I find so often with the slow, intentional labors of love, the pieces start to fall into place and exceed even my obsessive planning. This gathering centered around a bird. Beyond the decision to confit a bird (a first for me), I felt a different sort of reverence for this bird. I didn't just pick up a plasticized cut of meat from the neon-lit cooler. Our friend waited in the cold (this is one part of hunting I do not understand), hunted this bird, plucked its painterly feathers and [mostly] cleaned it (Josh, you could have been a bit more thorough, but we'll allow it). We foraged winter branches, berries and greens from our dog's happy place, which became a centerpiece backdrop for the pheasant feathers. We set the table, dimmed the lights, and the dining room felt pleasantly small and cozy as it brimmed with friends new and old and laughter.
For the past six months or so, I've been working on something big, something scary, something that has broken me, built me and flipped me every which way. I've missed summertime traditions, family gatherings, and missed seeing lots of my friends, but there was one day I couldn't miss: my Rustbelt Farmer's birthday! That's a day that called for cake, specifically a Gluten Free Rhubarb Cake with Whiskey Whipped Cream and farm-fresh strawberries and mint.
Welcome to our home! This is a recap of our Design*Sponge home tour feature, plus a table full of food and a pumpkin cake recipe because I’m here to feed you!
For more than a decade, I have been a loyal Design*Sponge reader. For more than a year and a half, I’ve been on the other side — a contributor. I’ve been inviting myself into people’s homes, both physically and figuratively, to bring you the stories and spaces that inspire many a Pinterest board, your dream homes, and your very real renovations. But then it came time to turn the tables and invite readers into my own home.
To have my home featured on DesignSponge was a goal and a dream I nurtured for a long time. It was one of the first blogs I followed, one of my longest relationships, if you will. It has been a constant, daily source of inspiration, both through design and through Grace Bonney’s mission to make the site a safe, embracing space. Today I’m sharing parts of the tour featured on DesignSponge, as well as some food bonuses and a pumpkin cake recipe because you come here to feast with your eyes, right?
You can read the stories of this space in the original D*S tour, but for a bit of a different take, come on in!
Photography by Dave Bryce.
Even though my dream kitchen would probably be dark and rustic, I let the bones of this kitchen, mainly the cabinetry and the enamel sink, inspire the design. It’s very kitschy, and I painted the cabinets and accent wall with a very 1960s vibe.
Welcome to my favorite room- the dining room! As much as I love styling and blogging, there’s nothing quite like cooking and baking for people. I love hosting friends and family in this room, or simply celebrating special occasions with Kyle, while Julep lurks under the table hoping for scraps. This room reflects my affinity for aged and worn surfaces and the many layers of a building. I painstakingly removed paint from the doors and fireplace tiles but purposefully left the chippy accent wall and exposed lathe.
I am constantly drawn to old books, but before moving into this apartment, I vowed to put the books to better use (because boy, were they heavy to move!). I had two photography books depicting French life in the city and the countryside, and those pages became the collaged mantel accent. I studied abroad in Aix-en-Provence and worked as a jeune fille au pair (a nanny) in Paris after college, so these vintage prints bring back so many pleasant French memories.
This is a question we ask everyone who shares their home on Design*Sponge – What do you love most about your home? We ask our home tour features to respond with an element of the handmade too, so naturally, I incorporated the table, food and dessert- pumpkin cake!
What I love most about my home is…it tells my story.
I love sharing our home with friends, family, and our fur baby (see her at the head of the table?). I enjoy watching the way guests interact with my collections and the associations they make, whether it be glassware their grandmother used or a fascination with the mechanics of a typewriter.
For our tour, I brought together some of my closest friends to showcase our dining room at its best – when it is filled with food and friends. Kyle and Julep, obviously. Dane and I met over a love of vintage, architecture and Pittsburgh adventures. Bess and I met through a love of Western Pennsylvania vintage, and the lady cracks me up until I cry. Lindsey and I met over a LOVE [obsession] of dogs and while working on her cookbook, Eat Your Feelings, which I gush about all the time.
The living room gallery wall sums us up: food still lifes, beekeeping and farming scenes, dog portraits, old cameras, French cityscapes and Q’s (because you’d be surprised how frequently that letter is omitted from alphabetical merchandise!). The wooden frame highlights a Kenyan ekichilong, a small wooden stool the Turkana shepherds use for sitting and sleeping, which I purchased on a trip to rural Kenya. You’ll even find the small velour hat from my childhood Samantha doll. I parted with the doll, but I had to keep one little memento.
The bedroom is my maximalist self’s attempt at minimalism. My goal was to create a really calming space where I would want to unwind, or where I would want to nestle with Julep and my morning mug of coffee.
Be sure to check out the full home tour feature on Design*Sponge for more photos and all the stories of these quirky nooks and crannies. Thanks for visiting. Now go preheat that oven. There’s a pumpkin cake to make!
Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Cake
About this Cake: Healthy, whole grain brown rice flour makes a rich, nutty pumpkin cake that’s gluten free- perfect for a crowd. I topped the cake with pumpkin chocolates from Trader Joe’s, which were a seasonal item, but you can dust with cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice and decorate with cinnamon sticks and sage as an alternative.
You could think of this whole grain Gingerbread Chocolate Layer Cake with Chocolate Gingerbread Twigs as too involved, or you could think of it as an excuse to spend a day in the kitchen, mull some wine, sip said wine, light the pine-scented candles and embrace the winter spirit.
Don't let Thanksgiving leftovers go to waste, especially the cranberry sauce. Turn that leftover cranberry sauce into cocktails and cake garnishes, and let the festivities continue!
If you’re craving the comforts of fall for every course, then this Apple Themed Menu is for you!
To celebrate the ripe old age of six, my sisters threw me a 101 Dalmatians party that friends still talk about (or, at least, I still talk about). There was definitely a snowman theme at some point (I’m a January baby), a beach “getaway,” an innocent sock hop when most parties included spin-the-bottle, and an Amélie themed shindig well into adulthood. Do you see the common thread? I LOVE ME A THEME PARTY, and dinner parties are no exception.
Shortly after I met Ashley, a fellow Pittsburgh food blogger, I met her yard, and all the design gears in my brain started to spin. The ivy, the dappled light, the wooden deck… all of it begged for a dinner party. We hatched the idea for a Pittsburgh food blogger potluck, and because I was involved, we hatched the idea for a themed Pittsburgh food blogger potluck, more specifically an Apple Themed Menu.
So on a sunny Sunday, I styled some of my favorite plaids, baskets and gourds. Then, eight of us gathered, told our two truths and lies, shared lessons learned, demystified instant pots, and combined all of our culinary creativity into one apple themed menu, from sips to sweets. It made bidding farewell to summer a little bit easier, a little more ceremonious.
If a fall gathering is on your horizon, consider challenging your guests to a themed potluck of your own, or if you’re feeling like a super host, take a stab at recreating this blogger-tested apple themed menu. Or, if you’re feeling like a reasonable human being with realistic goals, give these recipes a whirl over the course of the season. (full menu below)