January 31st, 2012

There must be at least a million recipes for spiced pecans. They are a tradition in the South where pecans are plentiful and delicious. Some recipes are sweet, some are salty and some have a peppery kick that will make you gasp for air. I think this recipe is the perfect balance of sweet and salty. The flavor of the pecans is enhanced, but not over-powered by the spices. If you use the same amount of cayenne as I suggest, you will have just a tiny bit of heat on your tongue, but not so much that you singe your taste buds. However, if you are a culinary pyromaniac, feel free to double-up on the cayenne.

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, mix:
1 ½ tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon
¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
In a large bowl, melt ½ stick butter.

On a large baking sheet (jelly-roll pan), spread 5 cups pecan halves in a single layer.
Toast in oven for about 10 – 12 minutes. Remove pecans from oven and put into bowl with butter. Stir until well coated, then stir in spice mixture. Toss until coated evenly.

Drizzle 1 heaping teaspoon honey over nuts and stir again to distribute.
Spread pecans on baking sheet again and return to the oven for 3 – 4 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

These pecans are wonderful on a salad. They also make a great snack for cocktail hour, or dessert with a nice glass of tawny port.

January 30th, 2012

I hope you enjoyed the tour of Braehead last week. You may be curious as to what’s next for this wonderful old place. The exterior is phase II.

I love doing small garden design for my clients, but as with everything else related to Braehead, the garden was anything but small!
The owners wisely sought the expert help of award-winning landscape designer, Betsy Sale. Betsy has already installed several thousand square feet of hardscape at Breahead, including a beautiful bluestone terrace, a cobbled parking area, a massive brick staircase and walkways to connect everything. Dozens of trees, shrubs and perennials have been planted and the original carriage path to the front of the house has been recreated.

My small contribution will be to furnish these beautiful outdoor rooms.  So far we have furnished the terrace…

…and added a beautiful bench to the front walkway, with the Traveler tree nearby.

In the coming months of spring, the plants will awaken. And so will Braehead, as work begins on phase II, the exterior of the structure.

Stay tuned!

Photographs by Kimberly Long, Life Long Memories Photography
Landscape design and installation: Betsy Sale, Garden Works and Design, LLC

See links at left

January 27th, 2012

The lower level of Braehead had suffered considerable water damage and “creeping damp” over the years. In addition, to install plumbing and the geothermal system for the house, extensive excavation had to be done under the floors here. The new floors in the home office, hallways and family room were finished with antique reclaimed heart of pine, stained to match the original floors. In the kitchen, mud room, play room and powder room, tile was chosen. This is the level of the home where the family spends a lot of time together, so special attention was paid to comfort and durability.

Braehead’s original  kitchen had been worked by servants in the 19th century and was at the opposite end of the house from the dining parlor. It was decided that this room, with its huge cooking fireplace, would become the home office. The furnishings here are a mixture of the owners’ family heirlooms, pieces found inside Braehead, new purchases and a custom built desk, bookshelves and media center that I designed along with the craftsmen who built it.

The simple staircase that once led to the servants’ living quarters is much as it had been originally.

A spacious powder room is located on the lower level. A large window floods this room with natural light. Artwork is by the owners’ son. The black baseboards, used throughout many rooms of the house, look especially striking next to the black and white marble floor.

A wedding gift, the beautiful quilt was made by the owner’s grandmother. The homework table can be pulled away from the wall (there is a bench on the far side) and used for casual dining when family visits.

Just off the family room and beneath the music parlor is the heart of Braehead – the kitchen. The family lives in this room, so it had to be tough and hard-working as well as beautiful. The cabinets were custom designed and built of knotty alder. The owners wanted cabinets that were already distressed so that wear and tear from the children would not be a worry. The finish is a multi-layer process with a deep navy blue undercoat with linen white on top. The linen white was sanded through to reveal hints of the dark blue.

This simply beautiful detail was hand-carved by cabinetmaker, Lee Stover.

I designed the yellow plate cabinet to showcase several blue and white transfer-ware bowls found inside Braehead.

Perimeter countertops are soapstone. Copper accents include the cabinet hardware and handmade farmhouse sink.

The massive island, over 9′ long, is a custom design. I wanted to ensure seating for six, and the owner also needed storage and a small sink.

We decided to top the island with a 2 inch thick slab of calacatta bluette marble. The arched-shaped end reflects the shape of the sink’s backsplash and is repeated in the yellow plate cabinet.

The copper vessel sink and antique style faucet complete the centerpiece of the kitchen.

The blue and white floral fabric on the kitchen windows was the first thing I chose for Braehead.  

Funny how things start, isn’t it?

Thank you for visiting!

Photographs by Kimberly Long, Life Long Memories Photography – see link at left


Architect: Sabina Weitzman, Design Works Studio      Builder: Jay Holloway, Habalis Construction

Interiors: Merry Powell, Merry Powell Interiors           Custom cabinetry:  Mill Cabinet Shop

Custom countertops: Coggswell Stone                             Custom lighting: Bill Toombs

Custom draperies and bedding: Magda Zuniga, Magda’s Workroom

Custom upholstery: David Yum                                         Paint: Benjamin Moore

For specifics or where to buy, contact Merry:  design@merrypowell.com

(A special sneak preview of phase II on Monday!)

January 26th, 2012

Our tour of Braehead continues as we travel up the wide stairway to the upper level of the main house. 

The upper stair landing is large and is used as a private library, housing volumes found inside Braehead as well as some of the owners’ collection.

A slant-top desk and chair in the library.

Just off the library and above the formal parlors are a nursery and the master suite. There were no closets or bathrooms in the original house, so architect, Sabina Weitzman designed a massive wall of storage for the couple’s clothing as well as a spacious, elegant master bath. We decided that, while we would respect the history of Braehead, these private spaces would be designed and decorated to fit the needs and taste of the new owners.

Black and ivory toile is mixed with a small check and a quilted coverlet. Black trims accent the pillow shams, bed-skirt and draperies.

The furnishings in the bedroom were all found in the house.

The cabinetry was custom built. The little chair next to the fireplace (one of nine in the house) was almost discarded, as it was wet and musty from years of storage in a shed. We decided it had good lines, so my upholsterer stripped it to the frame, which was solid, and re-covered it in a contemporary fabric.

The black and ivory color scheme with creamy yellow walls is repeated in the master bath. The wall and floor tiles are Grecian white marble.

The tub was found at Braehead, and refurbished.

The wall sconces as well as the vanity lighting were custom made and finished with polished nickel.

Resources in Friday’s post.

Photographs by Kimberly Long, Life Long Memories Photography – see link at left

Tomorrow, we go downstairs to the home office and the heart of Braehead, the kitchen!

January 25th, 2012

Just off Braehead’s magnificent grand hall are two beautiful formal rooms. We decided to use them as a music parlor (since a pianoforte’ was already there) and a dining parlor. The two identically sized rooms are divided by huge pocket doors with their original ceramic knobs. The exquisite millwork in these rooms was painted to resemble birds-eye and tiger maple by a nineteenth century artist. The mantels, too, have a beautiful alligatored paint finish in black over a deep ivory. Amazingly, the artist’s work remains in remarkably good shape. Very little was done to it other than gentle cleaning.

Notice the Victorian plate warmer under the window to the right, above. Plates would be placed in the metal device and warmed near the fire.

The magnificent pianoforte’, screens, artwork and all the furniture you see in these rooms were found in the house. The only exceptions are the antique painted music cabinet and American Empire dining chairs that I purchased for the project. The rugs are also recent purchases and are contemporary interpretations of period designs.

The fabrics I selected for these rooms are based upon period patterns and colors. The American Empire sofa and Victorian chair are covered in velvet. The screens and side chair are in tapestries and the double swag and jabot window treatments are in silk. The ladies’ fire-screen retains its original tattered printed velvet beneath the Oriental tapestry we applied. Screens like these protected ladies’ beeswax make-up from melting if they sat too close to the fireplace. This is where the warning, “Mind your beeswax” originated.

A small, paper covered box was discovered in a shed on the property. When we opened the lid, we found these old Christmas ornaments! The delicate decorations remain as we found them and the box now resides on the mantel in the music parlor.

Two tureen lids found outside on the property were probably thrown out as Union troops vandalized the house during the War Between the States. The bottoms were not recovered, but the lids are quite beautiful as art pieces.

Braehead was decorated for an autumn open house when most of these photos were taken. I made arrangements of wheat, oak leaves, pumpkins, pheasant feathers and other natural materials to adorn the table and mantels for the event.

Tomorrow we go upstairs!

Resources in Friday’s post

Photographs by Kimberly Long, Life Long Memories Photography – see link at left.