Ottoman Empire

Everyone needs a place in their home where—after a long day at work—you can kick up your heels and enjoy some BRAVO Housewives or a crossword puzzle. I’m working on decorating ours right now, but I’ve had the hardest time finding the right ottoman. Everything is too high, too tufted, too leather, too steampunk, or just too damn expensive. So when I stumbled across one that was cheap as dirt and just the right dimensions, I nabbed it: with plans to reupholster immediately.

I’ll likely need to recover it every year or two, so I kept the job quick and easy-to-replicate. Using some neutral fabrics I already had, I came up with a simple design that would do the trick and withstand some wear and tear.

Here’s how I took this piece from fugly to fab in under 20 minutes:
I cut the base fabric with a little excess and stapled it taught to the underside of the ottoman. It was a little tricky around the legs but—once stapled in place—I was able to loosen the legs, then pinch the fabric to the ottoman. I cut 2 wide strips of the striped fabric, laid them perpendicular across the ottoman and stapled them taught as well, one at a time. I trimmed the excess fabric and tacked the overlapping strips in place with a few simple stitches here and there (so it won’t get mangled from foot traffic).

Et Voila, there you have an ottoman empire ready for conquering…

Chenille alligator-print rug is by Martha Stewart Home, morroccan tray is an antique, my absolutely favorite scented candle is by Kilian Hennessy, large woven throw pillow by Ashanti (of Cape Town, South Africa), and the best damn dog in the world, Ella, is our rescue Potcake from Jamaica (the island, not the borough).

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Laid-back Luxury

We spent Easter with my godfather, Chuck Elmes, at his 1760’s estate home in Middletown, NY. As we pulled up to his picturesque, 400-acre polo farm (Blue Sky Polo), Chuck walked down the dusty drive to greet us; hair wind-blown just-so, small tear in the breast of his sweater, hands dirtied from a hard day’s work… but he had had time to set the dining room with his fine china and crystal.

Chuck was raised on a plantation in Georgia and as a young man he moved north and entwined himself in the country club & real estate worlds. That and his love for polo inspired him to start a polo club. The man knows his way around a horse farm, a clay court and a boardroom. He’s as rugged as Robert Redford and as refined as him in The Great Gatsby. He’s the definition of laid-back elegance and exactly what Ralph Lifshitz has been bottling and selling for decades.

After getting the Easter feast going, Chuck took us for a little drive around the grounds. The views and smells—saddle soap and leather—refreshed my fond childhood memories of watching polo games and riding his exceptional ponies.

Aside from the sprawling, perfectly-level fields abuzz with matches, there is a sideshow at Blue Sky that Chuck [loves and] has brought to the forefront in recent years. He boards dogs in what he calls The Pet Camp. It’s like Canyon Ranch for canines. He has roughly 70 pups at any given time (from around Manhattan and its ‘burbs) and he honestly knows each and every one by name (and personality). By day the dogs romp around a racetrack, play in the fields, swim in the pond and sunbathe. And at night, one by one, he calls them in and they slip into their individual horse-stall-suites.

While on the topic, I recently found a great little London-based pet boutique, Mungo & Maud. They will be launching a US online store next month. The wooden dog bowls are polished and chic and the adjustable rope leads and collars are very cool.