Alfresco Breakfast with Julia B.

Peonies, tulips and freesia a combined to make an pretty bouquet for the table. 
My husband and I just hosted a post prom party out here for our daughter, you can't imagine what it was like having that many kids here. As my husband said afterwards, "we can check that off the list never again" said designer and entrepreneur Julia Berger. as we walked into her beautiful Connecticut garden recently. The woman behind the the luxury custom linen brand Julia B. really loves to cook and entertain friends and family frequently in her home. Her elegant casual style is reflected in everything she does including the way she entertains. 

A profusion of purple and white Iris bloom in the background around the gardens seating area. 
Tell me about the occasion and the meal.
Breakfast is a colorful mix of fruit, organic yogurt and fresh squeezed orange juice. "I was inspired by the light and fresh colors of my Michael Devine china that works really well with the colors in my linens," she explained over coffee.
Tip: Always have the bar set up and well stocked for your guests before they arrive. In fact, I like to be 99% ready when my first guest walks through the door. It makes for a stress free evening.

A colorful breakfast to start the day served on Marie Daage for Michael Devine hand painted Limoges china
and coordinating Julia B. napkin
What influences your menu choices when you entertain?
"I really love food and to cook, I find it relaxing" she said as we sat down for the interview on the first summery day the area has had. She inherited her Japanese mother's love of cooking and entertaining. She spent much of her childhood between her mothers native Japan and her fathers home town of San Francisco, which Julia explained has given her a freedom to mix cultural references in her entertaining and cooking.
Tip: Make ahead of time easy to serve hors d'oeuvres for guests to serve themselves. I always have both hot and cold ready and waiting.
Julia B. is known for impeccable hand embroidered custom monograms on her linens. 
Who has inspired your entraining style?
"My mother has been a huge influence for me. She always entertained and I was always encouraged to be a part of the event no matter the age of the guests or the level of formality. Alice Waters is also an inspiration for me. Everything she does is so simple and real," she explained.

Tip: When traveling be on the lookout for new or unexpected food or flavor combinations. I am often inspired to try things at home that I first had somewhere else. 
Julia's range of color covers the gamut from subtle to fresh and crisp. The Thomas charger doubles as a
tray for the healthy berries and organic yogurt and Julia B. napkin.
Do you have a favorite china or tabletop item you collect?
"Antique linens are a passion of mine, I have a huge collection. I also love to collect china, glass, silver, salt cellars and vases, really just about anything related to the table. Since we entertain at least two times a week I use it all, all the time," she gushed. When pressed about why she is always hosting she said that there was a rather thin selection of local restaurants that they like. Also Julia explained, "What greater luxury than to be invited for a lovely meal, have great conversation and throughly enjoy yourself in someones home?"

An assortment of Julia's accessory collection antique silver creamer and sugar with silver
sugar spoon and Michael Devine tumblers.

Then and Now

The retreat in its beautiful home today. 
One of the most fun projects I have worked on was for the Berkshire Botanical garden summer event in 2010. Designers were asked to repurpose a prefab shed into a magical space. Since I had already done this with my own Bagatelle in my garden I knew what a creative project it would be. The sheds were sold to benefit the garden and it remained a bit of a mystery to me where mine ended up.
At last the mystery is solved. It was bought by a romantic husband as a surprise for his wife in Connecticut which you can the read the moving story in detail in the summer issue of Country Gardens Magazine

The current issue of Country Gardens with its cover story about the current owners garden and shed. 
I often wondered what the new owners changed. Did they take down the Chantal covered walls, take out the flanking mirrors or repaint the floor? Judging from the photos in the magazine the current owner and avid gardener Alecia Evans, left everything is intact with the exception of the furnishings. I was pleased to see they really did like it right down to the deep magenta doors and trim.

We were very lucky the weekend the show opened the cherry tree happened to be in bloom.
It was pure chance that the door color matched the tree. 
To see in detail what it was like during the summer of 2010 this is the link to the story detailing the steps involved in transforming the space.
The poetic country decor of the shed today. 

A Visit to Grandmothers Garden

In The Garden by Childe Hassam
Take a trip back in time to the late 19th and early 20th century by visiting this summers New York Botanical Garden new exhibit Impressionism: American Gardens on Canvas. The poetic ideal of a grandmothers flower garden never looked so good as it does in this show. The exhibit examines, through both period paintings and an extensive garden, the connection between painting, gardening and defining American ideals and identity through the landscape. 
On the Porch by William Chadwick 
The American Impressionist painters on exhibit were known for their work in the northeast. Such notable painters as John Singer Sargent, Childe Hassam and William Merritt Chase have places of honor in the show. The joyful paintings and inspired planting combinations provide much inspiration for both an accomplished gardener or a novice. 

Just like grandmothers. 
The Enid A. Haupt Conservatory houses a full scale replica of a grandmothers garden complete with her front porch with rocking chairs. This garden will be at the peak of bloom all season and it is an opportunity to see plants and colors that reflect the period. The show runs through September 11th. For more information visit the gardens website

A garden paradise where everything is in full bloom at once. 

Lilac Brunch

My obsession with Lilacs continues with this post, I just can't get enough of them when they are in bloom. One of the pleasures of being up in the country is seeing random groups of massive lilac bushes alongside the road. It's a pretty wonderful sight, their range of purple flowers set off by the clear blue sky and dark green leaves with the mountains in the distance, breath taking.
This Spring didn't only bring the lilacs it also brought me a miserable cold that won't go away. So to make it easy on myself, this weeks post is from my book An Invitation to the Garden. 
A lush centerpiece of lilacs filled the table.

The prefab garden building was made by the Amish and serves as a pretty great outdoor dining room. It's been a lot of fun over the years to decorate and change out. Since its only light source is candle light there is a real sense of stepping out of time when seated with friends around the table.  

Our outdoor dining room tented in my Garden Folly fabric is the
setting for many fun meals with friends. 
The painted floor that I designed was interpreted from brickwork patterns which I painted on the floor in a dark green and white combination. It's very gratifying to paint a floor and a bit of a challenge at the same time. I think everyone should give it try.

Lilacs blooming in the garden.
The great thing about lilac bushes is they are pretty much carefree once planted. A clip here and there to keep the shape but otherwise they are happy on their own.

Lilac water in a William Yoeward pitcher.
Lilac flavored water is great to serve and an unexpected surprise. Its easy to do just add a few flowers to the water a few hours before, let stand and serve chilled. 

Mottahedeh monkeys played in the flowers.

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