Niki’s Blog

It’s sugaring season in VT! Check out our favorite spots to enjoy Vermont’s Finest export, Maple Syrup.

The perfect maple syrup weather in Vermont is when temps are warm during the day to let the sap flow, but below freezing at night… and right now the weather is just about as perfect for it as you can get! This weekend, March 23rd & 24th is Maple Open House Weekend in Vermont and here are some local spots we think are must visits for getting the true Vermont maple experience – Plus a few other ideas to get your syrup fix!

STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE: Right in Manchester, down the street from us on Richville Road there’s Bob’s Maple Shop. Their littlest bottles saved the day when we realized at the last minute we forgot to get those for our wedding party gift bags & since then they’ve become our most convenient source for syrup. Manchester is also home to The Sugarhouse at Dutton Farm Stand, the area’s largest local farm. This is a great low pressure place to bring kids to see the boiling process, and if they aren’t that into it there’s animals to look at, a play area, and cider donuts to bribe them with (and you can even get some grocery shopping done!).

In East Dorset on Mad Tom Road, Chris’s childhood neighbors & friends, The Zecher’s run Havoc Hill Sugar House – we try to make it out there at least once every season for a visit! If Kyle’s not out gathering sap, ask him to show you how it all works and you’re in for quite the tour! But the Zecher’s stick to the classics and only serve up Pure Vermont Maple Syrup – and what’s a trip to the sugar house without a little maple candy? Luckily if you keep on going up Mad Tom Rd into Mt.Tabor, you’ll find one of my favorite stops, Blow Hill Maple Products. A sugar house that specializes in cooking up all sorts of maple goodies! You can bag your own maple candy that’s practically at wholesale prices (as well as the best you’ve ever tasted), maple sugar for all your baking needs, and usually some fresh homemade baked goods and a cute little boy wandering around offering folks sugar on snow (Niki’s favorite nostalgic treat!).

Image via Merk Forest

LEARN ABOUT IT: If there’s anything you need to know about Maple, Merk Forest’s Sap House is the place to learn it! Their sugarbush is easily accessible by trails and they have educational programs throughout the year to covering the tapping season, sugaring season, and off season. If you want to fully immerse yourself, you can even spend the night in one of their cabins!

One of Merk Forest’s programs to teach kids in action
(Image via Merk Forest )

EAT IT: Really the reason everyone loves maple syrup, it tastes amazing in almost any kind of food! Chris and I both love the Maple Pork Tenderloin at Zoey’s Double Hex, The Raven’s Den makes their own Maple Balsamic dressing in house that is out of this world (and so is the salad bar!), and who could forget – Ye Olde Tavern’s famous Maple Butter! If you’re looking for something sweet – try a maple glazed donut from Mrs. Murphy’s or a pint of Wilcox’s Maple Walnut ice cream. We like maple around here so much that it’s even a standard coffee sweetener at Charlie’s Coffee House and I don’t think there’s a single breakfast joint in town that even serves the fake stuff (unless you count McDonalds, which I don’t). Just about every restaurant in town has some kind of maple centric dish, special, or drink so no matter where you go in Manchester this weekend – you’ll be sure to find maple on the menu!

DO IT YOURSELF: Though modern sugar houses have developed all sorts of technology and systems for producing syrup on a large scale, producing a little bit of your own at home is pretty simple with a little bit of patience & a sugar maple tree. When we lived on Cass Terrace we decided to tap the 3 maples we had on our little 1/4 acre parcel and see what came of it. We bought this metal tap & bucket kit, by Tap My Trees, who also writes a great guide to sugaring here. At the first sign of a warm winter day, Chris & I went outside with the drill and tapped those trees! Most trees can only take one or two taps but larger older trees can take 3.

It looks like there are two taps on this tree but it is actually two trees right next to each other tapped separately. This tree is a one tap tree based on size & age.

We ended up tapping 3 trees with one tap each because we wanted to get a sense of what each tree would produce. Now all that was left to do was wait. We checked the buckets like we checked the mail, dumping their contents into a big canning pot every few days, keeping it cool by leaving it outside in our uninsulated mudroom, and once the pot was full it was time to boil down. We also decided to move one of the buckets from the smallest tree that was barely producing to the bigger tree that we were constantly emptying the bucket of halfway through the season.

After the initial tap we tried putting 2 taps on this huge maple down the hill because of how sap it made, this tree could probably handle three. Also shown is the larger small tree that got to keep it’s tap.

Our preferred boil down method is to start early in the morning & outside, we clear the snow off the grill and leave the pot on the side burner on high – It’s gonna stay like that for 6-8 hours, stirring occasionally – so a great task for a warm spring day when you’ll be out and about in the yard doing spring cleanup. If an outdoor burner isn’t something you have you can make a fire pit but I really don’t recommend it indoors because it creates so much moisture it could peel your precious wallpaper! (something that actually happened at Chris’s house when he was a kid and his parents did it inside!)

Once the syrup has mostly reduced (level is below the bottom indent in the pot), we bring it inside to thicken as it requires more stirring and attention. Usually I’ll transfer it into a smaller pan and just boil it by feel but if you have a candy thermometer the temperature to thicken is 219 degrees farenheight. Once you’ve finished and let it cool, filter sediment through a coffee filter or cheese cloth and enjoy. You can refrigerate syrup for up to 2 months but I promise it won’t last that long! Our little stand of trees filled 3 canning pots of syrup over the season so we boiled down 3 times over the season, each time producing around a quart + 1 pint.

Our first batch of homemade syrup with the tree that made it in the background!

While I hope you enjoy this wonderful maple weekend in Vermont, for the first time we won’t be enjoying syrup. We’re headed to New York City for the Architectural Digest show – can’t wait to show you guys all the latest in architecture & interiors! We’d love to hear about YOUR favorite maple places in the comments and if you’re going to the show too – give us a shout – we’d love to see you! Happy Sugaring!

A sneak peek inside Dutton’s Sugar House

Northshire Eats: Cozy Winter Date Nights

So if you know Chris & I, you know we love good food and by the time the bitter cold of winter in Vermont rolls around, we tend to want some comfort food après being too busy to ever actually ski. About 10 minutes prior to departure, Chris always makes sure to take advantage of that sweet, sweet, autostart feature on the Tig. I love to slip into a cozy sweater, with your favorite pair of jeggings & a pair of chic shoes that won’t cause you to take a tumble in the parking lot while Chris usually puts on a fresh shirt. Now all you need is a cute pair of earrings to complete the look, I found similar pair of Mink earrings to my favorite wintery poms by Cece Dupraz that aren’t made anymore you guys always want a link to! Requirements for a great winter date night usually include a good fireplace and hearty fare, but we’ll settle for a warm seat & a hot cup of something. Here are some of our favorite spots to enjoy a romantic, but cozy night out! If you happen to be visiting Manchester & The Mountains this winter – Make sure to take some time to slow down and appreciate the one you love over a great meal at one of these local favorites!

Date Night 01
Linked in Paragraph Above

Ye Olde Tavern   Possibly our favorite restaurant in Manchester, there’s a reason this place is the oldest continually operated tavern in America* – the food is real GOOD. Our favorite thing about wintertime at Ye Olde Tavern is every 2nd Tuesday of the month, they turn off all electric lights for Candlelight Dinners. But seriously – the historic details of this place are super interesting and I’m endlessly noticing new things I love. I can officially say I have finally checked all dining rooms off my list which was a fun game for a long time to see where we got seated. Most of the rooms have fire places so there isn’t really a bad place to get sat – however Chris has been known to request a fireside table when he makes reservations. Which by the way, are a MUST here pretty much always and like, well in advance.

* I can’t find any citation or proof of this statement, but I’m pretty sure it’s true – maybe. In any case, the entire building is like stepping into history! 

Ye Olde Tavern 01.2
I always appreciate anyone who brings some serious birdhouse game! This replica birdhouse they have is #goals ! Exterior Photo Courtesy of Ye Olde Tavern, Birdhouse Admiration Snap by Niki

Our most recent visit was November’s special second Candlelight Night, a fundraiser for the Manchester Dog Park (a great cause you can donate to here). I could go on forever about all the things I love on the menu here, but let’s start with the first course (and really the reason we come here). The cranberry fritters with maple butter! These little fried puffs of cranberry goodness are amazing on their own – but add their homemade maple butter** and you’ll feel like you died and went to heaven. We love them so much when we double date with one of our couple friends we get a double order!

**which P.S. is available to take home BY THE JAR! Hot local tip: you can buy it from the the back kitchen door most days after noon, but the best way to get some is to go and eat dinner because um, hello – cranberry fritters!

Ye Olde Tavern 02
Sneaky Phone Snap by Niki, Delicious Fritters Photo Courtesy of Ye Olde Tavern

They also serve you a choice of two great salads (I love the Garden & Chris loves the Caesar, extra anchovies please!) AND homemade rosemary bread which seems unnecessary but we always manage to happily eat. Their entire appetizer offering is drool-worthy but we are usually so well fed with the pre-meal goodies they serve we usually skip one. We will occasionally indulge with the Brown Sugar Crusted Brie or their famous Macaroni & Cheese in it’s appetizer size (which is quite generous). Chris loves it with the Lobster but loves me and knows how much I hate creatures of the sea so he usually goes without to share.

Ye Olde Tavern 03
Photos Courtesy of Ye Olde Tavern

Their entree offering is one where it really is hard to make a bad choice, every meal a classic, american favorite sure to bring feelings of nostalgia. There’s the chicken pot pie, made traditionally with mashed potatoes that reminds me of my of my study abroad in England. The Roast Tom Turkey, a classic Thanksgiving spread sure to bring back memories of Grandma’s table. Chris’s favorites include the Friday night special Prime Rib, the Venison, and the Mac and Cheese with Lobster (when he’s not sharing!). I get the exact same thing pretty much every single time, the Cidered Chicken Breast with Wild Rice – It’s just a great balance of flavors,  not too heavy after all those introductory courses, and always perfectly cooked. I like it so much I’ve stopped looking at the menu, I ordered something heartier on a cold day last winter and it was good, but the whole time I was wishing I’d gone with the cidered chicken!

Ye Olde Tavern 04

And, we have never had room for dessert after all of that, but I’m sure the desserts are delicious if you can manage to save room! They also have a pretty robust drink menu, as well as after dinner drinks. I love the classic Champagne Cocktail they do, not something you see often! Another key thing to mention is that the service is always excellent here, the waitstaff really knows their stuff and has the courses down to a fine science. The way they stagger their first courses is really smart, even at their busiest, once you order you’re basically eating until your food comes so there’s never a moment where you’re sitting there wondering where your food is. There’s nothing I appreciate more than a really well run restaurant and the owners here really do knock it out of the park.

Ye Olde Tavern 05.jpg

Chantecleer   While the fireside seating is a little more competitive here with since it’s just one fireplace, we love coming for date night here for a cozy winter meal. The restaurant has been the scene for just about every special occasion we celebrate in our family. We’ve spent most of our anniversaries here, celebrated new jobs, starting our own business, and even family gatherings – all at these tables! Located just outside Manchester up Rt. 7A in East Dorset, this tops my list for all time favorite area restaurant. I actually don’t have an “I get this every time” meal like I tend to develop with most places, I have a couple menu items I like to repeat but they occasionally switch the menu up and have pretty amazing specials. Another busy spot in town year round, reservations are a must, though you can always sit at the bar. Tuesday nights they have a burger special at the bar Chris’s Dad swears by – but we have yet to make it out there for that!

I love the European option for the salad, it gives you a lightly dressed spring salad with a sampler of three little coleslaw salad-like creations that always change and are full of distinctly different flavors. This salad is a rollercoaster for your tastebuds, and surprisingly, I really do like that. There are little yummy fresh dinner rolls too! The butternut squash ravioli appetizer is also a favorite, it’s only 2 or 3 raviolis so it’s a great starter that isn’t too heavy (especially if you’re splitting with your sweetheart!)

Chantecleer 01
Photos courtesy of TripAdvisor

For dinner, I tend to rotate between the Veal Schnitzel, the Long Island Duckling, & the Statler Chicken Breast. But there is usually a special or two that catches my eye. Chris loves the Australian Roasted Rack of Lamb & likes to get Fish there a lot because it’s always good.  We also love Chantecleer for their excellent service – Some of the servers here have been here most of Chris’s life and it’s clear they care about creating a great dining experience.

But do you want to know the real reason we come here? It’s the creme brulee! Creme Brulee just so happens to be my favorite dessert in the entire world & Chantecleer so far tops the list for “best I ever had.” I’m not sure what they do differently – but it’s worlds away from any other I’ve tasted. Something they do makes it feel lighter & not overly rich – so it would be easy to eat an entire plate of it! (Chris actually had them make an extra big one for my birthday a while back, it was the sweetest!) So far my best guess at the secret is lemon juice but I’ve yet to play with it in the Kitchen to test my theory.

Chantecleer 02
Dining Room Photo Courtesy of Trip Advisor and Creme Brulee from our First Anniversary dinner at Chantecleer!

 Johnny Seesaws  We decided to add this one to the list before even trying it out ourselves cause we knew from their cozy mountainside lodge vibe, they were definitely going to make the list! Hello – they have a floating copper fireplace in the middle of the building that was salvaged from the original lodge! How cool is that?

We’ve been talking about how we can’t wait to eat here the entire build as we drove past on the way to job sites, we can’t believe it’s taken us this long! But as true right-in-town Manchester dwellers, driving up the mountain for dinner can feel like a bit of a chore, especially when the weather’s like it’s been! But right before Christmas we finally got a chance to try it out and it really is amazing what they accomplished in keeping elements of the original building.

Johnny Seesaws 01
Dining Room Photo Courtesy of Seesaw’s Lodge

All the logs were salvaged from the original Seesaw’s, but the most impressive piece of history is the hand painted murals on wooden paneling that were carefully restored by local artist Kim Ray. However, the original floating fireplace certainly does not disappoint and it gives a classic & unique chalet vibe to the lodge as the centerpiece of the main dining space. Lots of decor was brought over from the original building, my favorite were the cute plaques reading “Home of the _______ Family Christmas” for all the special occasions families celebrated with them year after year. We were seated on the front side of the building, right next to a giant fireplace with a beautiful hand-carved mantlepiece that I am assuming was from the old building but can’t confirm. Unfortunately this fireplace was not lit so they lost some cozy points for dining, since you can only really sit near the center fireplace for drinks as it’s couches around it.

Johnny Seesaws 02
Right Photo Courtesy of Seesaw’s Lodge

They got right into the history of the building with a beautifully designed timeline on the placemat, but shockingly it didn’t mention the one thing that we in the Conte family know Johnny Seesaw’s for! The idea for Chris’s military division, the 10th Mountain, was conceived at the Seesaw’s bar by a bunch of local skiers who thought the Military needed a mountain trained unit to help win in the mountains of Northern Italy at the beginning the second world war. The division has since gone on the be a key player in many conflicts, from the Battle of Mogadishu (or “Black Hawk Down”) to the ongoing war in Afghanistan, skilled on ski’s, snowshoes, and of course hiking boots. Something tells me his Vermont upbringing played just a bit of a role in that assignment! There is just a great vibe here that is so quintessential Vermont, and you can feel in that there have been thousands great ideas like that born over evenings of good food, drink, & conversation. Overall, the design of this space feels like a wonderful ode to the original iteration of the establishment, I especially love their logo & lettering (someone tell me that font!) and my favorite touch was the log logo etched onto the hand blown candleholders on every table. It was such a subtle but wonderful detail!

Johnny Seesaws 03

As for the food, we both had the Hangar Steak, Chris got the Entree & I got the Garden Salad and added Steak. The steaks were really good & tender, there was a mixup with our orders but they fixed it quickly and we both enjoyed our meals a lot. The salads are not really entree sized, but I actually really liked that because I really don’t like to eat a mountain of lettuce and tend not to finish salads – though in hindsight I would get a side order of something in addition. Unfortunately that’s all I can say about the food! We ordered the same thing and have only been once – I’ll be sure to be a better food blogger next time, but it was a crazy busy day and we were both tired and just wanted steak. Next time I’m dying to try the risotto or butternut squash soup! But really the atmosphere here is the real magic, the bar was full with a good mix of locals & visitors alike just coming off the mountain, ready to reminisce about their years on the slopes and refuel for the trek home. The porch outside looked like a great place to hang out and had a killer view so we’ll look forward to coming back when the weather gets warmer to check that out! We’ll update you with more menu favorites then 🙂

Best Nightcap in Town: Union Underground! Though the food here is also excellent, Union Underground’s been serving up my favorite way to end a night out recently… A Hot Cider with your choice of Whiskey or Rum. I always go for the Bulleit, it blends so well with the cider. They don’t muck it up like everyone else on this earth by adding mulling spices and a whole bunch of extra, it’s just hot cider fresh from Dutton’s up the hill and a little bit of booze. A cup of this and I’m ready for bed!

Hot Cider
Stock Cider Photo (We’re always too sleepy at this point to snap a photo!)

And… as a final note on this winter date night post, I’d like to let you in on a little Chris & Niki secret to a good date night! As you walk into the restaurant, put your phone on airplane mode or silent, tuck it away in your purse or your pocket, sit down, and enjoy each others company. You don’t even have to talk, you can just sit there and hold hands and smile at each other. (We actually do this a lot, when you see each other all day every day there’s not that much small talk to make!)  But be present, and enjoy the moment. If you have to take your phone out, do so only to quickly google a foreign menu items or snap a picture of a particularly instagrammable dish (NOT every dish!). Ye Olde Tavern actually is a no cell phones allowed zone and thats one of the reasons we like it there!

So get out there & enjoy your winter in the wilds of Vermont, and end the night with a cozy night with your sweetheart! Comment below if you have any other local favorites we’ve got to try or with your winter date night experiences!

Getting There – 11 Things You Should Know BEFORE You Remodel

If there’s something we are no stranger to it’s remodeling. We both grew up in homes where our parents were constantly tackling projects to improve the house. I grew up listening to my dad tell me what he was doing as I held things in place or fetched tools, out of college I helped my mom give her bathroom & walk through closet a facelift. Chris’s dad built their family home from scratch, and worked on finishing it for much of his early life, moving in with plywood floors all so they could have solid cherry and  maple floors years later.

Since meeting, we’ve tackled one and a half houses ourselves, plus hundreds of remodels at work – I’d like to think we know a thing or two about it. But if you haven’t done it before, you are in for a few surprises! Whether you’ve never remodeled before, never remodeled in Vermont, or have remodeled and just want a few tips to make things go smoother the next time, we are here to tell you it doesn’t have to be stressful. Put yourself in the right mindset and be prepared for the journey ahead of you. We promise, once it’s all over, it’s beyond worth it.

Andover Post Demo
Please call us before you get to this point if at all possible!

  1. Plan ahead.  The biggest mistake we’ve seen a client make? Calling us after they’ve done demo and wondering if we can take care of wrapping this all up in 3 weeks before their renters arrive (yes, this happens all the time). Let’s be frank, this is not an HGTV show, we do not have a crew of 50 guys who can come in and take care of it all in 48 hours. (oh and p.s. that takes an insane amount of pre-planning too!) In this area, we don’t have a surplus of contractors ready to take on projects at a moments notice or big box stores full of stock cabinetry, tile, and plumbing fixtures. Our contractors are usually booked 3 months out at least, and sometimes as much as a full year, and almost all the pretty things we put into the homes we work on has to be shipped in or custom ordered. Even with clients biting off just one room in their home like a kitchen, we are usually a part of their lives for at least 6 months from looking at the project, going through designs & revisions, quoting the materials & labor, scheduling the contractor, pre-ordering everything to arrive on time for construction, and the actual remodel. On our projects, we like to have every single detail ironed out and ordered before the first hammer swings. Yes, we do projects all the time on shorter time frames because this is the real world and not everything is perfectly planned out but the it’s the absolute number one thing I can recommend for having a project go smoothly and not stress you out.

    butcher block planning
    Just an example of the level of planning we put into every detail – all this is JUST for a decorative wood edge we were adding to a bar top!
  2. Decide what to tackle first. When you don’t have a big budget for remodeling, it can be really tempting to bite off smaller projects as you can afford them and while this is a great way to make progress on your house, we’ve seen a lot of clients end up wasting time and money by not doing things in the right order. I’d be happy to sell you new countertops for your kitchen if that’s all you need, however I’m not going to recommend it if you think you’d like to replace the cabinets in the future. You are essentially committing to that exact same layout and risking breakage of those new counters to get new cabinets in, not to mention paying to have your already installed countertops uninstalled and reinstalled. If you’re thinking about remodeling, even if it’s just a few things here and there, consulting a professional like us is a great way to ensure you don’t make any rookie mistakes. We offer pre-renovation consultations in our design services and can talk you through your long term goals for the house and can help you prioritize and make progress to get there. We can help you identify what needs to happen now, what can wait, and how to do it so you don’t waste time and money. Oftentimes it’s as simple as ordering a few extra boxes of flooring so that when you remodel the kitchen in 5 years and take out a wall, you can patch it in and refinish the floors for a seamless look.

    Countertop Replacement
    This Client put in beautiful new counters through Home Depot and painted their oak cabinets as a holdover until they could remodel fully. We wish someone told them it was going to make changing the cabinets so much harder and more expensive!
  3. Don’t bite off a project you don’t have the budget for. We have a minimum budget we require to take on projects based on our experience that we feel is enough for us to produce a result we can be proud of. We wish more people in our industry conveyed to their clients that sometimes it is better to wait and save your money than take on a project on a a budget that will force you to compromise on quality materials & craftsmanship. If you spend $10,000 on a remodel that a professional tells you is going to take a minimum of $20,000 and you aren’t happy with the results, that is unfortunately on you. To get it to the place you wanted it to, you’re still going to have to spend $20,000 and now in total you’ve spent $30,000! It also is no fun to have a case of the “what if’s” once you finish the project. The NKBA surveyed homeowners who’d recently remodeled and the number one regret they all had? That they didn’t spend more! It may sound crazy, but people always wish they got that tile they loved, the countertop they really wanted but wasn’t in their budget, or those extra organizers in their cabinets. Oftentimes adding these things later either aren’t possible or is more expensive. I’d rather see a client say to me “We’ll be back in a year when we can swing that quartzite we love” than see them move forward with something they don’t for the sake of doing it now. Unless your space is literally uninhabitable, you’d be amazed with what you can live with for a few years. Trust me, we could have re-done our kitchen by now with laminate floors, stock cabinets, and some entry level granite – but what we really want is soapstone counters, Plain & Fancy Cabinetry, and a healthy tile budget. So, while we save a bit more we’re living with temporary masonite flooring, formica counters, and appliances & cabinets on their last leg. But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    Cheap Remodel
    This client purchased a home the previous owners had just put a new kitchen into but they had used cheap cabinetry and DIY-ed the install without doing research so soon after they moved in it started falling apart! Luckily we were able to transform it while keeping the countertops.
  4. Throw your deadline out the window. Remodeling is a large investment and is not something you want to be doing more frequently than every 20 years or so. So when it comes time to rehab a space, allow for some time to pass in the process and don’t stress out over having it complete for a certain date – because we promise you’ll love it once it’s done, whenever that is. Again, I’m not saying a project can’t be done on a tight timeline, but the more time you give the process, and the less you obsess over an end date, the more enjoyable the process is going to be for you. Waiting for a handmade and custom item built just for you, from master craftsmen who take their time getting it perfect the first time, is worth it. Delays caused by issues we uncover along the along the way but have to make right will seem like eternity during the process, but will be a distant memory the second you get to start enjoying your new beautiful space with the piece of mind you don’t have to worry about anything going on behind the walls.  We know it’s not always fun, and it almost always takes more time than we anticipated, but that Thanksgiving you spent among boxes with takeout all just be a funny story you tell around the dinner table in your new kitchen, dining, & great room, cooking great food for the entire crowd for years to come.

    Bromley Village Remodel
    This kitchen took twice as long as we initially thought due to some rot issues we uncovered replacing a slider with a window to expand the kitchen. But once we wrapped, the clients loved entertaining and showing off their new space!
  5. Be prepared to spend more than you intended. We’d like to say we always complete projects on budget, but that frankly isn’t the reality with remodeling. Not only is there always at least ONE surprise behind a wall, but there’s always project creep. Once we’re replacing all the lighting in the kitchen, you realize the lighting in the hallway, dining, and living room need a refresh as well. Or you’re doing the floors and taking the toilet up anyway so why not replace it? And while we’re in there lets take care of the vanity as well…. and before you know it you’ve added an entire bathroom onto the project. A lot of the time it’s not even aesthetics, but taking care of a new HVAC system or generator while the electricians there or having the plumber add a water filter. Remember when the costs start to add up that you are investing in your home and that the project has also likely gone much further beyond it’s original scope. We recommend clients anticipate the possibility of spending 25% more than their budget for the project, so if your project budget is $100,000 – be prepared and able to spend as much as $125,000. Though we’ll do everything in our power to keep you on budget, homeowners almost always want to add something on in the process and anything we find in demo that isn’t as it should be needs to be corrected. We’ve found pretty much everything you can imagine at this point, but improper insulation, water damage, and rot from harsh Vermont winters are probably the biggest culprits we encounter.

    Ober Tal Kitchen Remodel
    This started as a simple kitchen project but we ended up replacing all the tile in the main floor, redoing the master bathroom, and putting in new builtin’s in the mudroom before wrapping the project. A year later it was onto the second level!
  6. Hire out everything you can afford to. Though you can definitely achieve a great result for your project on a tight budget if you are relatively handy and willing to spend a lot of time patience doing it yourself. But be prepared to make lots of mistakes, get really frustrated, watch lots of Youtube videos, and have at least one thing that you either have to do over or live with something that annoys you every time you look at it. Doing it yourself often leads to lots of unfinished projects. We personally try to strike a balance by tackling smaller things we can take care of in an afternoon or weekend (painting), while larger projects we realize we are too busy to tackle or need a certain level of expertise, we hire out. We are handy & in the business, we know what we are doing, but we still mess up sometimes when we’re playing weekend warrior. If you aren’t confident you can tackle something and willing to take some time doing your research and making mistakes, hire someone else to do it for you. Professionals do this everyday and are going to do it better and do it faster. Tile & Wallpaper install top my list of things I definitely always hire out, but even something as simple as painting, you’d be amazed the difference a professional job makes.

    Dust Barriers
    An example of dust barrier systems you’ll see contractors use to fight the dust!
  7. If you can, leave.  In our area it’s a lot more likely that clients aren’t around when we remodel due to the percentage of second homeowners in the area. This, makes our jobs a lot easier a lot of the time, and our clients lives a lot less stressful. Remodeling is messy, it creates more dust than you can possibly imagine, usually requires turning your water, heat or power off pretty frequently, and in general is about zero fun to live amongst – trust us, we’ve done it a lot! Professional remodelers will update you with progress photos, keep you informed of changes & issues, and communicate frequently so that you know whats going on even when you aren’t there. Give them space to do their jobs and realize that it’s a lot easier for them without you in the mix asking questions or needing the crew to move things so you can get to that or keep the construction confined to a small area, or keep a stove hooked up they have to keep sliding out of the way so you can cook. If you live full time in the home you’re remodeling our best suggestion is to take that long vacation you’ve been meaning to go on or before you move in. There really is nothing as good as coming home to it all DONE. If that’s not in the cards for you, just be prepared to have your life in upheaval for a little while, and doing it in the summer is in my opinion the most bearable. If you’re doing a kitchen, I recommend getting friendly with your grill and takeout menu (luckily we have lots of great dining options in Manchester) and get ready to do dishes in the bathtub. If you’re remodeling your only bathroom, things get a little more inconvenient, you can go full Vermont with a camp toilet and solar camp shower or if you’re more the city type a gym membership is a great way to ensure you still get daily showers. In general, the further you can put yourself from the work in the house the better you’re going to cope. So consider moving over to a guest bedroom at the opposite end of the house where we can put a plastic barrier between you, your stuff, and the dust. One of my favorite clients of all time lived in a camper outside their major renovation well into winter because she wouldn’t compromise on some things she wanted that took longer to get for her master bath, and to my memory was probably one of the happiest I’ve seen once it was all done and exactly what she wanted.

    Clean Site
    Even a site like this that looks very clean, I still left covered in dust from head to toe!
  8. Consider removing all your stuff too. We realize moving stuff is a major pain, but as careful as our contractors are, the best way to ensure nothing you love gets broken, dinged, or dented accidentally is to get it out of the way. If we are doing an remodel it may seem like moving stuff simply out of the room is enough but if we are doing a multi-room or whole home renovation we often need the garage for staging and constantly moving furniture, appliances, or boxes around the room to get them out of the way is a great way for them to end up damaged. Not to mention any soft furnishings like carpets or drapes will attract dust like a magnet. We can offer services to pack, move, and store everything offsite for customers who simply don’t want to deal with it. If you don’t have the budget for moving and storage, we recommend packing up and moving most if not all furniture & belongings into rooms that will be sealed off from the construction zone, as well as draperies, rugs or any upholstery, and art or items hanging on the walls.

    Cardboard boxes in apartment, moving day
    Seasoned Remodelers know, packing up is the way to go!
  9. Trust the process and the people. We care more than you know about your remodel turning out beautifully. Us at Northshire Living, the contractors and tradesmen we work with, our vendors and suppliers, all take pride in our work and want to give you the home you’ve dreamed about. We only use contractors we trust who we know will respect your home like it was their own. And trust that the process and order of doing things often starts with an ideal order dictated by the materials balanced with the schedules of at least 3 different contractors, sometimes it needs to be adjusted or shuffled. Ideally we like to have floors, walls, window & door trims in and everything painted before installing cabinets as you don’t want to chance getting anything on specialty finishes or have the humidity be too high from wet work like drywall and cause doors to swell. But depending on the type of flooring you choose, sometimes it needs to go in afterwards to prevent it from getting damaged… or to get things done on a deadline. Then come countertops, backsplash, trims & hardware – with appliances always last as they are so easy to dent on a job site when you’re working around them! We aren’t telling you to wait 24 hours after counters go in to hook up your plumbing to torture you, though I know living without a sink is misery – we’re doing it to make sure you have a tight, waterproof seal and your sink stays attached to your counters forever.

    Chris on the Mountain
    Chris checking in on progress at a jobsite to make sure everything is going as planned
  10. Add-on a professional post-construction clean. Once we wrap a project we’re not going to leave you with a mess, but expect to still see some dust hanging around once we’re done. Our contractors will clear the site of all construction materials, sweep, and shop vac the work area – but don’t expect spotless perfection once they leave. We can add professional cleaning services onto a remodels if requested but do not automatically include them. The same will go for most professional remodelers, expect to still need to do some dusting & cleaning before your home is camera ready.

    Expect contractors to clean up after themselves, but you’ll still need to mop, dust, vacuum, and wipe down pretty much everything!
  11. Get ready to LOVE your new home! Though a lot of this post may have felt a little like we’re trying to prepare you for the worst – we promise remodeling is always worth it and you’ll be so happy with your home when it’s done.  There’s nothing better than an home remodeled to suit your taste & your lifestyle that functions perfectly for you and your family. Whether it’s a baking station in the kitchen for those cookies at Christmas, storage for all the kids AND grandkids ski’s and snowboards,  a media room for family movie nights, a game table for  neighborhood poker nights, or a back patio perfect for entertaining friends by the fire, once you’re living life in your home (and getting compliments about how great it looks) the last thing on your mind will be any of the issues that popped up along the way. So the next time you’re feeling stressed about your project, take out that design or Pinterest board or whatever you’re working off of give it a good look, and close your eyes and imagine how good it’s going to look once it’s done – the stress will melt right away!

    White Shaker Kitchen Home Remodel
    A recently completed Kitchen project of ours!

And with that, you’re ready to tackle any remodeling project in your path! Feeling inspired and in the Southern Vermont area? Contact us about how to start on your next project! We were booked well into next year with our two main contractors but are working to add a few more we trust in the near future. If you’re already working with one of our areas talented contractors we can help you and them by ironing out all the details with our professional floor plans and 3D renderings, offered free when you purchase materials through our showroom. We hope you enjoyed this post – now go out there and help me make the world a more beautiful place!




Niki Shops: The Dorset Rummage Sale!

SO, living in Manchester there is not exactly a wealth of affordable and quality vintage – If it ends up in a shop here, someone’s already put a bit of effort in to get it there, and you just don’t see great finds that are also a STEAL like you would in a big city goodwill. But, if you are in the know – there are THREE great events in the Manchester area every year that I consistently find AMAZING finds at great prices… And it just so happens one is coming up this weekend!

The Best Sales To Hit…

  • The Israel Congregation of Manchester’s Annual Huge Tag Sale  – In late June every year the Israel Congregation hosts their big sale and it is definitely a favorite for its beyond amazing modern & midcentury furniture steals and designer clothing. The first year I went like a rookie at 11 am and had to walk through a entire patio filled with gorgeous furniture and lighting at outrageously low prices AND IT ALL HAD SOLD STICKERS!  Inside I managed to find a treasure trove of white designer dresses I later wore for all of our wedding events & honeymoon.  Proceeds of this sale benefit the Israel Congregation of Manchester.
  • The Riley Rink Barn Sale – Mid-September annually the Riley Rink hosts the Barn Sale, an indoor 2 day sale that consistently delivers awesome finds. I love this sale so much, it was happening the day of our wedding last year and I did seriously think about waking up early and hitting it with the bridesmaids, but alas there was no time! Luckily I got to get my fill this year, scoring some great home goods and a pair of designer booties for a mere $8.  Proceeds of this sale benefit United Counseling Services and is staffed by local residents who volunteer their time.
  • The Dorset Church Rummage Sale – Possibly my favorite sale (Also my favorite church, we got married here) this sale is always a fun event, If not just for good finds but good conversation – I always seem to run into a few friends there and everyone’s so friendly you seem to make more! AND LUCKY FOR YOU IT’S THIS SATURDAY! It’s actually a bi-annual, so there is both fall and spring sales, and all proceeds benefit the Dorset Church.  Continue reading for some tips on how to get the most out of this sale in particular.



143 Church Street, Dorset Vermont from 9am – 1pm, with outside sales starting at 8:30am and Bag Sale Starting at 12pm.


Rummage Sale Blog

How to shop the sale like a pro: 

  • Bring CA$H – This sale is cash only, having a variety of bills will make things simpler as you have to cash out in each individual area of the sale.
  • Bring Your Own Bag – So this should be a given anytime you shop anywhere but I recommend bringing a few reusable bags, ideally at least one bag with some structure for more fragile items. They have very limited boxes and recycled plastic bags if you forget but bringing your own will make life easier.
  • Wear Layers – Outside is usually brisk while inside is crowded & hot! A light sweater or coat and a scarf are ideal layering pieces as they can be used to wrap breakables you find in the sale. Wearing a heavy coat means carrying a heavy coat so skip that even if you’re a little chilly.
  • Break out your “going out” bagA small cross body is all you have room for as this sale gets crowded and you want your hands free to rummage. I brought a handbag that didn’t have a shoulder strap my first time and was annoyed with myself the entire time for not thinking to switch from my everyday bag.  In the same thought, bring a sealable mug for that coffee so it can sit in your shopping tote without spilling!
  • Get there early! – This is the number one important piece of advice you can receive as a first timer – arrive early, and be prepared to wait in line! I recommend arriving around 8 to score a good parking spot and scope out the line, though usually it starts forming around 8:15. But arriving early will allow for a nice stroll through Dorset Village and coffee and a pastry at the Dorset Union Store which is a great way to start your Saturday (and prepare for the chaos that is about to ensue!)
  • Start Outside – There’s a reason the sale starts outside, because that’s where the big stuff lives! Bigger items are almost always the best value for your money in a sale like this as they are awesome priced to move because no one wants to move them again. As soon as the 8:30 sales start, my first stop is the furniture tent (in the past its been up front to the left towards the village) and secondly the linen tent (at the front right towards West Road) as the good stuff goes in those two fast (especially the throw pillows). I don’t bother to dig through the kids tent because I don’t have them yet. Apparently they have added more outside departments this year so I’ll be excited to see what that entails Saturday.
  • Keep an Eye on the Line – While you’re scouring the tents, keep a close eye on the line forming at the side door of the church for the start of the indoor sale. If it starts to get out of hand and you’ve had a good look around, get in it quick as you can always come back outside. Usually you want to be back in line around 8:50. If the line gets too out of hand, take your time looking around and let the first “rush” go through, but as soon as it shortens, get back in as it will get long intermittently for the first hour or so.
  • Leave Large Items – The sale attendants (congregation members volunteering) are here to help and not only are there folks to accept sales, there are folks who can set larger items you purchase aside, they would actually like to do this for you as the sale is very crowded and carrying around stuff WILL knock literally everything over. The inside of the church is not large and there are a lot of people here. This sale can be tight!
  • Start in the Back – So hearing they’ve been changing things up layout wise so don’t be mad if I lead you astray here, but the housewares section is usually in the rooms at the back of the church and that is where I like to start inside. I think this is the best section of the sale, there is always really, really, nice stuff at tag sale prices. I have seen Simon Pearce, Lalique crystal, silver sets, and exquisite china as well as scored some great outdoor serving pieces. There is an “Attic Finds” room at the back as well filled with everything they don’t know how to sort that is usually a gold mine.
  • Hit the clothes last – Located in the church basement, most people flock to the clothes. I prefer to avoid the initial frenzy. There is always tons and this is definitely the tightest squeeze space wise (where that cross body will really come in handy). If I’ve made some purchases and my car is close I will often drop them off before tackling this section. There are always good finds here but they are usually SO crowded at the start of the sale that you can’t get a good look at anything. It’s more enjoyable once it’s thinned out and you’ll still find some good stuff.  The vibe here for clothing is more preppy country club athleisure, lots of Dorset Field Club swag.
  • Do a Second Lap – The other thing I always recommend wherever you shop is doing a second lap before you go! This doesn’t have to be thorough, just a quick walk through the sections to scope out anything you may have missed the first time around. This is especially helpful in sales like this because items are often covered by other items initially as there’s so much stuff or someone may have put down something they decided they didn’t need, like the silver & gold napkin rings I found thrown in with some drapes that were perfect for our dining room.
  • Enjoy Yourself & Be Polite – For my final piece of advice, it’s just to be nice. This is not a black Friday situation, though sometimes it seems like it on account of the giant line and smokin’ deals but these are church going people, no shoving! You will bump into folks as they will to you, but have a laugh about it and you’ll leave with new friends.

And with that, I hope to see you at the sale Saturday! It really is a great event & the Dorset Church is truly a wonderful place. Even if you leave empty handed, you can still get a chance to check out all the things I love about the building, from the marble walls, to exquisite and unique stained glass windows and red double doors.  And look good doing it!

Before you leave town: Check out 3 Pears Gallery a few doors down for some seriously cool Vermont art across all mediums, with some pieces well within reach of your first fine art purchase, as well as some of the most stunning wood furniture art I have ever seen! I’d also recommend grabbing lunch for the fam at Dorset Union Store, their lunch is where they really shine! Or if you’re looking for something for later, their freezer meals, though pricey, are always delicious (and compared to eating out in town still a pretty good deal).

If you’re wondering what happened to the second part of our post about making your home smell nice, we’re taking a brief pause on that as our house currently smells like dead mice. Cold nights came to Vermont and we were rudely reminded of the massive mouse problem we inherited when we bought it. I know scent doesn’t technically translate in photos for the blog but It’s all I can smell and I can’t focus! (And my supplies for making essential oils still have not arrived!) So Stay tuned! I am also making an effort to do more posts, with two quick posts during the week – this was supposed to be a quick post but you know me, once I get going! But I’m enjoying this more cause it’s less pressure so maybe we’ll pretend all my posts are supposed to be short? I’m also branching out from project reveals and home focused posts and talking about fashion, travel, and local favorites already, but I’m an open book!  – What do you want to read about? Are there any great sales or places to scope out vintage finds I don’t know about in the area? Tell us in the comments!

A Curated Home, and A Signature Smell to go with it: The Foundations.

Hi Guys! This week we are announcing something pretty minor but I’m still excited about – we’re naming the blog! So now that Northshire Living is now our business, and no longer a blog, it felt like the blog needed a new name. Did it actually? Probably not. But I thought it did and I’ve been agonizing over it for months, staring at the placeholder of “Niki’s Blog” on our website trying to come up with something better. Well, whilst re-working our about page, I had an epiphany! What I try to create, and what I try to teach others to do is how to craft a well curated home, one that feels personal & interesting, while never taking our eyes off of the big picture, making sure every detail feels purposeful and well thought out. A Curated Home. Concise, yet perfect for the spaces I aim to create, with a nod to how I got my start, in Art. I hope you like it!

For our first lesson in curation, I’d like to talk about something often overlooked by us visual people on all of our design blogs, that is vitally important to creating an inviting home – the way it smells! Smell is the possibly the most evocative of all of our senses, and of all the things we want to be able to smell just from a memory, isn’t it home? Can’t think of what your home smells like…? You’re not alone! With millions of options & products entering our home, unsavory smells that seem to linger forever, and busy lives it can seem impossible to get the kind of house that guests walk into an say “It smells amazing in here!” –  But I am here to tell you it’s possible, and give you lots of tips to get you there.

It all starts with a good foundation. 

So, this may seem obvious, but it is super easy to get used to your own “funk” (don’t be ashamed, everyone has a funk sometimes) and miss underlying odors you may not be noticing… But we promise your guests will. (And if they’re your mother in law they will tell you.)  So what is a good foundation? A neutral base, free of odors! What does that look like? It’s a clean room, dusted regularly, with proper humidity, and doing your best to combat any unsavory smells everyday life tends to produce.

Juliette Byrne.png
This Kitchen by Juliette Byrne just looks so clean! (And probably smells amazing)

Here are our top 10 funk culprits & how to stop them: 

  • Damp – There’s no disguising this one, it hits you the second you enter the house. Number one gross, damp can take a perfectly fine room and make it feel like a disgusting dank cellar full of spiders and yucky stuff. Oh and it will take every single thing in the room with it and make it smell like it came from a musty hole somewhere. Get yourself a dehumidifier, run it, and empty it on the reg. You’re welcome. If you have a problem area like a basement, waterproofing like DryLok can help mitigate this.
  • Trash – Ok this one seems like it should be really obvious but somehow there are still people out here in 2018 oblivious to their home smelling like garbage. Crazy right? All garbage should be kept in sealed containers (like these simple human ones we love) or built into a cabinet, an open trash can is just an invitation for bugs or your dog to snack. (Suzie!) Empty your trash regularly, if you open the can and get a wall of stank, take it out, even if it isn’t full. Only clean out the fridge if you are also taking out the trash. Wash your bins or liners anytime they seem a little stinky or there is a leak in the bag. This goes for compost especially!Smell Foundations 1.jpg
  • Pets – I could probably write a paragraph for each and every kind of animal but for simplicity sake I’m going to stick to what I know, Suzie Q Conte. Who if you have met you’d know her nickname is “Stinks.” Being vigilant about dog hair is key, vacuum regularly (or have an amazing husband who does) and/or buy a cute robotic vacuum (you will still need to actually vacuum with a real one though). You may want to add some baking soda to your vacuum bag to keep pet odors from coming out the exhaust of your vacuum, especially if you are a last minute vacuum-er!  Also key is keeping your actual animal smelling nice, as they are the source of the stink. If you’ve got a rascal like we do that means checking them thoroughly for mud or poop when they come inside. It also means regular baths! These can be a struggle at first but the more you do them, use nice warm water, bring treats and use a dog shampoo bar (which feels like a good pet) – the more your dog will cooperate. And don’t forget about beds, collars, leashes, cushions, or anything else your pet has a fondness for, I try to wash those at the same time as I wash Suz so they don’t stink her up again and it makes a big difference. And one last note on animals, remember that wherever you have them use the bathroom is probably going to smell at least a little bit to your guests, even if you clean up regularly, so letting them go just outside your back door, under a window you often open, or anywhere you spend lots of time probably best avoided.
  • Cooking Odors – We all know the scent of fresh cookies sells houses, but there are many meals that can leave lingering odors that aren’t exactly appealing. The number one way to avoid your kitchen smelling like last nights spaghetti is good ventilation above your range. A properly sized vent hood, with adequate CFMs for your ranges output, that vents to the outside will make a world of difference from a recirculating microwave hood combo. Big Cook? Size your hood up from your range by 3-6″ to get maximum efficiency. We spec’d this one on a job recently and love it so much! Don’t do draperies or curtains on windows near your range, not only is it a potential fire hazard but fabrics tend to hold onto odors. The same can be said for cabinets, we like to pull them away from the range hood a few inches for cleanliness (and it looks nicer!).
  • Refrigerator Odors – It wasn’t until I ventured out into the world that I discovered – with horror – that some people just put stuff in the refrigerator willy nilly with no worries about covering it. Folks, If you don’t want refrigerator funk everything should be sealed, no matter how long it’s going to be in there. I love my pyrex sets with covers for that reason, things I’ve prepped ahead of time or leftovers can go in the fridge and be tightly sealed with zero effort. I am also a Press ‘n Seal addict. Beyond keeping odors on lock but wrapping your foods, remember to clean out your fridge once a month and use a fridge & freezer baking soda box in the back near the vents, switching it out each time you clean. These are my favorite for the freezer because I don’t think they need the power of a full box and it’s easy for boxes to get buried in the freezer where they won’t do any good.Smell Foundations 2.jpg
  • Drain & Disposal Odors – You wash a lot of things down there, so even the cleanest of homes can expect problems with this. For folks with disposals, we love these plink balls they work miracles but if you’re more into the natural route grinding any citrus peel works pretty well too. For actual drain odors, SaniSticks are a great solution for odors hiding deep in your drain. And if your drain is excessively
  • Bathroom Odors – Ok so this is for sure the most uncomfortable one to discuss but perhaps the most offensive when they linger so we’re doing it for your sake! My first matter of importance is the EVERYONE should have a bathroom fan that vents OUT, and if you have a separate water closet or a powder room that should get one too. For me that’s a non-negotiable feature. It goes without saying to keep it clean in here, but beyond regular cleaning, adding an automatic cleaner to your toilet tank or placing a box of baking soda behind your tank will help keep things fresh for day to day. People often forget about their bathroom trash too, we recommend a nice sealed bin for that too, though we know the decorative ones are tempting! In any bathroom a guest uses it is only polite to have on hand 3 options for them to avoid any embarrassing odors. That includes a deodorizing spray, a candle, and matches. This citrus spray has been my go to forever. A candle is just a nice bit of ambiance and I like to leave one lit in the bathroom whenever people are over and will mask light smells without a guest having to think about it. But a match? Nothing I’ve ever used works better than striking a match and blowing it out to cover up a smell the old fashioned way. There are so many options for stylish matches now!Smell Foundations 3
  • Dirty Filters – When is the last time you cleaned your air conditioner filter? Or the filter screens on your heating system? Or your fan? Air is full of particulates and you’d be amazed by the filth that can build up on these – especially if you live in a city or on a busy road. Not only is it bad for your health, it’s often also hurting your heating or cooling systems efficiency, if not the unit itself. And, I swear to god, you can smell a nasty filter in the AIR! Ever checked into a bad hotel room and woken up feeling like you might have contracted Legionnaires? No? Lucky you, but seriously clean your filters so you don’t ever have to experience that feel. All your filters or even your entire system should be cleaned or replaced at least once a year, and check them periodically to make sure they don’t need a tune up. And like realize that everything air moves through has a filter or blades that should be cleaned at SOME point as part of proper home maintenance! That includes your bathroom fan, it will last longer and stay quieter if you give a good vent brushing 
  • Poor Storage – Friends, I’m here to tell you, moth balls are disgusting and should be treated as the enemy! Did you know cedar will do a much better job and smells amazing? You can buy all sorts of cedar storage balls & rings & hangers & boxes & panelsclosets – guys there are literally zero excuses for moth balls! But also its not just keeping stuff from getting mothy – its keeping it from getting that storage funk. Basically you should try to create as much consistency in the environment of your storage space as possible, don’t let it change drastically in humidity or temperature if you can avoid it, and make sure the area gets some ventilation. This is especially important for soft items that soak up odors like paper & fabric.Smell Foundations 4
  • Porous Surfaces Everywhere! – So this is one where me, the interior designer has a real shot at teaching you something. Did you know that the more porous a surface is, the more prone it is to holding onto odors? Fabric and paper are probably the biggest culprits here… linens, drapery, upholstery, and wall to wall carpets are all notorious for holding onto odors and people tend to focus on cleaning those, but when was the last time you had your rugs professionally cleaned? or cleaned your lampshades? Anything that exists in your home and is softer than wood (except for silicone) is highly prone to holding onto odors! Books sometimes need to be aired out. Most soft furnishings & fabrics in your home will do best with a combination of regular vacuuming to remove dust (for delicate items try a handy vac with a brush attachment as they are less powerful) AND occasional steam cleaning! (this steam system is on my wishlist!) For stubborn odors, you can add a few drops of essential oil to your steamer tank, I like tea tree as it’s really purifying. I am really not a fan of Febreeze, I don’t believe that it’s not damaging and I don’t think it works. I would sooner burn incense under a set of drapes to try and give them a better smell than Febreeze them. And it doesn’t just stop at soft things, any item that isn’t non-porous can hold onto odors! But luckily, you have that steam cleaner now and you can use it on literally anything – wood floors, marble tile, wood furniture (but be careful with this!), your walls (just not ones with wallpaper… but it will help you strip that!). Countertops in Stainless Steel & NSF Certified Quartz like Cambria and Dekton are totally non-porous and will not hold odors at all – They are considered the most sanitary which is important to know if you are remodeling! No, I’m not saying you should build your entire home out of stainless steel & Dekton (unless you want to, call me, this could be really cool) but what I do mean to say is that be aware that surfaces make a difference and what you choose makes a difference beyond what it looks like. So go for some soft marble tile if you LOVE it but maybe balance it with easy to clean and not very porous high gloss paint and enameled porcelain. Or pick an upholstered chair with a steel wrapped back for that pair of chairs in your living room 4 feet from your kitchen. And remember, as much as we all love an open concept, if your living room is open to your kitchen, burning toast is a way bigger deal. Just something to think about! Smell Foundations 5.jpg

Really Stubborn Stinks! Ok so not everyone is perfect and it’s easy to end up with a horrific stubborn smell on you hands whether you created it yourself, inherited a funk from a previous owner, or are just trying to help out a friend. Drastic times call for drastic odor sucking measures! Here are a few of our foolproof ways to get rid of even the stinkiest of stinks:smell foundations 6.jpg

  1. Open all the windows.  Get some fresh air in there, do it regularly & in combination with the next few ideas! In lieu of windows and in addition to them, fans, air purifiers, & possibly dehumidifiers if there is any kind of damp are all your friend here – forget about the rest of your house and put them all where the stink lives! (and if it’s your entire house, I’m sorry this is going to take a while.)
  2. Get yourself some of my favorite magic odor sucking powder. And put it EVERYWHERE! Yeah, I’m talking baking soda – it’s not just for your fridge! I’m here to tell you, if you didn’t know you can buy this in BULK, and you should because you’re going to be using tons of it in your life now. You can sprinkle this on soft surfaces, let it sit a few hours and vacuum it up, this it it’s most useful. I like to make little sachets with it super simply with a thin but tightly woven fabric like a hankie and place them wherever I want a little bit of freshness
  3. Put out a million gel odor eliminators, usually 1 per room is enough but when we moved into our house I had at least 6 of these working on the living, kitchen, & dining area and I think 3 more in our master, plus some spread out into every room. 
  4. Replace what you can –  Sometimes odors like mold or smoke or pet urine just can’t be rectified unless you take drastic measures. Before moving in to our house we took up all of the carpeting & laminate on the first floor, refinished some flooring and installed new carpets, removed the wallpaper and gave the entire first floor a fresh coat of paint on trims & walls. It was a lot of work, but once we were done our house smelled like a brand new house and all of the funk that was there when we bought it was nowhere in sight. If a furniture piece stinks, have it reupholstered by a professional who is going to also replace the stuffing & foam which is really where the gross stuff is hiding. Replace pillow inserts with new ones.

Beyond combating the funk, the other half of a good foundation is good old fashioned, clean air. Here are a few of my favorite ways to purify the air inside your home!

  • Plants – I truly believe this is the most effective way to purify the air in your home, as well as a great way to bring happiness and routine into your life. I go through spurts of being good at taking care of plants but they are a great way to improve the feel of your home, especially in the winter.  Some of my favorite stylish air purifying and low maintenance plants are spider plants, weeping fig ficus, snake plants, and aloe vera. Boston ferns require a little more care but do fabulously in bathrooms which I think is a great place to have some plants that often gets forgotten when it comes to homey touches. smell foundations 7.jpg
  • Himalayan Salt Lamp – It may seem kitsch but I have a big soft spot for these hippy dippy salt lamps, and maybe I’m imagining it but I feel like they work. Something about having one on just makes me feel happier & at ease, the air just feels a little cleaner!
  • A Berger Lamp – Definitely the most stylish option and a fabulous story to go along with it! Berger lamps were invented in 1898 to purify the air in hospitals, this small catalytic lamp created by pharmacy dispenser Maurice Berger, quickly became a popular for the home because of its wonderful aroma. These come in a ton of different stylish varieties with a million different scents (and you can mix them) so it is super customizable! The cube is my favorite.
  • A Stylish Electric Air Purifier – There are actually so many options for this now! Check out this customizable one, the dyson one (of course theirs is beautiful), or this black & white cutie.smell foundations 8.jpg
  • A humidifier – This is really a dead of winter tip but when the air is dry, it also seems stale. In the absence of fresh air, normalizing the humidity of your home with a cool mist humidifier will also infuse freshness into the air in that moisture. For an added boost you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. (Can you tell this is my solution to everything?)
  • Fresh Air! – Ok even in the dead of winter, sometimes it’s necessary to open all the windows and let new air in – this is like a life changing revelation if you’ve never tried it before. Especially as winter sicknesses come through its best to just let some fresh mountain air in. Just after a fresh snow is the best smelling air in the world! If it were up to me I would do this all the time, but I’m pretty sure it would drive Chris insane with all the heat going right out the window, so I try to limit it to just when I feel like we really need it. You can always crack a window for a little taste of fresh air without the commitment of having the house temperature drop a full 10 degrees. If you live in a place where opening the windows would be gross & smelly, It sounds like you need a house in Vermont to come get some! 😉

    Equinox Pond
    Image via Reddit r/vermont

So by now you probably think I’m some domestic goddess who’s home is always immaculate and smells like roses but you’d be 110% wrong. I’m full of these helpful tips but I barely have time to clean the toilet most days and if you ask Chris, he’ll definitely tell you there are quite a few areas of our home that could us a deep clean. In reality I do all of these things frantically before guests come and I usually am so behind I’m welcoming them as I’m still finishing up. So I don’t want you to read this post and feel like you are less than – these tips are here to help you and you can follow them – or not, and your home will still probably smell fine. These are just my methods for getting it to it’s absolute best – and  I’m still dreaming of the day I can afford to hand this off to my cleaning lady!

This post turned out a LOT longer than I ever anticipated – but there is just so much to cover! But I promise, this is the actual hard part and the rest of it is fun! Stay tuned for part two next week when will talk about building a scent palette and introducing scented products into your home in a way that feels cohesive and smells amazing, from the soap you use to the candles you light for company!



An End of Summer Salad – From Niki’s Kitchen

One of the things I love the most about summer is the absolute bounty of fresh veggies it produces! As summer draws to a close and an excess of fresh tomatoes, green beans, and corn from Chris’s garden fill our refrigerator – avocado salad is definitely my favorite way to utilize the harvest. Even if you don’t like salads (or avocados) I promise you’ll like this one – It’s that good. Just ask those who attended the Manchester VFW Annual BBQ this summer – It got rave reviews, even from the kids! (And the reason I’m writing this blog post is I promised at least ten people I’d get them the recipe.) I’ll definitely be making it again next year! This pairs perfectly with anything you feel like throwing on the grill, it’s substantial enough that it can stand on it’s own on as a side, but our favorite way to serve it is over grilled chicken breasts with Chris’s brown sugar barbecue rub.

Avocado Salad Cover Image

The following is what I’d make to serve four. Ask Chris, and he’ll tell you I have a bit of an issue with overcooking (It’s genetic, one thanksgiving my mom made two turkeys to test brining vs. not brining – sidenote: it’s not worth the trouble – and a ham just in case.) so there will definitely be leftovers. For being full of avocados this dish keeps surprisingly well and it’s so good you will be happy to have them, its also great on a taco. #yourewelcome

For the VFW picnic I quadrupled the recipe and it filled an entire Bennington Pottery Family Reunion Bowl which is probably the largest serving bowl on the market. It served about 50-75 people in a buffet of summer salads and we had leftovers (yay!).

What you’ll need: 

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 large (end of summer) or two smaller sized zucchini, sliced then quartered
  • 2 small to medium sized peppers, diced – whatever you got growing! I like to use a jalepeno and a big bell pepper. Bear in mind this will affect the spiciness of the salad so if you’re not sure stick with mild peppers for your first time, you can add spice in the seasoning to compensate if it doesn’t have enough kick!
  • 2 ears of corn, cooked & chipped off the cob or 1 can of the best canned corn you’ve ever had (throwing two extra ears on the grill the night before with dinner is the best way to have fresh corn & not have it be a pain in the butt, plus grilled corn tastes better than boiled in this dish)
  • 1 cup of green beans, cut into quarter lengths
  • 2 ripe avocados, halved and diced in their skin (I sometimes do three cause I love them so much)
  • 2 green onion shoots, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons Truvia Nectar (you can also use honey or agave too)
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil
  • A spritz of olive oil cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon of salt (plus a few additional sprinkles)
  • 3 teaspoons of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice
  • Optional: 4 slices of bacon, cooked ’til crispy & broken into bits
  • Or for Vegetarians/Vegans: make this dish more substantial and get some protein by adding black eyed peas or your favorite bean!

About an hour prior to assembling the salad, Take your serving bowl and pop it in the refrigerator to cool, if you forget you can do this fast in the freezer but make sure not to let it get frosty.  You’ll also want to take the tomatoes & put them in a bowl lined with 3 layers of paper towels. Separate from the tablespoon of salt you need, take your shaker or preferably a grinder and sprinkle them well with salt, add another paper towel to the top, and set aside.

Once you’re ready to do the bulk of the salad preparation, take the onions, bell peppers, avocado oil, and half of the salt, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, and combine in a skillet over medium heat. Once the onions start to soften and brown, add the green beans, turn the heat up a little (to a medium high) and cook until the green beans are browned well but still firm. Remove from heat immediately and transfer your chilled serving bowl to cool, make sure to get all of the oil as this is part of the “dressing” of the salad.

Next line a microwave safe plate with 2 layers of paper towels and spread out your zucchini evenly. Then spray lightly them with olive oil spray, sprinkle or grind a little salt on them, and sprinkle 1 teaspoon of your garlic powder on them. Microwave for 2-3 minutes on high depending on the power of your microwave until cooked al dente.

Now add the zucchini, corn, tomatoes, Truvia Nectar, and all remaining salt & seasonings to the serving bowl and mix well. Then use a spoon to scoop the diced avocados into the bowl, pour the lemon or lime juice over the avocado, this will help with keeping the avocado green. Then, mix well – but do not over mix, the more you mix the more the avocado will dissolve into dressing and you still want some chunks of it. I usually do over-mix, and that’s where I decide to add a third avocado! So do whatever you want!

Avocado Salad Completed
Avocado Salad in Bennington Pottery Family Reunion Bowl

Your last and final step is to taste this delicious dish you just made! It should taste sweet, but have some kick to it- and the cumin should be noticeable, this is is the key to it tasting so home-y and delicious. Depending on the freshness & quality of your spices, you may need to add some more of something and adjust to your taste. Trust me – it’s amazing the difference in taste between a fresh spice and one that’s sat in the back of a cabinet for a year or more! If it feels like it needs a little more balance, between spicy and sweet, try adding a little more paprika before adding more heat.

Once you’ve tasted your work, you can serve immediately, but I prefer to let it chill for at least a half hour, especially when serving it as a hearty condiment over chicken because I think condiments should be cold.

This recipe is also super flexible and you can add pretty much any vegetable your garden may offer to it (or may need to get eaten in your fridge) and it will still be good, but make sure not to add anything too wet (cucumbers were good but did not keep and made the dish soggy), summer squash should be prepared like the zucchini if added and anything wet should sit on some paper towels for a bit before being added. I know this recipe is a little paper towel heavy – and I’m sorry to the environment for that – but it really is the key to keeping this salad from getting too soggy! If you feel weird about it, it’s ok, you can compost most of the ones you use as long as they don’t have oil on them. 

I hope you enjoyed this recipe, as the days turn cooler, we’ll be sharing some of our other other favorite meals for using up our gardens harvest like Sunday Gravy & Tortilla Casserole. But before we let summer salads go – here’s a little roundup of some of my favorite recipes by others we tested out and loved that I’m sure you’ll love as well!

Asparagus & Corn Salad from Niki's Kitchen
One of the salads I made you can find on the Pinterest board!


Project More than Just an Onion

You may ask what I am doing naming a project after onions here? Let’s frame it up for those uninformed about Vermont’s favorite onion, the Winooski. Winooski, both a city and a river in Vermont’s Champlain Valley, was named after what the Abenaqui called the region. It got it’s namesake for the wild onions that used to grow along the riverbanks, the Abernaqui called it “the land of the wild onion”.  You may know the city as “Burlington’s Brooklyn”, but it’s also the place some folks we hold very dear to our hearts reside, Chris’s sister Faye & our soon to be brother-in-law Corey.

Last year, when Faye and Corey announced they were embarking on a major re-imagining of their duplex in the heart of Winooski we were both wondering if they had lost their minds AND excited to help. Don’t get us wrong, they’d made a great little home for themselves in the middle of the city, managing to find space for chickens, an impressive vegetable garden, and even some fruit trees… but the chopped up layout, general cramped feeling, overall lack of space and endless city permitting had us asking “WHY on earth would you do this to yourself?!” But they forged ahead despite the naysayers, and after spending the weekend in their newly completed space, call us converts! We <3 Winooski!

It comes in handy to have two kitchen & bath designers in the family, but these two clearly did not need us. Corey’s profession as an engineer coupled with Faye’s organization & planning skills, meant they pretty much had it all figured out before they even talked to us. For this project, they drove the car, while we backseat drove… but I like to think we were at least as helpful as a driving instructor might be, offering input on their choices both visually & functionally, what brands could be trusted, and ironing out all the little details. We told them where to splurge (hello soapstone counter-tops!) and where to save (that stock vanity top sure does look expensive doesn’t it?); We forced them to enclose their refrigerator (which they later thanked us for and said made a huge difference!); and jockeyed for the “Moonshine” colored cabinets rather than a basic white (which looks SO good here), and supported all the fabulous choices they made on their own. [And we might’ve passed along some sweet family discounts]

The kitchen in itself was a beyond drastic transformation, they went from a small closed in space with a freestanding fridge next to a range with maybe 2 feet of countertop on either side, a giant old sink with drainboards and no counter space, no storage, and a high top pub table as their only dining space… to a spacious open concept space with plenty of counter space, storage, an island with seating space and a large dining space with a grown up table.

Most of this was accomplished by knocking down all of the walls in the common areas, the kitchen expanded into the old mudroom, and a small addition was added to the rear & side of the house, creating a dining & mudroom space. The kitchen kept the same layout for the most part, with the sink moving into the island to allow for oodles of counter space. Their biggest addition to the space was something they both dreamed about, a Vermont Bun Baker, a wood stove with so much more than just cozy ambiance, it has the ability to bake home-made bread inside! We can’t wait for a chilly winter visit to try some wood fired buns!

Since they still ended up with just one bathroom, which would also house laundry, this space really had to work double duty! Rather than try to squeeze a double vanity in, they opted for a single, which got them more counter space… and room for a partition wall for the toilet. To create space for the laundry, they stole space from the former large laundry closet in the second bedroom which shares a wall with the bath, went from side by side’s to stackable units, and ended up with lots of extra space for laundry baskets and towel storage (and still managed to have space for a more proportionally sized closet in the bedroom!) Though initially they hoped to get a separate tub and shower to fit – there just was not enough space, so they went with a Tub/Shower setup knowing once Kids came that would be the most practical. To keep it feeling spa-like, we added white tiled walls, a modern hand shower and rain shower head, and the Kohler Expanse Tub combined with a curved rod kept things feeling nice and spacious.

All in all, it was a great project to work on – and so nice to get to experience it fully once it was completed with an overnight. It’s rare we actually get to watch someone cook in a kitchen we sold them, or use a shower we had a hand in designing, so this was a really special experience. Faye & Corey also taught us a thing or two! They found a pullout faucet for their bathroom which was something we did not know existed – is that not the most convenient thing for cleaning toothpaste smears?! (See video evidence below!)

The Swiss Army Nook

If there’s one thing I’ve figured out designing kitchens over the years, the first thing on everyones mind when it comes to remodeling their space –  How is will it function when I entertain? Almost every client wants a space for guests to pull up a stool, a space to spread out a buffet, a place for guests to gather for drinks, and as well as a separate dining space. For any space, this kind of flexibility is a tall order but the secret is making sure that every piece you put into the space is nimble and can transform with the space as life requires it.

This is my specialty… Not only because I think your space should work for your life, no matter what you’ve got going on, but personally I think a room should be able to be re-arranged every once and a while to mix things up! I love a big living room ottoman made up of 4 smaller ottomans that become extra seats when you have a full house, or a side table you can slide a pouf under to pullout when you want to kick your feet up and relax. It’s all about flexibility!

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

So when a past client, who had removed a wall and expanded her kitchen into the next room, was struggling with what to do with the remaining space left over called me up I was thrilled to help!

First we met and discussed how to best use the space. From working with her on the kitchen project last year I knew entertaining was important. It was why we opened up the wall and added a bar height seating area. The goal was a space for friends to gather and visit while she was cooking in the kitchen.

But there we’re a few other things we wanted to get from this space, and when we got to the house it was just after Thanksgiving and they had a table set up in the space to accommodate the whole family. She mentioned how convenient it had been to have the space for that. When I asked how she wanted to use the space everyday however she wanted somewhere for her to curl up and read a book or maybe even take a nap. Oh and there needed to be storage, because who doesn’t need more of that? (You can never have enough!)

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

It was a tall order but something I felt we could do if we used the right pieces. We decided to anchor the space with a large window seat that ran the entire length of the wall opposite the kitchen. To give the space the ability to be both a casual seating area AND a dining space when needed we used a leather upholstered bench as our coffee table, that could then be pulled back and be used as a dining bench to seat 6-10 guests around a table. Slipper chairs made the perfect seats for daily lounging and small gatherings, and are super light and easily moved into the living room for extra seating or when a table is set up.

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

For the window seat we had a few challenges. Namely a baseboard radiator running the entire length of the wall. We wanted to conceal it visually but not hinder it’s function. Thankfully our client wanted a deep bench you could lie down on, and liked the furniture style look of legs both of which made things a lot easier.

The biggest mistake people tend to make when enclosing a radiator is putting a thick bottom rail at the base and focusing the “grate” to allow for airflow in the center or the top. While this does allow hot air to get out, it will also decrease the efficiency of your radiator. They work by allowing air to flow in from the bottom and allowing the heat to rise up through the top vents.

We worked around this without the expensive toe kick heater conversion by giving our window seat a 3″ leg and allowing the storage cubbies to “float” in front of the radiator. For baskets I used raffia baskets which would allow for airflow and pick up on the chairs in the dining room.

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

I wanted to add one more element of airflow and coziness, so I had Chris cut channels into the seat of the bench for the heat to rise up through and warm your cushions!

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

The coffee table choice was also key, it had to be long and narrow to still allow the room to act as a passage between the living and dining spaces, function as a bench, and be comfortable for kicking your feet up. To solve the issue of drinks we added a large metal tray which would create a nice solid surface.

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

We created three custom linen cushions and a roman shade to finish out the space. We are both so happy with the end result and our client is too, which is really the best reward! Working with a repeat customer is so rewarding because you can jump right in with a full sense of their style.

It was really fun to do a small space. The goal was to make it blend seamlessly with the rest of the home and I feel like we accomplished that well.

With tomorrow’s holiday, I’m hoping their family is enjoying their new space. I know it can be the right space no matter what they end up needing – Like a Swiss Army Knife, this space can handle just about any situation!

Kitchen Nook Remodel Vermont

What a year it has been! 2017 in Review

I’ve heard a lot of people talking a lot about how 2017 was the literal worst…yeah the world got a bit crazy, but in our little corner of the world it was a pretty wonderful year! We’re full of goals & resolutions for 2018, but I want to take a look back at all our big milestones from this year, and trust me there were a lot of them!

January 2017 – If I had to pin down a “busiest month of the year” while working at Attention to Details it would have been last January. Our supposed “slow” time of year, it certainly did not seem that way! I had two six figure projects installing at the same time, Chris had his biggest sale to date starting construction, plus our normal workloads, problem solving a few big vendor quality control issues, and somehow we managed to fit in a weekend in Palm Beach to celebrate Papa Conte’s 90th Birthday.

Northshire Living Year Recap

What a perfect pause this was to a busy start to the year! This trip also started to scratch the interior design itch that ended up getting me back into the game – the super cute AirBnB the whole family made home base for the weekend was so up my design alley it reminded me that I was missing half the fun stuck on finishes & fixtures. Such good rugs and art and sooo many pops of my favorite color, Orange! We also got stuck on a plane on the tarmac for 9 hours but we try to block that experience out [ahem don’t fly United, but 2017 did a good job of making sure everyone knew that!]

Northshire Living Year Recap

After we got back and got caught up, I took a trip to NH to shop for wedding dresses with my Mom & my longtime Besties & Bridesmaids; Lauren & Shay. I thought this would just be a fun day to dip my toes into the water of finding a dress and have lunch with my ladies but I ended up finding my DREAM dress. If you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend Country Bridals in Jaffrey, NH – they turned me, someone who doesn’t buy anything until they have looked at every. single. option. available. into someone who buys the 4th dress they try on… And they gave me Champs & goodies when I said yes to the dress. That was the perfect experience every bride deserves. Then I had to wait almost 3/4 of a year to show it to Chris!

Northshire Living Year Recap

January was also the month of my Most Liked Photo of 2017, typical me, a shoe-fie from where I stood in Village Tile on my favorite mudroom floor tile ever that I have yet to be able to use. (If you’ve got a mudroom to redo in 2018 and like this, please navigate to our “Contact Us” Section! Hah!)

Northshire Living Year Recap

February 2017 – We started February off with a fun business trip; a visit to the Kraftmaid Factory which continued our airline misfortune by arriving to the Albany airport at 6 am to a freshly cancelled flight, and the next flight wouldn’t come in ’til halfway through the tour! We drove to the nearest Denny’s to figure out a game plan when I had the realization that wasn’t Ohio like – just on the other side of New York? Turns out we were only saving an hour by flying with connecting flights and if we just drove west, we’d only be a half hour late. So we got in the car and drove!

Northshire Living Year Recap

When we got back, Chris took me cross country skiing for the first time, though it was a rocky start being my first time on ski’s Chris is a pro and taught me how to pizza and once I got that down I really started to enjoy myself. We are looking forward to lots of skiing adventures this year with all the good snowfall we’ve gotten!!!

Northshire Living Year Recap

March 2017 – March was a pretty uneventful month, ski season was still hanging on so we weren’t in to the crazy spring building fever yet. Even though I made my last delivery in January, my big whole new house project with 13 rooms of cabinetry finally completed and after the interior designer on the project, Lillian Bogossian of Decorative Interiors, finished staging the place, I was able to head over for the day and play photographer! This is still one of my favorite projects to date, it was so fun (and a little bit stressful) to work with clients with a lot of remodeling experience and fabulous taste and who weren’t afraid of a one thousand dollar faucet! We used Danby Marble in almost the entire house, Imperial in the baths and Eureka in the Kitchen and Dining spaces – which turned out gorgeous. The clients requested a custom Honey Onyx top with an ornate edge just like they had back at home in New Jersey which was NOT an easy find in Vermont, but just as I had given up, we got a visit from the owner of Surface Creations of NH filling in for our sales rep and he remembered they had a partial slab in their warehouse from an old display they did that was just barely big enough to create the built up edge – such a stroke of luck and it turned out beautiful!

Northshire Living Year Recap

April 2017 –  Spring had arrived in full force, we were crazy busy again, but we already broke the grill out of hibernation and the roadster, and we were just about to pull the trigger and move forward with a HUGE addition onto the back of our house on Cass Terrace, when just across the street, the house we later bought and now live in came up for sale! Though it took me a minute to let go of my beautiful dream kitchen, and our tight squeeze but gorgeous master suite with a great view of the Lye Brook Wilderness, it wasn’t hard to let go of the mind boggling amount of details and plans we were trying to iron out in our off hours. At the time I wondered if we were making the right choice as told our builder to give someone else our time in the schedule, but looking back I am so happy in our new home, I couldn’t imagine another choice!

Northshire Living Year Recap

This was also the month of my favorite photo(s) of 2017 outside of our wedding pictures, Chris texted these photos to me from a job site waiting for a granite countertop guy to meet him and said “Made friends with a dog” “I love you so much” along with each one.

Northshire Living Year Recap

May 2017 – The coolest thing about May was our trip to Burlington so Chris could run the Vermont City Marathon for the second time. Chris likes this marathon because it is a fun experience, the crowd really gets into it, different neighborhoods in Burlington host block parties to cheer on the runners, they set up  sprinklers and give out shots of maple syrup. His favorite sister also lives there. But if you ask Chris he’ll reply with “I just felt like runnin’ .” [this man loves Forrest Gump]. Chris beat his first time by 8 minutes, running a 3:10 marathon, so I was very proud of him, but he’s still a few minutes off from qualifying for the Boston Marathon so he’s already signed up to run again this year. We also visited the Trapp Family Lodge before grabbing dinner in Stowe and I got to have my Sound of Music moment twirling around in a field singing “The hills are alive…” so that was definitely a big highlight for me. We were the last house guests before my Sister-in-law Faye & her fiancee Corey embarked on a huge home remodel. We helped them with the cabinetry for their kitchen, that we can’t wait to share photos of when it completes in the next few weeks.

Northshire Living Year Recap

June 2017 – Not that much happened in June! We went on a lot of motorcycle rides, I delivered the most tile I have ever sold at once, and Chris wrapped up (for the most part) his really big remodel he started in January. We got The Sneaker (our little 1964 Boston Whaler boat from Chris’s Grandpa) fixed and it took it’s first fishing trip in a long time for Chris’s Bachelor party in NH. Mainly we were just buckling our seat belts for a crazy summer.

Northshire Living Year Recap

Northshire Living Year Recap

July 2017 – We started off the month by celebrating the Fourth on the Sneaker up at Lake St. Cathrine in Wells. VT. We love it up there so much we have joked, someday maybe we’ll be so Vermont, we’ll have a summer house on the lake while living full time in Manchester! The next week we closed on our Richville house and got to work on the “light renovation” prior to moving in. I had my Bachelorette party in Brimfield, MA and we celebrated my birthday at the Silver Fork! Oh and I took my first group motorcycle ride, a Veterans Benefit Ride for the Veterans Retirement Home in Bennington and had a blast.

Northshire Living Year Recap

August 2017 – Another crazy month as life was proving the closer we got to the wedding. We started off with my Bridal Shower at Aunt Peggy’s house, which was such a blast, my favorite part was setting up with all the Aunt’s beforehand!  At the end of August, we finally moved into our new house and that was the biggest reward after so much hard work, we were finally able to settle in and get OUT of our house on Cass Terrace so the real work could begin over there.

Northshire Living Year Recap

September 2017 –  WE GOT MARRIED!!! I had to do this post chronologically or otherwise the wedding would have totally overshadowed everything cause um it was KIND OF A BIG DEAL! They say it’s the best day of your life, but it’s really the actual wedding ceremony that is the best when you’re marrying your soulmate, I cannot remember a time where I have felt more insanely happy and wonderful and complete and whole and in love and not nervous and just perfect as I did as Chris read his thoughtfully written vows to me. You can see me grinning my face off as we enter the reception venue like “Pinch me did this really just happen?!?!” Though our first dance was just perfect, another highlight is when we opened up the dance floor and David Bowie’s “Golden Years” played and I danced like a maniac with Chris and all my family and friends, it was truly jubilant!

Northshire Living Year Recap

We sandwiched the wedding between a backyard bonfire & rehearsal dinner hosted by Dad Conte & Margaret and a farewell Brunch Hosted by Mom Brogan and Yoshi which was so wonderful because we actually got to talk and visit with most of our guests that way! On Monday we jetted off to Mexico and got in some much needed R&R for the honeymoon at Beloved Resorts in Playa Mujeres, just north of Cancun.

At the beginning of September, I also got some good news not wedding related – I was selected for the National Kitchen & Bath Association’s 30 Under 30 Award for 2018! In just a week from today I’ll be getting on a plane to the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show in Orlando & presenting some fresh ideas for new appliances! [And lets be honest I can’t wait to get away from these subzero temperatures for sunny Florida!]

October 2017 –  In October it was back to reality and back to work! I embraced fall a little too hard and made us as a household get really, really sick of squash, we broke in our new grill with a chicken roasting attachment and checked the dining room off our remodel list at the Richville house. We tried to get stuff done over at Cass Terrace but our super busy contractor had very little time and all we got done was leveling the kitchen floor which was frustrating. And we only got two trick or treaters at the new house which was also disappointing. In short, In October I was feeling those 2017 blues y’all been talking about… it’s hard to comedown from a year plus of looking forward to your wedding and when you come back and it’s over – what’s left to plan? I guess we got bored!

Northshire Living Year Recap

November 2017 – We started off November in a really not a great place, but ended November in the absolute best place, as Business Owners!!! We were working really hard but we were not happy and just came to the realization – what was holding us back from going out on our own? We have savings, we have the skills, and it’s only going to get harder to walk away from a steady paycheck – so we ripped off the band-aid, changed Northshire Living from just a blog to a website, filed as an LLC, and quit our jobs as Kitchen & Bath Designers. We found vendors and figured out pretty quickly we needed a showroom if we were really going to get into the swing of things and got to work on making it happen.

December 2017 –  After thinking the place might sell instead and going on the hunt for other places and not loving them anywhere near as much, we were able to start moving into our new showroom space on December 15th, over the past two weeks we’ve been hard at work painting & building walls for displays… we have lots of stuff in the works and on the way and can’t WAIT to host a fabulous grand opening once it’s all installed in the New Year!

A little reflection … 

We have been so lucky to receive such an outpouring of support from the community and our clients & contractors –  we are looking forward to all the projects we’ve got to come in the new year. We would like to give a big thank you to all our family for their love & support, and an extra one to my Mom & especially my Dad who came up and helped us work on both houses, we would definitely still be eating dinner at our kitchen island if it weren’t for their help.

Our resolutions for New Year the mainly revolve around eating less and exercising more, as the post wedding weight gain is definitely a thing folks, we’re looking forward to a happy, and healthy 2018! We hope to help many others make their house a home and will be toasting to the future as the clock strikes midnight!

Thanks for coming along for the ride with us! 🙂

Somedays, you really, really love your job!

Sick & working from home last week, I wasn’t super thrilled about leaving the house to visit a job-site without heat- but this was one appointment I wasn’t missing. One of Chris’s clients was converting an old mansion in the mountains to a wedding & event rental venue – a literal holy grail project combining what may be two of my favorite things, weddings and super gorgeous beautifully landscaped estates!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

As soon as we pulled up I was in love, this place is FULL of raw potential. A simple white fence lines the drive now, cross a small bridge, and ahead, “Chez Nous” An architect built mansion made custom just for his sister, where a crew works tirelessly to restore the building to it’s former splendor. But a vision for someday in the not-too-distant future see’s a grand iron gate and a tree lined drive with wrought iron railings along the sides of the bridge to ensure when guests pull up, they know they have arrived.

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

We pull up and are greeted by the new front door, a gargantuan Brazilian Mahogany  double door with intricate leaded glass is sure to drive that feeling home with future guests, I can tell I’m gonna like this client’s style!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

The entry to the home is my favorite feature – having been fresh off a wedding of my own, I can instantly envision a bride making her way down the grand staircase from the Suite on the second floor for a first look with her husband, this entry is actually big enough for it! (The photographer needs to be able to get some distance for a good shot). Some of my favorite photos from our wedding are in the entryway from the house WE rented for ours and the color of their entryway actually inspired our dining room color so I am very excited to put my signature on this space!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Off the entry sits a room I wish I had the opportunity to decorate more often, a formal parlor room! An original white mantle with a ribbon motif I am in love with and is definitely going to be used as a decorative element throughout the house anchors the center of the room. I would love to see a mural or some hand-painted wall covering make a real statement in this space.

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

On the opposite side of the chimney from the formal sitting room lies the library, This space is where the building gets it’s namesake, though it’s been removed for safekeeping during construction, the original mantle reads, “NOTRE PETIT COIN EST SI DOUX – POUR VIVRE HEUREUX RESTONS CHEZ NOUS.” Which in french, makes it clear why the original owners decided this was the spot to be, it reads “Our little corner is so sweet to live – Happy to stay at Home.” and that my friends is precisely the way our client would like their guests to feel, At Home! And right in the center, what seems to be a bit of the home’s sigil, the same ribbon bow from the formal parlor.

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Another amazing original detail in this space is the shared wall with the stone conservatory, intricate painted glass windows allow light to flow into the library from the conservatory and with its rich warm colors and details, I can’t wait to pick up on it in some furnishings. Below is another cool feature, these millwork pieces are original as well and were built in Troy N.Y. and delivered in one piece by rail car! They still have the paperwork on the backs!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Chris’s domain is the Kitchen, A bit of a reversal from our typical roles but this is his baby, truly the most gorgeous design he has put together with stacked cabinets bringing together the kitchen with a built in eating area and a massive triangular island perfect for spreading out a gourmet feast. It is appointed with everything the professional could ask for; a 48″ gas range and built in refrigerator. And just off the kitchen, a living area,  bar, and butlers pantry centered around the large brick chimney. We’ll share more as we polish the design!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Upstairs lies an array of beautiful bedrooms and baths all ready to be brought back to life, my favorite however has got to be the Bridal Suite. We will be doing a full spa bathroom and a large closet dressing area in this space that I WISH I had for my big day, the only place I could find to hang my dress day of was off the beam in the center of the living room!  As you can see from the view of that bathroom below, the space has a bit of a ways to go… nothing like a blank canvas!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Upstairs features another surprise, picture framed figured oak floors and a “Music Room” I know will become a favorite hangout for guests, both for relaxing and late night antics – The ceiling is so beautiful, I think a celestial mural may be just the thing for this space as you can see this ceiling from the front door. And just when you think you’ve seen the whole place, buckle up for Phase Two – Though for now, it won’t be touched there is a skylit staircase you’d expect to lead to an attic, but instead there’s a THIRD floor, featuring more bedrooms, two bathrooms and just when you think you’d seen it all, a ballroom!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

It’s a bit of an overwhelming undertaking, furnishing 10,000 square feet, but I’m ready to bite this one off and excited to put the Northshire Living mark on the space, I hope you enjoy the journey with us!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Note: For all you Shiplap fans, I’m sorry but it’s going, I love shiplap too but it’s totally wrong for the house – does not fit with the home’s aesthetic at all! The previous owner got a smokin’ deal on shiplap & carpet and put it everywhere. It ended up being a good thing because it protected a lot of the wonderful original bits. If I can find a utilitarian space to use it I may as a nod to the buildings story but even the laundry room has beautiful millwork on the walls so I don’t know if it will be possible!

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue

Converting an Old Vermont Mansion into a Wedding and Event Venue