Dream a little dream house for me

Pink Railing and All: Designed for a day or two before being returned to the Owners – in its original condition.

I never had one Barbie doll. Not a single one. My sister had one, but I don’t remember which Barbie she was, where she lived (geographically speaking) or what she did for a living. She didn’t do anything, so my interest was low, though I desperately wanted that Malibu Dream House, or the camper. West Coast beach house overlooking the Pacific, with sunken living rooms, pink pool slides, and a closet full of lucite heeled Candy sandles seemed superb to me, and then a road adventure on luxury wheels, that would take me away from my small town existence – yes please, that too. Alas, my mother would have none of it. I can hear her now, “where are you going to put that thing (so disrespectful) it’s just going to junk up this place”. So my dreams of a dream house went unrequited.

Could my house flipping wanderlust be the result, (wait a minute, let’s not sugar coat it, let’s place blame here), the fault, (that’s better) of my dream house deprivation? I dare say it’s possible. The more I flip, the more I dream, and the places, palatial, and so far outside of my planetary orbit, that I could easily imagine the existence was flawless – though I know in my bones that nothing is, the point of a dream house is just that – it’s a magical fantasy. Everybody knows that the pool in a fantasy is self-cleaning, never needs resurfacing, and certainly doesn’t leak into the cinema below. What kind of a dream would that be. “Quel nightmare” as Holy Golightly would say.

California Cool – personal quarters of “It Girl Barbie”

As a marketer, I adore a good PR stunt. The brilliance of a collaboration that draws the eyes of the world – if only for a moment, to look longingly at your cleverness is a thrill. Matel and Airbnb thrilllllled me with their real life Malibu Barbie Dream House rental. One lucky “winner”, two nights, a walk on part in a movie, costumes, make-up artists, hair dresser to the stars and all. Astronaut, Tennis Champion, Yoga Instructor, Corporate Tycoon, Hostess, and/or Race Car Driver, my heart was swooning with the possibilities – I didn’t see an outfit for construction, but I’ve been trying that one on for years. I think I need a good tailor.

A closet that will help you explore who you want to be…

Snatched from the devastating flames of the California forest fires this real life Malibu Dream House isn’t on the beach, but instead set in the hills. The infinity pool will make you feels as if you are on the beach with its breathtaking views. Barbie’s house was a dream because she designed it in her own signature colors – a spectrum of pinks accented by pops of yellow and turquois. Bold and happy, hip and beautiful, Barbie’s minimalist aesthetic is a contradiction terms. Its Cali clean lines and uncomplicated details feel just right for the home. The furnishings are sleek and the space uncluttered, made somewhat easier to accomplish by her purpose programmed rooms. There is a Meditation Terrace, a WFH Office, a Cinema, Craft Room, bed, bath, and beyond fabulous dressing room. The contradiction comes in the form of that signature magenta pink, spotted on the handrail that surrounds the balcony, the waterslide, and the doors that lead out to the deck.

Gaudy, yes. Would I move right in and start a series of career explorations on a new coast, Goodness guys and gals, don’t you know me at all?

Boxed Lunch: tablescapes to go

Table and Teaspoon. The Monroe . $24. a setting (flowers not included).

I remember my first tea set. I wasn’t allowed to use it of course. My mother was certain I would break it. While I cannot argue with her logic, its lack of use, and eventual disappearance, seems like a greater tragedy than a chipped saucer, or shattered tea cup. It was a happy little set, with its bold bands of blue, yellow, pink and green, accented by large white flowers, her pot spouting a neck like a swan.

Hestia Harlow . Journey Through Jaffa – set of 2 $96.00

Tea sets, and tablescapes should be shown off. A canvas to be created, curated, and cooed over by family, friends, and recently found acquaintances, but the sheer cost of showing off is shocking, and once you’ve shown off with that perfect party-themed platter with a pale pink gingham napkin, a delicate blown glass wine goblet in grass green, and a fringed straw placemat, it’s going to be hard to use it all again, unless you unfollow friends like some Instagram star constantly hitting the refresh button. I for one value my friendships and would like to keep them around, so what’s a gal to do when she wants to keep the creative landscape cool, on-trend, and avoid the clutter? My one thing in and one thing out flippers philosophy can really take a tole on my bank account, not to mention the environment.

A Table to Love . Lele $25. per setting.

Thank goodness for Millennials. That’s right, you heard me. I’m bored to death of the banter that batters this pour generation for their celebrate me nature. I want to throw you a party for introducing the sharing economy to me. Who needs to go into Lekkar Home and buy four glasses, placemats, gold silverware – is that an oxymoron – handles dipped in navy, a runner made of rope, and a screen printed napkin that you wouldn’t dare wipe your dirty fingers on for fear that you won’t be invited back, who has the money for the food and flowers when you’re done with all that?

Social Studies . Hometown . $32. per setting

The smart shopper – that’s who. There are so many divinely creative people out there in this beautiful world of ours. Rent, Ship, Set, and Return is going to be my new mantra. I’ll say it when I throw a woodsy winter wonderland themed bash, and again when I set off for a Polynesian styled party that will have me searching for a vintage Lily Pulitzer halter dress with large pink Hibiscus flowers. Next I’ll go high-brow with china, and then low-brow for a BBQ bonanza, the possibilities are endless. Get ready to party.

Making Waves: toss those scallops ashore

Lulu Little

The trend started quietly to build a few summer’s ago. A scallop shaped velvet pillow, backed in linen and available in a host of delicious jewel tones. I bought one, and then another. I’m a sucker for summer, city and seaside. Yes, it’s true the city can incorporate coastal and still feel sophisticated, and the coast can make the most of a sophisticated vibe that keeps it from looking too country. Decisions, decisions, it’s all in the decisions you make, we make, let’s make some together.

It’s time now to fully embrace that beloved little bi-valve, and ride, at least one scalloped edge to shore, because sure shootin’ these sweet little curves are making waves. It’s fitting that I only have eyes for this edge detail, as scallops, most interestingly, have 32 blue/green eyes. They don’t actually see with them, they are used more like a homing mechanism, sensory perception, instinct? I can’t exactly remember what Mr. Hammond, my fifth grade teacher, who taught us all the subjects, including marine biology, had to say about that pretty little mollusk, but I think I’m in the ball park, or the Sound as the case may be. They also swim backwards by opening and closing their shells in rapid succession to escape predators, and you can eat those eyes, just as you would a muscle – aka, the scallop, but nobody entertains that idea – it’s simply not as appetizing as a pillow-y white cloud, puddled in Saffron broth, served aside a linen napkin with that semi-circular edge, stamped and repeated, stamped and repeated, stamped and repeated, in some wonderous shade. I bet you can imagine your Easter table coming together.

It’s everywhere, like a newly discovered vocabulary word, you’ll start seeing that seaworthy rippled edge on everything. Trust me, and please do report back on your findings, you will. There’s the bar cart/side table – not surprisingly Serena and Lily is up on a coastal trend. The lovely lamp shades with their velvet edged detail, and their Liberty of London lined interiors. There are bed linens, and banquets, backsplashes and beautiful vanities. There are patio umbrellas, pretty little planters, and platters for which to serve Sazerac’s in sexy stemmed glasses.

Trove . Avalon Monumental Double Chest . 3050 – pounds.

The whimsey that this detail brings to the staid interior is some kind of wonderful. We could use a little wonderful right now. If you can’t do a loop-di-lo, at least do a half. It’s bound to make you smile.

Upholders: The original interior designers

There seems to be quite a lot more to learn here than I thought.

Ah Spring, I’ve been waiting for you. Normally I enjoy a little winter, time to burrow in, and rest, but my burrowing feels more like bondage, and my resting more like restricted chaos. I’m ready to be born again, and if this turn of seasons doesn’t allow for that, I’m not sure what does. It’s not just me that needs a fresh look, feel, life – it’s my furnishings. My furniture, is forever relegated to the teenage years of trial and experimentation. No sooner does my sofa have one look, that I am looking to give her the next. A new seasonal trend, an influence from a trip across the pond, or through my Instagram feed, or of course a new home, is all the motivation I need, to want– so desperately want, to remake the little beauties.

Wouldn’t I just love to get my hands on these. Chairish $2880. for the pair.

Upholstery is an expensive endeavor, even for those like me, who have found a source, that does it on the relative cheap. Not to be mistaken with cheaply. No, Tho’s work, is a work of art, but still it adds up, and it leaves me wondering, with all my free time, why couldn’t I do that? Before you going slinging your arrows in my direction with all the reasons I couldn’t possibly, shouldn’t even consider doing, I know, or think I do, but I love to learn, and while I don’t have any expectation that I’ll be double welting, button detailing, coil springing, horse hair stuffing, stringing or any other complicated matters associated with the vocation, I would like to know how to measure the yardage that one might require for the object. Start at the beginning I always say.

Not quite ready to go indoors for a live class. Bone up on it first with this book.

The beginning interestingly, can be traced back to the 17th century. Upholsterers were called Upholders, which I think is a pretty amazing title to have and to hold. How about you? It’s so regal. I might even be willing to trade my relative new favorite – Curator of Interpretations in for this new one. The apprentices were relegated to far less noble titles – The Outsider or The Trimmer. I don’t think I want to be either of those, but somewhere you must start, and apparently they made your fringe existence known clearly. Upholders professions were expansive, as it turns out. They were not simply reupholstering furnishings in the homes, castles, or churches, they were managing the entire interior decoration. Often paired with a cabinet maker, they were making history.

I’m not attempting to make history here – at least not as an Upholsterer. I have noted over the years that fabric estimations seem to be off by quite a bit. It must be a cautionary approach – no one wants to be left with too little fabric for the job. That would be disastrous, but too much, ouch. The fabric that I select is expensive. Ridiculously so, if you want to know the truth. I’m left carrying it around with me from home to home, feeling guilty. All those dollars rolled up on a rod, doing me no good at all. I need accuracy. Having calculated my odds, I thought taking a class on upholstery might just be the Spring Semester lesson I need.

Tools of the trade.

One Small Thing: details that delight

Here’s what I love about Kemble Interiors interstitial stair – if it isn’t evident to you already, I can barely breath I adore the rattan wrapped balusters so much. While some may not consider it innovative, I would argue that these did in fact make my life better. I want to run my fingers over its stripped bumpy edge and beg it to tell me why I didn’t think of it first. Brilliant!

One small thing. Sometimes that’s all you get. Sometimes that’s all you need to keep going. One small thing that you love, that makes you smile, that reminds you that there is beauty in even the ugliest of times, situations, or messes. If you are challenged to find it, you usually can. The rough edge of an old beam, it’s splintered edge a reminder that it was hand hune. A word my spellcheck doesn’t even recognize, it not having been manufactured in the modern age, in China, but rather by an actual person, with a chisel, and a commitment to a job well done. That’s worth a curve of one’s lips, up toward the sky, instead of down toward the ground, no?

Here’s what I love in this Kemble Interiors Lobby of The Colonial – so much I’m giddy with excitement. First, those pink scalloped chairs, delicate, velvety and inviting on the inside, exposing their hard shell and texture on the out. Second, Lions, and Tigers, and Bears – oh my, and the fact that there is also a monkey which hints at the mayhem that could ensue, and the pineapple that tells me I am welcome, and more pink. Third, that chandelier’s glass leaves that really are the kind of jungle I like to live in, and finally, the tiny pink striped perimeter of the vaulted ceiling. Subtle, clever, and inviting. Sure the wall is doing everything in its power to grab your attention, but this lobby is going to deliver more to those that are patient, and allow it to unfold overtime.

While it’s true that little can get lost in a sea of super-sized homes, the very fact that it could get found, is delightful. Even if you live in a less than large home, as I do, it’s possibly one of the most intriguing and rewarding experiences to have a guest recognize that some thing small that you chose, added, dotted onto your canvas and then partially obscured, to increase the wonder of its discovery, was in fact, discovered by them. It’s like sharing a secret with a friend that understands you like no other.

Yes, just yes. Collins Interiors is a master with the details. I’ve looked and looked, wondered and hypothesized, but can come to no conclusion, and Collins like to keep their secrets. Is it painted or paper. I know the wallcovering is pasted on, but the vent? How do they do the things they do, and what makes them willing to go the extra ten miles? I bow down to you. It’s nothing short of art.

As I took my weekend ramble through my instagram feed looking for something I would love, I came across so very much. People really are the most amazing amount of talented. Hats off to these wonders for the marvels they produce.

What I love about this Palm Beach Home Style image that feels so very Mark D. Sikes to me? In a sea of blue and white it is grounded by an antique farm trestle table. I love its unapologetic use of blue on blue patterns: note the striped rug, the china the chinoiserie vases, and of course the wallcovering. I love the pop of red on the table and the leafy greens on the mantle that let you know this isn’t their first rodeo.

Paintings: The only palette you’ll ever need

They are so brilliantly expressive, marrying hues that seemingly don’t go together, in a way that is at once natural, and entirely logical. If painting were only based in the world of reality, for which I am ever so grateful, it is not. Frankly I don’t know where I would be without a pink hippopotamus, a blue tree, and a violet sky – well sometimes the sky is violet, but it’s very rare, you have to admit. The beauty of uncommon pairings is itself an artform, and I find it incredibly comforting to know that even if I appear to have made a terrible misjudgment with the colors I selected for one of my flips, I can flip that script with a painting, that makes it alright again.

Just see how many colors you can squeeze out of a single painting. Your furniture will pick it right up.

While I understand not everyone buys, renovates, sells, buys, renovates, sells, buys, renovates, sells – well you get the point, it can be exhausting and exhilarating, and leave you, loyal reader, with the incorrect impression that after a while, I surely get it right. Oh, how I wish that were true, but I often get it wrong. This may lead you to ask yourself, why ever would you listen to a word I have to say, if I am not perfect, not always right, so often get things wrong? I understand your hesitancy, but lean in here while I tell you this secret. Have you leaned in? None of us, not even the people you revere the very most, are perfect. They make mistakes too. It’s called being human. Life is so much softer when you understand and accept that.

A favorite Texas Artist of Mine . a happy mess of colors.

Let’s just assume for the sake of this post that you are pretty perfect, but someone, say your grandmother or aunt, or brother, or old college roommate gave you a sofa or a rug, for instance, and you are not at all like me. YOU ARE sentimental. The not at all like me part comes in here because I am not sentimental at all. I would give that sofa away, leave that rug in my childhood friend’s home, never to return to collect it. I wouldn’t bat and eye or shed a tear, but as I said – in this story, you are not me. You are terribly sentimental, so play that part please. How could you just sell that gifted carpet, that beloved sofa, where so many lovely memories were made? You couldn’t, you wouldn’t even if you were beginning to resent the gift and all of its design havoc wrecking qualities. You had a nearly perfect (really – was it? Be honest) home, until that gift horse arrived in your house.

Even an old master can be made new again with color.

If it’s old and weathered and all your other pieces are new, if it’s a violent blood read, and your were going for serenity in the form of pale grays, embrace the change. Art will make it feel intentional.

Add a black accent and watch it pop.

Do You Design

Polka Dots and Stripes go with just about anything. Try it.

I am more of a doer than a show you how to doer, which is interesting because I love to learn, and revere a good teacher. The kind that stokes your curiosity, getting you to lean in to investigate a little closer, the magic that is being explained. The very best teachers seem to make my impatience fall away like a towel on a kid, ready to plunge themselves into the ocean. I wish I could do that for you, but my notebooks have notes, ideas, sketches, and list after list of To Do’s, that wouldn’t explain how I get anything done, though I accomplish a lot, sometimes a little, and mainly feel as if I’ve done nothing at all. How is it possible to be this way, and to explain to others, how to do it. It’s more of a How Don’t Guide, than a How To Guide, but there is something that I wanted to share about how this doer gets a design to be done.

For me it starts with color. It hurts my heart a little when the people that I am working with don’t like the hue blue. It’s not as if it’s the only color I like, but I’ve told you all before, I do adore. So let’s just say I start with the color blue, then I ask myself, what are we dealing with? A house, a home, a shelter – blue will still do, no seriously, whether I am dealing with a whole house or a single room, having a palette that is complimentary is important to me. Will I be able to close one room off from another, or will there need to be a relationship between the two? One of the drawbacks of open concept spaces is that delineation is hard to determine. Where does one room begin and the next end? Who knows. Many designers choose a single color to address these wide open spaces, which I’m not at all opposed to doing.

Give definition with trim, piping, pom-poms or fringe.

Here’s my how don’t guide to getting it right:

  • Don’t make decisions in a vacuum,
  • Don’t be impatient – gather your materials samples, paint, finishes, and put them on a board or in a tray, are they visually appealing to you?,
  • Don’t be afraid of prints and stripes together – stripes go with everything,
  • Don’t order everything from the Restoration Hardware catalog and call it done, people will talk about you behind your back, no matter how much you spent,
  • Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes – even the very best designers make them, it’s part of the learning process, and yes, there may be tears due to the literal price of the lesson, but that’s life,
  • Don’t think that you can see a paint color on the pages of a magazine and know what it’s going to look like in your space – the time of day, year, exposure, even your own mood can influence the way in which that color reads – you must test it, sit with it, and sigh, be patient.

These are my Sunday don’t, now go out and get after the month of March. It’s be worth doing.

Materiality Matters: concrete answers

Concrete Collaborative . Calafornia dreaming. Ventura . Concrete Terrazzo Topping

Well, about concrete, which is making a strong comeback for a material that typically gets the short end of the pretty stick. It’s always had substance, but its make-up matters, and this dense version, gleams. The fact that its color range would make a chameleon jealously prepare to defend their territory is testament to its range, but even if you decided to stay firmly rooted to its color of origin, its anything but average.

Ribbed . raked boarded, anything but boring.

There are few things I like as much as supporting a family-owned business, one owned and operated by three sisters seams steeped in some mystical meaning. I can’t help but think of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas – Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen singing, “Sisters, Sisters, lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister”…. I’d revise it to say, lord help the mister that comes between me and my design. My sister may have discovered the Concrete Collaborative on Goop – she’s obsessed with anything Gwenie picks, and GP picked a pretty pink terrazzo called Venice Alabaster Large Pink Chip Tile for her Hawaiian store. Big island indeed.

Pacifica . tough as nails.

Admittedly, it was only a few months before that I was introduced to the company, on a cold fall day, as I stood outside, investigating the materials for our new office headquarters, covid-style. I honed in on it like a sharp shooter picking their target out of a crowded arena. I could pick a diamond chip out of a stretch of beach a mile long. I’d like to think that it has everything to do with my sense of refined elegance rather than my nose for money, but honey, I’ve never been able to determine whether it was a gift or a curse. Someone has to pay the bills after all, and this concrete doesn’t come cheap, but if statement making is what you are after, you’ve come to the right place.

Venice . beach, city or terrazzo – you had me at hello.

Countertop, tabletop, paver, breezeway barrier, tiled or poured, raked, ribbed or formed with a board, be prepared to be impressed.

QUIN.tessential Design: getting social in Boston

The Algonquin Club is getting a face-lift. Known as the finest, and most perfectly appointed clubhouse in American, when it was designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1886, ideals change. No offense to Charles McKim, who designed this limestone jewel on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston’s Back Bay. You were cutting edge at the time, and I still wander the BPL in wonder over the vaulted ceilings, grand marble stairs, courtyard seemingly plucked from a fine Italian estate (if you haven’t been to the Boston Public Library of late, do not let the skate punks deter you from your mission. March right up those granite steps, past the wrought iron lanterns that could slay a dragon, and take a tour – admission is free). The Algonquin had remained, in this gal’s humble opinion, decidedly stuck in another era, where social club’s were the exclusive right of upper crust male businessman, heavy velvet curtains cloaked dark brooding windows, and cigar smoke hung heavy in the air. Cough, cough, um hum, excuse me, could a waiter please bring me a sip of fresh air.

The Swan and Bar Bevy. Design: Ken Fulk

That fresh air, as it turns out, was blown in from the West Coast, SF to be specific, at the bequest of Sandy Edgerley and her husband Paul, who purchased the old gal in 2018, and began renovations in preparation for her unveiling in June of this year. I wonder if McKim and Fulk – Ken Fulk that is, would have become fast friends. They shared a love of Paris, Charles having studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, bringing that lavish and grandiose architectural style to “the club”, and Ken having absorbed, perhaps through osmosis, the very essence of Parisienne culture, custom, and design. While McKim was all balustrades and balconies, columns and cornices, symmetry and the sublime, Fulk is classically tailored and fearlessly modern, and it must be said, nothing short of a magician.

Carbone . Las Vegas : Design Ken Fulk

A modern mood was in order. The shrugging off of the Algon – coat of armor has left The Quin’s essential elegance in tact, thrown her windows open to welcome in the light, invite a sense of pretty playfulness – introducing us to what is at once delightfully surprising, and as familiar as a friend you plan to have, when only you make their acquaintance. What better place to do it than within these scrubbed marble walls. Dine in one of the seven restaurants, tap a button and champagne will appear, get well and ready after a work-out with a championship winning, Boston Celtics ring wearing, personal trainer. Follow it with a steam, a spa service, and a blow-out, when you ascend the stairs, you’ll have level after level from which to choose. Will you work, learn, congregate, sip, simply soak up the beauty of her interior? A comfortable home away from home for some, for me, more comfortable than any home I’ve called home before.

Fulk’s essential talent lies in the details. It’s the bones of the building, the color selection, the matte surfaces paired with polished, glazed, and mirrored. It’s the unexpected combinations, the acids and pastels, the cocktail napkin, the floral arrangement, the uniformed servers, the bed linen, the art work, nothing that can have an impact on your sensory experience is likely to be missed by this mystery of a man. Go ahead and keep me in suspense – you have my heart . total adoration . and I must say … reverence this Valentine’s Day.

The Hirst Bar . Design Ken Fulk

Rush . Rush Baby: Entrepreneurial carpet innovations

First of all, I adore a women owned business. Second of all, I adore it when friends come together to collaborate, and third of all, no one says third of all, but grabbing the attention of readers is difficult at best, and sometimes you have to annoy them before you please them. Bear with me here, I plan to please.

Designer: Emily Painter | Photographer: Peter Murdock

Friends and travel enthusiasts, Page Mullins and Liz Strong, both interior designers that put their talents to work as stylists and editorial producers for the likes of Coastal Living, Elle Decor, Garden & Gun, Real Simple, Veranda, and for lifestyle brands like Serena & Lily – one of my favorites, and Boll + Branch, came together during the pandemic to start their own venture – Rush House, which I sort of wish was called Rush Home, because the image of a place that you sought out, and designed, with so much care and love, that you want to rush to get there from wherever your day has taken you, is comforting and emits a sunny glow of warmth. It’s not called that though – it’s called Rush House, which is also a lovely name.

Cut the squares free of the rug to customize the size you are looking for….

Rush, rather than referring to hurrying around, which is what I mainly do, refers to the material from which their carpets are produced. Sparked by the artisanal craftsmanship of tiny villages in Mexico, the push pin on the map of their adventure centered on Oaxaca, back in 2015, resulting in the first stitch of an idea that brought together, in neat rows, their love of craftsmanship, design, and finds that they wanted to share with the world. The simplicity of the concept is brilliant.

…or stitch together individual squares to increase the size of your carpet.

One rug, three products, endless possibilities. By offering a simple, affordable 9 x 12 seagrass rug, they keep the business model tight. They have full time professional careers after all. I suspect that you are asking yourself, what is a gal, or guy, to do if they don’t need a carpet that isn’t 9′ x 12′ – get out your scissors, that’s what. Cut the stitching to free the 1′ squares from the captivity of the carpet, and voila – you’ll have the size you desire. Want the opposite? Buy extra squares, and rush thread and needle, to stitch the number of squares required to get you the custom size you desire. I watched the video – it all looks pretty easy, and kind of fun.

Affordable . customizable . DIYable. Joy: one square foot at a time.

Page and Liz, I’m not only jealous of your business model, I’m jealous of your adventures, design aesthetic, and creativity. Thank you for bringing this product to market. I plan on getting to the serious business of buying, and using these beauties in my properties, because you are right, I’d be hard pressed to find an application for which it doesn’t add texture and style. I think that might be true for you too – yes you, the one reading this, that’s who.