Midwest Nest Magazine

Midwest Nest Magazine

Culture, Entertaining, Home Design, Fargo, Interior Design, DIY

Sophisticated Comfort

“A designer makes all the difference. We knew what we wanted, but our designer (Rebecca Knutson) had the skills, vision, and taste to make it happen. We couldn’t be happier…

“A designer makes all the difference. We knew what we wanted, but our designer (Rebecca Knutson) had the skills, vision, and taste to make it happen. We couldn’t be happier to see our dream come true.”  -Homeowner

Inspired Entry

Having that trust from the homeowners allowed me to introduce a variance of textures, patterns, and materials from the entry to the kitchen. One step through the front door and guests are overcome with a sense of comfortable sophistication and the breathtaking view of the valley beyond.

In this project, the entry helped set the tone for the homeowner’s style. We chose two styles of arabesque tiles intersecting to form this visually appealing foyer floor. Terracotta tiles have their rich brown stain applied with a brush and then hand rubbed with a varnish coating for a unique patina. The arabesque floor tiles provide a certain design interest that evokes both comfort and sophistication. It also gives guests a taste of the many textures and patterns they’ll see throughout the home.

Throughout the main level, I chose an engineered oak, wood flooring in a 7.5 inch-wide plank. This style has a wonderful, linear graining and low-gloss finish which calls to mind vintage, European oil-rubbed flooring. The richness of the warm, wood flooring pairs well with the grey tones throughout the home.

Lighting the Way

No room is complete without proper lighting and the entry is no exception. We chose two sconces which house a beautiful combination of glass and metal which are materials that trickle throughout each space. Adding substantial lighting fixtures were the key to drawing the eye up to the many details in the custom, coffered ceiling beams.

Recipe for Success

This home’s kitchen was designed for a chef. The appliances needed to answer to their calling and the materials had to be able to withstand everyday use and entertaining, equally. I love that the home allowed so many textural elements to come together. Rich woods, patina metals, depth-defying crystal quartzite, Carrara stone, and even mercury glass appear throughout. Each brings a uniqueness to its selection, pattern and placement.

With the island as our focal point, we chose a stunning Quartzite. I loved the transparent, crystal appearance with waves of chocolate, grey and canary yellow. The rich grey tones created an interesting contrast without competing with the warm wood flooring and stain of the perimeter cabinetry.

On the back perimeter counter, we opted for a Quartz with a unique blend of deep browns and light colored veins. For the perimeter cabinetry, I chose an interesting Pumice finish that’s hot and on-trend. This tone can lend itself toward a warm grey but still allow the beauty of the wood grain to shine through. The Pumice stain coordinates well with the trend of rustic or reclaimed wood while resulting in a more sophisticated style.

For the kitchen backsplash, I used a honed Carrara marble mosaic which wraps the sink and range wall. I chose this because the honed stone pattern accented the Pumice stain and repeated the curve of the glass doors on the range wall.

Prepping Perfection

For the final kitchen element, I decided to add in a sense of sophistication by designing a custom, coffered ceiling, painted white to coordinate with the interior windows and door casings. To unify the two entertaining spaces, we carried this timeless ceiling detail through to the nearby dining room. The finished space is cohesive, beautiful and high-functioning, with a unique design made to effortlessly accommodate two or twenty.

Elevated Style

For the final kitchen element, I decided to add in a sense of sophistication by designing a custom, coffered ceiling, painted white to coordinate with the interior windows and door casings. To unify the two entertaining spaces, we carried this timeless ceiling detail through to the nearby dining room. The finished space is cohesive, beautiful and high-functioning, with a unique design made to effortlessly accommodate two or twenty.

In this kitchen, some of the most useful spaces are the ones guests cannot see. We’ve added a warming drawer below the oven and spice organizers hidden behind wall cabinetry doors. A chef’s storage cabinet is located in the island, placed directly behind the range. This allows for easy access to commonly used items like oils, vinegars and bulk spices. Dish storage near the sink and dishwasher allow clean up and meal-prep to happen in one discreet space.

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Culinary Masterson

With Fall entertaining in full-swing, I thought this was the perfect time to introduce one of my own party essentials, the gourmet charcuterie tray. I’m not a professional chef or…

With Fall entertaining in full-swing, I thought this was the perfect time to introduce one of my own party essentials, the gourmet charcuterie tray. I’m not a professional chef or an expert in wine and cheese, but when it comes to hosting, I love to make the presentation pop. With a little creativity, I’ll show you how a gourmet tray can serve as a gorgeous and edible centerpiece that will impress even the most discriminating of guests.

Stock Up

Creating the perfect palate pleaser is easier than you think. Typical cheese trays have a variety of meats, fruit, preserves, honey and olives to fill in the gaps and help create a mix of flavors and interest. I bend the rules a bit and throw in sweeter elements like dark chocolate almonds and a spicy dark chocolate dip which works well with the lighter cheeses and fruit. I love that you can get creative and there’s really no limit as to what you can do. Just make sure it’s appealing to the eye and tastebuds with an array of colors, textures and tastes.

Where to Shop

If you want to find unique items and super-fresh produce, head to Prairie Roots Co-op in Downtown Fargo. While in the vicinity, visit Pinch & Pour, where they encourage guests to taste test until you find the perfect olive oil and balsamic concoctions. For the cheeses, I used a mix of local favorites from Pinch & Pour, Prairie Roots Co-op, Luna and even Costco. If you’re not sure how to choose the cheese, the experts at Luna are happy to help anyone navigate their impressive cheese selection.

Wine & Dine

After choosing four varieties of cheese, we asked The Spirit Shop’s Ronni Heggen to coordinate the perfect wine pairings to complement our selection. When hosting, never assume your guests are master sommeliers. Positioning the wines directly behind each cheese lets guests enjoy the experience without the guessing game.

10 Tasty Tips

1. If you’re new to cheese trays, keep it simple. Select at least one soft cheese like brie, one hard or semi-hard cheese like cheddar and another bolder variation such as blue cheese. In this tray, I included a coordinating cracker or bread for each cheese. Example, water crackers and artisan crisps pair well with the Brie. Use a french baguette with Blue cheese or olive oil, and any other unique cracker for the Cheddar and Montamore.

2. For a more festive and fresh approach, make sure to include spreads and produce that are currently in-season.

3. If you don’t have a specific cheese tray or cutting board, take a look in your pantry and get creative. Any large serving ware or clean, flat item can work. If you’re doing trays for larger parties, consider splitting the food up by category breads and crackers, cheeses, produce, dips and spreads and even a bite size dessert tray.

4. To achieve the fullest flavor, make sure to take your cheese out of the refrigerator at least a half hour before you serve it. Cheese should always be served at room temperature.

5. To begin your tray design, start with placing the cheese, spacing them out so you have room to add in the complimenting produce, nuts and spreads. Placing largest to smallest is an easy way to create an appealing tray.

6. Make sure you thoroughly drain olives and capers before placing them on the tray. This will help eliminate runny messes. If you need to use watery fruit like watermelon, you can also use small ramekins to keep the foods separated.

7. If your tray includes meat varieties, create sections of each separate meat near the cheese. Then get creative and fold, flower or roll the meat for added visual appeal.

8. Get creative with your garnish. A finished tray is not complete without a little greenery. I like to use fresh herbs like Rosemary and Thyme, ferns, flowers or pine branches depending on the season. If you opt for herbs, throw a sprig in your olive oil for an extra punch of flavor.

9. Try making your own candied nuts. You can find multiple recipes online, but most just call for roasting the nuts in the oven at 350 degrees first, then quickly stirring them into a saucepan with melted sugar. Once coated, lay them out on parchment paper and sprinkle with salt. Just remember to work quickly as you’ll only have seconds before the sugar starts to crystallize.

10. As any good host knows, keeping food and drink flowing is a tough task to keep up with while entertaining guests. Simplify the process by pre-cutting extra fruit, cheese, and meat, then placing them into presentable ramekins or small bowls in your refrigerator so that you can easily restock, even in mid conversation. This will help keep wrappers and plastic produce containers out of sight and you won’t have to stop mid-party to slice and dice.

The Price to Party

As an appetizer, our tray with four cheese selections would typically accommodate about six to eight people. For this size, expect to spend around $100 to $150, with plenty of leftovers to create another. If that’s out of your budget, just scale it down using fewer cheese and cracker options with less produce. The price of the cheeses vary, but the ones we selected ran about $10 to $15 dollars per block.

Love Your Leftovers

To get a longer life out of your leftovers, make sure to store your cheese according to its type. Soft cheeses like Brie should be kept in an airtight container. Semi-hard cheeses like Cheddar and Blue cheese can be wrapped in plastic wrap. Hard or aged cheeses should be wrapped in parchment paper or cheese cloth. If you need a quick storage solution for hard or semi-hard cheeses, you can also purchase special parchment bags at most grocery stores.

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