Friday, July 21, 2017

Even a side yard can be stunning and filled with purpose

Too often, I see side yards as unplanned and under utilized, even though this valuable area offers so much possibility. Hopefully, these tips inspire you to turn your side yard into a gorgeous slice of serenity, if it's not already!

Mark the entrance to your side yard with a gate, arbor or planted containers. The most charming entrances are ones that tell the passerby that something special can be found beyond, but also says that entrance is "by invitation only".

This charming gate is painted in one of
my favorite Farrow & Ball colors.

Urns and pots filled with plants easily
mark the entrance to your side yard
First and foremost, start with a solid foundation. Unless you want to haul out the lawn mower for this little strip of green, I suggest laying down brick pavers, flagstones, decking, rocks or pea gravel - all work well. The idea is to create a level and easily walkable area from the front of the house to the back. 

Charming leaf shaped stepping stones add personality

Organic flat topped rocks add much needed
weight to compliment this solid historic home
Brick pavers set in a classic herringbone
pattern match the tradition of this home
I love how the lumber runs lengthwise,
calling you to the back
Adding a walkway can be outsourced, or
depending on your skills, a DIY project
Here's a great link to get you started.

Start by adding ground cover around your pavers. Use plants that work well in your growing region. I have used moss and thyme between mine. This softens the look of the pavers considerably.

Side yards are usually very narrow. The key is to keep your plantings close to the walls, allowing easy flow down the middle. Using the vertical space is a brilliant way to add green and texture, without encroaching into the walkway.

Pots and containers can also help, especially if your ground is hardscaped from wall to wall, providing no soil for planting.

Because your side yard will act as a pass through, I recommend keeping the plantings simple. I love white blooming flowers in side yards as the light is typically shaded and the white blossoms add pops of light during the day and glow at night.

Even though this is often a pass through from the front of the house, the public side, to the back of the house, the private side, you can still add details that will enhance the charm and one's experience in the space. Think of it as a transition area, e.g., a soothing wall fountain can soften road noise and whispers to all who walk by that they are leaving one place to enter a new one.

Think of the different ways you can use your side yard. Mine is a staging point from the kitchen to the back yard where we entertain a lot. Adding a table allows me a place to lay out cocktails and appetizers to greet guests, it becomes an ideal gathering place for dirty dishes and anything else I need to tuck away throughout the party, and, because it is the last spot guests walk by on their way out, it becomes a great staging spot for parting gifts bathed in candle light.

For many, the side yard is as big as it gets. Transforming this space into a gathering spot can be so much fun. Keep your seating and tables petite and foldable, keep trays at the ready, and add in softness with cushions and throws.

Such a sweet little talking area
Finally, light up your space with overhead café lights, lanterns, lamps, or integrate permanent exterior lights into your space.

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur

Friday, July 14, 2017

My love of Scotch

It seems like just yesterday that I was on the whisky trail in Scotland. A trip forever embedded in my soul. There's something wildly romantic about Scotland - from the rugged countryside dotted with limestone crofts to the heartwarming pubs filled with friendly people. And the tartan, oh my! - it's everywhere and in every color. Made from the finest local fabrics, these tartans are soft and durable and can be found in throws, pillows, bedspreads, curtains, capes, hats, tableware and more! Mixed and matched, they are stunning, like the country!

But let's get back to the Scotch whisky. I became a Scotch drinker in my twenties. I found it was the only alcohol I could drink in a corporate setting and keep my head on straight. I know many think it's an acquired taste, but for me, it was 'instant love'! So much so, that I travelled to Scotland to learn more about this golden drink.

When a friend suggested a Scotch tasting this summer, I jumped at the chance to host one in my back yard. It was loads of fun (and, I think we got a few converts out of it)!

The key to an effective tasting, is to offer Scotch from the four main regions of Scotland - the Lowlands, Highlands, Speyside and Islay. I started us off with a blend just to show the difference between a blend and a single malt.

I listed our Scotch on a menu board. Others in the group brought their favorite bottles as well - we had plenty of Scotch for sure!

We walked through the tasting steps to fully experience the complex compounds of each bottle. We chatted about adding a drop or two of still water to unravel the compounds, and just had fun exploring the flavors from the different regions.

We had fun determining our favorite and ranking them as we went along. 

We reveled in the warm glow of friendship and good cheer!

And to no one's surprise, we laughed well into the night!

There are some great online sites that will walk you through hosting your own Scotch tasting event. Remember to start with the right glass, a varying selection of Scotch whisky, some nibbles and good friends! Cheers!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur