Paradise Found: Kona, Hilo, and Waikiki

26 Jul

I have experienced something magnificent and unique in every place I have ever visited. Throughout my most recent trip, spare maybe the Grand Canyon, I was more moved by nature than I have ever been. For my mom’s fiftieth birthday, my family traveled to the big island (Hawai’i Five-O, get it?).  Where else can you experience the power of the ocean, witness glowing red molten rock sputter out of a crater and be humbled by astronomy?

If you find yourself heading to Oahu or the Big Island, I’ll breeze over some favorites, hoping you find my experiences useful. If you’re not going anywhere for awhile, I hope the pictures provide a quick escape or motivation to start planning your next getaway.

After spending an afternoon at Punalu’u Black Sands Beach, we grabbed lunch at the  Ohelo Cafe on the way to Vocanoes National Park. If you’re short on time, walk through the Thurston Lava Tube and stop at the Jagger Museum overlook where we saw lava sputtering out of Kīlauea crater.

Punaluu Black Sands Beach HawaiiPalm Trees at Punaluu Black Sand Beach Hawaii Big Island

We rounded out the day with a guided night snorkel with manta rays. I hope to add photos of the dive to this post soon, but I used a waterproof disposable film camera, so they are currently being developed. I feel like I time travelled a decade just typing that.

Continue reading

Magical Places in London

7 Jul

November 2015. Paris is heinously attacked. The U.S. Department of State issues a travel alert for Americans travelling to Europe. We have flights and train tickets and hotel rooms booked to visit five cities with plans to do precisely what the government was advising us to avoid.

Concerned, Anthony and I discuss cancelling the trip we had long been anticipating. We were nervous (and so were our parents). I read horror stories of not being able to cross borders at specific locations we planned on using. The government advised against visiting open air markets; the main reason we chose the cities we did at Christmastime. What if we got stuck in one country or another? Or worse, what if the attacks earlier in the month were just the beginning of the terror?

I definitely did not throw caution to the wind. We enrolled in STEP. I sent my itinerary including hotel contact information to my dad. I printed out multiple copies of the address and phone number for the nearest consulate and/or embassy for each city we were visiting.

If you haven’t already guessed, we went. I was constantly alert and surveying my surroundings, as if I were walking to my car alone at night, but eventually my nerves settled and the trip quickly became one that had the je ne sais quoi of “the trip of a lifetime.”

London was the first of the five cities we visited. It was not originally on the itinerary, but we had to fly through Heathrow and opted to book an overnight layover. I had been once before, but Anthony had never. We arrived with just under 24 hours to cram in the sites he couldn’t miss and a few new experiences for me.

I am sure I have said it before: I almost never choose going to a place I have been over visiting somewhere new. However, there is something magical about return travel. It is like a strange memory game, flipping over cards you know you have seen before, remembering some precisely, and getting others entirely wrong.  It is also curious to see what has changed and what has remained exactly the same, or maybe even how you have changed since you last stood in the same place.

When booking our hotel, I felt compelled to stay at the place I stayed at with my British Literature class in college: The London Guards Hotel. Only, the very plain but conveniently located London Guards Hotel had turned into the very stylish, but reasonably priced Arbor Hyde Park. I couldn’t have hunted down more ideal accommodations: a well designed, central location with easy tube access and relatively inexpensive rates.

After dropping our bags, we headed out to Sketch for lunch. It was on my shortlist. Sketch is Wonderland: I cannot think of another place as full of whimsy. I could feel my imagination expanding as I walked in through the black curtained hopscotch path.

I ordered the souffle and giggled at the phone number seemingly scrawled on my napkin.

Sketch has different dining rooms serving different menus, open at different hours. Peer in all of them and find an excuse to use both restrooms.

Sketch London

Sketch London Pink Dining Room India Mahdavi Interior Design

Sketch London Dining Room

After quieting our gurgling stomachs, we hopped around to a few of the typical sites. If you have not been to London and have only a short time, you cannot miss Buckingham Palace, the House of Parliament/Big Ben, Westminster Abbey where royalty is married and crowned and where many greats are buried, and Tower Bridge which many mistake for London Bridge. Anthony also checked fish and chips off the proverbial list.

Buckingham Palace LondonBuckingham Palace Gates LondonRed Telephone Booth LondonWestminster Abbey LondonWestminster Abbey Courtyard Stained Glass London

A proper high tea was another “must” for me. Anthony obliged my desire to splurge on the Berkeley’s Fashion Tea in the Caramel Room which we reserved well in advance (bookings available 90 days out). These were moments of very meticulous magic. By our 5 o’clock tea time, I was bone-tired. And yet, we stayed up until the morning hours, returning to our hotel with just a few hours to shut our eyes before catching our flight to Salzburg.

Best Tea in London Berkeley

After the surprisingly hardy tea sandwiches, scones, and savory bites, we nibbled on a couple of the stunning sweet treats and they boxed up the remainders in a darling neon purse-shaped box. I should also mention they had my name on a shoe-shaped place card when we were seated. The details were delightful!

Fashion Tea at The Berkeley

Fashion Tea at The Berkeley London

Harrods was a short walk from the Berkeley, so, silly me, I thought we could just pop in.

Harrods London at Night at Christmas

We sampled Charbonnel et Walker chocolates at the counter and ogled at the variety before settling on champagne truffles in a Union Jack box.

Charbannel et Walker Harrods London

I wish I would have captured better photos and videos of the animated window displays: teddy bears popping a holiday cracker to reveal Louboutin shoes, a strong man pressing purses, and background singers dancing in flapper dresses.

The last stop before our late night nap was for a night cap at Savoy Hotel’s Beaufort Bar. We ordered cocktails from their pop-up menu (request if not offered). Jetlagged, we sat in one of the gilded alcoves, relaxed a bit, and relished in the fact that we chose a daring adventure over nothing at all.

On my next trip to London, I refuse to miss Selfridges, Fortnum and Mason,  Victoria and Albert Museum, and Bob Bob Ricard. To see other places I’ve been or want to go in London, check out my custom map.

 

 

 

 

Dining Room Updates

6 Jun

Slow progress, as promised. It wasn’t an intentional makeover or a quick redecoration done in a weekend. I hardly noticed it changed, until I was updating the home tour page for another room and realized the dining room IRL didn’t mirror the dining room on the blog.

Dining Room with Copper Mirror Gusto and Grace Blog

One weekend, we painted the ceiling, another weekend, the walls. I gradually added plates to the collection over the curio, and got new glasses to fill it. I picked up a book here and some containers there and eventually styled the alphabet chest. At some point, I gilded the mirror’s frame. It seems like forever ago that I spray-painted the chandelier my coworker discarded and moved the picture frames that used to hang above my stairway. I can’t even pinpoint when I turned the table (cue Adele) 45 degrees.

Astier de Villatte Paris Large Adelaide Bowl

Green and Copper Dining Room

Just as a reminder, here is what the dining room looked like when I photographed it last. Woah!

Zebra Cowhide Rug White and Black Dining Room

Proof. Small steps toward the vision make a big difference.

For more inspiration, check out my H is for Home Pinterest Board!

Highlights of Seattle, Washington

19 May

Seattle surprised me. For a city so full of culture, delicious food, fantastic museums, interesting architecture, and rich history, it was easily explored over a long weekend that felt laid-back and entirely unpretentious.

Seattle also shocked me. It was not all pretty pictures. Even coming from Austin, I was taken aback by the extent of their very apparent housing issues.

Travel has a wonderful way of opening our eyes a little bit wider.

IMG_3999.JPG

Pike Place Market Seattle Washington

No exaggeration, I have had some of the best, most memorable food in all my travels at Pike Place Market. We sampled many places, but if you’re looking for the short list of unmissables, I would send you to Ellenno’s Greek YogurtPike Place Chowder, and Piroshky, Piroshky. I cannot stress how good Ellenno’s yogurt and Pike Place Chowder are. I swear I would choose that yogurt above ice cream any given day. We ordered a sampler of chowder, and were not disappointed with a single variety. At Piroshky, Piroshky, go for a beef and cheese, the perfect, warm breakfast (or snack) on a drizzly day.

Piroshky Piroshky Pike Place Market Seattle Washington

While you’re at the market, take a moment to watch them throw fish at Pike Place Fish Market…

Fresh Fish Pike Place Market Seattle WA

…and pick up a flower (or a bouquet of flowers) at one of the stalls.

Pike Place Market Flowers Seattle

Continue reading

Highlights of Savannah, Georgia

12 Apr

You can say Savannah had me at hello. I feel like every experience I had during my day trip from Charleston last summer was a touch of magic. Savannah filled me with wonder.

Our first stop was SCAD Museum of Art and I was sold. The words that come to mind are multisensory. Rashaad Newsome’s exhibit was auditory while visual while Ling Hongbo’s was visual and tactile. SCAD Museum of Art Colorful Rainbow Paper Guns and Bullets Exhibit

Looking to support some SCAD students? Shop SCAD is a cute boutique with student-filled works.

I am not exaggerating when I say that Chocolate by Adam Turoni is one of my favorite shops in the world.  Each shop is like a room in a fantastical house, the first I visited was a library, a chocolate library. Imagine: glass enclosed bookcases full of chocolate. The staff hands you trays reminiscent of old card catalog drawers. Each truffle or bar variety is labeled, in typewritten font, on library cards.  After visiting the first shop, I knew I had to also visit their second location.The second shop I visited was a dining room, that made you feel as if you had been personally invited to the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The chocolates themselves are no less whimsical. From a George Milies Trip To The Moon chocolate to a made to order creme brulee truffle, each piece is a handmade delight.

Adam Turoni Dining Room

Continue reading

Gray, Navy, and Copper Bathroom

30 Mar

It went from bad to worse before it got good, and I take full responsibility. I was so desperate to rid my master bathroom of its beige walls, that I hastily painted them a way-too-dark gray. It completely clashed with the orange-y wood cabinets and the fact that I lacked a big-picture vision when I dove in left me with an unattractive, mood-bending room.

Exhibit A (a.k.a. before):

After deciding on a bedroom color scheme and finding a little inspiration, I settled on reparation plans for the bathroom. It never ceases to amaze me what a little paint and hardware can do.

Behold! (a.k.a. after):

When I painted the kitchen cabinets, I trusted the guy at the hardware store and went for latex paint and bonding primer. I opted to test out oil based primer and paint this time to see if it would reduce visible brush strokes and hold up better over time. I will report back.

The hardest part was undoubtedly going from knobs to pulls. I have a new found appreciation for cabinet makers. Getting two holes level, centered, and the right distance apart is more challenging than it should be. There may or may not be a broken drill bit still in one of the drawer fronts…

Truth be told, I replaced the standard builder-issued mirror with these wanna-be Venetian beauties some time ago, but they didn’t come alive until the walls were lightened.

Inexpensive Cheap Venetian Style Mirror

 

While the work is never done, the room just feels good now.

Have questions? Comment below.

Source list- Wall paint: Valspar’s Urban Sunrise from Lowes | Cabinet Paint: Behr Oil Paint color matched to Valspar’s Indigo Streamer from Home Depot | Copper Hardware: Amazon  | Mirrors: Wisteria

Vision, Contentment, and Progress in Decorating

2 Feb

When I first started blogging about home décor, I didn’t have a job. That is great if you want to crank out posts, but gives you zero funding to use for decorating projects to post about.

VISION was such a huge part of where this blog started and each tiny project felt like a huge triumph in making the city of Austin my new home. It was a cycle: dream, wait, create. Then it got to a point where we had a little cash flow and needed to buy things to make our home cozy. While Anthony and I have never been excessive in spending, I didn’t want the blog to turn into post after post of look what I can buy. I also want creativity to live and breathe in our home (and on this blog), without being stuffocated. Then I went through a very stale phase of doing nothing to our home.

In some ways, I feel like I am right back at the start. A girl full of vision, without pockets deep enough to cash out on my dreams all at once.

Anthony and I are very goal-oriented people, and while we do set aside a small sum of money each month so we can work towards the vision, a full kitchen renovation (or the like), is not on our list of financial priorities. This continues to teach me the teetering balance between contentment and vision, and to find the virtues in both (namely growth and joy). In this, I have learned to thrive on progress.

The cycles continue: dream, wait, create.

I am currently planted firmly in the dream phase. I feel like my ideas are bursting to come to life. As I said on Intagram, I feel as if my creativity tank was refilled in the new year. In the spirit of my humble beginnings (not to say this blog and my home aren’t still feeble attempts at progress), I am going to create a list for this year (as I did in 2014) of things I would like to accomplish in our home this year.

  • Paint the master bathroom cabinets and replace the hardware
  • (re)paint the master bathroom
  • Paint the kitchen/dining
  • Install picture frame moulding in the kitchen/dining
  • Get new nightstands
  • Replace a few more light fixtures (dining room, upstairs landing, closet?, kitchen?)
  • Purchase a few accessories (copper or rose gold frames, acrylic book stand, fauxidermy giraffe)
  • Get roman shades for living room/entry
  • Gild the dining mirror
  • Lacquer the alphabet chest
  • Replace the laundry room doors
  • Repaint barstools
  • Clear out the office/storage room
  • Install radiant barrier

The first four items on the list will hopefully happen quickly as they are inexpensive DIYs. Anthony and I started painting the kitchen and dining this weekend and have just a little bit left to go. I also picked up these gorgeous copper pulls for a song.

wp-1454430903976.jpg

Do you identify? What phase would you say you’re in? What do you want to accomplish in your home this year?

 

Charleston, South Carolina

21 Jan

Charleston didn’t take hold of me quite the way I expected. Maybe it was the pouring rain and the late bus from the airport to the city, or dragging my suitcase down narrow, crowded, cobblestone sidewalks. Maybe it was the miserable humidity. Maybe it was because I had heard so many tales of people swooning over the city and my expectations were high. Maybe it had something to do with its ties to ugly parts of American history.

Row Houses Charleston.jpg

Or maybe, possibly, it was because I had to submit to the (s)Low Country pace of the city before I could really enjoy it. Sure, I live in Texas, but Charleston was my first visit to the deep South. It has a flavor all its own, and I had to get to know it, before I could love it.

Charleston City Market

Our time in Charleston consisted of lots of long strolls, a fair amount of history, and more than enough food.

Starting with food recommendations, I’ll spare you my criticisms of our first several meals, and instead reaffirm the idea that Charleston is a city full of great food. I think we were eating breakfast at Hominy Grill when Anthony and I had the realization that we had much better luck with Low Country cuisine in Charleston than when we tried to be fancy. You can’t get too much better than the Charleston Nasty Biscuit.

 

Husk started off with a bang. I fell in love with pimento cheese in Charleston, and Husk served simply the best. The rest of our lunch there kind of fizzled out, but I would go again and again for that wonderful cheddar pimento slathered on grilled bread.

I seized another opportunity to eat pimento at Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit and again at Artisan Meat Share. Both places served wonderful, casual meals

wp-1453393028479.jpgOn the advice of a friend (who’s recommendations never fail us), Anthony and I went to Edmond’s Oast for happy hour. We ordered lamb sliders, and I fully expected to be served a ground lamb patty on a bun. To my sheer delight, they brought out house-cured lamb. They continued to impress with Japanese style street corn. I also had a cocktail called, “What time does Sean Connery show up to Wimbledon?” Though we only snacked, dining there was a true experience.

Edmond's Oast Charleston

We only ate lightly at Edmond’s Oast due to our late-night dinner reservations at FIGWe probably should have booked a table prior to arriving in South Carolina, but when we called, they squeezed us into a late night spot the next evening.

Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream graces Austin with its truck for SXSW, so I could not pass up my first opportunity to visit a scoop shop and have a sundae with a conversation cookie and sprinkles. The ice cream is top notch and their caramel sauce makes a wonderful souvenir. The stunning copper store front isn’t so bad either.

 

I stand firmly in the camp of room service is a (usually overpriced and tasteless) treat and breakfast in bed is the best. Charleston is exactly the type of city you can order in in without feeling like you’re missing out. You could even one-up room service by ordering  Caviar & Bananas for delivery. If you do head out, Caviar & Bananas was the perfect stop for an iced coffee, a welcome reprieve from the hellish humidity. It is a darling delicatessen stocked with locally sourced artisianal groceries.

I donut eat many doughnuts at home, but rarely pass up an opportunity to try a fancy local doughnut shop while travelling. Glazed Gourmet Doughnuts was not exempt. I preferred their savory pastries to their sweet ones, regardless, it was a tasty, inexpensive morning meal.

 

Anthony and I do not usually splurge on hotel, but opt to spend our money on other experiences. Had we splurged, I would have opted to stay at the newly opened Spectator Hotel. I still wanted to eye the stunning design in person, so we swung by for drinks one evening. A kind Texan on staff there recommended we go to Poogan’s Porch for brunch. We never made it, so go for me if you’re there!

Spectator Hotel Charleston Lobby

We stayed at the charming and art-filled hotel, The Vendue. I tend to refuse room service on vacation, but how could I when nightly turn down service included chocolate on my pillow? Free coffee in the morning, appetizers and wine in the evening, and cookies at night did not hurt either.

The Vendue Charleston Boutique Art HotelThe Vendue Charleston Hotel Art ViewMaster LOOK

The Vendue is less than a block from Waterfront Park. Somehow we woke up early enough one morning to swing on the dock during the last few minutes of sunrise.

Waterfront Park Charleston

Waterfront Park Dock CharlestonWhile it’d be nearly impossible to miss, you can’t go to Charleston without a stroll down King Street. When we didn’t feel like long walks in the hot hot heat, the free, air-conditioned Trolley saved our feet.

I felt like it was really important to see Fort Sumpter while we were in Charleston, where the first shots of the American Civil War rang out. If you’re looking for more American history, you’ll find plenty in Charleston. I would recommend a visit to the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.

I also felt compelled to visit one of the many plantation houses while we were there. We opted to visit Magnolia, though if I had a do-over, I may have chosen Middleton Place. After our tour, we took a lengthy stroll through the gardens and I learned I prefer tailored French gardens over their  English counterparts.

Magnolia Plantation House Charleston copy.jpg

On the way back from our day trip to Savannah (post in progress), we stopped to see the Angel Oak Tree, estimated to be over 400 years old with a circumference greater than twenty-five feet!

Angel Oak Tree Charleston Oldest Tree.jpg

As a traveller I am a go-go-goer. I love to see the world! Charleston taught me, that sometimes seeing the world and experiencing a city, means just sitting still in it for a moment.

Have you been to Charleston? Share your memories in the comments below!

 

The Comforts of Home and Sneak Peeks of Bedroom Updates

11 Jan

I know I am not alone when saying that, as much as I love travel, there is nothing quite like coming home. Anthony and I recently returned from a phenomenal trip to Europe (posts coming soon) followed by an extended trip back to Dallas-Fort Worth for the holidays. Setting foot back on Austin soil always feels like a big breath of fresh air. I often say I would not choose going somewhere I have been over somewhere new, but home is one of the few exceptions, more specifically, my bedroom I am slowly working on transforming.  No bed can compete with your very own.

I usually write about pretty things that make home LOOK better, but today, I want to focus on a few things that make home FEEL better: those familiar creature comforts that make home the cozy retreat to which you look forward to returning.

For me, those things include dimmer switches, blackout lined curtains, and rug pads.

I have a dimmer switch installed in our ensuite bathroom. I am a morning shower person, but I wake up slowly. Flipping a switch to full brightness was jarring to me, but was an easy, inexpensive fix. A $10 trip to Lowe’s a few turns of a screwdriver later, I can wake up at my own pace. Bonus points for Anthony and I not waking each other up if one of us has to use the restroom in the middle of the night.

Dimmer Lightswitch

Blackout lined curtains was the most recent addition to our bedroom and I will be forever singing their praises. They are especially nice for weekend naps and adjusting back to Central Standard Time after a far-away escapade. They range in price greatly, and are the most expensive of the three items, but are both beautiful and purposeful.

Copper Curtain Rod Navy Velvet Blackout Curtains

I’m not a huge fan of carpet, but stepping out of bed onto hardwood floors in the morning isn’t on my list of luxurious feelings. After ridding our room of a rug that shed too much to keep up with and laying down a silky, low-pile replacement, RugpadUSA offered to send me a wood safe, eco-friendly pad. It turned out to be very similar to one I had purchased off of Amazon for our living room, but working with them was great and their pricing is competitive! They cut the pad to precisely fit my rug dimensions and will offer guidance, if needed, on choosing a pad that won’t damage your floors and meets your expectations. Since my bed anchors my rug, for me it was more about cushion than grip, and protecting both our floors and rug. I was disappointed when I removed my old, unpadded rug to find that my bed had left several small dents in my wood floor. The added padding also ups the plush factor in our bedroom. Rug pads certainly aren’t showstoppers that transform the look of your room, but I have learned that they’re worth the (small) investment.

Rug and Pad

What are some of your favorite unseen material elements of home?

Navy, Lavender, and Grey Bedroom

9 Nov

Somewhere between travelling, making fewer but larger changes to the house, and trying to figure out what the future of Gusto & Grace looks like, I’ve heard that little whisper: get back to blogging.

The truth is, I haven’t been entirely satisfied with the quality of work I have put into the blog. I follow a lot of bloggers with already stunning homes that they tweak and photograph or majorly renovate, who have graphic designers and website techs on speed dial. I follow many bloggers whose full time jobs are to decorate, improve their photography, and network online. My social media feeds are a barrage of gorgeous work put out by gorgeous women. That, not being my story, seems to make blogging success and a strong readership unlikely.

But maybe I need to change my view of success. I love all the creative and inspiring content so many bloggers are putting out, and sometimes even wish I could do exactly the same, but I miss blogs of process. I miss blogs as a side hustle where the decor (fashion, food, etc.) featured is realistic for readers (those who aren’t getting the free product). I miss blogs that feel more authentic and truer to the everyday life I live.

Blog on!, that voice insists. So here I will humbly write, in hopes of finding my own voice, in hopes of being the blog, like the first few I discovered a decade ago, that is relatable and inspiring in a down-to-earth, i-can-do-that sort of way.

Vision finally struck for my very unfinished master bedroom, and I created a crude design board, completely void of accessories. I hope you’ll stick around for the next year or so, as I pull it together, piece by piece.

Navy, Lavender, and Grey Bedroom Design Board

I am excited about the challenge of creating a comfortable, peaceful, and rejuvenating space for Anthony and myself.

After quite the saga of hunting down the perfect copper curtain rod, I hung curtains last week, and ordered the rug pictured. Over the last two weeks I have picked up some euro shams and a new comforter on deep discount. The mirrored copper side table is on my Christmas wishlist while the armoire, peacock, and inlaid nightstands are dream pieces I hope to pick up over time. Photos and sources to follow.

As always, thanks for reading,
Dominique
%d bloggers like this: