You had me at Butler’s Pantry…

Photography by Laura Moss
Styling by Meredith McBride Kipp 

When touring old homes (and new), a butler’s pantry is always the highlight for me. It was one of the selling features when my husband and I bought our 1805 farmhouse. Despite the charm of the home, the butler’s pantry lacked the proper character and polish. We believe it was added in the 1950’s, and was in need of a major facelift. First off, the upper cabinets needed to be moved up nearly a foot in order to actually accommodate the height of a bottle.

My husband tackled this project with full steam last year while I worked on our soon-to-arrive baby’s nursery upstairs (I will post that decor story soon). Our thought was that ‘if we’re going to have a child, we’re probably going to need a proper place to mix a cocktail.’ (SEE OLD FASHIONED RECIPE BELOW) So we bumped the project to the top of the list. With that he tackled the powder room and the back stairwell. SEE BEFORES AND AFTERS BELOW

Steps for transforming the BUTLER’S PANTRY:
Removed the overhead soffit and upper cabinets
Rebuilt the upper cabinets using only the existing doors (which we think are original from the home’s first kitchen)
Trimmed out the lower cabinet doors
Painted the whole room a delicious prohibition-era-inspired dark teal
Replaced the painted wood counter with black granite
Tiled the backsplash with 6″x12″ (subway style) hand-cut mirror tiles
Installed art spotlights, under-cabinet lighting, interior-cabinet lighting, and electrical outlets
Hung a beautiful oversized, overhead, brass light fixture
Hung lion-head door knockers for a bit of (Bowie’s) Labyrinth whimsy
Installed sleek brass hardware

Steps for transforming the POWDER ROOM:
Removed toilet, sink and tile floor
Removed wallpaper and light fixture
Installed paneling on walls and repaired, primed and painted walls and trim
wallpapered above paneling
installed Julisk light
installed new miniature sink with custom-designed marble backsplash and counter
Steps for transforming the BACK STAIRWELL:
Stripped the carpet & wallpaper
Caulked and repaired walls, trim and floors
Primed and painted walls, ceiling and stairs
Cut and stapled floor runners to create continuous look
Framed and hung important historical family photos


Brass light fixture
Custom teal paint color: click to see image of scannable barcode for home depot BEHR color
Lion head door knockers are antique, but here are some similar ones 

Juliska light fixture
Miniature porcelain sink
Marble sink surround and backsplash custom designed by Meredith, cut by Atlas Stone
Marble sink surround and backsplash installed with love by Sebastian Martorana
Rose vase by his talented wife, Amanda Martorana

Chevron stair runners



The Bee’s Knees

As we quickly approach the holidays, you probably need to relax…and want a good, strong cocktail to do so. I’ve just the solution for you. A delightful little drink called The Bee’s Knees: a heavenly blend of fragrant lavender and honey that will calm the nerves and soothe the soul. The recipe is from my mother-in-law, a Vermonter who—as a recent retiree—has mastered the arts of relaxation and laborious cocktails. This one in particular she picked up from the barkeep at a great little restaurant called Starry Night near Charlotte, VT.

Here’s how you make The Bee’s Knees. In a sauce pan steep roughly 1 cup lavender, 4 cups water, and 1/2 cup honey. Adjust/add honey to taste as needed (depending on strength of honey and lavender.) Steep the mixture over low heat (do not boil) until the lavender begins to lose color. You will see it start to turn brown. Stir all the while (about 15 minutes). Drain the mixture through cheese cloth and put the deep mauve liquid in the refrigerator to cool. This will make a little over 1 quart of your lavender/honey mix.

Once the mix has cooled, pour 3 parts lavender mix and 1 part gin into a shaker. We used Bar Hill Gin, a delicious Vermont-born-and-raised gin with notes of raw honey & juniper berry. Add the juice of 1 small lime, roughly a tablespoon of simple syrup (if needed to cut the bitterness: trust your taste buds), a handful of ice, and you’re ready to shake and serve. It will come out the most beautiful shade of pink.

This soothing cocktail is sure to give you the buzz you are looking for. Happy chilling.

Entertaining on Halloween

Photography by Laura Moss. Styling by me, Meredith McBride Kipp

It’s that time of year again to get out the pumpkin-carving tools, invite some friends over, and get a fire going in the fire pit. Don’t forget your costumes!
Here’s a no-pressure solution to pulling the ones you love together without making too much of a fuss.

Designate a table for pumpkins (outside ideally) an cover it to make your cleanup easy. You don’t have to be an artisan to carve a pumpkin, just have fun! For a change, stay away from scary faces: try stripes, polka dots and even words. Instead of going through the top of the pumpkin, try cutting an access hole into the bottom. I used a round linoleum-cutting tool from a local craft store to puncture holes in my pumpkin. After I’d covered it in perforations, I stuffed the pumpkin with a strand of white Christmas lights and stuck lights through each of the holes; the cord running out the bottom.

Invite your guests inside for a little fire-side dinner and drinks. I made a simple butternut squash soup the night before and garnished it with shredded roast turkey, creme fresh, cracked pepper, a drizzle of truffle oil and chives. We whipped up some “Blood Transfusion” cocktails (a take on Martha Stewart’s spiked grape punch) topped off with a pair of eyeballs (peeled grapes).

Then onto s’mores around the fire-pit…

Have a great Halloween and don’t be too spooked to throw it together last minute! xx Mere

Tea is for Travel

Photography by Laura Moss. Styling by me, Meredith McBride Kipp.

It’s the time of year again when most of us are aching for exotic excursions and warm weather. I came up with a way to savor both; sans security lines at the airport.
Travel to Morocco, China and the Philippines via these delicious tea-based cocktails that I have painstakingly (wink) tinkered with and tested.

Let your summer out early with these colors and flavors and ENJOY!
(and leave a comment if you have suggestions on the recipes)

Moroccan Mint Marteani

travel inspiration: Morocco

For the tea:
5 cups water
4 bags of black tea
4 tablespoons brown sugar
Bring water to boil and then add the tea and brown sugar. Let tea cool, then transfer it to the refrigerator to cool completely.

For the cocktial:
4 ice cubes
16 fresh mint leaves
2 cups tea
2 tablespoons Rose’s lime juice
1 cup vodka
Shake ice and mint leaves in a cocktail shaker for a minute or long enough to bruise the mint. Add remaining ingredients and shake. Pour into glass and garnish with lime and fresh mint sprig. makes 3-4 drinks

Green Tea Fizz

travel inspiration:  China

For the tea:
Brew a pot of green tea (I used FAUCHON‘s Le Jasmin Chung Hao). Sweeten it with honey to taste (I used honey from a local beekeeper). Cool the tea in the freezer until starting to frost (you want this drink icy-cold and refreshing).

For the cocktial:
In each glass, pour equal parts green tea and (also extremely chilled) prosecco. Garnish with a squeeze of cumquat or orange, rub the rim with the rind, and serve with a curled sliver of rind on the rim. makes 6-7 drinks


Salabat (Ginger Tea) Mule

travel inspiration:  the Philippines

For the tea:
3 cups water
3 tablespoons brown sugar
5-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced into discs (grate a little bit of it too)
Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, then simmer for 10 minutes. Cool tea then transfer it to the refrigerator to cool completely.

For the cocktial:
2 ounces Goslings dark rum
4 ounces cooled and strained Salabat ginger tea
Club Soda
In a glass filled with ice, add the rum and ginger tea. Top off with club soda, and a squeeze of lime. makes 1 drink

Photography by Laura Moss. Styling by me, Meredith McBride Kipp.

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Feeling a Little Shandy

The best drink on a hot day? The Shandy (short for shandygaff), of British origin, is a beer mixed with citrus-flavored soda. I make a Shandy with homemade sparkling lemonade and chilled pale ale, normally half-and-half proportions. Add mint and lemon zest if you want to dress is up, but if you’re hanging out in the yard, playing bocce, solo cups are fare game.