathroomremodel-9 bathroomremodel-6


Again here are a couple of pictures of the previous baby poop coloured ghastliness. The full ‘before’ horror-story is here.





The Kitchen Is Finished


Dear hearts, it is DONE.

Just as I was losing the will to live with this whole remodelling malarkey, this morning is the first one for months where I have not been sharing my home with charming bearded contractors.  The silence is utterly blissful.

And we are THRILLED.

I just can’t get over how beautiful the light is in here. I knew it must be, but it was almost impossible to see it against the forest green countertops and burnt orange walls we used to have.


There are still a couple of things to be done with the lighting – in particular we are waiting on a pendant light to go above the butcher block unit above –  and I also have to edit and organise approximately eleventy billion megatons of kitchen crap er paraphernalia.

But I thought I’d show you the finished empty shell and then we can talk about some of the details and styling at a later date, when it’s properly finished. I just hope I can do justice to it.

In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite details.


Yep, the Big Chill fridge still looks awesome.


I’m so happy with this aluminium roll door ‘appliance garage’.  We asked the contractors to customise the basic Ikea scrolling cabinet to make it deeper, so that I now have plenty of space to organise and disguise ugly appliances such as the slow cooker and panini grill and get them off the counter. I also like how the slats echo the panels in the ceiling.


We are obsessed with the splashback tiles in one of Heath Ceramic’s ‘Dwell’ patterns.  The photo doesn’t begin to do justice to how beautiful they are. I’ll do a separate blog post all about these.


We freaked out a little and bought a slab of walnut butcher block for one part of the counter. I think it might be my favourite thing in the whole kitchen (the rest of the counters are in honed white quartz). We asked the contractors to add a hinged flap of butcher block at the end to provide an extra bit of much-needed counterspace.


The ceiling is painted in Benjamin Moore’s ‘Simply White’ in a semi-gloss sheen and has turned from being an eyesore into a design feature.  I am besotted with how beautifully this has turned out.  In fact we chose three different whites for the kitchen, which I will also do a blog post about.

In fact I have to say that I’m besotted with the whole thing.  The only problem is I hardly dare use it.

It’s interesting to see how similar it is to our original Sketch Up designs. Goodness that was a useful exercise to go through.

West walll

North wall

And here’s one picture of the ‘before’ just to whet your appetite.


Here’s the kitchen in all its former monstrous hideousness.

Oh and many, MANY thanks to the wonderful GTR Residential Contracting for making our dreams a reality.  It was a true pleasure working with so many craftsmen, in particular the ever patient and charming Dan for whom nothing was too much trouble.  If you are in the Seattle area, I can’t recommend these guys highly enough.

Pics of the bathroom remodel coming VERY soon.


The Big Bathroom Remodel: Hexagon Tiles


We were stuck for quite some time deciding on tile for the bathroom.




Aside from wood, nature doesn’t feature very strongly in our house, so all the natural stone and marble options didn’t seem very much  in keeping. Glass on the other hand seemed almost too contemporary for a craftsman house, so it quickly became apparent that ceramic tiles were the way to go.

We didn’t, however, want to default to subway tile walls with a penny tile floor, although we do find them very American and charming.  The bathroom we are remodelling is a later addition to our 1912 house and it probably makes sense to go for real Americana in the original downstairs bathroom.




{via Apartment Therapy}


In the end we were inspired by this bathroom on Apartment Therapy that we found via Pinterest, and fell in love with the large size hexagon tiles, which seemed both contemporary and a bit different but still timeless and in keeping with the rest of the house.

Much intensive searching online later, and the only 4 inch hexagon tiles we could find were these beautiful matte handmade Savoy tiles, made in the US by Crossville Inc, which come in a range of neutral colours, including white.



{via Crossville Inc}

So that’s what we went with, and the floor was finished yesterday. Delighted doesn’t even begin to cover it.  It looks spectacular and we are THRILLED.




Onwards and upwards.  It’s finally all starting to take shape.


The Big Kitchen Remodel: Buying a Retro Fridge


I’m a firm believer that when you’re doing a room (or planning an outfit for that matter) that you should have one striking architectural feature, or piece of furniture or art (or clothing or jewellery) that acts as the focal point of the scheme, adds the wow factor and provides an anchor to build everything else around.

Unfortunately our boxy rectangular kitchen has not a single architectural feature of merit, and it is difficult to create a wow factor out of cheap Ikea cabinets.  So that left the fridge as the only real possibility.



Our Big Chill fridge in a finished kitchen


Sadly most fridges available here in the US are either white or stainless steel boxes – gigantically huge, fabulously functional in a way that European fridges can only dream of, and boring as hell.  After a great deal of online research the following are the only interesting fridges I could find, all retro-styled.  Wouldn’t it be fab if a fridge manufacturer could come up with an eye-catching contemporary fridge design?

First of all I thought of getting a Smeg fridge.  I had one back in London and they are so ubiquitous in the European design world as to have become a bit of a cliché.  But for some reason THEY ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE T TO FIND IN THE US.

West Elm has started selling the small standalone Smeg fridge in a variety of gorgeous colours, but these are tiny even by European standards.


smegfridge3 smegfridge2
Teeny tiny Smeg fridges


Smeg does manufacture bigger fridge-freezers which would have been perfect for us, but they are NOT available in the US. This is criminal Smeg US!  Get with the program!





smegfridgefreezer smegfridgefreezer2
Smeg fridge-freezers out in the wild. Though not in the US obvs.


Since we definitely need a freezer, I searched for retro-style fridge freezers and came across NorthStar fridges made by Elmira Stove Works in Canada.  It’s important to note that both these fridges and the Big Chill fridge we bought are just retro cases screwed on to a cheap white box fridge (Elmira uses Amana fridges) so they’re by no means state of the art when it comes to internal features.  We liked the look of the Northstars very much, but since they are imported from Canada they work out even more expensive than the Big Chill. Here’s a great discussion outlining the pros and cons of Northstar v Big Chill.


fridge_1950-Flamingo-Pink fridge_1952-buttercup-yellow fridge_1952-Robins-Egg-Blue
Very cute and expensive Elmira NorthStar fridges

Big Chill Fridges are based on Whirlpool white box fridges. I have to admit that it was a difficult decision to spend so much money on what is merely a tarted up $800 fridge – as it was being delivered up our stairs I was given a graphic illustration of just what we’d bought, as all the fancy panels were unscrewed and removed so it could get up the stairs.  But once seen I had to have it, and we are delighted with its prettiness.



Another Big Chill fridge in a finished kitchen

Seems to me thought that there is a huge gap in the market for some manufacturer to produce a nicely-styled colourful, CHEAPER fridge-freezer from scratch though. What do you think?

Check out this fabulous post (with extra fridgeporn) from Nicole Balch of Making It Lovely for advice on how to style the top of your retro fridge.  Fortunately since we have a cabinet over our fridge, I do not have to make these difficult styling decisions.


Kitchen Remodel: Progress At Last


After a few weeks when it seemed like nothing much tangible was happening (though I knew a ton of stuff was happening behind the scenes) we’ve suddenly made huge progress in the last week.




The big news is that, not only do we have primed white walls and ceilings, but the floor has been laid. I am so pleased with it.  I was a little worried that it would be too dark but I think it is warm and inviting and will hopefully look even less forbidding when the whole symphony of white above it fully unfolds.


upstairskitchen-2 upstairskitchen-3




Here is what the ‘symphony of white’ is going to look like.  I realise you can’t see any difference at all between any of them on your screens, though they are there.  I have to run off now to a meeting at the Minx’s school, so I think we’ll talk about whites in another blog post.




The other big news is the arrival of a jolly green giant this morning in the shape of our new Big Chill fridge (of which more too next week). And it fits into the space we left for it!  Much excitement all round here as it slid smoothly into the allotted gap.

Again I am delighted with it.  It was a ridiculous amount of money of course, and it’s huge design blogger cliché, but I do think it gives the room a focal point and the green reflects all the light in the kitchen and appears less sickly than it seemed from the sample.

All hugely thrilling, I am starting to see light at the end of the tunnel.