The Madonna Inn: A Vintage Inspired Retreat

For our tenth anniversary, my husband and I decided to take a trip to the west coast. We have a lot of friends in Los Angeles, but also I have been wanting to check out this totally crazy hotel that was recently featured on BuzzFeed called The Madonna Inn. We spent a few really fun days in LA catching up with friends and checking out the best LA spots like LACMA below (featured in an earlier post) and then rented a car (ironically we were given a pick up truck – they must have seen we were from SC!) and drove North up the Coast to the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo.

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The drive from LA is absolutely beautiful, and doing it at the end of the day watching the sun set over the mountains was especially peaceful. You can read about the full history of the Inn here, but the short version is that it was built in 1958 (possibly one of my favorite eras in design) by a highway contractor named Alex Madonna and his wife Phyllis as a retreat marking the halfway point in between Los Angeles and San Francisco. With Alex’s construction knowledge and his wife’s quirky and fanciful design sense they created a quirky, fabulous and unforgettable retreat.

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And when I say unforgettable, I mean that literally. Every single room is different – each has a different theme and its own unique features (you can see them all here). We stayed in two of the dozens of rooms (one each night) and both of them had glitter wallpaper which seemed to be a common thread in many of the room designs. There was a heavy handed use of pink – their trademark ice buckets are cotton candy pink and a bottle of their house champagne was waiting for us when we arrived.

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I am not sure if “romantic” is precisely the word I would use to describe the first room we stayed in – Carin – it was more like a spectacular pink palace or a ride at Disneyworld, in a good way. There was literally a huge gold cherub hanging from the lofted ceiling – this is the room frequently used as the bridal or honeymoon suite.
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This is the full view of the glitter wallpaper – I think this was one of the original 1950s features so the Madonnas gave the glitter wallpaper industry some big business.
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Every nook and cranny of the bathroom was consistent with the room’s theme – I especially loved the sort of damask pink and white ceramic sinks (where do you begin to source something like that?!):

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We ate at the Inn’s trademark restaurant, The Gold Rush Steak House, the exterior of which is lit with rainbow lights at night and the interior filled with winding, pink tufted leather banquettes and thick, floral pink hued carpet. They gave pink balloons to us and anyone celebrating something (which turned out to be a good portion of the restaurant) and (not pictured) was a dance floor and a live band which really made you feel as thought you had stepped back in time and had sort of a Dirty Dancing vibe (remember that mountain resort?).

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The food was all really good – classics like a baked potato wrapped in foil and filet mignon. But my absolute favorite thing was their trademark pink champagne cake, which is one of their many fabulous cakes you can buy to-go in their bakery which also caters weddings and events. I mean how amazing would it be to have the Champagne Cake as your wedding cake?

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After dinner, we had a drink in The Silver Bar Cocktail Lounge and I ordered this drink called “The Pink Cloud” which is basically how you feel when you are staying at the Madonna Inn. Oh, and it’s made with half and half… Their cocktail menu was pretty great, full of vintage favorites.

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The next morning we woke up to this pretty view from our balcony. We ventured over to the stables and took a trail ride which went up the mountain next to the inn

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Basically the whole Inn looks like a gigantic, ornate cake. It is sort of “Swiss chalet meets Boogie Nights meets The Parent Trap” in its aesthetic and time period.

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It was actually really nice to be back on a horse. I rode for years and I really miss it. The horses were all named after famous singers like Johnny (Cash) and June (Carter).

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And their pool and Spa, a more recent edition to the retreat, was the perfect place to cool off and relax after a trail ride:

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Our second room “Merry” was similar to the first room but a little bit smaller and less pink.  It was kind of like being inside of a bottle of champagne…

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I love their logo/coat of arms featured on everything from their wine to their ice bucket to their golf carts. And there were just touches of pink everywhere you looked – even the lamp posts were pink!

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But the thing I most wish I could have taken on the plane was the Champagne Cake. I will be dreaming about it until our next visit because for some reason, I don’t think I can easily recreate this at home:

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These are all my own photos, it was hard to even edit them down but I highly recommend just googling “The Madonna Inn” you will not be disappointed. Really, it was a magical step back in time – to a time and place that I didn’t even know existed! Madonna Inn loyalists, like a gentleman who joined us at the bar one night, go back again and again, staying in different rooms each time. They have their favorite cocktails and collect their signature, colored wine glasses and seemed to have been bitten by the insatiable need to experience the magic over and over again. It must be something in that champagne cake, but visiting definitely makes you want to come back for more!

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The New Fantasy Garden Collection

I am so excited to finally announce our collaboration with 125 year old jewelry company CINER and the Spring collection we have designed together, The Fantasy Garden.

Because CINER has been around for so long (over a century!) I became used to seeing their name and mark on one-of-a-kind vintage pieces I collected, like these fabulous giraffe earrings. The quality of their pieces is always unparalleled. Through a friend visiting Charleston, I came to find out that CINER was still manufacturing and producing their beautiful line out of their New York City showroom and factory. So, I flew up from Charleston, SC for a meeting with CINER V.P. Kris Ciulla and owner Pat Ciner to learn more. Needless to say, we all had a lot in common and it was absolutely magical to see their showroom and production facility where so many of my favorite vintage pieces had been born. We decided to come together to produce our own capsule collection with me pulling designs from their archives and refashioning them into a modern, whimsical collection with a candy colored color palate. And so our collaborative collection, The Fantasy Garden was born:

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The Fantasy Garden Collection is available exclusively through our website, our store and cinerny.com.

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On my two visits up there I say down with Pat and Kris and curated this collection of pieces which is a combination of Southern, botanical themes, one of their classic Ciner bees and an element of fantasy – the unicorn (based on a vintage brooch they once produced):

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Ciner has remained in the same family for all 125 their business as been operating. Pat Ciner, left, the third generation of the Ciner family, remains at the helm of the business which is celebrating its 125th year in 2017. It was such a pleasure working with Pat and her team:

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Their showroom is filled with beautiful pieces, new and old – a virtual treasure trove of costume jewelry complete with vintage advertisements dating back to the 40’s and 50’s.

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Behind their showroom is a full manufacturing facility with jewelry artisans who paint enamel, cast, and set stones by hand.

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Below, a member of the Ciner team dedicated to polishing pieces during production works on a design.

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We are thrilled with how the collection turned out! You can see it and shop it here. The wonderful combination of southern botanical influences and elements of fanciful creatures. All behind-the-scenes photography by Lydia Hudgens.

Best Coast

I am a pretty big fan of the East Coast and grew up here all my life, but I have to say a recent vacation to California had me rethinking where my loyalties lie. Also: NO HUMIDITY is a pretty nice feature coming from the southeast. My husband and I decided to take a West Coast trip for our tenth anniversary (he’s never been!) and I was in dire need of a real vacation – not just a work trip. At Candy Shop Vintage, we go from the busy Holiday season – if you work in retail then ya’ know, to market in January to producing and shipping all of our spring wholesale orders in January/February plus running the store and website in between. It is just a whirlwind from late October to March and it can often feel difficult and guilt inducing to take some real time off. Nothing like some laid back California vibes to cure you of that! Something about the architecture there – particularly the 1950’s and 60’s era apartment buildings and homes is just RIGHT to me. And it is literally ALWAYS sunny. These are just a few we saw on Beechwood Canyon Drive where we were staying, a neighborhood I love – and one of the few walkable roads in Los Angeles:

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Love this regency style entrance of this apartment building called “The Olivia”

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This retro gem called “The Monroe” is really fun.

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Though this building has some “cold war era” vibes, I love the name and the font it’s in.

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And yet there are still some cozy, sweet family homes in the hills like this one.

We ate breakfast our first morning there at low key Beachwood Cafe at the top of Beachwood Canyon Drive. It was an easy walk from where we were staying and the food is fresh and filling. It has a great updated vintage vibe. This is my first trip to LA where I actually have NOT seen a celebrity. I did randomly run into my old friend Pete in The Beachwood Cafe and he informed me Jason Segel walked in about five minutes after we left. Devastating.

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The Beechwood Cafe: cute, local vibes & great breakfast.

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Typical LA breakfast? Black coffee, green juice & water. And my Sarara Couture purse we just started selling at Candy Shop On Cannon.

After a good breakfast we ventured up the hill for the obligatory Hollywood Sign shot (it looks mini in this photo – promise it was the real one) and a visit to The Griffith Observatory which has the most incredible panoramic view of Los Angeles and of course featured heavily in La La Land. You kind of have to navigate the traffic and hoards of of tourists doing the exact same thing you are but it really is worth it for the view. And the even had a VINTAGE CELESTIAL JEWELRY exhibit waiting for me in The Observatory (what?!).

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24 Hours in Savannah

Savannah, Georgia has long been considered Charleston’s “sister city,” a rival in Southern, urban historic beauty. While it’s only two hours from Charleston, I’ve visited less than a handful of times, and only passing through. This time was not different, but I was determined to at least scratch the surface and pave the way for future visits on our way back from Florida last Thursday.

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We stayed at The ANDAZ (owned by Hyatt) in Downtown Savannah and really enjoyed it. The location was excellent, the staff were super friendly and it has a fun lobby bar, a nice pool and great restaurant where Daphne and I enjoyed a Southern style breakfast buffet yesterday morning. (Girl loves a breakfast buffet!) Across the way was a city park with a fountain for kids perfect for this steamy weather we are having, plus the waterfront, shopping on Broughton Street and lots of restaurants were also just a few steps from the front door.

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We met some friends who recently moved to Savannah for dinner at The Wylde, a beautiful waterfront restaurant overlooking the marsh. It has a perfect view and excellent cocktails and a really well-priced, daily rotating seafood menu and some of the best fish tacos and cocktails I’ve had in the south. Highly recommend this spot which felt like a real local haunt, and not a tourist stop!

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We woke up on Friday and enjoyed the hotel pool then walked to Paris Market for coffee and shopping. With everything from taxidermy, to home goods to fresh macaroons and candy, it was just perfection.

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We drove up the street to check out some local antiques shops before lunch, towards Ardsley park which is an adorable, quiet residential neighborhood that reminded me a lot of Wagener Terrace, where I live in Charleston. Daphne and I, appropriately hit up an antiques market called Two Women and a Warehouse where I found some fun inspiration for my Candy Shop Vintage windows…

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For lunch we went to The Grey, housed in a former Greyhound bus station, predominantly a dinner spot they do serve day drinks, a small lunch menu and daily blue plate specials in the front bar area… I’ll be sharing my drink in the next cocktails edition on Cannon for sure!

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Finally a stop on my way out of town was Emily McCarthy’s beautiful home and design shop. She and I have been “insta friends” for awhile and I’ve always admired her taste and style. I loved stepping into her world for a bit and picked up some goodies to bring back to Charleston!

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Next trip to Savannah I really want to see some of the historic homes – Savannah style – and walk around more. Have you been? Do you have any Savannah travel tips and recommendations?

My Favorite Charleston Oyster Spots

Today happens to be one of my new favorite holidays, National Oyster Day! Charleston is rife with good oyster-eating spots so I thought I would share a few of my favorites, each with its own recommended oyster dish…

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#1) The Ordinary  at 544 King St, Charleston, SC – Best for: raw oysters

My number 1 oyster spot, this upscale seafood hall right down the block from our Charleston shop has some of the best seafood on the East Coast and is famous for its oysters, incredible raw seafood towers and wide selection of rums. And with daily “Oyster Hours” from 5PM – 6:30PM with half priced oysters I frequently find myself boomeranging to their bar when I get off work. Also, check out the amazing rum infused cocktail they mixed up for us recently.

#2) Leon’s Oyster Shop at 698 King Street, Charleston SC – Best for: the char-grilled oyster appetizer

A perfect no-reservations hip oyster spot on the Upper Peninsula. For non seafood lovers they also have excellent fried chicken and other non-seafood options on the menu. But my absolute favorite dish of theirs has to be their buttery char-grilled oyster appetizer and they have a great private label rosé called “Oyster Shed.” He he.

#3) The Darling Oyster Bar at 513 King Street, Charleston, SC – Best for: oyster shooters

The Darling is a well designed, fun filled new addition to King Street. Always busy and serving up great cocktails along with their trademark oyster shooters, this is a fun place to start a night out with a whimsically designed interior.

#4) The Wreck of Richard and Charlene at 106 Haddrell St, Mt Pleasant, SC – Best for: fried oysters

This local friend seafood spot has a water view where you can see the shrimp boats docking and dolphins jumping. It is a low-key, cash only establishment and the best place for fried oysters in Charleston.

#5) Bowen’s Island at 1870 Bowens Island Rd, Charleston – Best for: DIY oysters

Off-the-beaten path on the way out to Folly Beach, this casual seafood spot is known for throwing a big pile of steamed oysters down on your table. I used to think opening oysters was dirty business but having lived in Charleston almost ten years I have come to fully appreciate and enjoy the satisfaction of popping them open by hand. It is not fancy but it has an incredible sunset view.

 

Rhode Island Sweet Spots

While my family and I were on vacation in Florida last week, I asked my friend Lizzy of The Connoisseur of Cute to take over the @candyshopvintage instagram for a couple of days and share her favorite Rhode Island haunts through the her whimsical and colorful lense. While I travel to RI frequently and have posted my own mini travel guides, it was great to see it through someone else’s eyes. Here are the spots she shared in case you missed out on her adorable Instagram posts:

One of my personal favorites, Allie’s Donuts – an amazing local donut shop with signature, brightly colored donuts, full donut cakes and more!

The Roger Williams Park Botanical Center is located in Roger Williams Park in Providence – totally lush and beautiful! And love her matching pants : )

How precious is this bakery – Sweet Indulgence – located at 2202 Broad Street in Cranston, RI

Yes please to this fruit topped custard French toast from Modern Diner in Pawtucket, RI!

Some perfect vintage finds from Lizzy’s RI vintage hunts – she recommends checking out Stillwater Antiques in Greenville, RI and Rhode Island Antiques in Pawtucket.

Almost no trip to RI is complete without visiting the stunning historic mansions of Newport, RI, many of which are open for tours and are located along Cliff Walk.

Rhode Island is famous for its beautiful beaches (and sunsets!) Narragansett beach is a favorite and open to the public daily.

Lizzy’s posts have inspired me to do a little more exploring this summer beyond my usual spots (although Allie’s is something I never miss out on!). Thanks again for taking over for us – make sure to keep following along with Lizzy @theconnoisseurofcute. xo

Instagram Takeover With The Connoisseur of Cute

As some of you know, Rhode Island is my other favorite coastal state, where much of my Candy Shop Vintage jewelry is made and where I go with my family on vacation every summer. Not too long ago I stumbled across Lizzy Colley’s instagram account @theconnoisseurofcute whose bright, playful and often vintage inspired photos always brighten my day. I loved seeing Rhode Island through her eyes so much, I asked her to take over the Candy Shop Vintage Instagram this weekend and share some of her favorite spots. So follow along with the hashtag #connoisseurforcandyshop and @candyshopvintage starting this Saturday…

Holiday Events

Holiday events are upon us! This weekend we are ready to party in Charlotte, NC with Brandshop where I will actually by DJing their launch cocktail party starting at 5PM this Thursday, December 11 at Laca Projects, 1429 Bryant Street. For more details go hereThey have rounded up some fabulous brands and cutting edge designers (listed below) and we will have some popular Candy Shop Vintage items in their pop-up as well, like our French 75 Cocktail Bracelet

And back in Charleston on December 19th & 20th we will be heading on over to Gwynn’s of Mt. Pleasant for a Candy Shop Vintage Trunk Show. Hours will be  10-7 Saturday the 19th and 12-5 Sunday the 20th. Perfect if you are a last minute gift buyer like me!

The Costume Jewelry Collector’s Conference

Two weeks ago I was fortunate to attend a very fabulous, inspiring conference in Rhode Island called The Costume Jewelry Collector’s International conference. This is a bi-annual event (with smaller meetings on off years) where high-end costume jewelry collectors and dealers from all over the map come together for a weekend of selling, trading, learning and making. I only recently learned about the group, helmed by Melinda Lewis (who wrote one of the best books on vintage costume jewelry that’s ever been published) and Pamela Paschal Wiggins who are fabulous, dedicated ladies who know their vintage costume jewelry and own some of the best of it! I attended this conference with another designer, Justin Giunta behind Subversive Jewelry as I knew his talent for assembling his luxury statement pieces would put him in a position to appreciate a unique experience. We stayed in Downtown Providence in one of my favorite neighborhoods – Federal Hill. Its new England charm is enough to make me painfully homesick for the Northeast every time I visit – so I soak in as much as possible each visit I make to RI:

Everyone at the conference was dressed fabulously! This woman came from Canada to attend with her husband and literally had a different amazing vintage outfit and coordinated vintage jewelry for almost every hour of the conference. I loved seeing all her wardrobe changes…

I was fortunate to kick-off the weekend with a class with Wendy Gell – a designer who rose to fame in the 1980’s for her sculptural, over-glued cuffs (or “wristies” as she calls them), hair pieces, earrings, and pretty much anything else you can glue things on. She was so sweet and taught us, over several hours, her step-by-step intricate gluing technique. LOVED meeting her and will be following up with an interview with her in the next few weeks.

Her creative process is so different than mine – she starts with raw materials and assembles them organically. I start with an idea and figure out how to execute it and what materials I need to do so. It was good for me to have to be a little more freewheeling in my approach and less rigid. So much fun, although I think I inhaled enough glue fumes to last a lifetime.

I thought the lobster as a centerpiece was in keeping with being in New England for the weekend. It got me craving lobster and later that day I ordered a lobster roll for lunch.

Here are a few of my fellow classmates glueing away. It did take a fair amount of patience (and a few hours) to let the glue dry enough to keep working on our pieces. Wendy can do this in her sleep but we definitely struggled a bit more.

The conference provided us with plenty of “jewelry education.” One of my favorite speakers was Kris Brandriff who was kind enough to take me to lunch (and on an emergency post office run!) the first day of the conference. She is a native Rhode Islander and helmed the Quality Control at one of the most incredible vintage jewelry houses – Trifari – for a decade who once operated out of Rhode Island. Here is a picture from one of their factories – I love how elegant everyone looks while assembling jewelry. Bow ties and all!

Justin and I also had a chance to take in a little local culture and visited the RISD museum, which has both a wonderful permanent collection and had a great temporary exhibit by contemporary artist Martin Boyce – really worth seeing if you are in Rhode Island this fall/winter.

Probably the best part of the conference was the shopping. Tables upon tables of jewelry from dealers who know their stuff! I got some really beautiful pieces there – some of which can be viewed and purchased at Candy Shop Vintage in Charleston.

The “finale” evening of the conference had a 1960’s “Glam to Groovy” theme – and involved these wild centerpieces on ever table. We definitely had fun with the theme and it came as no surprise that a group who loves to collect big, bold pieces of jewelry also likes to party. There is something so fascinating and wonderful about people who collect a lot – or in some cases too much – of anything. Where there is passion, there is education, fun, and always an opportunity to learn more than what you already know. I felt really lucky that my career landed me amongst such a passionate, entertaining group of people for a weekend. Looking forward to the next one!