Welcome to Richmond, Brocante Home!

Thanks for bringing Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint to the Capitol City

     You have been reading about Annie Sloane’s chalk paint for awhile now as I have been freshening up the old brown furniture around our abode.  My source for the paint has been the fabulous French shop in Irvington, Brocante Home.  Though it’s a bit of a hike from the West End, every time I head to the Rivah with friends, we make a point of stopping in and leaving with at least one new can of paint.

     The owner of Brocante Home, Rachel Pugliese, loves to teach her customers about the wonders of this paint.  In fact, most Thursdays you can find her in the store paintbrush in hand transforming an old piece into something wonderful.  She is always full of tips and has started offering two-hour workshops to help her customers get comfortable with this easy and clean medium for transformation.  She has even named the workshops “Paintbrush and Pearls” to further her point.

     One of the posse and I decided to try the workshop the other week, and sure enough Rachel was wearing her pearls as she took us through different finishing techniques to use with the chalk paint and waxes.  Of all of her pearls of wisdom gathered from experience, the most valuable to me was the importance of buffing after waxing and sanding.  A really good going over with 800 grit sandpaper makes all the difference to the final look and feel of the piece.

     The other information that we picked up during our workshop was that Brocante Home has just opened a small outpost in DéCOR, the design center in Carytown!  For now, Brocante’s floorspace is mostly Annie Sloan’s Chalk Paint, but the shop has plans to expand as room becomes available in this wonderful design haven.  Several local designers have set up small shops within these walls, and Brocante Home is the perfect addition.  Rachel also plans to be on-site on Wednesdays so that she can answer customers’ questions about the chalk paint.

     Now you have no excuse to postpone your own furniture transformations.  The paints are nearby, as is the expertise.  Plus the paints are so easy to use that you can just set up a workshop in your living room just like this Avad Fan.

     Happy Painting!


Everybody’s Talking . . . About Early Spring

     While I was enjoying this in southeastern Central Florida,

Spring arrived in Central Virginia.  Even the men of the house remarked on the changes after we returned.  Though the early blooms are old news by now, I can’t help but record my own findings of spring.

The peony shoots,

vinca blossoms and lily-of-the-valley pips have popped.

An iris blooms on March 26, 2012, not on April 22, 2011, as pictured here last year.

All of the dogwoods and most of the azaleas are in full glory.

Pink dogwoods always remind me of growing up in Eastern Tennessee.

Are you as fascinated by mixed pink and white dogwood trees as I am?

Now that they’ve leafed up, I am excited to see what color my hydrangeas will be this year if the deer don’t get to them first.  It’s time to get some garden sulphur, ammonium sulfate or aluminum sulfate in the soil around them as described here if there is any hope of finding some shade of blue.

But the bermuda is greening up, and the golf course out back is calling.

     Gardening or golf?  Tough choice.  Which would you prefer to do on a beautiful Spring day?

All photos by Avad Fan taken in the neighborhood (except the first one taken from our balcony in the Sandpiper Building at the very friendly Hutchinson Island Marriott Beach Resort and Marina).

Touring the Big Flea with the Master: Eddie Ross

      Sunday turned out to be a fabulous treat.  J and I headed up to Chantilly, Virginia for the D.C. Big Flea Market.  Not your ordinary dirty and dusty flea market, this one bills itself as the “largest antique market in the Mid-Atlantic”.  I wouldn’t doubt that, but we weren’t there for the size.  We were there to learn from the master, Eddie Ross, how to navigate through fleas, thrift shops and estate and tag sales to find the good and unique that can be repurposed into something modern and wonderful.

Eddie Ross in action.

      A former stylist for Martha Stewart, current columnist for Southern Living and Women’s Day and designer extrordinaire, Eddie, along with his partner, Jaithan Kochar, organize trips like these a few times a year at different shows and sales throughout the country.  This coming weekend they will be leading a tour through Scott’s Antique Market in Atlanta, one of my dream destinations.

      Eddie and Jaithan are truly delightful, and Eddie has so much knowledge about all things decorative.  He is also very practical and cost-conscious, talking about the value of beautiful older pieces and the thrill of collecting over time as one’s budget allows.  Our group of 20± stopped at about 12 booths as Eddie described how to look for value, use decorative items in every day life and style them chic-ly.

Eddie Ross describing the beauty of the glassware by Fenton, which went out of business in the 1950s.

      A master table designer, Eddie focused much of his tour on silver, glassware and linens.  He advised alternating sets and mixing an older froufrou item like a damask tablecloth with sharper lines to avoid a dated table.  He has so much creativity coursing through his veins.  He could just look at an item and suggest an innovative way to use it in your home.

      Ever the gracious gentleman, Eddie charmed the vendors whom we visited.  His sincere flattery disarmed them, and he developed an immediate rapport with those whom he had never met.  His passion and interest were so genuine that these vendors were delighted to drop their prices for him.

J scored a few fabulous prints for her river house here. A couple of unmatted ones cost only $5 a piece.

      I am obviously a huge fan.  Ever since first meeting Eddie at the Ivy Market last May, I have been inspired by his approach to living and designing.  He is lucky to have found his life’s work in the field that he loves, and he truly delights in sharing his passion for design with others.  Thanks to his many tips, I won’t be “shopping blind” anymore.

      If you ever have the opportunity to take one of Eddie’s tours, just do it.  It will be an afternoon well-spent, and you will be inspired to look at your own things in a new and beautiful light.  Subscribe to his blog here to receive notice when he is offering more tours.

All iPhone photos by Avad Fan.

Re-treating at the Inn at Little Washington

     Ever since our return from my 50th birthday celebration at The Inn at Little Washington, my friend A has been asking to see pictures of this famed retreat.  With a trip there at the top of her bucket list, please indulge us as I post some snapshots from our sumptuous lair.  Maybe they will tempt you to visit The Inn as well.  The Hub and I highly recommend it.

     Washington, Virginia (a/k/a “Little Washington”, as opposed to its bigger but younger brother city to the east) is a remote hamlet in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  Driving into the town of about 300, I really wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was also a bit nervous because I had really hyped this place to the Hub, and we had already paid for the room which cost more than our first house payment.

Living Room from the Inn at Little Washington's Postcard

     From the front, The Inn is rather simple but clearly the main event in town.  When the attentive staff escorted us inside, we were transported to a different era:  Victorian England meets Olde Virginia.  Everywhere you turn in The Inn, you will find something on which to feast your eyes, and you can relax here knowing that you have escaped the real world (in fact, Washington is so remote that my cell phone actually said “No Service”).

Detailed drawing of our suite framed and hung in the hall outside

     The Inn was decorated by Joyce Evans, a British tapestry and set designer and devotee of William Morris, though she never travelled to the U.S., not even for this project.  After receiving blueprints of The Inn, she drew up gorgeous plans for each room, and they now hang framed on the upper hallway walls.  She had the furnishings numbered and shipped to Little Washington, and Patrick O’Connell, the owner and chef extraordinaire of The Inn, has enhanced the decor with finds from his own travels.

Our parlor with entrance foyer on the far left

     As I mentioned in my earlier post, we were upgraded to the “Thomas Keller Suite” when we arrived.  Guests learn as they are guided to their rooms how many of these uniquely decorated spaces got their names.  On the second floor landing of The Inn, Mr. O’Connell has hung framed photos of each of about 30 of his top chef heroes.  If one of these chefs visits the Inn, O’Connell will have the chef stay in a room that will then be named after him/her.

Parlor view from other angle (note the Chippendale railing at the loft balcony)

     I must confess that I was not familiar with all 30 of these names, including Mr. Keller’s.  Of course, you more-worldly readers know that Thomas Keller is the renowned chef of the French Laundry and Williams-Sonoma fame.  I have often read about the French Laundry, and now that I have stayed in Keller’s eponymous suite which the Inn had filled with his many books, I think a trip to Napa is in order.  Until then, I will savor the memories of The Inn at Little Washington’s embracing ambience.

View from parlor couch toward the courtyard balcony

View from our balcony to the Inn's courtyard

Wish it had been warm enough to sit outside in this beautiful space.

Bathroom with glimpse of its tented ceiling

Fabulous soaking tub in bath alcove. I had to test it.

Don’t you love the antiqued mirrored walls?

Loft bedroom with door to front balcony

I have never slept on a more comfortable bed.

View from the loft bedroom down to the parlor

I hated to leave our plush suite, but the many culinary treats downstairs were too tantalizing to ignore.

     Is your appetite sufficiently whetted?   Are you ready to make your reservations?

All photos except the second one by Avad Fan.

Making 50 Fabulous Thanks to The Inn at Little Washington

     Yes, the big number arrived yesterday.  It’s a little hard to stomach, but the Hub made it much easier to face with a splurge trip to The Inn at Little Washington.  For years, my dear friend A has wistfully described this Virginia treasure as the most desirable of escapes.  With only a single night to spare, the two hour backroads drive from Richmond made for a perfect getaway.

     Well known by D.C. insiders who are only an hour away from the cellularly-remote hamlet of Washington, Virginia, highly acclaimed chef Patrick O’Connell‘s Inn is nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains, but don’t let its rural location fool you.  It offers tasteful opulence and the finest cutting edge American Cuisine.  Even before we arrived, the warm and professional staff was preparing for my birthday celebration.

     Starting with an upgrade to a beautiful loft suite, everyone at this Relais & Châteaux property made sure that we were pampered during our entire stay.  While the primary focus at The Inn is on the amazing food, comfort and luxury in the room has not been overlooked.  With everything and more that you would expect at a Five Diamond and Five Star restaurant and inn, my new decade has started in style.  How can I bemoan such a big number when it was so decadently recognized at this paragon of hospitable excellence?

All photos by Avad Fan.

When in Raleigh, Discover Palm Avenue at Cameron Village

My good friends know that I am an Avad Fan of all things Lilly.  As in Pulitzer.  Her colors are all my favorite colors.  If my body and my checkbook allowed, I would always be decked out in her fashions that I usually pick up at our local West End Lilly Pulitzer signature shop, The Pink Palm, owned by my friend, Lizanne Jeverett.

I’ve been lucky to have a daughter who shares my love for Lilly.  For many years her bedroom has been an homage to Lilly Pulitzer.  Now I have discovered a place that could turn my whole home into Lilly-world.

     I stumbled on my fantasy store while introducing a friend to the delights of Cameron Village.  Located just a few blocks from the N.C. State campus, Cameron Village has been a Raleigh shopping destination since 1949.  It is filled with appealing boutiques featuring fashions that a coed can afford.  Nothing in Richmond compares to this unique shopping experience, and I was so looking forward to returning this past weekend.

     After showing my friend some of the boutiques that I remembered from my visit last year, we wandered into the “new” Lilly store that I had heard mentioned.  My jaw literally dropped open when we found ourselves amidst the most amazing eye candy.  Palm Avenue is the first Lilly Pulitzer Lifestyle store in the country.  The home furnishings are beyond fabulous.  I’ll let the pictures that I took with my Blackberry speak for themselves.

     Furniture, accessories, fabrics and rugs in all of their Palm Beach glory:  what more could a girl want?  Palm Avenue contained so many delights that I am sure I didn’t see everything in the room vignettes.  The store set-up should really help customers visualize Lilly Pulitzer living in their homes.  The prices, while no bargain, were in-line with other high quality furnishing lines.

     Palm Avenue was one of the happiest stores that I have ever entered.  Like everyone whom I have met in and from Raleigh, the charming salesladies bent over backwards to be of assistance.  I wish that I could buy one of everything and do my house over top to bottom in Lilly (that probably wouldn’t go over too well with the Hub or my son, but a girl can always dream).

I truly felt at home in Palm Avenue.  If you ever get the chance to visit Raleigh, you’ve got to set aside a chunk of time to spend at Cameron Village.  Check out all of the boutiques, and let your Lilly dreams come to life at Palm Avenue.

All Blackberry photos by Avad Fan.

Road Trip to Caspari

My friend J and I found a few hours the other day to squeeze in a quick road trip to Charlottesville.  Only 70 miles from Richmond, this sophisticated town seems a world away from the West End.  Our destination wasn’t Mr. Jefferson’s University.  Rather we were headed to Charlottesville’s Historic Downtown Mall, a tree-lined shopping, dining and entertainment venue on the pedestrian-only old Main Street in the heart of downtown.

     Having arrived before the stores opened, we had the chance to enjoy coffee al fresco.  We treasured the few minutes of calm in our otherwise hectic lives (with three kids, J’s life is even crazier than mine).  We really could have lingered here all morning,

but our shopping destination opened at 10 a.m.  As a woman on a mission, I had to drag myself from this respite.

It really didn’t take much effort because this was beckoning


Caspari, the famed paper purveyors, has one of its two retail stores in this tiny metropolis.  My friend K tells me that the Charlottesville version is as beautiful as the flagship store in Paris.

Truly one of the most attractive stores that I can recall encountering in a long time, Caspari sells more than just its eponymous paper products.

Just look at those beautiful pots.

I’d like to take home one of everything,

especially this heavy metal chinoiserie seating group.

It’s so hard not to get distracted by the beauty and unique products all around.  I had to make a complete tour of this stunning space before I could get down to business:  finding appropriate paper products for the graduation celebration that I am hosting in honor of my daughter and her teachers next week.

I had a general idea of what I wanted, and fortunately Caspari had a collection that fit the bill.  The size of their plates and napkins collection alone is remarkable.  With the help of Caspari’s friendly salespeople, I was able to leave with exactly what I needed, including a couple of graduation gifts.

     As we were checking out, our sales assistant told us about the store’s upcoming sale running June 23 through the beginning of July.  Much like a warehouse sale, Caspari will be bringing in older collections, and some of its vendors will be offering special items.  Now I’ve got a reason to return sooner rather than later.  Maybe I’ll see you there.

All photos by Avad Fan.