Pool Furniture in Italy

FINALLY!!! The pool was ready for furniture.

While the workers constructed the pool deck and the pergola, I shopped for outdoor furniture.

The first thing I wanted to establish was the vibe. Since I have a rather bohemian approach to design, I wanted the pool design to reflect the rest of our space. We love Mykonos, so I thought drawing inspiration from the hotel pools there would be a good jumping-off point. Plus it would look great with the gorgeous view surrounding the pool area. I wanted something serene and cool but nothing fussy or colorful. Although I do love a little quirkiness in my designs, I found that all white was the way to go, and I could add a little whimsy as well.

photo: David Loftus

Most of the furniture is very natural and organic. I found the most amazing pink Bulgarian fish stand at one of my favorite props houses outside Bologna. My friend and partner in crime and producer, prop mistress Barbara took me to this place over the winter. When I entered this warehouse, I nearly fainted from overload…yes beauty overload. I saw this amazing ‘bar.” Actually, they had some extraordinary bars, but this pink one had my name on it, and it was the perfect addition to my pool vibe. We love to make cocktails and serve them, so why not have a really cool pink bar to serve them from?! The bar really made the look of the pool perfection in my eyes.

We bought it, and set a delivery date. Of course the delivery date was on a day we were shooting my new cookbook, La Fortezza Cookbook, and let me tell you, thank God it was because the company sent 1 driver to deliver 1 heavy heavy bar, and we needed all the crew to help unload it. Barbara was a super hero as she not only made a plan of how to unload this 500 pound bar, but she jumped up on the truck and single handedly unloaded it with help from our chef Leo and our stylist’s husband Charlie. It was quite the group effort. Along with the driver, a very nice woman, they managed to unload and place the pink bar without injury to them or the bar.

The pergola serves as a respite from the sunshine, and a breezy place to read or take a nap. I have also been working at the table. In fact I am writing from here right now. I found this really cool table at one of my favorite little stores. It’s actually a chain store much like World Market in the US. I saw the table, but unlike my usual shopping decisions, I did not buy it right away. When I went back the next day, it was gone. They had sold the last one. I asked if possibly there was another at another store location? They looked at me like I had said something so odd they could not wrap their brains around it. In the states that would be the natural question, but in Italy not so much. So I googled the store locations while the girls just looked at each other and scratched their heads. “Here,” I said. “Livorno, could you call and ask if they have the table?” “Livorno?” one of the girls replied, “I guess we could, Si.”

They called the store, and they had 2 tables. “Please have them hold one, and I will come get it,” I said. Now in the US, they would have taken my credit card, and then had it shipped to the house. But not in Italy, no such thing. I waved goodbye, and I jumped in the car and headed to a strip mall in Livorno, about 30 minutes away. When I arrived at the store, I made my purchase and met the salesgirl at the back door to load my table. It would not fit. She said you could strap it to the top of the car. Um, no that sounds dangerous and illegal I thought. I asked for the manager. She walked to the car and looked at the table and the Land Rover, and said this will not fit. “So can I have it delivered?” “No”, she said. Pretty blunt, I thought, but there was no way that this table could not be delivered. She worked at a furniture store how could that be?

Then I looked at my phone and realized it was lunch time, and everything stops in Italy at lunchtime. I surmised she just did not want to deal with me. “We can give you a refund,” she said, mildly annoyed. I was going to have it delivered I thought; nothing would stop me. I asked her to call a delivery company and find out how much to deliver. About 15 minutes later she walked towards me phone in hand and said, “It is very expensive”, …”How much?” I said. “100 euros”, she replied. “Sounds good, I said let’s have it delivered.” She continued to talk on the phone for another 10 minutes and then turned to me and said, they can’t deliver it.” Then she hung up.

Mildly pissed off, I called Barbara the solver of all things. It took her about 5 minutes to call a delivery company and arrange to have the table delivered, the same day. I handed to phone to the store manager, and she and Barbara got it all worked out. I profusely thanked Barbara. Jumped into the car an drove off. In Italy this entire scenario is what we all to refer to as “Normale”(normal). Everything is more complicated, but in the end I got my table, and I LOVE it.

The pool is really great. We love the entire set up, and although it was a project and a half, it was worth all the effort, all the pain, and the endless work involved to make it happen. Remember I am a pit bull when it comes to projects, and NO is not an option. When in Italy renovating, this is the best way to be. Ciao all and hope to see you poolside, here at La Fortezza someday. xx

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Simple Cake for Any Occasion

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Did you hear? It’s my book’s first birthday this week. That’s right; Italy is My Boyfriend came out one year ago, and what a year it’s been! I’ve been celebrating on Instagram with various giveaways (make sure you check them out!).

I thought today would be a fun day to post a simple cake recipe: olive oil cake. Olive oil cake is something Italians serve their children since it’s a mild, sweet, soft cake. Children and adults alike will love this cake. I tested a few versions, but this one was the winner!

Olive Oil Cake
Serves 12

You will need:
– 
2 large eggs, room temperature
– 1  cup sugar
– 1 cup whole milk
– 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
– 1 teaspoon vanilla
– 1 tablespoon lemon zest
– 2 cups all-purpose flour
– 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
– 1 teaspoon fine salt
*1/2 teaspoon flour and 1 teaspoon butter, to butter then flour the pan
*1 teaspoon powdered sugar for dusting

To Prepare: 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 10” spring-form ring pan.

Lightly beat eggs with a paddle attachment in standing mixer on high for 1 minute until frothy. Add sugar beat until fluffy, and add milk, add olive oil, lemon zest and vanilla. Mix for 1 minute until well blended. Mix in the flour, baking soda and baking powder and salt until well blended and smooth.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake pan. Bake for 45 minutes – 1 hour. Place on a rack to cool upside down. Remove spring pan. About 5 minutes into cooling the cake will drop, let cool. Invert on to a cake plate and dust with powdered sugar.

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Introducing Grandmillennial Shop:: Nicole’s side hustle

Grandmillennial Shop Living Room

I scored this sofa table at Scott Antique Market for pennies.

Hi All!

It’s Nicole, Annette’s web-manager and friend here today to introduce something near and dear to me: my side-hustle, Grandmillennial Shop. For nearly two years, I have been perusing estate sales, thrift shops and antique stores for the very best grandmillennial style items. Then, I sell my goods during my weekly sales on Fridays at 9 AM, EST and Sundays at 5 PM, EST.

Are you familiar with the term grandmillennial? It was coined by former House Beautiful editor, Emma Bazillion a few years ago, and it has stuck as the definition of those of us who love great antiques, spend time needlepointing, and can never pass up a vintage floral fabric. Basically, it’s me. And no, it’s not granny-chic. It’s more than that.

Seen here: Staffordshire figure dated 1850s, sterling silver coasters & snuffer, and a crystal vase – all estate finds!

I have always been an old soul. I bought my first antique in 2007, and have been stocking my house with them ever since. I love chintz and chinoiserie, and I have a sterling silver collection that might rival your grandmother’s. Ironically, my great-grandparents owned a furniture store in Montgomery, Alabama. I never knew them, but I like to think that their spirit lives on in my love for old things.

Grandmillennial living room

In the background of this photo of my living and dining room, you can see a bamboo barcart. I actually bought this with Annette a few years ago!

Plus, you simply cannot beat the deals and the quality found in vintage and antique pieces. I’ve even convinced my friends and sister of it! For example, the below rug is a vintage, Chinese rug. It’s handwoven, and my sister scored it for $35!!!! It’s a lifetime piece, and it’s fabulous! The next photo is of my Brunschwig & Fils scallop black-out drapes. All 6 panels were $300. WOWZAS.

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My sister’s vintage rug she scored for $35.

 

Pattern mixing

My estate sale drapery.

I get most of my finds at estate sales. They’re so fun to peruse because you get to see how people used the items for sale (hello inspo!), plus who doesn’t love a house tour? My number one tip for finding estate sales in your area is to use estatesales.net. It’s such a great website! You can see how far a particular sale is from your location, as well as see photos to see if it’s worth the trek. I even used it last week while on a buying trip to central Florida! I pulled it up, found a sale a few minutes away, and left with some awesome goods!

A few of my finds on the right and my big tote bag I always bring to sales.

If you’re in Atlanta, you can shop with me at Westside Market Toco Hills. But if you’re not local to Atlanta, you can shop with me via Instagram. I sell everything from vintage P. Kaufmann fabric to mid-century barware and even contemporary Grandmillenial finds like tassels that match the overall aesthetic!

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I’d love for you to follow me over at Grandmillennial Shop on Instagram. It’s a fun, vibrant follow, and it’s quickly become my pride and joy! Thank you, Annette, for letting me share my shop here. I can’t wait to go thrifting with you in Italy!

xo Nicole

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Shopping with me in Italy…who’s coming?!

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“As a prop stylist, I regard shopping as a sport”…

I am pretty over the moon to announce this 2022 spring retreat, The Great Italian Shopping Experience is back. A couple of years ago, I did a shopping retreat. Let’s just say it was super popular. We instantly sold out. We had a waiting list of 50 people…I am not even kidding…

So, next year, in June, I will be revamping this one with more shopping and more locations. Only 8 people can come for 5 days of non-stop flea-ing and shopping at all of my secret haunts. Who’s coming?

The dates are June 22- 27th 2022. Mark your calendars now! For all of you who missed your chance, we are launching this workshop on Friday, May 1st, so be sure check back in (or even better, subscribe to my newsletter).

We will be going to flea markets, junk shops, artisan food purveyors, vintage dealers, Italian merchants from this region and beyond.

I could not be more excited to go hunting and gathering with you…

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We’re Baaaaaack!

xx Annette

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DIY Hanging Wreath

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I love the idea of doing a holiday table under our patio arbor, especially this year. As I discussed, I’m discouraging holiday gatherings, but I’m absolutely encouraging sprucing up your home for the season. It will bring you so much joy. Plus, if the weather allows, you can take your family dinner outdoors.

I got my inspiration for this set-up from Swedish Christmas design. It’s always so simple; paired down and classic.

This DIY for a hanging wreath is easy and really pretty. It looks so much more complicated than it is. Happy Holidays!

To Create:

1. Form the garland into a circle.

2. Secure the wreath in 3 places with floral wire.

3. Attach the ornaments with twine.

4. Using 4 pieces of ribbon about 3 feet long, tie the wreath to your light fixture or chandelier. Note: this can be suspended from the ceiling with longer pieces of ribbon or with hooks.

xx

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