• Summer Bedding

    Readers, I'm not sure where you join me from.  Some months, I see several logging in from Chicago, Cleveland, San Franciso, and, for some reason, Brazil, and while I'm sure that our climates don't always mirror each other, I know that some of you- like me- hate to be too warm on summer nights.  

    You may remember me discussing wanting to build my bedding collection.  After much deliberation, and reading review after review, I finally bit the bullet and bought the Venice Linen set from Parachute Home, and haven't looked back!

    Not inexpensive (a fitted sheet, duvet cover, and two pillowcases for a king will set you back $439), but not cheaply made either, the linen is a nice weight, soft, and cool to the touch.  The duvet cover offers ties inside to keep your insert in place and a hidden button closure, the fitted sheet is elasticized all the way around, and all pillowcases have an envelope closure on the rear, which is a nice, clean touch (no exposed pillow edges!).  We bought a leightweight down insert from Target, and, while the lack of a flat sheet took a couple of nights to get used to, I haven't slept this soundly or comfortably during the summer in a few years. 

    Thanks to the weave of the linen and the pale, blush color, my bed now has a casual, comfortable summer feel to it.  The natural texture of the linen makes me think of summer pants, swinging hammocks, and easy breezes, which makes me all too happy to store my not-very-breathable silk quilt and fur throw for the season, and makes me wonder what else I can do to transition my home for summer.  For now, though, before too much more deliberation, I believe I'll lie down for a bit.  Zzzzzzz....

    ** this post is not sponsored in any way **

  • On Home

    There's an inspirational quote making it's rounds on Instagram that says you should be with someone who gives you the same feeling as when you see your food coming in a resturant.  I know that there are people that exsist that don't get that excited over food, but I'm not one of them.  Every time a server whisks my way from the kitchen, I find myself peeping up and over the edge of their tray to see what he's bringing... It's why I'm a little fluffy.  I just love food.  It's comfortable.  I'd like to take that quote a step further...

    You should have that same lit-up lovely feelng when you walk into your house. Every time you walk into your home, you should feel a sense of relief, of comfort, of excitement, not unlike the expectation of your favorite meal.  The smell should be familiar, the temperature set just where you want it to be.  You should have your favorite spot.  Hell, you should have your favorite cocktail ready as soon as you set down (though you may need to discuss this with any living partner, otherwise face having to be your own bartender, which isn't a bad option, either).

    I know that every time I walk into Rye on Market, I can trust the opinion of my favorite bartender on what to eat, to drink, the same way I know that the hashbrown casserole at Toast comes out shaped like an ice cream scoop and that there are sweet potato pancakes in May.  

    I know that when I step in my door every day, the icy blast of my air conditioning will greet me.  The sweet tea scented candle in my foyer will fill the space with a rich, tea leaf scent, with a hint of lemon.  I have my favorite chair, and I've mastered a Ramos Gin Fizz, ice balls smothered in Bourbon, and a French 75. 

    There's a comfort in coming home every day and knowing that- even in the dark- I know where I can drop my bag, where to plop down in my chair. The purple vines in my planters out front guard my door.  The buddha stature my dad brought back from Vietnam greets me when I walk in.  There's a sense of relief, of love, a big, deep breath out.  No matter how good my day has been, there's the thought of, "Thank God I'm home."

    This is the same emotion I look for in my Buyers.  My most recent closing was a couple comprised of an emotional male and the analytical female.  In each home they looked at, the wife was crunching numbers in her head, wondering about resale value, while the husband was imagining outloud where the kids' rooms would go, what sort of cookouts they could host on the deck. Finally, we walked into "the one," and the wife couldn't stop smiling.  She whispered to me about children's rooms, how to organize the kitchen, and decorate the family room.  She felt like she was home.

    This is the reason I love my career... Every time I work with a buyer, I get to see that light flicker on.  I get to see their mind racing as they plan on where to put their favorite chair, or how to display grandma's china.  For me, I lit up when I walked into my house and saw the staircase weaving through the center of the house- that's all it took.  

    When it comes to finding a home, being home, or for feeling that spark of love when you walk in the door, close your eyes and think of what comforts you.  Is it a sunny seating area in your bedroom, or a deep soaking tub?  Perhaps all you need is a covered front porch.  Live where you love, and find a home that makes you light up inside, much like the feeling you get when you know it's your chocolate souffle sweeping out of the kitchen.

  • Tory Burch Garden Party

    Early on in the Spring burst of new clothing and bright, warm-weather ads, I fell in love with the Asilomar dress from Tory Burch's Spring/Summer 2017 collection.  Beautiful and flowy silk georgette, in a light, graphic floral pattern, I jumped at the chance to try this beauty on when I ventured to Chicago in April.  The open shoulders and light material let this dress live up to the name of its pattern: Garden Party.  However, as much as I loved the dress, it just didn't feel like me.  

    Head hung low, I got redressed and ready to exit when I almost accidentally spotted the dress's pattern twin in my favorite tie-neck style, and I was sold! Enter the Tory Burch Kia Bow Neck Blouse

    My closet is full- Full!- of long sleeved white silk blouses.  Puffed sleeves, tie-necks, collarless.... You name it, I have it. Coupled with comfortable black or navy trousers, I've built a capsule wardrobe that makes getting dressed an easy and mindless task. What I didn't have, however, is any sort of fun, feminine pattern, and now that I do, I've found that I crave wearing this thing every day.

    I've found that I do best when wearing this flirty blouse with easy, wide-leg navy trousers and flats.  It's an easy outfit that makes me smile.  Who could ask for more?

    ** blouse, trousers, sandals, glasses **

    ** photos by Kyle Leuken. this post is not sponsored in any way **

  • Starburst

    Almost inevitably, when I see a home that’s been meticulously staged, photographed well, and quickly sold, somewhere inside is a funky starburst mirror. In no way do I believe that these statement-making pieces have a sort of home-selling magic, but I do find that they offer a little taste of glamour and a finished feel, no matter the surrounding decor.

    ** Houzz **

    ** memorable decor **

    ** Crate and Barrel **

    ** Max Azria's home on sukio **

    I’ve found that these little babies- especially of the gold variety- fit into a bright garden-themed sitting area or a seriously formal dining room just as easily as they do on the pages of a Crate and Barrel catalog or in designer Max Azria’s crazy-modern LA home.

    ** not on the high street **

    ** shelterness **

    Whether nestled against a saturated wall color or on an intricate mural, starburst mirrors have a way of standing out, filling in and polishing the space above a headboard, or over a fireplace or sofa.

    These glimmering pieces don’t have to cost a fortune- for affordable options, check out those available at Target and World Market.

    ** this post is not sponsored in any way **

  • Summer Reading

    In 2015, I was introduced to Goodreads.  Some refer to the app and website as Netflix for books, and it really is- suggestions based on what you've read and how you've rated past reads, a peek into what lies on your friends' bookshelves...  I really love their Reading Challenge.  Each year, you can set a goal for yourself on how many books you'd like to finish before year's end, and track your progress along the way.  With statistics from sites like Business Insider and Forbes spouting that the most successful people make a habit of reading daily, I see no reason not to push myself to pick up a book more often than the remote.  

    This summer, I've pinpointed a few books that I want to carry me through the first of September.

    GodPretty in the Tobacco Field, Kim Michele Richardson

    The story of a teen girl who dreams of a bigger life outside of an impovershed Kentucky tobacco farm speaks to me on a couple of levels.  While growing up on a tobacco farm in a small, hard working community, I, too, craved more movement, more noise, more life.  Perhaps its why I escape to cities like New York and Chicago as often as possible.  While I never wanted to leave behind the kinship and green smells of my homeland, I'm curious to see why our protagonist wants to separate from hers. 

    How to be a Heroine, Samantha Ellis

    Part memoir and part Womens Studies class, our author explores how the female writers and characters have shaped her life, her outlook, and her expectations for herself as well as current female leads (imagine Anne of Green Gables next to Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope).  I'm excited about this one, though the ladies featured inside may spark an itch (a neccesity?) to go back and re-read some of the classic, female-led tales I've not touched in several years.

    State of Wonder, Ann Patchett

    After reading Ms. Patchett's Commonwealth last year, and devouring every word, I found myself floating towards her name again while at our local Carmichael's Bookstore last week.  State of Wonder takes us far away from Commonwealth's Virginia hills and places us in the Amazon where a doctor ventures to find out what happened to her colleague there.  Most of the details I've found on story arc are vague, so if you've read this one and have details, please reach out. 

    This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, also Ann Patchett

    Because I loved Commonwealth so much, I grabbed two Ann Patchett works.  This one, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage caught my eye.  Focusing on the marrriages she's had- to a bad love, a good one, marriages to literature, to business ventures, and friends- Patchett remembers the relationships that have shaped her.

    My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She's Sorry, Fredrik Backman

    This one was recommended to me by a friend and client last summer, and it's been sitting in my "to read" pile since we got back from Phoenix. The relationship between an odd seven year-old, and her possibly dementia-ridden grandmother is that of two best friends who speak in their own language.  When grandma passes, she leaves behind letters to those she believes she's wronged, and Elsa sets off on an adventure.  A true worshipper of my own grandmother, I'm looking forward to see what sort of love and bond is here, and what sort of tasks Elsa is dealt.

    American Housewife, Helen Ellis

    The cover caught my eye almost a year ago, and NPR's book review piqued my interest, so I finally caved and bought American Housewife.  A dozen short stories whose descriptions read a little demented, "and then they kill a party crasher, carefully stepping around the body to pull cookies out of the oven," I'm a little tentative of reading this Stepford Wife meets Mrs. Voorhees-sounding collection. Most reviews, however, seem positive, and hilarious...  I'm curious to see how this one turns out.

    Happy reading, friends, and please, send any book suggestions this way!

    ** photos by Kyle Leuken **

    ** this post is not sponsored **

  • Pecan and Molasses Bundt Cake

    I love the flavor of molasses. That dark, smokey almost-honey harkens memories of sitting at my grandparents’ breakfast table on Sunday mornings. My grandpa would mix his Sorghum- he pronounced it SARgum- with butter to spread on his breakfast biscuits, and it seemed like the smell would fill the house with it’s richness.

    Few things make me happier than finding dark molasses at the farmer’s market. Last week, when a girlfriend phoned and asked if I could use a jar that she had just received (along with a dozen fresh eggs, the sweet girl), I knew I had to turn it into something wonderful.

    Since the friend who gifted me this jar of goodness is a lover ofhomemade goodies (and often leaves treats of her own at my door), I decided to tackle a recipe from Bon Appetit magazine- a pecan and molasses bundt cake with bourbon glaze.

    I will warn you, for those of you who aren’t adept at caramel or candy making, that the glaze here is essentially a caramel sauce, flavored with whiskey. That being said, please be sure you use a very large pot to make the sauce in. I prefer a cast iron dutch oven, with high sides. Once the baking soda is added to the boiling sauce, it will foam and bubble too rapidly for you to remove it from the stovetop. Be sure to protect yourself from burns, and protect your cooktop from getting covered in burnt-on goo.

    The cake turns out beautifully, with the plain cake layer dense and buttery, and the pecan-mixed layer a deep spicy color. I split the recipe in two and used the Nordic Ware Mini Heritage Bundt Cake Pan- the smaller size is perfect for splitting a traditional recipe, and makes it easy to gift a whole cake while leaving one at home for one’s own pleasure.

    The only alterations I made to the original recipe was to substitute the light molasses with dark, and the dark corn syrup with light, only because that’s what I had on hand. I also used molasses in the glaze rather than corn syrup. Find the original recipe here. Happy baking!

  • Royalton Hotel, NYC

    For the first time since I was a teenager, I missed the Kentucky Derby this year.  Yes, you read that correctly.  Instead, the man and I took the long weekend to travel to New York and visit a girlfriend and her husband.  Being Bryan's first visit to the Big Apple, we decided to stay in Midtown, just off Times Square in the hip Royalton Hotel.

    ** The Royalton **

    Originally built in 1898, and designed as a luxury residential residence (there were smaller rooms for the building's servants), The Royalton opened as a hotel in 1988, and was the first Phillipe Starck designed hotel.  A renovation in 2007 gave birth to a dark and moody lobby, resturant and bar, and rooms that held surprises that are unusual for a Manhattan stay- fireplaces, HUGE soaking tubs, disco-ball tile.

    ** the dark and moody lobby **

    ** orchids and a decorative rope wall, photo by me **

    ** lobby bar **

    The bar downstairs acts as the happy hour hot spot for the neighborhood, but the hotel itself is happily nestled on 44th between the hustle of Times Square and Grand Central Station, amisdt all the Ivy League clubs of the city- Yale, Princeton, and Harvard Clubs are just a block away.

    We were lucky enough to snag one of the Superior rooms, complete with soaking tub (where I may or may not have sat one night and eaten real New York cheesecake), and enjoyed a large room with a fireplace and new postcards each day.

    ** guest room **

    ** the greatest soaking tub in the world **

    I do love New York...  It's not Chicago- the pizzas are drastically different- but the constant movement, well-tended parks, and bright lights of Times Square are enough to pull us back again and again.  If our visits take us back to midtown, I'm sure the Royalton will be our first stop.

    ** unless noted, all photograhy via The Royalton **

  • On the Cheese Plate

    It's 5pm, you're headed home from the office, and know that tonight, you're either eating leftover meatloaf or ordering pizza.  All is well with both options, until a girlfriend reaches out and wants to grab a glass of wine, or you remember you're hosting book club, or your boyfriend calls and says he just grabbed a block of your favorite Bourbon-soaked Bellavitano.  Enter the cheese plate.

    If truth be told, this incredibly easy dinner/lunch/snack/appetizer can be pieced together in a matter of just a few minutes, and it seems that- no matter what- a cheese plate turns out to be a beautiful, fully edible work of art.  Over the years, though, I've found that, cheese aside, there are a few elements that simply make the presentation stand out: something green, something in a vessel, something fruity, something nutty, and something beautiful.  

    Something green: Think a small vinagarette-soaked pile of bitter greens, or slices of fresh cucumbers.  Pickles, or blanched asparagus.

    Something in a vessel: This can be anything, and for this purpose, I love these from Williams-Sonoma.  They're the perfect size for honey or olive tampenade, like I've done here.

    Something fruity: Sliced apples, sliced peaches, grapes, dried apricots...  The choices are endless, and something with a little sweetness can offset a salty Parmesean or a stinky blue.

    Something nutty:I love salt and peppered pistachios and fully believe that they can be eaten with anything.  Their funky green color looks beautiful on a wood serving platter, but I'd never complain about walnuts, cashews, or praline pecans.

    Something beautiful: The day of this shoot, I wanted nothing more than to find a small papaya to slice open... I like to have a focal point on my cheese plates, whether it be a steamed artichoke (which may also be a something green), a beautiful bunch of fresh currants, or a halved blood orange.  Something beautiful doesn't always mean something edible- think a block of quartz, fresh florals, or your grandmother's bone-handled cheese knives.  

    All of these elements do not have to be used all at once- there's something to be said for a simple cheddar with crackers on a marble tray- but, when incorprated, they build a phenomenal spread suitable for Thanksgiving's appetizer, or, with meats, oil, and freshly baked bread, can create a beautiful meal for two.  

    If you're local, Murray's at the St. Matthews Kroger carries the aforementioned Bourbon-soaked Bellavitano, and it's amazing.  For this spead, we used it, the Murray's Flagship Ceddar, hard salame, shaved country ham, Blueberry Stilton, walnuts, blanched asparagus with orange zest, apples, pears, honey, olive tampenade, and blood orange.  Simple foods that look- and taste!- beautiful when combined. 

    ** photos by Kyle Leuken **

  • Bellaire Inspiration

    One week into my ownership of the house on Bellaire, and the kitchen has been ripped out, and the floors have started to come up (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can walk in and see the crawlspace tomorrow!!). As much as I've been looking forward to the much-needed renovation and remodel of this little beauty, I'm now also in a panic becuase there is no turning back!  I'm also in a panic- a much bigger one- because now I have to make decisions regarding the direction we're headed regarding the remodel.

    ** kitchen, at present **

    As much as I want to move forward with navy cabinetry, funky, white-washed floors, and victorian hex tile, I know that this little house still needs to feel like mine- reflect my taste so that, more than anything, it can also serve as a quiet respite for me if I ever need an afternoon breather.  I need to feel comfortable cooking a meal here, plopping down on the sofa or reading a book in the tub, exactly as I would if I were in my own home...  Because truthully, I will be.  

    My hope for this cute little place is that we can use it as a business-ready Airbnb.  With so many walkable resturants and bars at the end of the street, as well as a VERY close proximity to downtown, a one-bedroom home, appointed well and leaving no detail behind would be a perfect spot for the business traveller, or the couple who wants a weekend away in our sweet city.  That being said, it goes without saying that while these folks need a place to stay, they also need a place to sit, a place to brew coffee, and a bed on which to lay.

    Thank the Lawd for Pinterest. 

    Thanks to finding a spread in Rue Magazine featuring a clean, white and chocolate brown home in Toronto, I know exactly the look I'm going for... White walls, bronze and dark wood fixtures, greige and taupe linen with some rich, distressed leather thrown in for good measure.  Moody, moody, moody, but without the black walls and super-saturated colors of my current home.  It'll still feel like me, but it won't feel like I have the same house twice over.  

    ** via RueMag **

    Friends, feel free to follow along on my Instagram, or on my snapchat, @joycekduncan, and for constant brain-storming, check out my Bellaire Project Pinterest board here

  • Bellaire

    Years ago, after years of watching my dad purchase, renovate, and sell homes, I had the itch to begin such a hobby myself. When we stumbled upon the 4th Street mansion in 2009, it was as if Daddy and I had found the world’s greatest cookie jar…. 7,000 square feet of Victorian-era woodwork, 11’ ceilings, plaster walls. We embarked together on turning this abandoned house into a home, and 5 years later, we had succeeded.

    After trying desperately to hang onto my grandmother’s home for several years after she passed, I finally relented and realized that I needed to let go- both of that property as well as my grief of her and my time there. It was a small, 1940’s home, unchanged since then, save for the “new” kitchen that was installed in the ’60’s. Carpet came up, floors were refinished, and the bathroom and kitchen had major facelifts. Another father/daughter project completed.

    In 2014, we found a small farm in Hardin County that had sat vacant for over 5 years. The grape arbors had been so neglected that the vines were almost lost in the shoulder-high weeds. All that remained of the garden were a few stalks of asparagus that had grown to the length of my arm and the girth of a silver dollar. It took several months, but soon, the overgrown shrubbery was trimmed, the basement finished, and the farm back to freshly turned and operational (we even moved our tobacco crop to the fields that year). A large, sweet family bought the property from us to use as a crash pad for out-of-town relatives when they visited.

    When I bought my current home, Daddy bowed out. He believed it was perfect in its current condition, and truthfully, it was. Everything I’ve done here- the complete renovation of the kitchen and powder rooms, refacing the fireplace, laying hardwood- has been for purely aesthetic purposes, and its taken three years to make this place into a structure that really feels like me, that feels like home… Perhaps I needed another project.

    On Monday, I closed on the purchase of a small shotgun house in the walkable, hip, and ever-active Crescent Hill neighborhood. Throughout the process of the purchase, I remained steady. This is business- a decision to invest in something incredible, to perhaps make a little money, and have a second home here in Louisville, if we or ever needed one. Dollars and cents. I had my spreadsheets and my plans for renovation, and a confidence that this will go smoothly and work out. But, then emotion crept in.

    There was a moment, just after closing, when I walked in and became a little teary-eyed. This is the first project I’ve tackled on my own, without my dad to offer advice, opinions, and muscle. This is the first time I’m not asking for his opinions or hearing his singing or laughter over the sound of a drill. This home is mine, and not “mine and Dad’s.” Also mine are any pitfalls and mistakes, and that’s a huge weight, and the cause of a very nervous stomach.

    This baby needs a little work… The foundation needs replacing, the kitchen is just AWFUL, there’s a hole in the floor of the bathroom. There’s wisteria growing in the back yard, but being drowned by some other invasive vines so heavy they’re threatening to pull down a pergola. The floors are warped, the walls and ceilings have been “textured,” so I see a LOT of drywall in my future.

    But, she has potential. I’m trying very hard to focus on getting the place structurally sound before I get too carried away with interior wants, but I promise to keep you posted each step of the way.

    This is my tiny shotgun house. Let’s turn her into something extraordinary.