Porch Season Approacheth

porch maria maggenti

WHY IS IT I’m always drawn to the funkiest, most accessible decorating? Somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought that by the time I attained the advanced age of – er, never mind – I’d be reading Architectural Digest. Instead, I’m still pining for Domino and Cottage Living.

Is it sour grapes because I can’t afford better? I think not. I probably could afford slightly better than the furnishings on these ultra-casual porches. It’s because I genuinely like them, with their paper lanterns and string lights and rattan furniture.

The California front porch, top, of filmmaker Maria Maggenti, is from one of Domino‘s last issues in early 2009. I had to scan the page itself from my tattered files, because it, along with a charming video tour of Maria walking us through her colorful abode, has been disappeared from the Internet. The chairs are IKEA, the sofa some make-do thing, but with the bright cushions and romantic drapes, it’s a place I’d be very happy to hang out.

I also like the porch, below, with its mismatched furnishings and sky blue painted floor, from a publication called Total Beach House, a spin-off of Coastal Living magazine, which I bought last year around this time. Hope they have a 2010 edition planned.


The last porch, below, is from Mary Emmerling’s Beach Cottages, and it’s right nearby in Wainscott, Long Island. It’s a very simple array of elements, elevated by deliberate placement and a notable lack of clutter.


Coslick’s Cottages


SO HERE I AM, trying to renovate just one cottage, and along comes an e-mail from Jane Coslick, who has bought, fixed up, decorated, sold, and/or rented some three dozen of them!

She’s well-known as a cottage preservationist on Tybee Island, Georgia, near Savannah, where tiny workmen’s houses and fishing shacks built in the 1920s, some as small as 400 square feet, would have been pulverized in the name of development if not for Jane and others like her.


It’s the exuberance and care with which she does it, and her free hand with color, that has made Jane’s work a staple of such magazines as Coastal Living, Southern Living, and, before its recent demise, Cottage Living.

Jane has a website with links to all her press coverage, of which there’s been no shortage. Her vibrant cottages, with evocative names like Fish Camp, Calypso, and Hemingway, are like honey to magazine-editor bees. She just started a new blog, too. You can find it here.


Adventures in Cottage Living


MAJOR IMPROVEMENTS RECENTLY in my humble East Hampton cottage.

I’ve managed to turn a drab 1930s stick rattan sofa, above, with no cushions, into comfortable seating for my screened porch. All it took was three days wielding a paintbrush (this thing has a LOT of surface area and needed priming), while listening to songs I didn’t even know I had on my iPod. That, plus $400 worth of cushions on sale from the Restoration Hardware catalogue have in turn transformed the porch into a second living room. I’m sitting there as I type this, feeling pleased with myself.

But that’s nothing compared with the fact that today, after three months of living without one (inconceivable, I know), I finally had a proper refrigerator delivered. It’s a stainless Frigidaire, and I like it. It’s not the blue Smeg of my dreams, but it’s not bad-looking — exceedingly plain. It’s fairly quiet (I would prefer complete silence, but this is as close as I’m gonna get), and it’s the right size for the space, not a monster.

For almost three months — after buying and quickly returning to Sears a cheapo fridge that drove me crazy with its grunts and groans — I’ve been living with an Igloo cooler and a fridge the size of a hotel mini-bar, with a freezer just big enough for a can of lemonade. I was really tired of all my fresh Long Island farmstand produce falling on the floor each time I opened the door.


I didn’t want to do the Sears/PC Richard route, so two weeks ago, I went to Bob Stevens Appliances, a real appliance store, located in the airport at Westhampton Beach (a safe distance from the runway). I felt I needed to see the things in situ, so I wouldn’t make a second refrigerator mistake, and it appears I have not. Now my vegetables and bottles of Long Island Summer Ale look lost in the depths of 18 cubic feet. I see a trip to the Bridgehampton King Kullen in my future.img_1800

I still want the blue, though, so my plan is to paint the lower kitchen cabinets Benjamin Moore’s Sailor Sea Blue, or something like it. This painting thing, once you get in the rhythm, ain’t so bad.

Oh, and the cellar is nearly cleared out of the previous owner’s stuff. Just a few more trips to the dump, and then it will be time to start filling it up with my own stuff.

Deer count, last 24 hours: 4 (a mother and two fawns yesterday, and a really bold one today who came within a few feet of my back door – eyeing the impatiens, I’ll bet).

Now Domino is Falling!

DOMINO MAGAZINE IS FOLDING, and I am devastated.  Hard on the heels of Cottage Living, my other favorite magazine is ceasing to publish.  Why why why why WHY??!!!???

As if it wasn’t enough to lose Cottage Living, Country Living, O at Home, the infant Blueprint — not to mention HG — now this lively, original, and inspiring magazine, that just made you want to go re-arrange furniture and paint a wall pink, is no more.

I never subscribed, because I just couldn’t wait to receive it in the mail if there was any chance of finding it at a newsstand a day or two earlier.

Domino was fun and and unpretentious — they never shied from IKEA furniture, if it was used well — and they featured mostly old houses, often in Brooklyn. In the February ’09 issue (March ’09 will be the last), there’s a 1930s brick row house in Brussels, Belgium; a gingerbread Victorian in New Orleans; and a couple of L.A. bungalows.

A few months back, irresistibly, they featured Chase Booth’s three-week makeover of a dank ’70s ranch with an acoustical tile ceiling in Columbia County, and made it look GREAT.

Is the economy really THAT bad?

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From today’s mediabistro.com: Conde Nast to Fold Domino (UnBeige)
Conde Nast is folding Domino, the young “Shopping Magazine for Your Home” launched in April of 2005. A final March issue will be published, and Dominomag.com will be shuttered. “This decision … is driven entirely by the economy,” said Conde Nast president and CEO Charles Townsend. BusinessWeek: Domino and the folly of the magazine spin-off. NYO: A spokeswoman said Domino editor Deborah Needleman and publisher Beth Brenner would both leave the company, but that some staff would be given new jobs at Conde Nast. NYP: Though the upscale shelter magazine was a money loser, Newhouse’s decision caught insiders and outsiders by surprise.

Goodbye, Cottage Living

Tybee Island, Georgia

Tybee Island, Georgia

One of my favorite magazines bit the dust with its December 2008 issue.  Cottage Living, launched with fanfare in 2004, is gone.

I don’t think I ever missed an issue, though in recent months — probably in a desperate grab for advertising dollars — the cottages had grown bigger and fancier and hardly deserved the name (can a 4BR house be called a ‘cottage’?)

What I loved most about the magazine were the ‘before and afters,’ makeovers of decrepit vintage homes.  I spent happy hours poring over the remodeling of California bungalows, log cabins in Virginia, freedman’s cottages in Charleston, S.C.

But those were easy clean-ups: charm, however soiled, begets charm.





Left and right: Unique to Charleston, ‘freedman’s cottages’ were built by and for freed slaves after the Civil War.  They were  two rooms deep and one room wide, with a side porch the length of the house.

The magazine also had an architect, Hoyte Johnson, take on the tricky business of suggesting fix-ups (in renderings, not reality) for dank 1960s ranches, boring brick boxes, and asbestos-shingled, aluminum-windowed 1940s American four-squares.

These were not always successful; in my view, they went a little too far “adding personality” in the form of pergolas, sundials, weathervanes, chimneypots, etc. (there’s a Yiddish word for that, but I don’t know how to spell it).

But these were fun to contemplate, and I learned a lot about balancing awkward proportions by shifting placement of windows and doors, and the usefulness of shutters to enlarge the look of meager windows.  And I totally agree that single-pane windows look ’empty and sad,’ and that replacing them with divided-light windows — real ones — has a dramatically positive aesthetic effect on the facade of any old house.colgan-before-l1colgan-exterior-l

Left and below: Would you believe this is the same house? They took a dull brick ranch and clad it in board-and-batten siding; the asphalt shingle roof was replaced with a higher-pitched tin roof, and the ceilings were raised inside.

Cottage Living, I’ll miss you. (The publisher, Southern Living, offered to replace the remainder of my subscription with Real Simple, probably my LEAST favorite magazine — obvious, repetitive advice on how to spend more money in a quest to live more simply — but that one’s still publishing, so what do I know?)

In the meantime, there are some copies of Cottage Makeovers, the final “special edition” ($10.99, no ads) compiling 20 makeovers from the defunct magazine, on newsstand shelves.  I say, get it while you can.