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The Commons, a shop that specializes in unique handcrafted products, is tucked away at the end of an alley that runs between two buildings on Broad Street. This slightly hidden location gives a normal shopping trip the allure of a treasure hunt—and a richly rewarded one at that.

Owners Erin Connelly and Kerry Clark Speake, both clothing designers, have known each other since they met in San Francisco seven years ago. Impressed by the work of artisans across America, they decided to put their design and curating skills to good use. In December 2013 they opened a “pop-up” shop in downtown Charleston that offers “American-made goods for the home, designed with a modern sensibility.” The shop, as Connelly puts it, never “popped down.”


The Commons is a mecca for holiday shoppers or for anyone who needs a gift with a special personal touch. The artists, some 40 of them, come from every region of the United States. Their work includes ceramics, metal, glass, fiber, slate, wax and wood. Products range from small objects, such as Eric and Lori Wrights’ brass cocktail spoons to larger items, like Keith Hudson’s wall hangings, inspired by sailors’ knots.

Our favorites include a ceramic saltcellar with little legs by Akira Satake (North Carolina), hand-turned maple bowls by Spencer Peterman (Massachusetts), and a set of porcelain stacking bowls by Charleston potter Miyako Fujiwara.

The Commons’ own Shelter Collection features handblown glassware and ceramics in simple, classic shapes. Products are made in the small town of Star, N.C., the result of a partnership between The Commons and STARworks, a nonprofit organization that has transformed an abandoned mill into a center., 646-408-3447



Author Holly Herrick, an award-winning food journalist, cooking instructor and author of eight cookbooks, resides in Charleston. Her latest book, Mashed: Beyond the Potato (Gibbs Smith, 2016), offers a fresh take on comfort food, demonstrating creative ways to turn dishes, such as soups, casseroles and desserts, into “the kind you dream about.”

Herrick starts with 25 potato-based recipes that are anything but bland. Subsequent chapters introduce us to other candidates for mashing— vegetables, meats, grains, legumes and fruit—in recipes organized by season. Pureed parsnips topped with a browned butter and pecan drizzle make an unusual autumn side dish, while mango, peach and vanilla bean sorbet leaves us pining for summer. Photographs by Alexandra Defurio bring out the textures and colors of these dressed-up dishes.

In Southern Coastal Living: Stylish Lowcountry Homes (Gibbs Smith, 2016), Joni Vanderslice, owner of J Banks Design, a successful interior design firm on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, explains her firm’s approach to designing the quintessential Lowcountry home.

Vanderslice maintains that our homes should reflect our personalities. In this book, she encourages us to decorate with objects we love, even if they come from different periods or cultures. Then she shows us how to do it.


Individual chapters focus on the specifics of color, texture, working with artisans, kitchens, guest rooms, “dressing the bed” and “men’s spaces,” to name a few. Readers come away with new ways to approach a home project—and more than a few good ideas.

Photographers Steve Gross and Susan Daley write in their new, beautifully illustrated book, Historic Charleston & the Lowcountry (Gibbs Smith, 2016), that “to walk into a three hundred-year-old house and feel the resonance of past lives, to make photographs using the same geometry of sunlight coming through windows and doors as generations of inhabitants have experienced it, is to glimpse into history and to be provided with a way to read the past.”

Their passion for Charleston’s past shines through in this comprehensive book that showcases in words and pictures over 22 historic homes, plantations and gardens. The authors have gained access to architectural gems of the Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival periods, many privately owned. Additional chapters instruct us on the histories of piazzas, wrought-iron work, hidden gardens and churches. This book is a loving tribute to Charleston and its surroundings—and the next best thing to making a visit.



The Chesterfield Hotel—an elegant, boutique accommodation centrally located on the island of Palm Beach, Florida—has long been a favorite of discriminating visitors to this tropical paradise. Just a short walk from worldclass shopping on Worth Avenue, the beach and the island’s best restaurants, the location of this historical hideaway (the building dates to 1926) is hard to beat.

Founder and president of the Red Carnation Hotel Collection, Beatrice (Bea) Tollman, originally from South Africa, oversees The Chesterfield—the only property in the United States that belongs to her and husband Stanley Tollman’s collection of international hotels. A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, The Chesterfield is remarkable for its traditional Floridian architecture, Englishstyle décor and old-world charm. In addition to 53 exquisitely furnished rooms, it offers a heated swimming pool and an elegant restaurant that features American, English and Asian specialties from executive chef Gerard Coughlin. It’s the type of place where the staff greet you by name and cater to your every need.

The hotel’s Leopard Lounge & Restaurant, located opposite the lobby, is a popular Palm Beach night spot. Punkah fans, swaying over the bar, underscore the British Colonial atmosphere, while the swirling red and white patterns on the ceiling (compliments of local artist Lino Mario) reveal themselves to be, on close inspection, a celestial orchestra of naked women.

The Chesterfield is known for its special events. Traditional afternoon tea is served daily from 1 to 5 p.m. and includes a selection of leaf teas and infusions accompanied by homemade sandwiches, freshly baked scones and seasonal pastries. A magnificent Sunday brunch features lobster Benedict, banana- stuffed French toast, grilled tenderloin and more.

The Tollmans’ success speaks for itself. Their collection of Red Carnation Hotels has grown to 17 award-winning properties in South Africa, Ireland, England and Switzerland. They also own and operate Uniworld, an ultra-luxurious cruise line that offers journeys on the most scenic rivers of Europe and Asia.

Be sure to check out the fifth edition of Bea Tollman’s cookbook, A Life in Food. It can be purchased at the hotel or ordered online. (Proceeds go to charity.) Inside are her recipes for delicious, easy-to-prepare dishes.,,

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