Friday, July 24, 2015

Hermione in Castine, Maine

It was an overcast, cool morning in Castine; typical Maine weather. But this was no typical morning at all. There was a buzz brewing beneath the calm throughout our seaside town. Welcome banners and festive flags lined the streets, punctuating this gray morning with pops of color. And down at the dock - which had been strung with brilliant lights - tents of all sizes were popping up everywhere. Something big was coming!

Our historic town was preparing for the arrival of l'Hermione - a replica ship of General Lafayette's 18th-century frigate that aided the Americans against the British in the Revolutionary War. Like the first Hermione, this one had sailed from France to America, and she was coming to Castine just as the 18th-century ship had done. Actually, Castine would be her last port of call in the U.S. - a 'grand tour finale' after stops in Alexandria, Baltimore, New York, Boston, etc. 


Adding to the excitement, it was Bastille Day, France's national holiday celebrating independence. Castine was occupied by France more than once, and is named after French Baron Jean-Vincent de St. Castin. 

To welcome the Hermione, a parade of ships would escort her into the harbor. Tom and I, along with our friends, Bill and Rosie decided to partake in this meet-and-greet at sea. We ventured out with about 100 other boats. Here's our little adventure. Click on photos to enlarge. 
Leaving the dock, we noticed boats, ships and vessels of all kinds headed out to the rendezvous point. We also noticed the weather turning dramatically. Dense fog quickly engulfed everything in sight; one by one, vessels disappeared... We found ourselves alone and, quite honestly, a bit disoriented. Then signals from foghorns started flaring from every direction, creating more confusion. Occasionally something big would creep into and out of visibility, and we would wonder.....
 .....is that the Hermione? Nope.
Wait, something HUGE with a very loud foghorn was in the distance. Other vessels started approaching. Finally, there she was under sail: L'Hermione!!
The fog started lifting, but not knowing what would happen weather-wise, we headed home. I turned around to this sight (below) of the Hermione leading the fleet - pretty unforgettable!
We made it back just in time to catch the Hermine sailing into Castine Harbor. Thank you, Kevin and Roxanne - that was awesome watching the arriving flotilla from your place!
And look what we have: blue sky and sunshine. The harbor glistened with sailboats, powerboats, rowboats, kayaks, dinghies, etc. 
Castine had the distinguished honor of hosting l'Hermione on Bastille Day. Thousands came to join in the festivities. I chatted with a French Canadian from Quebec, and learned the following:

From the moment that I heard the name of America, I loved her. From the moment I learned of her struggles for liberty, I was inflamed with the desire to shed my blood for her!   
~ General Lafayette
I mistakenly called those ropes, and was swiftly corrected. Those are lines!
ABOVE: The hand carved lion figurehead at the beak of the bow. 
BELOW: The stern with a bay of cabin windows. Note the "Betsy Ross" flag featuring the thirteen colonies, which would have been flown during the American Revolution.
Tom and I had the opportunity to tour l'Hermione, which was an incredible experience. The sheer number of lines was dizzying. The masts towered over everything. And those cannons!
B O N J O U R !
Check out this papier-mache replica of the replica. With the guidance of artist and gallery owner, Goody-B Wiseman, children and adults created this impressive model that greeted the Hermione. 
A festive gathering of characters, personalities and pooches of all sizes :)

Many thanks to the organizers, supporters, volunteers, and all who made this historic event such a huge success. A very special thanks to the Castine Historical Society! Castine truly is a special place with an overwhelming sense of community.

Cheers,
Loi

Monday, July 13, 2015

French Style Family Kitchen

Can a kitchen be beautiful yet practical? Sophisticated yet approachable? Neutral yet warm? Read on!

Over the past few years, I've featured various house tours. One of my favorites and yours, according to the many pins from Pinterest, is Tracey's kitchen; you'll remember it shown here in 2012.

Tracey, my dear friend and client, gutted the dated 1980s kitchen in her historic Mediterranean-style home as part of a major house renovation. She and her husband worked with Muse Architects on the project. In designing the new kitchen, Tracey looked to France for inspiration, and sourced many reclaimed items for character and patina. Above all, she designed it to be functional and practical for her family of five plus two doggies.

Let's revisit this kitchen to find out how it's held up, and check out what's new amongst the old. Let's also peek into some of the adjoining rooms. 
Back in 2012, the space above the Lacanche range was plain drywall. Look at the charming tiles from Ken Mason Tiles now! They are handmade terra-cotta tiles with sought-after imperfections in the glaze pigments and profile. Tracey wanted something subtle to complement the warm limestone countertops as well as the soulful terra-cotta floor tiles reclaimed from France. 

The simple tiles also do not compete with the stunning steel hood accented with an usually small fireback from the 19th century. During the 18th - 19th centuries, iron firebacks were commonly placed in the backs of fireplaces to reflect and radiate heat into rooms - effective even after the fires have died down.
The pair of Ca. 1940s factory lights are from my shop; I brought those back from France. Together with the steel hood and French Tolix stools, these pieces give the kitchen a casual, industrial vibe that's unexpected with the luxurious Lacanche range.
The 2" thick Massangis Jaune Clair limestone countertops have held up very well; they've taken on a mellow patina. I asked about stains, watermarks and scratches, and Tracey told me none of those have been issues. Her family does not use coasters, by the way. The countertops are sealed when needed. Plus, any mark would only enhance the character of the limestone with its natural veining and specks of fossils.

This kitchen is not just for show, it serves an active household that really cooks. There is anywhere from five - fourteen for dinner every Sunday night. With open shelving, two sinks and nothing precious, this is a family-friendly kitchen. 
 
Here are two of the youngest members of the household: Peter and puppy Oscar!     
BELOW: Tracey sitting in the adjoining breakfast room with a wall of pantry cupboards made of the same cypress wood as the kitchen cabinets. Notice the stepback sides, which is a clever way to break up the horizontal expanse. Check out the 11' ceiling.

Speaking of ceiling, old pine beams reclaimed from Vermont were installed. In addition to being beautiful, they bring texture and coziness to the soaring ceilings; also a feeling of old to the renovated spaces.
Light fixtures from Aldo Bernardi were imported from Italy. Aren't these sculptural?
Behind the kitchen is the renovated mudroom with the same antique terra-cotta flooring. It's ochre-beige tone warms up the crisp cabinetry, as well as being very forgiving - it shows very little dirt. This is a small room that feels more spacious thanks to the light palette. For storage, there are airy, open niches and cubbies on two sides of a built-in; the third side features closets for seasonal coats. Notice the glass door which maximizes natural light.
The final space off the kitchen is a long hall leading to the stately foyer with a floating staircase. There are French doors painted in the same (custom) blue color as the mudroom door.
 
Tracey made this grand space less formal by furnishing it casually. Flanking the front doors is a pair of 19th-century Swedish painted chests from Tone on Tone. Also from my shop is this 18th-century Swedish daybed from the Gustavian Period. The staircase runner is wool, and the area rug is sisal with a diamond pattern.
And above are peeks of the new potager garden with raised beds for herbs and veggies.

Many, many thanks to Tracey and her family for allowing me to share their special home once again!

Until next time -
Cheers,
Loi