Prince Edward Island

barbara barry on beauty

photo: Mark Edward Harris for Traditional Home

I had the great good fortune to be among a small group of people to hear Barbara Barry speak about design recently at the Kravet showroom in Toronto. It is a pleasure I have had a few times before and one I will never miss if given the opportunity. Barbara is a gem. She has a voice like silk velvet. It's refined and soft and luxurious. She could read the dictionary and make it sound chic. In fact, I'd love to hear her read the dictionary. That night she was plucking from the stories compiled in her recent book Around Beauty. I had just rushed to the event after wrapping work on the high-stress all-hands-on-deck Trends issue of House & Home. So I was very amused when Barbara shared this pearl:

PEOPLE ASK ME 'BARBARA WHAT'S IN, WHAT'S OUT?' I TELL THEM I HAVE NO IDEA. BEAUTY IS ALWAYS IN. SUBTLETY IS ALWAYS IN.

Beauty is always in. Ain't it the truth! An old tree, a peeling onion, a peony, pond scum (yes!) - these are some of the things Barbara finds beautiful. The evening inspired me to look back at my photo library to see those times when I have felt compelled to document a beautiful little moment with my iPhone.

This is a pile of coiled rope on the warf at Covehead, Prince Edward Island. That aqua colour is so pretty but I also love the mezmerizing pattern of swirls the rope makes. Layers and layers and layers.

Ferns ferns ferns. Always and forwever. I am so captivated by ferns. I snapped this pic on a bike ride between Morell and St. Peter's, also in PEI.

I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted this guy while golfing last month at the course near our place in Tweed. He was pretty big - about 6inches long! Just look at that muddy green colour of his shell and the bits of red at the edges and some pale yellow too. And that pattern. Wow.

These are some stunning candycane beets I bought last week at St. Lawrence Market in Toronto. Can you believe how pretty!? My only disappointment with them is that the colour gets much more subtle when you cook them. But as Barbara says "Subtlety is always in."

This is a detail of an old fishing shack at Red Head harbour warf in PEI. I could stare for hours. I know, I'm weird.

Here's a little peek at one of my favourite secret spots. This is the wooded path behind our place in Tweed. It's where we walk the dog on Sunday mornings and I love watching the seasons change here. The colours and patterns and textures are magnificent: moss on rocks and a carpet fallen leaves (oak are my favourite) and pine needles. It's so peaceful here. Beautiful. 

PEI cottage name and motto

Every great retreat needs a name and a motto I think. The name of our little place on Prince Edward Island will be Whale Cottage. For some unknown reason the previous owners called it Ginger Lane Meadows -- eeewwww. And they had a flowery stencilled plaque with the name on it. Ick. It is long gone. One thing the previous owners did get right is putting this handsome whale weathervane on the top of a cupola on the cottage. Hence the new name: Whale Cottage.

Now, for a motto. Much of my inspiration for this place has come from the book Sailing Style by Tricia Foley with Jill Kirchner Simpson and photos by Michael Skott.

It's a wonderful book, and one of the things I love most about it is that it isn't just pretty pictures. The book is packed with interesting research and history on sailing traditions and lore and terminology (ever the history student, I am). One sidebar in the book quotes famous writers on the sea. This one knocked me over:

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
It's always ourselves we find in the sea.
 

e.e. cummings

At the risk of getting a bit personal, e.e. cummings is one of my guiding lights. His poetry has been by my side for so many important moments in my life. I couldn't remember off hand which poem the two lines were from, so I went to the Google machine right away. I found this utterly enchanting poem.

'maggie and milly and molly and may'

maggie and milly and molly and may 
went down to the beach(to play one day) 

and maggie discovered a shell that sang 
so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles,and 

milly befriended a stranded star 
whose rays five languid fingers were; 

and molly was chased by a horrible thing 
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and 

may came home with a smooth round stone 
as small as a world and as large as alone. 

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me) 
its always ourselves we find in the sea 

e.e. cummings

Adore. The spirit of the verse reminds me of that feeling of utter relaxation mixed with elation you get when you walk on the beach near our place. The heartbeat slows, the shoulders relax. Deep breaths. "Maggie discovered a shell that sang so sweetly she couldn't remember her troubles." Aaaahh.

And so henceforth the Whale Cottage motto will be those last two lines. Whale Cottage will be a place to find what we have lost, like a you or a me. And finally, this sweet discovery:

(and one last funny story -- when my wee French bulldog Lulu came upon a crab on the beach, she peed on it...pretty sure it was already dead, so it didn't chase her.)

PEI - our beach

I'm just back from the epic 2-week decorating adventures at our little PEI place. I'm totally exhausted and exhilarated. Here is just a taste of why we wanted a little slice of the Island. Here, below is the beach, our beach, just a 5-min drive from our place. North Shore, midsummer's sunny day. The only person in sight is my husband Kevin. Bliss

whale cottage, PEI

Today was the day. After nearly a year of negotiations, inspections, red tape and three closing dates, today was the day we finally took possession of our tiny little slice of cottage heaven on Prince Edward Island. Some people think we are crazy. "When will you go?" "That's so far away, why would you buy there?" Well, most of those people have never been to Prince Edward Island. If you've been here, you know why. We know why and we couldn't be happier. Here she is:

As I write this I am nestled in a makeshift bed - camp cots made up as if we are camping in an African safari - just under that upstairs window. It is dark and silent and divine. We are minutes from the ocean. You can feel it in the air. Tomorrow the fun begins. A holiday of decorating and mini renovating with many seafood feasts and beach adventures to celebrate each day's accomplishments. I will have much to tell you and show you about the progress here and over at the STYLE AT HOME blog. The full reveal is planned for the pages of STYLE AT HOME next summer. For now I can tell you the plan, in the words of the great Elsie de Wolfe: "plenty of optimism and white paint."