Monday, January 3, 2011

Gracious Mountain Living

In celebration of the New Year Shawn and I were invited to a couple of parties, one was Friday, New Years Eve and the other was New Years Day. We always consider an invitation to one's home an honor and a treat because someone is allowing you to come into their "inner domain" and see how they live. We find it really wonderful here in the mountains because something about this special area encourages people to want to "nest" and really create their own "sanctuary" or "getaway". Perhaps it is for many a second home and an opportunity to create a place that is very different from their primary residence therefore they take more risks and have more fun with their decorating options, or maybe for others they are at a different phase in their lives and they have come to understand how they want to live and entertain while at their special place in the mountains or on the lake. Either way we are fortunate to know some folks who really understand what we define as "Gracious Mountain Living". I hope our kind hosts will not mind but I wanted to share some of their secrets and special details with you.

The party on Friday night was described as "Champagne and Chocolate" and what a decadent evening it was. First I want you to get the setting of our friend's mountain home! Because they love to entertain while in the mountains she and her husband took a small log home near a lovely creek and designed some thoughtful additions to really enhance the way they would utilize their second home. The area that was originally the living and dining room is now solely the dining room with a very large round table in front of a stone fireplace with a huge, beautiful chandelier that is made up of patina finished metal leaves. They also added a very large gathering room with plenty of seating and another stone fireplace along with a great deck, outdoor fireplace and screened in pavilion overlooking the creek. (While they were at it they built a garage with an apartment and bought the adjacent cabin for a guest cottage so we lovingly call this their "compound"). It is no wonder that we love this woman as she is a consummate shopper, with great taste, she loves home decor and we describe her look as upscale lodge. She has a wonderful knack for mixing rustic and elegant. Picture beautiful rugs layered with real hides, lots of texture in her tapestry fabrics on the pillows and draperies, leather chairs and mohair sofa. She is also great with scale, I love her use of oversize pieces of furniture that really make her rooms feel larger. Finally, her art is amazing she collects original oil paintings that she loves and she has a great collection of mostly nature inspired subject matter in various size and genre.

The party was so lovely, with lots of candles and her additional beautiful holiday decor. The large round table in the dining room was layered with amazing cakes and pastries, truffles, gigantic chocolate dipped strawberries with fresh whipped cream, another friend even brought delicious pink champagne cupcakes!! There was Veuve Clicquot Champagne (my favorite!!) and a wonderful champagne punch. I loved that our host had a tray with various unique champagne was fun to watch guests "choose the flute" that they wanted to be toasting with at midnight!

What a wonderful party! In her true form our host created an elegant, sophisticated environment that was very, very welcoming and comfortable. It was a great way to celebrate the new year and we are thankful to have been included.

On Saturday we were invited to visit the mountain home of some other friends for their "Traditional New Year's Day Fare". This was our first time to their home but we just knew that it would be special and we were right. Our friends are a Mother and her two adult daughters, along with a son-in-law and two of the most adorable young grandsons. Mom wanted a getaway where she and her family could be together and make memories and she found a place that with some vision and renovations could be the perfect retreat from their busy lives in Atlanta.

Situated on a great piece of property with a beautiful view their retreat has been created with entertaining in mind. The home has a a bunk room for the boys, a master retreat for mother, and bedrooms for both daughters. They also have a large gathering & dining room, newly renovated kitchen, a cozy finished terrace level, media room and even a craft room (and believe me these ladies are CREATIVE and CRAFTY!). They have several outside living areas where I am told they do the bulk of their entertaining. These areas include a lovely screened porch with that great view, decks, and even a guest house. My favorite area is at the terrace level where they have their stone fire pit, hot tub, a really cool outdoor shower and the piece de resistance the specially designed (by grandmother) tree house for the grandsons. (We are talking trap door, operable windows, dutch door, and room to run around...every kids dream!)

The decor is so welcoming, casual and comfortable. They have several wonderful originals by the artist Cornbread. Some great collections like the wonderful vintage picnic baskets and the clear glass antique oil lamps that look so great on the large mantle mixed with Mercury glass and evergreen for the holidays. I love this idea, they have a rustic bulletin board just off the kitchen with tons of family photos (both old and new). This home is just a place you want to hang out and relax. Another special point is that the homeowner's sister purchased two cabins just up the road, so this really is a place where family memories are made, with aunts, uncles and where two generations of cousins get to spend time together.

Remember I said that they were creative and crafty? They have so much fun like a recent family contest where they wrote odd ingredients on pieces of paper, you then drew a piece of paper with the ingredient and they had a "cook off" to see who could make the best dish (Strawberry Rhubarb pie won!). They also had an entire beautiful, gingerbread village on display that they completed with friends at a gathering just after Thanksgiving a tradition that they started years fun is that?! (I spoke to one of the daughters today and they were doing decoupage projects!)

Now about the party! When we arrived we were graciously and quickly offered a cocktail. I loved that they had large mason jars pre-made with special family recipe of whisky sours and bloody Marys of course with all of the accoutrement including pickled okra, celery and dilly beans to garnish your drink. The kids played while we sat on the screened porch in rocking chairs enjoying our delicious cocktails just visiting. Then there was the food...oh, the traditional southern food! The buffet included ham, turkey, cornbread, black-eyed peas, the most delicious greens and 'hoppin john that I have ever had! For dessert there was coconut cake and my all time favorite a seven layer caramel cake. Just when you think it couldn't get better we had a sinful tiramisu cordial (mother's special recipe, that I must have!!)

What made this party so wonderful was the welcoming and relaxing way everything was presented. The hosts made it seem effortless (and we know how much work was involved prepare all of this.) Having the bar and a couple special signature drinks ready is always so smart. But I feel the most important part is just loving what you are doing and where you are doing it. When we left Shawn and I discussed how we loved the way that they "really used and enjoyed" their very special mountain retreat.

THANK YOU to our friends who really get the "gracious mountain living" idea, they understand how fortunate we are to be able to be here in this special place. We feel fortunate to have been included in their fetes and can't think of a better way to bring in the new year. I hope their ideas inspire you to put together your own special gathering or maybe even start your own family traditions!

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