If you needed another reason to visit Portugal, here’s one: Cucumbi, a four-room, three-apartment guest house on an organic farm, run by husband and wife Catarina and ToZé, and just opened a few months ago. But you’ll have to venture a bit to find it. The house, which formerly belonged to the couple’s family, is located in the rural village of Barrancão where, the couple reports on the guest house website, “once a week they have a public transportation to the city, three times a week the baker delivers some bread.”
Inside are rustic, earth-toned interiors left sparse—white walls, concrete floors, simple linens and natural textures, artful gatherings of dried leaves, and unexpectedly oversized light fixtures—all designed by Lisbon-based Sofia Albuquerque. Join us for a look.
A laidback place to escape to: That’s what brought musicians and artists Sean Spellman and My Larsdotter from Portland, Oregon; California; and Copenhagen to the small seaside town of Westerly, Rhode Island.
“I was touring with my band for many years, and I had decided to leave Portland so that I could roam a little, live on the road for a while, in my van, at friends’, etc.,” Sean wrote to us. He’s in a band called Quiet Life and is a painter and artist (you can spot his minimal, vintage-y work in our feature on Hotel Joaquin in Laguna, CA, among other places); My (pronounced “Me”) is originally from Sweden and is in a band called My Bubba. Between the two of them, it’s been tour after tour. “I wanted to remove myself from city life, since we were always grinding away and traveling for music, to just clear my head a bit and slow down so that when we were off tour I could kind of chill out without distractions,” Sean says. He rented a friend’s guest house in Westerly one summer and was hooked. “The bonus is that my folks live 40 minutes away,” he adds.
Sean and My found a 1936 cape less than a mile from the ocean, bordered by a family farm and preserved forests, and, with the help of friends, set about renovating the place, stripping it down and filling it with Sean’s own art and vintage finds collected over the years. It’s a “live-in gallery” of sorts, he says, and the couple’s artistic backgrounds give the interiors a laidback, distinctly cool feel. Sean started Westerly Sound, a music festival series, and they’re working on getting a couple of artist residencies going, too.
But the couple doesn’t live in the cape itself: They live with their one-and-a-half-year-old daughter, Sol, in a flat above the garage and let out the house for vacation rentals. (It was recently named one of Conde Nast Traveler’s best Airbnbs within three hours of NYC.) There’s a lush permaculture garden, bikes and soft-top surfboards available, and an outdoor shower, hammock, and lots of records. What more could you need for a little escape?
Here’s a look.
Photography by Nick Ventura, courtesy of Sean Spellman.
7. With its strong lines and handcrafted feel, it works almost anywhere.
Advises architect (and shiplap enthusiast) Sheila Bonnell: “Because it creates texture in such a clean, unfussy way, it can work just as well in a contemporary setting. In fact, one of the things I love about shiplap is that it works both ways. Because it is handcrafted, it can add warmth to what might be a more austere modern setting. Or, conversely, because it has a very clean line, particularly when painted, it can be used to make a historical setting feel more contemporary.” Read more about the many ways to use shiplap in Expert Advice: The Enduring Appeal of Shiplap.
8. Top down or bottom up?
Experts say you can’t go too wrong with installing shiplap: so long as everything is measured with care, it’s fairly forgiving. Whether you start with the top board and work your way down, or start with the bottom and work your way up, just be sure the first board is level, since the rest will follow suit. (Keep in mind that your boards may not fit evenly top to bottom, depending on the width of the boards versus the height of your wall; if you’d rather have a full board at the top, start there.)
8. Paint with care.
The charm of shiplap comes from the visible gap between the boards. If you choose to paint yours, paint with care to be sure the paint doesn’t fill in the gaps.
9. Obsessed with shiplap? There’s a tee shirt for that.
As a testament to just how popular shiplap has become, Magnolia Home (by Chip and Joanna Gaines or Fixer Upper fame) now sells a #shiplap tee shirt for $26.
10. The downside: dust.
If you install shiplap horizontally, be aware that the small gaps that give shiplap its charm are also perfect little spaces for dust to collect. Give your walls a once-over with a duster or cloth every once in a while to be sure they stay dust-free.
When costume designer Gordana Golubovic emailed us photos of her Spanish-style remodel in LA’s Los Feliz neighborhood, we were immediately taken with the airy, open interiors, neutral textures, and the French doors and windows that open to the gardens from nearly every room (not to mention the outdoor gravel garden and luxe, summer-ready pool). But the house was far from luxe when she purchased it June of 2015: “Abandoned for seven years, it was boarded up by the city, ravaged by squatters, invaded by vines and branches,” she says. “On the day we came it was gloomy and rainy, and what little light that existed was blocked out by the boards on the window. There were drawings on the wall, stained carpets, and the electric and water were disconnected.” But Golubovic took on the challenge: “It was love at first sight. I couldn’t wait to get started,” she says.
Golubovic started renovating homes at a young age, helping her mother on projects and experimenting with textures and layouts, before becoming a period costume designer for film. “It was a natural transition, because it was creating with materials and transforming,” she says. “I really have a love for natural materials, whether plaster, concrete, wood, linen, cashmere, or hemp.” Case in point: the mix of textures and high/low collection of vintage finds and DIY that gives her LA remodel a low-key summer vibe. Join us for a tour.
Lately we’ve been admiring the Catskills farmhouse of writer and florist Lisa Przystup, first spotted via Jenni Kayne’s site Rip & Tan. Brooklynite Przystup and her husband, Jonathon Linaberry, had been looking for a weekend escape within two hours of the city when they decided to expand their search to three hours north. “At that point we had looked at about 18 houses,” Przystup says, when they found an 1800s farmhouse on a hill in the Catskills. “The house we ended up in was definitely move-in ready, but it still needed work—some of it was about making stylistic choices that suited our taste and some of it was (and is) functional: The porch was crooked and the posts were balancing on stacks of field stones and tipping cinder blocks.”
The couple set about transforming the house from the inside, doing most of the work themselves, DIY-style on weekends: “For the larger projects like the porch and excavation we called in the professionals because, well, we don’t know how to run an excavator,” Przystup says. “We’ve done smaller things, like painting almost the entire interior and some of the floors, installing tongue-and-groove ceiling in the kitchen, cutting stone for a hearth, installing a pellet stove, knocking out a small wall to expose the chimney, hanging canvas from the ceiling of a bedroom, installing a brass backsplash behind the stove, skim coating and sanding the kitchen walls, building shelves, installing light fixtures, hanging screen doors.” (Since we first published this post, they’ve also transformed the attic into a guest bedroom; see Before & After: An Airy Summer Bedroom in a Catskills Farmhouse, Transformed with Paint.)
We like the sparse, somewhat undone nature of the house—canvas drop cloths draped over tables, wild tumbleweeds hanging from peg rails—but Przystup told us it’s still a work in progress: They’re still planning on rebuilding the porch, transforming another bedroom, and knocking down a wall in the living room. Join us for a look at what they’ve done so far.
Photography by April Valencia, courtesy of Rip & Tan, except where noted.
Przystup’s first priority on the list of weekend DIYs: whitewashing the floors. “I had been dreaming about white floors for years—they provide such a nice blank canvas and really make pieces stand out in a way they wouldn’t otherwise. They’re also hugely impractical and a pain to keep clean, but such is life.” She and Linaberry painted the existing wood floors and some of the walls in Sherwin Williams Extra White; the living room walls are Sherwin Williams Westhighland White. The rest of the palette, Przystup says, is “monochromatic with shades of earth—wood and woven things, mostly.”
For contrast, the couple painted the interior doors in Sherwin Williams Tricorn Black (also recommended in Expert Advice: Architects’ Top 10 Gray Paint Picks). “There was a lot of brick red paint in the house that I wanted to get rid of,” Przystup says. “We painted everything, actually, and we’re still painting. It’s unending.”
“We are definitely working on a budget,” Przystup says. “We basically try to do as much as we can ourselves and source furniture and pieces from Craigslist and yard sales. The previous owner sold us a handful of things at a really great price and that was a huge help.” Other decor comes from wild finds, inspired by Przystup’s work as the flower designer behind James’s Daughter Flowers.
Little vignettes that are always shifting, always offering something new to look at? Maybe that’s why I can’t look away from the Instagram feed of @nomibis, a vintage shop based in Reims, France, these days.
If Nomibis sounds familiar, it’s because we featured the shop itself a while back. We say “shop” a bit loosely because, in this case, Fabienne Nomibis and her companion, Pascal Bisson, run their marche aux puces entirely via Instagram and their website—and the in-situ photos of the products on their site are, in fact, of the couple’s own home. The pair collects odds-and-end French finds, styles them in their own place in Reims—adopting them into their living areas and bedrooms for a while—and photographs them to sell. The lines between home and shop are blurred, which offers an intimate quality—it’s often hard to tell what’s for sale and what’s part of the couple’s own home; those interested in an object need to message the couple directly to navigate the purchase—and an aspirational one, too.
As a result, each surface, corner, and room captured on the @nomibis Instagram feels playful, never static, a side table adorned with a pair of sunny yellow tapers one day and a vintage mirror or lamp the next, an antique desk replaced by a perfectly imperfect daybed a while later. In this house, I imagine, nothing collects dust.
What’s it like to have your kitchen be part kitchen and part real-time styling space? To us, it seems to offer the opportunity for whimsy and surprise. (Plus, “We buy what we ourselves like… then if by any chance a piece doesn’t sell, it can find its place in our own home,” Nomibis and Bisson told The Socialite Family).
Today we’re looking at the couple’s Reims house itself, filled always—despite objects coming and going—of summery color and French charm. Join us for a little tour.
The picnic, if you ask me, is the simple, nostalgic summer pleasure. Design-wise, it couldn’t be easier: All you need is a cloth, maybe a few utensils or plates, and something to eat (or drink). But carry it outside and spread out your cloth, and the experience—eating outdoors on long, languid nights (or afternoons or mornings)—feels so much more special than eating at the kitchen table. Somehow everything tastes a little better, too. In the strange, distanced times we’re living in, the spirit of the picnic—attainable but a little bit special and thoroughly outdoors—feels like something we all could use right now.
For years we’ve featured table-setting tips from designers, shopkeepers, and makers. But this summer, we thought: Why not take the tabletop outdoors—and take on picnics instead?
To start, we turned to Daniela Jacobs, the New York-based designer and ceramicist behind ARC Objects, whose Instagram feed has captivated me for a while, filled as it is with gentle, thoughtful still lifes that incorporate her curvilinear ceramics and offer glimpses of her life split between New York and Mallorca. She is interested, according to the ARC site, in “the beauty in small, transient moments in the everyday”—evident in the way she captures picnics of all sorts.
First and foremost, she says, “the beauty of a picnic is its inherent simplicity.” Also, it needn’t be outdoors; she often lays out a cloth for a picnic in her own apartment. “I’ve always loved indoor and outdoor picnics,” she says. “I think the indoor picnic thing first came to be when I was little, and we had planned a picnic but it started pouring so we decided to have one inside on the floor instead. The concept still delights me.”
Here are a few of her tips for picnics indoors or out, for a few friends or just for a change of scenery.
Photography by Daniela Jacobs.
Use the cloth for transport.
“Try to avoid using disposable anything,” says Jacobs. If your picnic is outdoors: “I like to wrap the cutlery in one of the cloth napkins and place it on the bottom of the bag or basket I’m using to transport everything in. That way a sharp knife won’t be floating around. I use other cloth napkins and the sheet or scrap of fabric that will be the picnic blanket to help safely transport anything else breakable or fragile, like glass cups or ceramic tableware.”
Use the good plates.
Don’t use paper products or plastic. For the sake of the earth—and for the sake of wonder—use real ceramics and glassware. “Yes, I really do use ARC plates at picnics!” Jacobs says.
Consider your containers.
Above: Following Jacobs’ artful example, all you need for a beautiful picnic is a cloth, real ceramics and glassware, and some sprigs of green for brightness.
“Try to think creatively about what you will need at the picnic to avoid wasting or awkwardly scrambling when you get to your destination, in the case of an outdoor picnic. For example, container lids make excellent plates! Jar lids make perfect receptacles for olive pits.”
Make the food part of the design.
Whether it’s a glass of wine and cheese or a more full meal, “leave as many finishing touches for the last minute so things taste (and look) as fresh as possible,” says Jacobs. “For example, if you’re using a fresh herb as a garnish, just bring a sprig of that herb and adorn the food with it when you get wherever you’re going so that it hasn’t wilted or disintegrated into the dish by the time the meal starts. If fruit is part of the meal, wait to slice or cut open it til you’re about to eat it.”
Left whole on the cloth, it adds a particular sense of summer lushness, too.
For more airy summer still lifes, follow Jacobs on Instagram @arc_objects. And see more table-setting ideas here:
Measure the interior of your window where you’d like the cover to sit. For the height, be sure to measure a bit generously from the top of the AC unit; for the length, subtract a half inch or so to ensure your cover will fit snugly within the window. (I made my frame to the exact measurement the first time and it didn’t fit.)
An important note: We have deep windowsills, so I opted for narrow strips of wood that would stand up on their own, like a frame, in front of the AC unit, and still leave quite a bit of bare windowsill. If you have shallower sills, and your unit overhangs them into your living space, retrofit this design with wider pieces of wood, so that you end up with less of a frame and more of a deep box that can fit snugly over your unit. (The bottom can fit snugly between unit and sill.)
2. Make a frame.
Cut your four pieces of wood to size: two strips for the length you measured, two strips for the height. The wood that I got from the art supply store was thin enough that I cut it with an X-Acto knife (I wanted my frame to be extra lightweight), but you could also use hardier wood and have it cut to your measurements.
Also note: If you find a ready-made frame that fits your measurements, even better. I made my own because I wanted it to fit perfectly, and no frame I could find was just right.
Glue the four lengths of wood into a rectangular frame using wood glue, one corner at a time, using something with a right angle (like a notepad) to ensure that all of the corners are square. Hold each corner in place as it dries.
Leave the frame for at least half an hour to let the glue harden. Then, if the wood is thick enough, you can add some hardware to secure it if need be. Mine was fairly sturdy, and the wood was thin, so I added triangular supports in each corner, cut from spare pieces of wood and adhered with wood glue, instead.
Were it permissible for me to acquire any more blankets (I wish it were, but it’s not—I have more throws in my apartment than dinner plates), I’d order one from Johanna Howard‘s collection. Her throws are sustainable and fair-trade and have a classic-ness about them, yet they’re also full of unexpected colorways and patterns and pleasing details—a whipstitched hem, a celestial scatter of dots—which, as it turns out, are nods at Howard’s far-flung sources of inspiration, from Stockholm to Art Deco style.
“I was born and raised in Stockholm, surrounded by clean Scandinavian design, which shows in our geometric patterns,” Howard told me over email. There, she spent childhood days in her mother’s workshop watching her at work, making dresses by hand. “Then I came to the U.S. and worked as a fashion designer, tapping into the vibrancy of Los Angeles and New York,” she continues (she designed for the likes of BCBG and Gap), “which shows in the color palette and attention to detail. And when I started working with artisans in Peru, their influences became my own as I infused my aesthetic with their traditional approaches to embroidery, weaving, and dyeing.
“But this isn’t painting by numbers; it’s a creative conversation,” she says. “The triangular pattern bridges Scandinavia with New York Art Deco, the Peruvian embroidery connects to Swedish handcraft, and the rich indigo dye that was first invented in Peru evokes Sweden’s coastline.”
It’s all threaded into the details of her effortless, statement-making throws. Take a look:
N.B.: Howard carries more housewares, including pillows, scarves, and soy candles made by Howard’s now-13-year-old daughter; take a look over at Johanna Howard Home and on Instagram @johannahowardhome.
I’ve been working at home for just shy of a year—and it took more getting used to than I would’ve thought. It took me several weeks to learn, for example, that I had to get ready in the morning as if I was going somewhere. Getting dressed (even if it meant putting on a different set of soft pants than the ones I’d slept in) and then changing back into my pajamas at night became key to dividing the day between work hours and off hours. So did getting a change of scenery (a walk before or after work, as though I was ‘commuting’ still), taking a real lunch break, and creating a physical way of dividing my home office from my regular home.
That last part is easy to do if you have a separate office, maybe. But in a very tight two-room apartment, this took a long time for me to figure out. (I’m still not great at it.) I’d spread out at our one table in the corner of the living room, then push everything to the side at the end of the day, so that my work stuff literally encroached on dinner and lurked in my peripheral vision all night.
When one space serves as both your home and your work, your relaxation space and your meeting space, your unwinding-on-the-couch and get-stuff-done space—and especially now, with many of us staying inside all the time—it’s both hard and essential to create a physical divide between work and home. As I’ve learned, if you can’t close the door on your office—if you’re working at the kitchen counter, say, or even on the couch—you can at least pack it out of sight when 5:00 hits.
Here are a few tricks for creating a mobile at-home office (and putting it away).
1. Office on a Tray
2. Office in a Drawer
3. Office in a Bag
Also helpful: Aha! Hack: 5 Smart and Surprising Alternative Uses for Binder Clips. (Hint: They’re great for keeping cords and chargers from taking over your living space, which they’re prone to do.)
N.B.: Featured photograph from A London Townhouse Designed to Catch the Light; photograph by Rory Gardiner.