Serena and Lily Launches . Boston

Mary Maguire is a RISD trained artist. Based in Lyme, CT she sells her originals to a number of shops. http://www.marymaguireart.com/

or Chestnut Hill as the case may be. True to its name, and despite the bustling sales associates, and dozens of eager shoppers, the color palette of blues and grays, caramels and creams, and even a forest green, made the store serene. You know the kind of place that makes you realize you’d been holding your breath? When your foot falls on the bleached hardwood floor and you knock eyes with a wall adorned in Mary Maguire nautical watercolors, you know you’ve arrived at someplace special.

Original art abounds throughout the store.

Between Newport and Nantucket, Serena and Lily is likely to fulfill its annual projections for sales, the rich and famous flocking to this formerly catalog only company, to adorn their second, third or fourth homes.

Despite the outrageous decadence of a $60. pillow case, the simple beauty of their offerings draws one in. Some things simply have no look alike, or the look alike can’t really hold a candle to the original. In these instances I think it’s important to save ones pennies, and purchase pieces that are going to bring the most bang for the buck. Believe it or not – a pillow case does bring bang. All of the other sheets can be hidden away, but that pillow case is perched right there on top, in full view, and with all the world to admire. Pair it with a Home Goods sheet set and you’re in the money as the saying goes.

My other picks from the store have to do with my recent obsession with chairs – dining, club, slipper, lounge, diminutive or delightfully large, they have my attention. While it’s true that if you are in the hunt for high-low comparisons in the chair world, you can make a pretty good go of locating a low-priced lookalike that will work brilliantly. I would argue that even someone as obsessed with the details, as I am, could be made reasonably happy with one of these close approximations, BUT when you’ve found a particular hue that makes you beyond happy, that, you may not be able to replicate. The Tucker chair in Fog is my pick, and at just $198. it’s one of the more reasonably priced picks.

Raffia Console Table – on sale now! $848.

If I am selecting for my imaginary coastal home, the Belgian Club in Performance Pinstripe in French Blue is my pick for a living room chair, and the Blake Raffia Console – which btw is on sale for $848. from $1300. The indigo is so nautical and lovely, I can really see my room shaping up, but alas, its Sunday and errands await, bringing me back to reality. If you’re in the mood for a wonderful daydream, drop by – 200 Boylston Street . Chestnut Hill.

When Inspiration Won’t Strike

Sometimes no matter what you do, you can’t come up with something that seems worth sharing. Today is one of those days. So I turn to a series of photos that I love, sometimes for obvious reasons – obvious to me anyway, and others, I can’t put my finger on it, but they have an appeal nonetheless. I hope they will provide you with a little design inspo.

Get Hooked: seaside bric a brac

My little home town has certainly stepped up its game these last few years. Shops are popping up left and right in the port, we even have a 10 seat sushi restaurant and it feels like more live music per square mile than Boston. If there is an alley, they’ll find a way to turn it into a beer garden, and carve out a little spot for a singer guitarist to perform. We’ve always had the three ports, the only Cape town that can that lofty designation, so sailors know it, even if they choose to call Chatham home.

It’s less stuffy than Chatham, and more economical, which I imagine is attractive to a younger generation, looking for their first second home, or their first home in a place they spend the second biggest amount of time. With real estate prices in the city what they are, it’s not at all surprising to me.

Too scary for words or good luck?

This year I discovered a little gem of a place tucked behind an art gallery that has drawn me in, and had me coming back with my wallet in hand, again and again. J.M. Byron House is a treasure trove of Cape Cod kitsch. Aside from the brilliant curation, at the hands of a Boston Merger’s and Acquisitions Lawyer, it is beautifully staged. My appreciation for thoughtfully placed objects, from the ombre effect of the fine art hung on the walls like a brush stroke that starts out bold and beautiful, and then fades into a whisper of a hue, is the backdrop to the carefully placed objects. Fine Art – originals and prints – period pieces of nostalgic value – Turkish Oushak Rugs, pieces that jive and vibe with the ’60’s seaside aesthetic.

Look at those stinkin cute Cape Cod Salt and Pepper Shakers, the replica of the Nantucket Boat, the Whale Faucet – I want it all.

I just might buy a tiny bit of a property here just for the sheer pleasure of outfitting it with the J.M.’s offerings. You simply must visit it again and again, not only because new offerings are arriving all the time, but because the richness of the environment demands you study and absorb it. I’m always discovering new things, and considering pieces like those Foo Dogs ( a Chinese symbol of good luck) that speak to me – even though they look a little mean – a little serious, still they are the accent color that I am using in No. 5, so, we’ll see.

If that staging isn’t perfection, I don’t know what is. I almost bought that dog, and I don’t even have a dog!

If you can’t visit in person – get connected via Instagram (@thejmbyronhouse) , if you are super friendly and complimentary, Matt just might agree to mail you an item or two.

Al Fresco in the Fall?

I feel it in the air today, though I know in my heart of New England hearts, there will be many more warm days before the snow arrives, the crisp weather of this next season is sure to come. Why then am I recommending you assess your outdoor furniture and consider buying now, right before you’ll be up to your eyeballs in holiday decorations, and gift lists as long as your arm? If you have ever attempted to buy outdoor furniture in March, April, May or gasp – June…you know you’ve already missed the boat. Sure, you’ll be allowed to purchase it. Buy now, and prepare to hold your breath until November. That’s right – November. If Thanksgiving is warm enough, which sometimes it is here in Boston, you could entertain family and friends under your pergola with your new dining table and chairs, and then haul them downstairs for a long winter’s sleep.

If you purchase now, you’ll have the benefit of some pretty amazing sale prices. When an outdoor sofa, which in this region you use for maybe three months if you are lucky, costs about a third more than your indoor sofa, which you use all year long, getting some kind of a break on pricing is a non-negotiable for me.

Options may be a little more limited, but 60% off is 60% off, and after a winter that seemed like it would never end, you really want to be able to pull those furnishings out of storage the very first springlike day that comes along, and get to taking advantage of it.

Above Left: Ballard Design . Color Block Above Right: Ballard Designs . Fringed

These are my picks – buy now or forever hold your peace next spring.

Southern Challenge: Leap of faith

Today I am filled with gratitude and a healthy dose of awe for the faith that the Walton’s placed in me with their new southern home. It’s one thing to preach about it, and another to put it into practice. I always knew they were special people, but I don’t think I fully appreciated the divergent nature of the design suggestions I was making, from that which they were accustomed, until I had changed everything that is.

Above: Family room before and after. All the surface mounted electrical was removed, the existing built-ins were modified to accommodate the wall mounted tv – which can be hidden away with the addition of the new doors. A additional corner bookshelf cabinet was constructed to the right of the door. All woodwork was painted in Benjamin Moore’s Nickle, walls in Benjamin Moore’s Mineral ice. Quite a transformation.

Above Left: Benjamin Moore’s Mineral Ice. Right: Benjamin Moore’s Nickle.

Dark, rich, brooding color palettes were packed up in boxes and left in New England to be replaced with bright, fresh, clean happy hues with a hint of grapefruit. Just kidding. I love the crazy adjectives that they use to describe wine, and I got a bit carried away.

Above: Office before.

The house was in need of a manicure and a haircut. It was so laden with window dressings and accoutrements (that’s french for a lot of trappings or extras – the fringe had its own accessories), that I was surprised that it could breathe under the weight of it all. It was entirely the wrong feeling for a family that breathes life into its visitors, allows them to see life through a new lens and find their purpose. Speaking from my own personal experience, I can assure you finding your purpose is hard enough without hiding it under all those trimmings and trappings. I love a window treatment as much as the next gal (if I am being honest, probably a little more than the next), but balance and harmony must prevail, and even I believe that being parsimonious nets a more pure result.

Above: Office after – dark wood painted in Benjamin Moore’s White Winged Dove in high gloss. Walls in same – egg shell finish.

I think I would have been really nervous if I had been clued into the doubt that was floating around down there in North Carolina. Ho boy, as Jo-Jo likes to say, I might have been up a night or two over it. You see, I am not really accustomed to working with others to realize their vision. As a flipper, I am in the business of realizing my own. It’s true, sometimes I let myself down when I make mistakes, but I have learned, well, to learn from them, and move on. It’s a weighty responsibility to please others, which brings me back to faith and gratitude.

Jonathan said: “We would never have imagined painting these colors.” “I was skeptical about the color. But SO love it!!! I’m so glad that I did not go brown and browner.” Me too Jonathan, me too. Thank you for the gift you gave to me in your trust.

Simplicity doesn’t mean simplistic

Hotel Grand Amour

Great design doesn’t necessarily require an excess of augmentation. Don’t get me wrong, I can appreciate a string of French reigns – all of the Louis hold a special place in my heart with their desire to outdo one another. The graceful gilt dipped chair legs, and golden carved flowers are a wonder to behold. You could sit staring at a single room all day long, and perhaps not absorb all the beauty, the artistry that the designers packed into those four walls. Make no mistake, spaces that are stripped of that layer upon layer of intricate detail, have no place to hide. There simplicity must be perfection or their flaws will surely show.

Hotel des grands boulevards

I pay special attention to this skill, as the century we are in, doesn’t have much room for the opulence of the early 18th century. Who has the time or money? Well, clearly some people have plenty of time, but not necessarily the money and those with the plenty of money often don’t have the time, but that’s all a story for another day. There is a quiet complexity in simple spaces for which I hold a high regard.

Crisp clean simplicity.

I came across this hotel – yes it is French, and yes it is in this century. Hotel des grands boulevard. It’s in the Marais and is so sweet. It has a bit of imperfection mixed in with the simple clean lines of the interiors in the form of some battered old furniture, but it feels right.

Simple slab for a catchall that coordinates with the dark wood of the closet door.

The bathrooms don’t rely on expensive tile or grand gestures in the form of statement mirrors. To the contrary, their simple lines are recognizable because there is nothing there to distract. It’s refreshing.

understated and yet still elegant.

The beds have a little old school grandeur with their canopy and the luxury of velvet. The paint job takes center stage as only it can when all the hard work of smoothing and cocking, and plugging the gaps has been done.

The warmth of velvet.

See if you agree – Paris is always a good idea.

She Sheds: the place I want to be…shed

Note the Greek Key awning in pale gray and the black and white tiled floor – this is quintessentially French, and I adore it.

The all about me shed. I’ve been feeling nostalgic of late for my very first place in Charlestown. It’s not so much that I miss living there, or even want to be back in that condo, as it is a longing for the feeling of creating something that was unapologetically about me. Everything was new, and fresh, and I didn’t allow pesky things like resale value get in the way of my dreaming.

That’s the thing about projects. They can sometimes take on a life of their own. You can start doubting that what you are doing is going to turn a profit, or move fast enough, or be “liked” by others. When I started on this journey, before I knew that’s what it was, though isn’t life always – a journey that is – before that, my only worry was how I would pay to make my vision a reality. Cat House my kittens tail – that paint job in my Charlestown home was perfection. Perfection I tell you. It certainly did not resemble a house of ill repute and why haven’t I been as bold with the other homes? Was it because they became just a number?

Whatever the reason, it got me longing for a She Shed. That’s right, a place were I could put my creativity back into action. A small jewel box of a hide away. A place that I could sit and write and be surrounded by the sound of chirping birds in summer, snuggled up in blankets in winter, with a heater at my feet. Oh how I hate to be cold.

It would be cloaked in striped curtains, and have an interior awning – in my minds eye it would have a beautiful set of barn doors that opened to reveal both. I would welcome friends to come for cocktails and listen to music and sit and chat when I wasn’t writing.

Studio Shed . Portland Series

It would sit on a little plot of land, or in a back yard, and a perfect set of pavers would lead you down a lavender and daisy flanked path to my pretty little french macaroon of a hide away.

Now finding and creating the She Shed is the easy part. You wouldn’t believe how many companies exist that are in the business of making your dreams come true – as far as She Sheds go. They’ll prefab them, trailer them whole to your destination (they require you to be pad ready – that means you need to have some sort of a foundation for the shed, which depending on the size and the area that you live in, and other features you may decide are essential like plumbing and electricity – you could be required to get a building permit). Other approaches could include the conversion of something you already have in your back yard – that is, if you have a back yard at all, which I don’t.

This one would cost you but oh how pretty she is!

Hum, which really leads me to my bigger problem. While some of these She Sheds can be purchased for less than $2,000., and of course the sky is the limit in terms of what you COULD spend on one, but i saw some pretty nice ones for $48,000. – if you don’t have the land to put it on, that’s going to be your biggest expense. Oh my She Shed longing just rachetted up a few more notches.

Just a tiny bit of thing, it doesn’t need to be big to be just what you need….

.