It’s been exactly two weeks since I got home from vacation and I am already feeling the post-vacation, mid-summer, Southern heat blues. I am missing those cool New England evenings, the sort that necessitate a light sweater and even sleeping under a heavy comforter. So I thought I’d put together a few of my favorite Rhode Island haunts – a mash-up of sorts of both high-end and off-the-highway places that you don’t want to miss if you are ever in the area, with a few vacation more photos to boot.
Random Roadsides: Doughnuts & Dives
Pretty much see this post about Allie’s Doughnuts (home of the Doughnut Cake) and if I could pinpoint it, main culprit of my “vacation 5″ (pounds that is). A true old-school road-side doughnut shack that shills old-school no fuss doughnuts at their best. While I captured the giant doughnut in my previous post, this down-to-business photo shows the essence of what goes on inside. And note the loud and clear “CASH ONLY SIGN” which is not a problem since you can basically get a dozen doughnuts for like $5:
And for an after dinner drink that’s nearby, definitely check out this view with a glass of wine in hand at The Coast Guard House in Naragansset before or after a walk along the waterfront.
On a previous trip I mentioned the incredible view that’s also to be had at Evelyn’s Drive In in Tiverton, RI. Sitting on their patio and watching the sunset over the cove while you eat fried fish is pretty much perfection. Stay true to the classics though… my husband ordered “The Lobster Chop Suey” last summer (his own fault) and left feeling a little disappointed.
Allie’s Doughnuts North Kingstown, RI
Coast Guard House Narragansett, RI
Champlin’s Seafood Deck & The Sweet Spot Narragansett, RI
Evelyn’s Drive In Tiverton, RI
The City Fix: Providence
I always need an urban fix on vacation, just that little bit of city. Because no matter how picturesque or relaxing a vacation spot may be, there is something invigorating about exploring a new city. We stayed at The Dean Hotel in Providence. I cannot say enough good things about it. That is me, above, entering The Dean… almost double-entendre, since a mere three years ago it was a fully functioning brothel. But the level of fun sophistication that the hotel has achieved since it’s two-year renovation was complete is first rate. I would have stay here above many hotels in many other cities. Plus, its affordability, tongue-in-cheek marketing, and in-house coffee bar were the icing on a great hospitality experience:
Attached to the lobby of The Dean is FAUST, an excellent Germanic restaurant with a killer pretzel. Add to this The Magdalenae Room, a moody, Moroccan-influenced craft cocktail bar behind the main lobby and the more hipster Karaoke Bar in back called The Boombox and you basically don’t need to leave the premises. And, neon art. The two photos below I snagged from my good friend Kelly’s instagram. She works for Kyla Cobern, the woman who designed The Dean and many of Providence’s most innovative spots and is responsible for all the finishing touches, down to the incredible framed fashion illustrations in the bathrooms.
If you do leave, a place to venture for brunch is The Grange. Think healthy, locally sourced with vegan undertones. Conveniently across the street is a treasure of a vintage shop called Hall’s On Broadway. Sooooo many good things, and great prices. For a post-brunch coffee and baked good, you can go right up the street to Seven Stars, an insanely yummy artisanal bakery with two locations. And for an evening cocktail at another Kyla Cobern spot in the same neighborhood, check out The Avery. It is an incredible Deco-inspired bar that sits unexpectedly in the middle of a residential square in Federal Hill.
Side note: we were traveling avec toddler so the children’s museum piper had to be paid. But the Providence Children’s Museum, if you have to spend mind-numbing hours somewhere like that, is a good spot to do it. A manageable size, but enough variety to keep your child engaged and keep you from the inevitable children’s museum malaise.
Also, not visited on this trip, but two places I’d reccommend from past visits:
The Old School Classic: Newport
Newport, like Charleston, seems to hold a good bit of intrigue and port-city-allure for those outside the area. The name conjures up images of nautical New England, sailing races, strolls along piers and cable knit sweaters. In our three brief visits, I’ve enjoyed walking up and down Thames Street which is one of the main shopping districts, although still a charmingly historic and intimate road. As for culinary and cocktail gems, the first is “The Lawn” at Castle Hill. Castle Hill is an old house that has been converted into a hotel and perches on a peninsula just past the city’s center. “The Lawn” is simply its outdoor lawn where you can sit and boat-watch with a drink in hand. As of this year, they started serving food there as well. Sadly/ironically there was this CRAZY fog the night we went so we ended up at the bar, surrounded by grey mist but no visible ocean. A good reason to try again next year! Funny side note, when we told the bartender we were visiting from Charleston he seemed confused why we would ever leave our great city to go on vacation elsewhere! Three words: Southern summer heat.
We also went to The Clark Cook House which has what is probably one of the best logos I’ve ever seen. This old school seafood gem is in the center of the city with yachting themed decor, on bannister’s wharf and has several tiers of dining, including The Candy Store at street level that serves freshly made sushi. There is a semi-private rooftop Skybar and an amazing looking, old school lounge in the basement called The Boom Boom Room that has wicker and striped cushions and is lined with vintage photos of racing boats (only open Saturday nights).
A classic Newport Activity (other than eating seafood) is meandering along The Cliff Walk, something we’ve done on previous visits. On one side, the path drops off to the ocean on the other are rows of breathtaking historic Newport homes. My feeling about Newport is that it’s sort of the Charleston of New England. In fact there were many Newport natives that moved down to Charleston at the turn of the century, and vice versa, including the Nathaniel Russell, whose former Charleston home I toured recently.
The Hidden Gem: Watch Hill
We ended our visit in Watch Hill. Located in Westerly, Rhode Island is it kind of like Newport’s demure, waspy cousin. I have a life-long friend whom I’ve known from grade school and I visited her and her family in Watch Hill a number of times during high school and college. It was always a special place – a perfect specimen of a New England Beach town. Now, going back with my husband and my own daughter is even more meaningful. The classic and most charming feature of Watch Hill is perhaps the vintage The Flying Horse Carousel at the edge of town.
You ride around and grab rings as the horses (literally) fly by the rides attendees. We tried to convince Daphne to go on it (she’s two and a half) but the horses move pretty fast and she hightailed it out of the ring just as she was about to get on.
Just around the corner from the carousel is a The Candy Box (above), a perfectly classic candy store and fudge shop. You could not dream up a better vacation spot for sweet treats and bin candy. If I ever open a brick-and-mortar jewelry shop it will look just like this!
The main, and grandest spot in Watch Hill (aside from Taylor Swift’s humble abode ) is the incredible Ocean House. The Ocean House was built in the early 1900′s and in 2002 was torn down and completely rebuilt from the ground up. During the restoration, it was thoughtfully modernized yet still retains its old-world grandeur, with many of the original fixtures, furnishings and signs. And with a croquet lawn over looking the sea and dining deck you almost expect women with parasols to be strolling around the gardens. You can read a lot more about the hotel and the restoration process spearheaded by Chuck and Deborah Royce in this month’s issue of Conde Nast Traveller, it even graces the cover.
Two things you must do there: visit the gift shop (that carries a few pieces of my jewelry) and have a lobster roll on the main deck at The Verandah. I think it is the BEST lobster roll in the state, maybe it has to do with the spectacular view. Side note: pre-restoration while it was still operational in 2000 or so, I visited Watch Hill with friends and we danced the night away in its rambling, former basement bar. Magic! Also, my husband is an Episcopal Minister and while we were there he led a service at the charming, nondenominational chapel just across the street that is worth a visit, even if you just step inside to oggle the beautiful woodwork.
Finally, the best evening stroll in Watch Hill is to the lighthouse. The entrance to the semi-private (but open to the walking public) drive that leads there is discreetly marked by two brick pillars. Just a few yards south of Taylor Swift’s bodyguards outpost and up the hill from the carousel, I promise the walk is worth the hunt for the entrance.
These three local places are also have wonderful food, sea and otherwise. The Olympia Tea Room is in downtown Watch Hill and the other two are in the outskirts of Westerly:
Rhode Island is a special place to me, not only because it’s part of the New England region I grew up in, but because it is still such a huge part of my life. I manufacture and produce all of my Candy Shop Vintage Collection jewelry out of factories there and I’ve enjoyed the talented people I get to collaborate with along the way. This, and my (obvious, over-sharing) love of the state keeps us coming back summer after summer, the perfect antidote to the muggy, Southern climate.
A few weeks ago we shot a look book of bridal looks using our Charleston Rice Beads. A wedding party of three had a fun afternoon in downtown Charleston. All the jewelry is from our Collection and the clothes were designed by a local Charleston designer and friend who does vintage and bridal alterations as well as her own custom designs. You can contact her if you are interested in a custom design and you can check out the whole lookbook here!
Going on Instagram tours is starting to become a bit of a past time for me, especially in Charleston where it combines two things I love – my city and taking iphone photos. I thought I’d finally post some snaps of a truly spectacular historic Charleston home, the Aiken-Rhett house. These were taken on another “Instameet” offered by the Historic Charleston Foundation, photo below of me and a friend courtesy of the @historiccharlestonfoundation instagram:
The c.1820 home and it’s outlying buildings has been conserved, but never updated so it retains an air of faded grandeur rather than extreme polish, like the Nathaniel Russell House, also built in the early 1800′s. Because of the dichotomy, if you have the opportunity I would certainly try to visit both homes, as each gives you a feel for their time in its own way. The outside of the Aiken-Rhett house in fact, is the only “polished” feature of the home, almost Mediterranean in feel with it’s golden tone and grand porches:
The inside is a bit more romantic with peeling paint and dusty chandeliers. I ran into a friend of mine on the tour who snapped this photo of me in the stairwell, I half-expected to see a ghost pop up over my shoulder:
One of the most spectacular rooms is the former ballroom with its huge gilt mirror and original upholstered furniture. On the ceiling is a large, carved medallion that clearly some fabulous light fixture hung from at some point:
Without air conditioning, these massive homes relied on large wooden shutters and old-fashioned cross-ventilation to keep the rooms cool in the hot summer months. Seeing the light filter through them from the inside makes you feel like you are trapped in another world altogether:
The original structural details and textures created by the walls and peeling paint are what make viewing this particular home and outlying structures such as the kitchen house (above) such a rich experience, one I really enjoyed!
There are two things I seem genetically and possibly geographically disposed to like: potato chips and doughnuts. I cannot reasonably incorporate either of these things into my regular diet but I like to treat vacation as a guilt-free zone. We are currently in Rhode Island, just off the coast and near a saltwater river having a very relaxing time. I have made the most of my downtime, googling things like “best doughnuts in Rhode Island” and voila! The doughnut cake:
I experienced this culinary gem at Allie’s Doughnut Shop and had to ask them to take it out of the case so I could photograph it properly. I left my feet in there for scale. It was already spoken for (apparently to secure one you do need to order several weeks in advance) but I did sample Allie’s regular sized doughnuts and I can honestly say as far as good old-fashioned doughnuts go they are the best I’ve had. It is well worth the trip, probably about 30 minutes from larger cities like Newport and Providence.
We also spent Father’s Day at a great seafood spot called “Champlin’s“. I’ve tried a lot of places like this in Rhode Island and a lot of them are pretty touristy and only decent. But there are a few real gems and Champlin’s, pictured below (along with their perfect lobster salad roll) is one of them:
They also sell these ridiculously adorable felt lobster hats. Daphne snatched one off the rack as we were waiting in line and we couldn’t get it off her head the rest of the night. Future Halloween costume?
Also, conveniently located just below the restaurant is The Sweet Spot, a perfect way to sate your after-dinner sugar craving (fudge, ice cream, etc.) without having to make another stop. The Block Island Ferry terminal is just steps away so it is worth eating here even if you are just passing through on your way there.
Since we are staying just outside Narragansett, we ventured into town for a drink at this waterfront bar/restaurant – The Coast Guard House . We just had a drink on the upper deck and did not sample the food, but a sunset view doesn’t get much better than this. And once it got dark, you could see the bridge into Newport glittering in the distance. Pretty magical!
Thursday night my husband I will head into Providence to spend a night at The Dean Hotel which I am really looking forward to. And I can’t mention Providence without acknowledging it’s rich history as the costume jewelry capital of the U.S. Pre-1980 almost all costume jewelry sold in America was made there and Providence still has a neighborhood called The Jewelry District where old jewelry factories have since been converted into lofts. And speaking of jewelry, my Charleston Rice Beads were just the right amount of the South to bring along with me up North:
It’s already been a great (and much-needed) vacation and we still have exactly seven days left, which makes me feel kind of like this:
In Charleston it sure is wedding season. June seems to be the peak of wedding mania, and with our city being the epicenter of destination weddings, everywhere you turn you see a bride snapping photos with her wedding party on a picturesque street. Coincidentally, I just wrapped a bridal photo shoot last week, featuring our Rose Gold Charleston Rice Beads. Here’s a sneak peek… our Charleston Rice Beads make fabulous bridal party gifts and are just perfect for a Charleston destination wedding:
Paige Winn did a wonderful job shooting our “wedding party” and I had a great team of hair (Bailey Bial) and make-up (Amanda Rose), flowers from Flower Shop and the gorgeous dresses were designed and handmade by Charleston-based Evelyn’s Alterations & Design. Evelyn has been doing my own vintage alterations for years and we recently moved into a shared space together in Downtown Charleston – and it has pretty much been a match made in vintage heaven!
And, I was excited to find out that our Gold Charleston Rice Beads from SWOON in Charleston are also featured in this season’s issue of Charleston Weddings, currently on stands as well as on their website. Lovely styling by Ayoka Lucas:
It’s been a little while since my own wedding (7 1/2) years to be exact, but all this bridal business is making me want to go back and plan it all over again!
If you know me, you know I love to Instagram. So, last week I was excited when the opportunity came up to attend an “Instameet” in Charleston at the historic Nathaniel Russell House. Lauren Northup even captured of myself and Olivia Brock of A Lacquered Life instagramming it up with intensity!
This is a house I have heard a lot about, and coincidentally, my mother-in-law Mary Zahl did the original garden design during the restoration in the mid 1990′s. Sometimes, it is hard to take the time to stop and be a tourist in your own city, even one as beautiful as Charleston. They do not usually allow photos to be taken in the house, so this was a special opportunity. All my photos were taken on an iphone 5s. While I already posted some on @candyshopvintage Instagram, there are more below that I have not yet shared.
The spiral staircase is the standout feature of the early 1800′s, three story home, I could not get enough:
And the grand painting in the stairwell is a portrait of Mary-Rutledge Smith as painted by George Romney. She had something like a dozen kids by my age (33). This might be a picture of her 11th or 12th. Yikes! I believe she was 35 when this was painted.
The colors in the house are spectacular, from the burnt orange in the stairwell to the peachy pink in the drawing room (which is actually wallpaper and not paint):
Below is the “morning room” which had the best light in the house. Yes please, I’d like my coffee in here every morning:
Loved all the details like the ceramic knobs, the library in the closet and the incredible molding with hand gold-leafed accents:
The turquoise dining room on the first floor with the exquisite borders around the windows had to be one of my favorite rooms in terms of color:
And this is an actual portrait of Nathaniel Russell, the original owner. He did not build the home until he was in his 70′s so it was basically his retirement home. He was originally from Newport, Rhode Island, a city with a lot of similarities to Charleston.
This was a really fun way to take a historic home tour, especially if you are prone to being glued to your iphone like me. The Historic Charleston Foundation is hosting a second “Instameet” in another historic home, the Aiken-Rhett House next Friday June 13th. You can sign up here. Maybe I’ll see you there!
Hope everyone had a good Memorial Day! Daphne (below) discovered her love of sunglasses this holiday weekend and she is infrequently without them now – couldn’t help myself posting her adorable Sunday church outfit:
We kicked off this weekend with a Spoleto Festival “block party” for which they closed down a picturesque street in Downtown Charleston for an evening of dinner and dancing. It was one of those beautiful, magical Charleston evenings. I found the dress I wore at an estate sale for $10. It looks to be from the 1970′s and is reminiscent of this season’s MAD MEN wardrobe , and although it’s made of a totally synthetic material it has a great, almost Grecian design. I had to buy a little spandex dress to wear underneath it but I think I managed to pull off the least expensive “evening wear” ensemble I’ve worn to date!
We spent most of Saturday at Mixon Bath and Racquet Club where Daphne also discovered her love of poolside lounging and developed a new appreciation for swimming (before this visit she was scared of the pool). Not sure she is quite ready for lessons but I think I have a fun summer ahead with her!
On Memorial Day, The Grace Episcopal Church Tea Room officially opened. This is when Grace Church on Wentworth Street (downtown) opens a volunteer-run restaurant for two weeks. The food is excellent – all made by the volunteers and church staff. It is the kind of genuine, Southern cuisine you can usually only get in peoples’ homes. All proceeds from the Tea Room go to local Charleston charities. Last year they distributed over $50,000 of Tea Room profits!
The desserts rotate out every day, depending on what is donated and the wait staff comes around during lunch with the mouth-watering options. I am volunteering as a waitress there tomorrow (Wednesday) May 28th. It opens at 11:30 AM. If you live in Charleston, be sure to stop in an eat at this pop-up cafe (open for lunch only) some time before June 6th! More details on The Grace Church Website.
And speaking of mouth-watering desserts I decided to give this classic, Southern summer dessert a try, a Lee Brother’s Ice Box Cake I found in the May issue of Garden & Gun. It involves no baking so you don’t even need to turn on the oven, which is why it is a perfect for summer. I started on it quite late Sunday night and even though there is no oven involved, you need to build in a few hours after mixing it to stir and fold it along with time for it to “set” in between. Best to start it before 6PM if you don’t want to be stirring it at 1AM like I did. I also burt my pecans while trying to lightly toast them which gave it a hint of “campfire” flavor. Oops. It still got rave reviews from my family though, and I’d definitely make it again, and maybe even add in a second seasonal berry next time. Given the color palate it is perfect for Memorial Day and would also be great for July 4th!
It is almost (basically is) summer, and today for the first time, I got a literal surge of excitement about the upcoming months and fun to be had! I am kind of a sucker for tradition – if I like something I do it to death and am heartbroken if I can’t do it again and again every year afterwards. (Below photo from our Glitter Guide shoot with Olivia Rae James last spring).
I have now been married, living in one city, and even had a child long enough to rack up some pretty awesome summer traditions that I’ll be holding onto with an iron grip! For the past three summers we have gone up to New England (Rhode Island to be specific) to escape the heavy Southern heat (there’s nothing quite like a Southern summer, I don’t think I’ll ever completely adjust). We’ve stayed in both Providence (such a cool city!) and spent some time in a coastal town called Watch Hill, that is just one of those perfect, idyllic places that almost doesn’t seem real. We are going back again this June and I am counting down the days. This is our family of three, just two and a half years ago on my daughter’s first real trip across state lines, I just love this photo:
Having a lunch on the deck at The Ocean House, a completely restored historic hotel perched on the highest point in town (and with the best views available) is pretty much magic. I even have a wonderful memory of crashing an elderly Bingo night with friends in high school that was being held in it’s basement, back then it was an eccentric and rambling monolith. It has since been restored to its current state of splendor:
Here are me and some of my lifetime (dating back to high school!) besties, with a couple babies in tow (and hats galore – a far cry from our bikini clad sun worshiping days of tweens) that same summer. They have maybe the best lobster roll I’ve ever tasted, if you are ever anywhere near there, drop everything and go have lunch there:
But coming in a close second is the lobster roll from Abbott’s Lobster In the Rough, just outside of Rhode Island in Noank, CT (I mean, lobster deviled eggs???):
Another classic New England Coastal spot is Evelyn’s Drive In in Tiverton, RI. It’s not nearly as divey as the name suggests and they have the most beautiful patio overlooking a cove where you can watch the sunset while you eat. You can practically SMELL the New England Summer night air in this photo:
Also a summer tradition for me is drinking rosé. Pretty much any kind, cheap or expensive, I’m not picky. I could basically live off of it (and think I did, one summer when I was nineteen). This was a great memory of having a lunchtime drink with a fellow jewelry designer Lorraine West (wearing one of her own designs) at The Coffee Shop in New York last summer. She came to my first Bloomingdale’s Trunk show to support me even though we had never met in person prior to that day.
Lorrraine is one of those people with whom I instantly felt a connection. It’s rare and special to meet someone who you’ve known for such a short time who feels just like and old friend. And the girl is INSANELY talented, a true artist.
Back in Charleston, there is always the obligatory beach trip. For me, this is a free vacation, a fifteen minute drive from our house. I am actually not that much of a beach person, I’ve tried. It is a pretty big flaw of mine since I live in a coastal city known for its beaches. This is partially due to my Casper The Friendly Ghost complexion and also because of the large quantities of sand you accumulate when trying to go to the beach with a toddler. This was me at my most relaxed at the beach, glad there is at least one photo:
So, truthfully, that makes me MUCH more of a pool person. This year, we became members at Mixon Bath and Raquet Club. The pool is already calling my name:
I forgot to mention that there is actually one way to escape the heat in the South without getting on a plane. That is to drive, as fast as you can, to the nearest mountain (usually between 3 and 5 hours, give or take). There are some stunning mountain towns in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains including Cashiers, and it’s neighboring, family friendly Highlands. I visited Cashiers last summer with two of the best ladies I know, Allison Elebash and Sally Benedict:
And a little closer to Charleston is the mountain town of Brevard. They have one of the coolest toy stores I’ve ever been to called O.P. Taylor’s. I think Daphne agreed:
And one last very special summer destination for us is my husband’s family’s lake house in Florida. It is on a chain of lakes called Lake Butler. Seriously, you’d almost think you were in the tropics. There’s a pontoon boat, a little beach and a dock. The whole thing is just really low key and relaxing. Plus, there are some fun day trips to be had on the lake, like trespassing at this person’s property when it was briefly abandoned and on the market mid-rennovation.
Looking forward to doing most of these things again this summer and maybe I’ll even squeeze in some work in between ; ) Would love to hear what your summer traditions are!
Tomorrow night in Charleston I’ll be in good company styling the fashion show in the Spa at Charleston Place to raise awareness for skin safety this summer. Tickets are $40 and are available online here and all event proceeds go to the MUSC foundation for skin cancer research. Chances are, you have already been affected (directly or indirectly) by skin cancer. This is a great cause and will be a fun evening! Here’s a little vintage inspiration I pulled for my two models’ looks. Happy Summer!