Things We Like: Grand Bedroom Design at the Hearst Castle

Post by Kyle St. Romain.

If you enjoy experiencing high design, then the tour of the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, California should be on the top of your to do list. Two weekends ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Hearst Castle for myself having first learned about it from an episode of the History Channel. Pictures hardly do it justice, and the drive up there is breathtaking.

If you don’t know about the Hearst Castle, it is the largest private estate in California. Donated by the Hearst Corporation in 1957, the castle was originally constructed by William Randolph Hearst and designed by renowned architect Julia Morgan in the early to mid 1900s. It is the west coast’s answer to the Biltmore estate in North Carolina, though the climate is much nicer in California and the ocean views are unmatched.

The Hearst Castle took over 28 years of continuous construction before bankrupting WR Hearst, and it was never completed. It is estimated to have cost nearly $10,000,000 (about $133 million in 2011 dollars); however, the exact cost of construction is unknown. The castle, which is more a village than anything else, features 56 bedrooms sprawling over 100 acres. So, as you can imagine, I got to see a lot of different bedrooms on my tours; each one designed with its own unique theme. As a regular writer here at the Charles P Rogers blog, I was sure to take a lot of pictures to share with you.

What surprised me the most about the bedrooms at the Hearst castle is their size. I knew they were going to be luxuriously appointed, but didn’t imagine them being so small. The beds are even quite small by today’s standards. Why is this? Space was certainly not an issue, as the entire estate encompasses more than 90,000 square feet, so it had to be something else.

While I don’t have the architect’s notes to give you a definitive answer as to why the bedrooms were designed so small, my guess is that it is a combination of utility—bedrooms had a more a singular purpose then—and design conventions of the era. Also, while the estate featured state-of-the-art electric heaters, it gets pretty cold on top of the mountain during the winter, and a smaller bedroom would have be easier to keep warm.

I left the castle dreaming of one day owning a home as grand as one of the many guest cottages scattered throughout the property. However, that is unlikely as I imagine international treaties prohibit the importation of the antiquities you’d need to decorate your bedroom in similar style today as many of the architectural features were salvaged from European churches.

If you’ve visited the Hearst Castle, we’d love to hear what you think. We also welcome ideas about other marvelous homes to visit. Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Breakfast in Bed: Dinner Roll French Toast

Post by Alison Hein.

You gotta love food history – it’s just plain confusing. Take French Toast, for example. Invented in France, right? Non! The very first reference to a dish of bread soaked in milk appeared in the Apicus, a historical collection of Latin recipes dating back to the 4th or 5th century. The Latins called it Aliter Dulcia, or “another sweet dish.” A German version that appeared several hundred years later was called Arme Ritter, “poor knights,” and it’s not until the 14th century that a French recipe for Pain Perdu, or “lost bread,” shows up.

The bottom line is that cooks from all generations and geographies shared a common understanding: stale bread can not only be revived when dipped in milky eggs and grilled to a crisp, but can even be made delicious.

Dinner Roll French Toast is a fun variation – a mini-breakfast sandwich, stuffed with plump, juicy berries, dusted with powdered sugar, and drizzled with thick maple syrup. Have your young chefs help you cook, and magically turn stale rolls, or hotdog or hamburger buns, into something spectacular. Like our ancestors, they can turn “lost bread” into an amazing find – a delicious, grilled-to-a-crisp breakfast in bed.

Ingredients
1 cup milk
2 eggs
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
4 small dinner rolls, sliced in half (Challah or brioche are good choices)
2 to 4 tablespoons butter
1 cup mixed berries, or other fruit
Confectioner’s sugar, for garnish

Preparation
In large, shallow bowl, whisk together milk, eggs and cinnamon. Dip dinner roll halves into the egg mixture, turning once to completely saturate. Melt 2 tablespoons of butter in heavy skillet. Add rolls and cook over medium to medium-low heat, turning once, until golden and cooked through, about 5 to 7 minutes, adding more butter as needed. Place one dinner roll on each of 4 plates, and top with mixed berries. If you like, place some fruit on the bottom of the roll, cover with fruit, and cover with the roll top. Sprinkle lightly with confectioner’s sugar. Serve warm with maple syrup.

Makes 4 servings.

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Bedroom Design: There Will be (Ox)Blood

Post by Laura Cheng.

Oxblood red is making its debut in bedroom decor, just in time for Halloween.  Not just a color for blood cells, red is taking a very dark turn for fall. A few shades deeper than burgundy, oxblood red is one of the richest, most luxurious shades for everything from pillows to walls.

On a recent flight, I was bored and antsy. I started to browse the SkyMall magazine strategically placed in the seat pocket in front of me. I generally find more humor than considerable content in this tabloid of a shopping catalog. However, this time, I stumbled upon a red Fontella felt rose pillow that did capture my attention and serves to be very strong contender for oxblood red bedroom decor. When incorporating oxblood into a room, starting with a small, but powerful statement piece such as this pillow is a good way to ease into the trend. Red is definitely not an easy color to experiment with. But pillows such as these can help with the transition.

Source: http://www.skymall.com/shopping/detail.htm?pid=204518814&c=

Other accessories such as a porcelain lamp can also used to make a bedroom bold and bright a little step (for both your pocketbook and your hesitant sanity) at a time. Whether matte or shiny, oxblood red adds the right amount of color and drama to the bedroom.

Source: http://tinyurl.com/b629kvu

Trying to find the perfect shade of red is like trying to find the perfect pair of jeans. Although finding the perfect pair of jeans may be slightly easier. It took me 8 years and after 42 pairs, I am not letting go of my vintage Levi’s. By the looks of this bedroom, you could never tell that red is one of the hardest paint colors to get right. This highly stylish bedroom makes it look so easy. It works well because the bed and curtain linens are kept crisp and neutral. Oxblood works well with white, black and beiges. Variations of the red, as seen in the floral arrangements, add depth and interest to further enhance the colors.

Source: http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2012/oct/21/red-hot/

Not quite ready for fully painted walls? Curtains require less of a commitment. When it comes to curtains, color and fabric must be considered. This bedroom accomplishes both. Floor to ceiling oxblood red taffeta curtains transform this bedroom into a ballroom. The fabric is almost life like, grazing softly across the floor.  Again, simple, muted furnishings allow the deep red hues of the curtain to grace the bedroom without overpowering it.

Source: http://www.thedecorista.com/2012/08/what-windows-want.html

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Bedtime Stories: The Last Dragonslayer

Post by Mark T. Locker.

The Last Dragonslayer by Jasper Fforde.

If you are a fan of cheeky British mysteries and/or metaliterature, you may be familiar with Jasper Fforde, whose Thursday Next novels and Nursery Crime series are quite well-known. His deft handling of the role of corporate culture, media, and government in a dryly ironic manner that only an Englishman could do keeps him always funny and always interesting.

This theme carries over into his first foray into his first series aimed at young adults and he pulls off the transition seamlessly.

Jennifer Strange is a foundling, brought up by the Sisterhood of the Lobster and given to the Great Zambini (can you guess his profession?) to be trained as an apprentice manager of magicians. But when Zambini disappears and she is left, at age fifteen, to manage a building full of magicians (who are notoriously scatterbrained and disorganized) she thinks her new fate has been drawn.

Little does she know that real fate is still awaiting: Jennifer Strange is the last in a long line of Dragonslayers, sworn to protect humans from dragons and dragons from humans. When it is foreseen that she will kill the last dragon, she embarks in her spike studded Rolls Royce Slayermobile to figure out what is fate, what is choice, and what is the matter with people.

I usually avoid books involving dragons, but here I have made an exception and I’m glad I have. Although the whole series is out in the UK, we stateside folks have to wait for the next two books sometime next year.

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Movies in Bed: Blue Velvet

Post by Josh Zinn.

A code of conduct listed in the Disneyland new employee manual states, “All cast members must appear calm, content, and capable while working. At Disneyland a pleasant smile is a personality trademark that we use all the time in greeting, directing, and making our guests feel comfortable. You don’t have to laugh, just smile. Don’t be a Gloomy Gus or a Grouchy Gertrude.”

During the opening minutes of David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet,” the town of Lumberton appears to be an idyllic place, the kind of community where even Grouchy Gertrude’s cannot resist a grin or two. As hyper-saturated flowers sprout through the ground, children excitedly scurry to school, and fire trucks cut through the dewy morning haze, all seems right with the world. Like a neighborhood that has emerged from some promise of sanctity made by “Ozzie and Harriet” and “The Donna Reed Show,” the artifice of its mise-en-scene is intoxicating and familiar not because it resembles the world we live in—or even necessarily desire to—but because it is a portrait of what we’ve been told our lives should aspire to be.

Underneath its façade, however, not everything is so squeaky-clean. As the opening sequence continues, Lynch introduces elements of the grotesque amidst this artificial environment. A gun appears briefly on a television; a man collapses while watering his lawn; and, as the camera moves past his still body, cutting through the grass, an underworld of insects is discovered writhing beneath the blades. Presumably they have always been there, but like so many things eventually uncovered in this town, their existence has been buried under the layers of innocence, tranquility, and self-imposed naiveté Lumberton’s reputation is built upon.

This duality in reality, of experiencing and acknowledging the darkness that thrives beneath the manufactured gloss of our clichéd suburban ideals, is the heart of “Blue Velvet’s” story. Because Lynch’s introduction of Lumberton in this sequence is so steeped in the kind of Americana nostalgia where every shot is bathed in filtered light and moves in slow motion, the impression given is that it exists outside of reality, in a realm where Dalmatians really do ride in fire trucks. Neither dream nor truth, the perfection Lumberton appears to exhibit may be seen, then, as the culmination of good intentions and sheer will triumphing over desire and emotion. Like a rehabilitated drug addict, the town is “good” so long as it is able to maintain its behavior. Beneath its fragile exterior, however, its demons continue to look for ways to claw themselves free.

Because “Blue Velvet’s” story descends into what may be construed as the underbelly of Lumberton, it becomes apparent that Lynch is both examining and satirizing peoples’ need to keep up appearances. Quickly exposing both the audience and his characters to the cracks that have begun to riddle the artificial, too-good-to-be-true foundations of the town, Lynch injects the film with a freedom to be unreliable in its depiction of truth. Here, regardless of what may appear to be a meticulously created reality, other forces are always at work shaping the landscape. One simply needs to keep their ear (sliced off or not) to the ground to listen for them.

Like Disneyland, a smile may go a long way in Lumberton, but that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is okay.

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