Along with the design of my dad’s lake house itself, I’ve been in the process of stocking it with the essentials: plates, glasses, cooking utensils, pots and pans, silverware, serving ware, towels, sheets, etc. so I thought I’d share my favorite basics with you.  {Quick aside- I haven’t been paid by any of these companies- though wish I had been! ;)-  these are just my opinions}

In most projects I work on, we shop for some of these essentials, but rarely all, as most people already have so many of the basics.  Outfitting a vacation home from scratch is a little different though, because the homeowners usually don’t have any of the basics yet.

I like to like almost EVERYTHING that goes into my home.  Whether it’s a toothbrush, a laundry basket, a pot to cook in…  If I have to spend money on it, I’d prefer it be something that I appreciate.  (TO be clear- I don’t like everything in my own house, but I like a lot of it… I have kitchen stuff left over from college days (when you get your family’s donations) that I just can’t justify replacing, but when I need something new, I get something that fits in my house.  (I’m secretly a little happy when the plastic handles on one of my laundry baskets breaks… I know it’s wrong but can’t help it!! — Though we still use them broken so not sure if I should get all that excited  :/  )  But anyway, starting from scratch at my dad’s lake house has really caused me to evaluate what my “favorite” of everything is.  Like a lot of people, I pay attention in my own home to the things that last the longest, still look good after years, and that work for us.  So, I thought I’d share some of my favorite staples with you.


I love dishes and buying special ones at antique shops when I come across  ones whose patterns I can’t resis.  At home I’ve had a set of plain white dishes (the “Great White”) from Pottery Barn for almost ten years and they’ve been great.  (pictured above)  I’m sure they’re petty much the same as any other set of plain white dishes but what I like about white dishes is that I can mix in vintage things to completely change up a table.  Over the years, we broke almost all of our cereal bowls somehow- honestly mostly this year- and the “Great White” design changed, so when we went to replace them a few months ago, I went with a set of sturdy white bowls at Williams Sonoma instead:

{The boys haven’t broken a single bowl since we’ve had them over the past few months.  These babies are seriously sturdy!! (and oven safe!) }

 A set of plain solid dishes- regardless of brand- is great for any household.  A simple table can be set on a daily basis and vintage scores can easily get mixed in with the basics whenever needed.  

When it was time to pick dishes for the lake house, however, I decided I wasn’t going to go white there.  I want us to feel totally transported in every little way.  I want to go there and appreciate changes and differences, not to feel like my dad’s house is a carbon copy of our house, so I looked at black ones.  I had been coveting these dark charcoal beauties from Restoration Hardware for a while but couldn’t justify the price for a casual family lake house where I know things will be getting broken:

{how gorgeous are these?!!!  one day…}

I also looked into some incredibly beautiful handmade ones from artisans but just couldn’t go there either right now.  So- after a bit of online hunting- I came across these from Bed, bath & Beyond:

The price is amazing, but some of the reviews I saw mentioned how easily they chipped.  I bought lots extra and am fully prepared for it.  (Even with buying extra, I saved some serious cash.)  (Btw- I can now see that those reviews are gone from the listing, but I remember reading them when I bought them a month or so ago.)  They arrived and they’re gorgeous!! Very matte, which is what I wanted, and have a great feel.  The big plate is oddly more like a big bowl but maybe the trough-like shape will help keep the table neater?? 😉 😉  who knows.



Melamine plates are a must in our house.  They’re light and easy for the kids to carry on their own to set the table and they’re great for eating outside during the warmer months.  We have a huge stack of white ones from Pottery Barn that we keep out on our baker’s racks and use all the time.  No one even guesses that they’re plastic until they pick them up.

{On the right baker’s rack on the bottom shelf: The PB “Great Whites” are on the left and the melamine ones are the stack in the middle.   The bowls on the bottom shelf are vintage and the rest of the shelves are mixed with serving ware both new and old- Target things mixed in with antique iron stone… we use almost everything up there.}

I’m still on the hunt for the dark melamine plates for the lake house (more like I totally forgot until now) but did get a couple of these melamine serving bowls from Target…   (They seriously do not look plastic!! crazy)  Wish Target would make dinnerware like this!!

{Love them and think they’ll be great for both inside & outside meals}

3.  Flatware

Like a lot of couples, we picked out our flatware when we got married and were registering for gifts- almost ten years ago.  I remember walking through Macy’s picking up all of the silverware and seeing how it felt in our hands.  (Does it ever drive you crazy when you go to a restaurant and the utensils are so heavy that when you set one down on the edge of your plate it doesn’t balance and just awkwardly falls off??) Anyway, we were like Goldilocks with our flatware and I still love it to this day.  (Above, it’s by Gorham) A few months ago, I realized we were somehow down to only four or so spoons (with our family of five) and were missing lots of pieces so we needed to get more.  Because we’d gotten down so low, I considered switching to something else for a change, but found that a lot of what I liked was hand wash only:

And then I found that what I liked that wasn’t hand-wash only, looked really close to what I already had:

{Restoration Hardware}

…So we stuck with it and ordered more.

I also have a huge set of vintage Duralite that we found for something like $80 that we use for prettier tables that looks a bit like this:

{Image by GallivantingGirls on Etsy}

When it came time to buy flatware for the lake house, I knew I wanted something different, but was open.  I’m on a time crunch- move in is so soon!!- so after looking a bit through vintage options, I decided we just need to get something quickly.  We were wandering Bed, Bath & Beyond- playing Goldilocks again- and came across a kitschy- looking set of flatware with melamine handles.  They’re cheerful and vintage-looking and have the perfect vibe for such a casual, family place.  (And the price was seriously perfect too 😉

{The kitschy flatware– though ours look creamier in person so maybe this is a pure white and ours are an off-white?? Not quite sure but I think they’ll be fun with the black plates and make them feel less serious.}

4. Serving Ware

For serving ware, I prefer to mix and match old and new pieces.  I don’t have a favorite brand and typically buy any platters, serving bowls, mixing bowls, and pitchers that I can afford at antique or junk shops because we never seem to have enough.  I’ve been happy with basic white platters and pitchers from Target too and they mix really well with the old stuff…

{Old & new in our dining room}

For the lake house, it’s been a bit harder to find black & charcoal, but I’ve found some great pieces at Crate & Barrel and will most likely end up supplementing with handmade pieces.

{Love this platter I found at Crate & Barrel!!  And I badly want everything on it!!! Prosciutto = mmm mm mmm!!!!}

5.  Cooking Utensils

Ok, it’s embarrassing how much joy the cooking utensils I recently found at West Elm bring to me.  Seriously, looking at them makes me happy,  That’s weird.  I’ve bought them for myself and for clients and then went back for more for the lake house.  Love the wooden handles!!  They’re not dishwasher-safe but I’m very okay with that in this case:  

{And I’m not the only one who’s obsessed with these things… At our last photo shoot for the book with photographer Helen Norman, she went out that very night to grab her own set!!  Love this instagram photo she took of hers.}

6.  Pots & Pans

OK, truth is, I know nothing John Snow about these, really.  My mom usually gives us pots or pans for Christmas so I know what I did have wasn’t cutting it (really old with the non-stick parts coming off… not so safe) but I don’t have much to compare anything with.  I hope that over the years, as I learn more about cooking, I’ll start to appreciate the differences in different materials and notice things like all-over heat and all that, but I’m just not there yet.

I can say that I LOVE the look of copper… A client of ours recently scored a gorgeous set from craiglist- and though happy from her- I want them.  Bad.  But I don’t feel like I want to go there yet until I have a better handle on cooking and understanding the benefits and truly noticing a difference in what a pan does for my food.  (Don’t get me wrong, we love to cook and do it all the time, but I’m no expert.)

However, I could (and have) spend hours in the kitchen section at West Elm.  I love it.  One of the things I came across was a set of pots & pans by GreenPan:

Going on reading the box ( I liked the parts about no toxic fumes being released at high temps though am really hoping all of my cookware is like that!!) and wanting something really different from what I have at home (which is all silver) I decided to go for them.

I love the pale gray-barely-blue color and think it will be beautiful with the bluestone countertops at the lake house.  


7. Cutting Boards & Bread Boards

I can’t get enough of them.  We have 8 or so in our kitchen and we use them all the time for various purposes.  I have a massive one we use when cooking and have lots to chop, which is essential.  It’s probably 2.5′ x 2′ or so.   We do lots of charcuterie and usually use a breadboard or cutting board, depending upon how many we’re serving.  Little ones are perfect for small snacks for the boys.  The breadboards work well as trays.  I’m on the hunt for a large cutting board with a gutter for meat.  Along with the function, I love how wood warms up a kitchen, especially a painted kitchen.  We use them a lot on marble counters at our clients’ homes and the juxtaposition is beautiful:

We use both old & new.  My criteria is that the cutting board or bread board has to have a certain charm to it.  It needs to look timeless and bring some bit of beauty to the room when out.   I’ve found a lot of great handmade cutting boards on Etsy and have been amassing a huge collection of new and vintage ones for the lake house.  I’m going to load the walls with them for easy access and to warm up all of the gray in the kitchen.  

8. Glasses 

For the earlier part of my adulthood, I found most of my glasses at thrift stores- a basic shape I’d see all over and that was easy to replace when broken.  Over the years, ALL have broken and we finally bought glassware. We splurged on handblown glass by Cleveland Art (though got it for a steal a few markets ago when we were able to drive them home) when we first moved and have only broken one so far.  They’re really heavy-duty and even the boys’ roughness hasn’t hurt them.

We also keep Ball Jars in a drawer and use them when we’re on the go (with lids on) and the boys grab them when they want to fill up at the fridge.  

A splurge for glasses wasn’t in the lake house budget so I went with Crate & Barrel’s classic and sturdy Working Glasses in large and small sizes:

I’ve found that the kids do better with heavy glasses rather than light plastic ones that they tip over constantly.  At home, we do keep around a set of basic plastic glasses that go outside with us when we’re working in the yard.  I got a set of wonderfully cheesy and colorful plastic cups in shades of bright blue for the lake and hanging out on the dock.  (I don’t have a pic but will take one when we get there)  The kids picked them out but they’re really fun.

9.  Sheets

Sheets are seriously personal.  I like a cool sheet.  And cotton.  I don’t think I’m a true sheet snob- maybe borderline- but pilling bothers me and makes me feel too hot as night, so I have tried out lots of sheets over the past ten years or so to arrive at my favorites.  (Full disclosure- I haven’t tried any seriously high-end brands and probably shouldn’t so all of these are in a sort of “middle” price range.)  I’ve learned the hard wary that you get what you pay for with sheets.  I’ve tried a bunch of low-end brands and eventually over the years, have gotten rid most of them.  One of the first sets of sheets I really liked was a wedding gift set of organic cotton sheets from Pottery Barn.  Almost ten years later, they are still great.  Cool and smooth is really all that I require and they’ve gotten even better with age.  The ones we have are long-gone at Pottery Barn and had a pretty hemstitch detail but I think these might be the same sheets:  

{PB Sheets}


We’ve switched to a king-sized bed and since then I’ve tried out Pinecone Hill’s Classic White Hemstitch sheets and looooove them:  

{I love the delicate hemstitch detail!!}

…And I’m also crazy about our Peacock Alley sheets…     


We carry both Peacock Alley & Pine Cone Hill in our studio & I love them both.  I did both for the lake house and went with star sheets from PB kids for the boys’ bunk room:


10.  Towels

I’ve tried out lots of towels over the years in all different price points, and my favorites so far – by far– are Restoration Hardware’s 802-gram Turkish towel: 

I’ve had mine for years, no pilling, and they get better as they get older.

11. Bath Mats

I’ve also tried a number of bath mats and my favorite has turned out to be from Ikea for only $10!!  (Don’t  you love it when that happens??)

They stay looking and feeling new for-eva!!  I just bought them for every bathroom in the lakehouse.

Anyway, I’m off for the day- snow day here with all the boys home- but hope you enjoyed this long-winded post of basics!! Have a good one!!