a friend shares another peek indoors

living room cabinetWHO TOOK THAT PHOTO IN MY LIVING ROOM? When your lunch guest is as crafty and charming as founder Maxwell Gillingham-Ryan of the popular Apartment Therapy blog network, all you need to do is turn your back for a moment and poof! He’s off peering at your world through his Canon–and look what happens: an impromptu take on where I live, write, and ruminate–which Maxwell published as a newsletter to his readers just the other day. I am always fascinated to see what surprises other people see in spaces that to me look so familiar. You can view read his email and see the other photos here. You may recall it was Maxwell’s wife, Sara Kate, who showed you my kitchen.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Kaarina. It’s a collage of old seed packets and clippings from catalogs and such, or from ads about plants/gardening. I bought it years ago and it was very old then, and charming. Do stop in again soon, and thanks for the hello.

  1. Brian G. says:

    You had only two layers of walls and ceilings? I had/have three layers including the original crumbling plaster from the 1850s not to mention the 150 years of mouse poop and carcasses that showered me when I pulled down the final layer. Aren’t old houses “charming”?

    1. Margaret says:

      @Brian: Yes, only two layers…plus that lovely vinyl wallpaper (pastel florals, and kind of shiny). I left out the part about the carcasses and caca, but now that you mention it…all that plus MANY old acorns, nests, you name it. Ugh.

  2. lisa aka.carrot-juice says:

    your house is delicious! i saw a glimpse of a panda bear on a chair in your living room… and he looks exactly like my “old beer”. apparently i said his name before anyone else’s, and had trouble getting the word right… lol!

    do you have a better picture of your bear? i’d love to see if our bears match…

  3. Tammy says:

    Margaret, your house is very charming and cozy. Just what I would have expected! It takes talent to look past what was there to create what you invisioned. Hmm, kind of like gardening, no?

  4. cara says:

    Comfy cozy! Looks like a fine house to hunker down in for the winter. Love the painted yellow floor. If I’m not mistaken, you are one of the rare 21st century Americans living without a dishwasher, unless it’s tucked away somewhere. And I’m fascinated to see that you, professional cookbook author, cook on an electric stove (I’m still trying to master mine).

  5. Brenda Rose says:

    I loved the opportunity to peek inside your home. I’ve been subscribing to your blog for a while, and like many readers, feel I’ve gotten to know you a little bit. But getting invited into your home! Now I feel like we’ve shared a very pleasant visit.

    I live in western NY and grew up in 3 of those old homes – plaster walls and ceilings, many layers of wallpaper, steep narrow stairs. We lived through 3 complete DIY overhauls of ripping it all out room by room and redoing. Messy to live through but so gratifying in the end.

    I must say you are amazing neat and tidy, you must have a tremendous amount of energy to get it all done.

  6. Margaret says:

    Welcome, Brenda Rose. I am neater as I get older; more inclined to take care of things (paperwork etc.) regularly than let it pile up and so on. In such a small space, living and working all the time now, it’s essential – or one might go mad(der). :) See you soon again I hope.

    @Lisa: I will have to ask Iggy (the bear) if he is up for a portrait. He can be reclusive. :)

    @Cara: No dishwasher; never have had (except in home of my childhood, but not since). Not even room for laundry machines here; they are “next door” in a small guest building just down the road (there are various little sheds and a small barn and so on plus a “guest house” – lots of funny spaces all broken up into bits, no one of them big enough for everything). Doing the wash involves an adventure each time.

    1. Margaret says:

      @Charity: Right now the table is filled with book manuscript and notes and index cards and all the rest of the bits…another week to go and then I will clear the table for a bit, I hope, and get back to the real world, after Draft 1 is handed in. Yikes!

  7. Suzi West says:

    I love your ability to curate your home, while maintaining its apparent personality. Delightfully livable and looks like you collected wondrous memorabilia during each step of your life.

    Truly lovely and inspiring. Do you actually “collect” anything specific?


    Ps. I was also featured on AT; during the 2008 Small Cool, so I understand what it is like to receive a million comments and criticisms on your habitat!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Suzi. Thanks for your kind words. I do collect some things (or did as I am out of space): various green ceramics, from Frankoma to majolica; lustre-glazed ceramics; 19th C American porcelain pitchers w/relief images of the natural world; Chinese furniture; many other things botanical (plates, prints, collages, pressed plants under glass…). Used to collect painted glasses (still have a lot) and a million other things I scaled down or got rid of. Hope to see you soon again.

  8. Fred from Loudonville, NY says:

    Margaret, I have looked over your home, and I would classify your style of decorating as Country Asian. Your color taste in decorative accessories is consistent. For people reading this, Margaret picks things out things that are in the colors Red, Gold, Green, and a Peacock blue-green. All of these colors appear in the still life over the type writer, the dishes on the wall, the Buddha, and on a lot of the pottery distributed through out the house. In decorating, four colors used continuously, as a predominate, subordinate, and two accents is an ideal. Each of the four colors has it’s turn being the predominate, subordinate, and accents, as they are used from one room to another, through out a house. The colors being repeated from one room to another, tie the spaces together. Margaret if you are thinking of ever taking your decorating further, or changing it up a bit, I have a few suggestions. First I would hang valances over all the windows through out the house, with the rods mounted as close to the ceiling as possible. The valances would SOFTEN the space, and being mounted high up, would make the windows look taller, and the ceilings feel higher. I would next mount a honey comb shade in all the window frames. I suggest the type that you could pull UP from the bottom, and lower DOWN from the top. The honey comb shade would provide privacy, prevent fading, and eliminate the BLACK MIRROR effect, that happens at night with exposed windows. ALSO the shade would provide some insulation. Secondly in the parlor with the green walls and white sofa with red covering, I would love seeing it placed on a round Chinese or Tibetan rug. The round rug would be under the front feet of the sofa. It would anchor the sofa in the room, and add visual wormth to the space. I like the round rug, because it would not cover the wonderful painted wide plank floors. In that room, I would also love seeing a green, gold, and small red striped valance, on the window. Third, I love the weight of the green walls of the parlor, but I feel that the rooms that you can see through doorways need more color. The bathroom off of the parlor would be GREAT in a peacock blue, with touches of red, and gold. Fourth, I would love seeing the upper half of your dining room painted a red tone. The red would tie the unmatched furniture together, and the eye would look at that space in one sweep. With the light toned walls that you have, your furniture is studied more liked art work in a gallery. The red would also warn the wood, bringing out it’s grain. In the kitchen, and this room, white toned valances (matching the color of the lower part of the walls) would just add softness. Fifth, in your kitchen space, I would suggest a machine washable rug, with a color ways of peacock, red, and gold, in a flower, or fruit and vegetable motif. That would be an interesting focal point on the floor, and match the painted doors, chest, and other accesories……. Interior decorating is not about eliminating objects, and furniture, that a person has collected, but correcting with color, moving objects to where they are displayed to their best advantage, and adding things to the mix, to bring out the best in a place.

  9. Steve Zick says:

    It was fun to compare your current house with the “Gardener’s Cottage” profiled years ago in MSL–some of your old friends clearly made the move–the Chinese chairs, for example. That earlier article turned me onto Frankoma pottery as well as “begonia” colors of red & green. Such a treat to see this environment too after getting to know the garden!

  10. Suzanne says:

    I have lived for 35 years without a dishwasher in 2 little houses. I recently decided to install one only because the kitchen in my 625 sf house is so small I can’t give up the counterspace for a dishrack. Plus the majestic old dogwood outside my kitchen window came down in a storm last year so I have no reason to linger over dishes. Ah well.

    Have been a fan for a while (a lurker). Can’t belive it was a comment on dishwashing which prompted me to write.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Suzanne. Yes, funny that it was modern appliances that finally got you talking. Sorry about your dogwood. Hope to see (hear) you soon again here.

  11. Mary says:

    Your home is charming. May I ask where you got the kitchen pendants? They’re great; simple and classic with a modern edge. Thanks.

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Mary. Do you mean the green enamel shades (overhead lights)? I found them in the street in TriBeCa in NYC like 20 years ago, being discarded from an old commercial building, but my friend at Shandell’s wired them for me, and has others like them for sale. Thanks for the kind words, and do come visit again soon.

  12. My first time to your blog, what rock have I been under? I love the tablescape, it reminds me of the British concept of the nature table (in schools). A similar tableau sits on my desk; wild turkey feathers, Victorian tiles, bits of honeycomb, a nest, a rock from my childhood beach, a colored-glass rondel, a blue Mason-Jar of seashells… you get the picture. Of course I have to do my blogging from the breakfast bar, since the desk is busying displaying all that!

    1. Margaret says:

      Welcome, Rhonda. What rock? Very funny. The rock where people who love making tableaux around their houses live, of course. :) You are welcome anytime, and I do hope to see you again. Bring your stuff!

  13. gina salden says:

    hi margaret i love your decorating just as much as when i first saw it sept 1999 issue of martha stewart magazine i lost the mag in a move and am ordering it again for inspiration… did you redo your living room since then?? or is it a differant room on apt therapy website??? are most of your asian pieces antiques or reproduction? also can you steer me anywhere for any wonderful asian pieces such as yours.

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Gina. It’s a different living room — I moved to a small upstate NY town 5 years ago, so I am no longer in the city, which was what was shot. I have collected Asian things forever, and my Grandma did, too. They are all vintage, and I have had most for decades, some since childhood since they were hers, or things she bought for my folks.

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