New England Home Design Resources: Stonework

One of the (many) things I love about what I do is having the chance to meet with amazingly creative people. Most people in the building industry – or, more specifically, the ones that are great at what they do – have a passion. They recognize this passion, recognize that they are lucky to have found this in their lives and, as a result, are usually great at what they do.

I recently had the chance to meet some of these people: The King family of Natt King Stoneworks in Moultonborough, New Hampshire. There’s the dad, Natt, a third generation mason; son, Caleb, a fourth generation mason; and wife/mother Denise who is a creative talent as well (and I need to mention the six kitties who likely run the house!). Working throughout the Lakes Region (and selective jobs as far as Concord MA), this team of artisans does some of the most creative stone projects I have seen.

What’s so special? Well, just take a look at this:

Natt King Stoneworks natural stone fireplace

This is the most amazing fireplace that I have ever seen. It looks like a natural stone cliff, but it suits the house. The scale, the stones selected and the attention to detail are all part of why this is such a stunning feature.

Natt King Stoneworks also builds beautiful fireplaces that are a little more traditional, as well as walls, patios, walkways, outdoor kitchens and so much more — including wood fired ovens (which I would LOVE to have). Just take a look at their website at You’ll be amazed!



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All About Drawers

I always look to incorporate as many drawers as possible in my kitchen designs. Drawers frequently offer easier access and more storage than many of your traditional cabinets. But how about in mudrooms and entries? Everyone needs a “junk drawer” – even kids! So in this location, I try to incorporate them there as well… right down to personalized knobs!

Giraffe knob soccer ball knob Lion knob Basketball knob

In bedrooms… consider building drawers right into under-eave space. The built-ins give you additional storage without taking up floor space with another piece of furniture.

Built in bedroom drawers

If you have old drawers, there are lots of fun things that you can do with them.  Here are two creative ideas…

Lydia’s Café — one of my favorite local cafés here in Wolfeboro, NH — had a great idea to gain some additional shelf space. See what they did?

shelf hung on wall for storage

Take the drawer from an old dresser or hutch, turn it and hang it right onto the wall. If you have some carpentry skills (or know someone who does!), consider adding a few shelves. Depending on the depth of the drawer, these can be a unique bookshelf, a great spice rack or (as seen in Lydia’s) the perfect spot to store extra cups and lids for coffee to go!

Drawers can even be used as a kind of artwork. Take a look at this front view of the registration desk at Chicago’s Lincoln Hotel. How cool is that?

Drawers in Lincoln Hotel front desk

Do you have other great ideas for using drawers? Feel free to share using the comment link under this post!

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Match Your Storage Space to Your Stuff

You know that saying “A place for everything and everything in its place”? Some say that phrase may have originated in the nautical world to promote conserving space and keeping things tidy on a ship. It makes sense since every inch counts on a boat. But every inch counts in your home, too.

Clutter is stressful, unsightly and inefficient. No matter how much we may try to pare down our “stuff”, it has a way of creeping out unless we actively plan storage space with our possessions in mind.   Closets, shelves, cubbies, drawers, and key pieces of “functioning” furniture will all contribute to the storage spaces you need. But make sure to think this out as part of any renovation or redesign plan.

storage space by Wentworth Style

Analyze how you use the items that you want to store. Ask yourself:

  • Do I use this enough to justify giving it prime real estate in my home?
  • Is this item so bulky that it gets more valuable space than it really deserves? Could it be stored someplace that is harder to reach to free up prime space for smaller items that are used more frequently?
  • If I buy in bulk, can I store some of the item in a primary location and the remainder somewhere else?

With one of my current commercial clients, we actually took that last question a step further and placed a note on the bottom of the stock stored in a main area to tell the user where the remainder is stored. (Planning for those forgetful moments we all have!)

When I design a kitchen, I actually accompany the design with a document that outlines where I suggest each item be stored. This planning is done up front because it also works as a great check list for the renovation. My client reviews the plan before we get too far into the process and often says “oh… but I also have this and we need to figure out where it will go”. The list helps us make sure that we have a home for everything.

It all gets back to making the space you live in (or work in) feel good!
Our lives are all crazy… remember how important it is that the spaces we spend time in feel “just right” to us.

Here are a few photos from to inspire you!


My Architectural Field Trip to Chicago

Chicago is often compared to Boston, so I was sure I would love it if I ever got a chance to visit. Well, I finally got the chance! And yes, it was everything I imagined and hoped for!!

Hands down, the highlight of the trip (beyond visiting with our oldest son, Matt) was the Architectural Boat Tour on the Chicago’s First Lady. The tour is run by the Chicago Architecture Foundation with docents who are foundation volunteers. Their enthusiasm and knowledge was fantastic!

Chicago’s architecture was shaped by the Fire of 1871. This disastrous event ended up being somewhat of a positive (from an architectural and urban planning standpoint) because it gave a second chance in “designing” a city. Planners were able to identify what had been flaws in traffic flow, building designs and things as simple as set backs and building scale.

The city today gives you the chance to see every type of architecture, style and design that is out there. But somehow it works! How come? Because designers paid attention to surrounding landscape, the intended use and scale.

For example, in the shot below, buildings show three architectural styles, but they are visually tied together through the materials used, the transition between buildings and repeated decorative detailing.

Chicago Skyline by Wentworth Style

In the next photo, the section to the right is an addition, but by renovating and restyling the roof, the two buildings are tied together and create a “calmer” flow. This is often the same thing we do when designing residential additions — but on a much, much larger scale!

Chicago building ties addition together

From a renovation standpoint,  the Chicago Athletic Hotel stood out. Formerly the Chicago Athletic Association, the hotel’s newly renovated building features a game room, an amazing “library” and Cindy’s, one of the hottest new restaurants and bars in this land of amazing food and drink.

The renovation included substantial historic restoration work, like the original tile floor and lots and lots of woodwork, as seen in the photos below.

Chicago Athletic Association tile floor renovation

Chicago Athletic Hotel Woodwork

For me, one of the greatest inspirations was the lighting! Many of the light fixtures are the originals — just rewired and refurbished. I love the trend back to industrial, retro looking fixtures like the ones you see here.

antique lighting fixture

lighting at Chicago Athletic Hotel restaurantotel

renovated lighting fixtures

My trip to Chicago gave me lots of great ideas! I’ll be sharing more inspiration as I travel to other areas in the months ahead! Stay tuned….

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My Favorite New England Artist (and My Sister)

Artwork is a very important finishing detail in every home. The art that you love reflects who you are and what brings you joy, encourages contemplation, or sparks your own creativity.

My very favorite New England artist is Elaine Sullivan Chamberlain. She also happens to be my sister. For many years, I took her talent for granted because she has always been that good! I tease her that her attention to detail began when we were little and she made acorn people with little outfits on! Really? (yes!)

Lanie lives in Massachusetts. She has an incredibly varied portfolio and resume, and works in a wide range of mediums. As a few examples…
• Portrait illustrations of political figures such as Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Bill Weld and Newt Gingrich that have been featured on the editorial pages of the Boston Globe, New Your Times and Chicago Tribune;
• Painted portraits for business and public figures such as Richard Egan (founder of EMC) and Walter Cronkite (news anchorman)
• Artifact and painting restorations for the Peabody Museum (at Harvard University) and the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston.
But it is her paintings that take your breath away most of all.

When I am working on a project and need the perfect piece of original art for a perfect spot, Lanie is the first person I go to. Often she paints just because she loves an image and is compelled to paint it. Sometimes — if I beg and she has the time — she will paint on commission for me. I even get to be her “artist rep” when people contact her for work! (Anyone who lives in Groton,MA has been blessed to see one of her paintings hanging in the lobby of the Groton Public Library as you enter… and many of those people want a painting just like THAT!)

Just look at this work! (And yes, the image of the stones is a painting!)

New England Artist Elaine Chamberlain

Barn painting Elaine Chamberlain

painting of barn window by Elaine Chamberlain

Painting of MA barn by artist Elaine Chamberlain

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New England Porches (and Front Stoops)

New England porch

Our winters last so long that we New Englanders want to make the most of every warm day. Maybe that is why we love our porches. Porches are a great way to extend living space into the outdoors. In the case of front porches, they do double duty as a place to relax in the summer while working year-round to keep rain and snow off your guests’ heads when they come to the front door.

A porch adds style and function to a house for relatively short money. Particularly if an exterior is a little plain, a porch can make the house look more appealing. When I can, I always incorporate a porch into renovation plans!

Most porches that I add fall into two categories: entry porches or screened porches. With all of our summer insects, screened porches are essential if you want to relax outside with a good book without constantly swatting black flies or mosquitoes. Here are a few things to think about:

Entry Porches:
Entry porches are a visually appealing way to provide cover over the entry door for protection from bad weather. When done in the correct scale, an entry porch also gives a visitor the clear message of where they’re supposed to go when arriving to a home.

Wolfeboro NH front entrance before renovation


Wolfeboro NH front entry remodeled fron


If you have the space, don’t skimp on the size! The most welcoming entries have space for a few chairs and pots of greens and flowers. If a true covered porch doesn’t work, still keep that front stoop concept in mind. A larger area to stand on at the front door is more inviting than a small landing that makes you feel as if you might fall off with one wrong step.

Screened Porches:
If you’re like me, a screened porch may be your favorite “room” in the house. To make the best use of the space, plan the screened porch as if it were a regular room. Think about how you and your family will use the space. Be sure to map out furniture layouts, lighting, locations for electrical outlets, ceiling finishes, and access to both the indoors and the outdoors.

New England screened porch

If you are building a new screened porch, consider adding an outdoor fireplace. It is a beautiful way to take the chill off. The ambiance and comfort cannot be underestimated!

Whether you are creating an entry porch or screen porch, here are three essentials to consider:
1. Make sure the size of the columns / posts are in scale! A common mistake is posts that are too small for the scale of the structure.
2. Think out the style of the railing. If you have a wonderful view, be sure not to block it with the railing!
3. What is the style of your home and porch? Rustic? Old fashioned? Cottage style?  The style will dictate the posts, ceiling style and finishes that look as if they belong.

Here are a few photos to get your creative juices flowing!


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Our Wolfeboro Home Renovation Begins!

My husband and I didn’t plan on adding on to our historic home in Wolfeboro so soon, but you know what they say about best laid plans! If you missed my first blog post about our renovation, check it out for a full explanation about how we got ourselves involved in an addition so soon after we completed a major renovation. Here’s the post: Wolfeboro Historic Home Renovation Round 2

Wolfeboro NH historic home renovation

And so it begins! The site work guys have arrived and excavation began this week.

To a homeowner, excavation seems like one of the less interesting parts of construction. It’s hard to visualize your dream home or addition emerging from a hole in the ground and most of us are just eager to move on to more exciting things, such as framing. Hopefully, the pros working on your project are a little more patient because the foundation is one of the most important pieces of every project. The height of the concrete floors, the exact location of the walls, and the right dimensions are all essential, particularly with additions. If measurements are off in any way, chances are good that you will be chasing problems the rest of the way through the construction.

Old houses offer their own unique challenges. None of the existing measurements are exact, framing varies and — in our house —  175 years of settling has affected things as well.

detail quote

We spent last Friday painstakingly measuring grades and floor heights. We needed to check and double check that measurements were correct to accommodate staircases and ceiling heights. Most of all, we needed to make sure we will be at the same floor height from the existing structure to the new addition when we connect the two sections.

Attention to detail is crucial. For example, we decided to shift the entire structure to the right by 8 inches. Seems like 8 inches wouldn’t matter, right? But I knew we needed to have a 30 inch finished interior wall in order to have built-ins fit right in the connection piece between the original home and the addition. Knowing this was one of our key dimensions, I had this on our checklist and lo and behold, we were off by 6 inches. As a result, we decided to do the shift to 8 inches… just in case!

Excavation should finish this week and looks like the foundation will be sometime the following week. I’ll keep you updated as the project progresses! (I promise the photos will get more interesting as rooms start to take shape).

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My New Favorite Exterior Railing

Are you giving your exterior railings the attention they deserve? Exterior railings are often viewed as a building code requirement rather than an important design element, but the right railing can be the perfect finishing touch.

Here are a few general considerations:

• Style and Design: The style of the railings should be in keeping with the style and design of your entire home. Be careful not to go too contemporary (wire or Plexiglas panels) if this does not fit the house. If your railing has balusters, pay attention to the scale (especially the posts — nothing looks worse that posts that are too skinny!)
• Materials: What are your priorities? Low maintenance? The look? Be sure to pick a material that meets your needs.
• Cost: The cost runs the gamut!! Determine the “feel” and style you are looking for and then price out a few different alternatives.

If your railing is going on a deck or porch that offers great views, you have a whole set of additional considerations. Here in New Hampshire, building codes call for an exterior railing height of 42″, which can really interfere with sight lines! To make the most of a gorgeous view, select railing materials to keep the view open.

One of my very favorite railings is this one from a recent project in Wolfeboro.

Wentworth Style favorite exterior railing

We added a wonderful deck that runs the full length of the house and a large screened porch so the owners could enjoy their spectacular lakefront views. Whether sitting outside or looking out the (many!) windows from inside, we wanted to keep the view open.

The home has a “cottagey” look. Typical balusters would match the style of the house, but the long deck might have felt a bit like a playpen with all those balusters! Fortunately, this client has a great sense of funky style and was willing to be a bit creative.

The end result was a railing designed using cedar and galvanized metal architectural mesh. Working with the local building supplier, the builder on the job found me the perfect scale of mesh (and met my challenge of wanting squares- not rectangles – as the grid pattern!). The cedar is low maintenance and will gray to become just the right color. Staying with code, a 4” space was added below the top rail and off of the deck – reducing the visual mass of the panels. Of course, we sized the top rail so it is the perfect landing place for a glass of iced tea!

We ended up loving this design so much, I carried it through to the interior railing detail. Instead of cedar, we will be wrapping the posts in pine and painting them white to match the other trim and woodwork finishes inside of the house.

What do you think? Do you like this railing or have other great railings to share? Feel free to comment!

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New England Home Design Treasures: Cornish Trading Company

People who know me laugh when they hear me say this: I hate shopping. Really.

But I DO love exploring and discovering the just right thing, for the just right space, for the just right feel in a home. I stand by my philosophy that your home is a special place that should be filled with special touches that just bring a smile to your face.

You may find things that you like in chain stores, but I feel the really special items are found in one-of-a-kind shops that tend to be off the beaten track. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite New England sources for home design treasures in the months to come, but I wanted to start with one of my MOST favorite places. Now that spring is here, the Cornish Trading Company in Cornish, Maine has re-opened for the season.

Cornish Trading Company source for Wentworth Style

The Cornish Trading Company is amazing. There is a wide array of styles (or what I refer to as “levels of rustic”. Some things will work great for a seasonal camp – other items for that renovated old home – others for a more traditional home that needs something a bit out of the ordinary).

It’s a co-operative shop (meaning multiple dealers) run by a great couple, Mike and Lisa Fulginiti. Their energy and creativity is clearly well represented by the dealers they let participate in the store. And as I spoke to Mike the other day, he was planning his trip to this spring’s Brimfield Antique Flea Market. This means more treasures on the way to Cornish!

Below is a shot of a wonderful new treasure… it’s an 1800’s clock that hung on the Town Hall in Morrisville, Vermont. Not sure this will end up inside or outside of the North Main Street project but watch for it… it will end up somewhere!

Oversized clock found by Patty Cooke at Cornish Trading Company

Here’s the link to their web site:  And make sure to make a day of it with lunch or dinner at the BEST restaurant … Krista’s! (Save room for the chocolate cake!!!)

unusual home furnishings Wentworth Style

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Decorating with Vintage Postcards

antique photos for decorating

A client recently asked me if I knew of a good place to find antique photos of summer life in New Hampshire. Her question made me realize how much I love decorating with vintage postcards. The postcards not only have some wonderful images… they often have a “story” on the other side. It is fun to see the wonderful, script handwriting, the date of the postmark, where they were sent, and the personal messages that often tell great stories of days gone by.

I usually find vintage postcards in antique stores or even some consignment shops. Though the quality can vary, the postcards often are in great old frames. When hung up in a grouping they look wonderful! Antique postcards can also be eye-catching “filler” for small, odd sized spots where there is not room for a large piece of artwork, but the space needs something.

I often select a few cards and have them framed at the local framing store. I typically do these in a long, vertical shape as a way to fill a thin area of wall space that needs some interest.

On a recent project, I took my decorating with vintage postcards a step further. The kitchen on this project had “bin” style drawers with glass fronts. You’ve probably seen these drawers filled with dried beans or pasta (or sometimes flour or nuts) to create the look of an old-fashioned farm kitchen. Well… I didn’t want to do that! So first, I put in a bunch of antique doorknobs left over from the project. It looked pretty good… but I was worried that the weight of these (heavy!) old knobs couldn’t be good resting against the glass.

So… I selected a few antique postcards I had of Wolfeboro, NH. I took them to a copy center and enlarged the images. Then I inserted the enlarged vintage postcards in the drawer fronts. I made sure to use color images to add zip to the lower section of cabinets. They draw your eye from across the room and add a fun bit of local history to an old house.

Take a look…

decorating with enlarged vintage postcards

enlarged vintage postcards in kitchen

What do you think? Could you picture decorating with vintage postcards in your home? Click the comments link at the top of this post to start a conversation if you are viewing this post from the home page of the blog, or scroll down to leave comments and share the post if you are on the main page for the post. Can’t wait to hear from you!

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