Interior Design and Cooking

Going to my brother’s house in Chattanooga, Tennessee, is like going to a restful mountain retreat. In fact, six years ago when my then-husband-to-be and I were thinking about where to get married, we considered Mark and Tammie’s house — although I don’t think we ever told them that. (So, Mark and Tammie, would it be OK if we laid claim your house for a weekend and invited 200 people over? Thanks!!!) Anyway, when they bought their house on the side of Lookout Mountain, the interiors were sort of dark and chopped up. Since then and after much hard work, they have let in the light and gone bright and airy by taking out walls, adding light-colored hardwood floors and sticking with minimalist decor. I especially love the kitchen, where they took off the cabinet doors to offset the dark wood. Bonus: Everybody gets to see their collections of colorful vintage espresso cups, bowls, glasses and other dishes, although, as my brother pointed out, sometimes you have to wipe off your chosen dish before you use it if it’s been sitting on the shelf for a while. But that’s a small price to pay for fabulousness, don’t you think? Their bedroom continues the theme of calm and serene, with pale green walls and light-wood furniture. If you didn’t know this family but you walked into this house anyway, you’d know instantly that the folks who live here are creative and artistic and love being outdoors. And they are.

And speaking of creative, I kept telling my husband I was going to cover a “Cooking with Ginger” class for the TimesDaily — the newspaper I freelance for in Florence, Alabama — and he was bitterly disappointed to find out I was not making a Gilligan’s Island reference. But I did learn that ginger is an incredibly flavorful and versatile … herb? spice? … that will brighten up everything it’s added to. Younger Daughter has taken to putting some in the fresh juice she makes, and after this class I’m adding ginger along with the onion-garlic stir-fry duo to everything I get a saute pan out for. Read more and get some wonderful recipes at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100421/ARTICLES/4215001

Home Decor

Anybody who’s worried about today’s young people shouldn’t — at least based on their decorating skills. Isn’t this apartment absolutely adorable? I’d move in in a minute! It belongs to Rachel, a 25-year-old who’s one of Younger Daughter’s friends in Birmingham, Alabama. Rachel is a recent college graduate and recently started working — and although interior decorating is not her field, I think it should be. I loved the way Rachel used inexpensive touches — she shops in consignment and discount stores — to express her style and create a calm and peaceful environment combined with a sense of whimsy. And she’s got such inspiring ideas. For instance, she paints small wooden window shutters, hangs them vertically on the wall and puts photos in the individual slats — brilliant! She also found a practice climbing wall with various size handholds and set it up above a doorway for stress-releasing fun. And I love the way she uses the simple basic elements of candles and coffee beans for earthy and fragrant tablescapes. And she has such a good eye — her comfy thrift-store sofa and weathered chest of drawers with intriguing mismatched drawer pulls look as if they came from a top designer boutique. Rachel’s efforts have convinced me that when it comes to interior decor, money and time constraints are no excuse. Lesson learned. Thank you, Rachel!