Free and Easy Down the Road I Go: floral expressions

FC 1

Flora Chella Design . Cape Flower Shed Installation

I love a Winston’s floral arrangement.  It’s crisp and tight and fresh.  It’s formal and elegant, and refined.  It’s special occasion.  It has the power to turn a not so special space into something notable.  I love wondering into the store on Newbury Street or Chestnut Hill with all it’s vastness and inspiration.  The sheer abundance of stems with their blooming beauty puts me at ease and fills me with wonder.

FC 3

Horseshoe Crab, Sea Shell, Seaweed, Driftwood – MAGIC!

So it may come as a surprise to you that I went in an entirely different direction for the shoot on the Cape last weekend.  It was as unstructured as I think I have ever been.  I didn’t dictate a color palette – so unlike me.  I didn’t demand a particular blossom, bloom, fern or stem.  Instead I let the floral artist go where her heart wanted to go.  She walked the home, she got the vibe, and she filled her little truck with a most wonderful and unusual combination of flora and fauna I ever did set my eyes upon.

FC 4

Wooden Dory awaiting snacks – seaweed, horseshoe crab case, and floral design behind in a silver punch bowl.  

Kate Formichella of Flora Chella Design is a floral installation designer, a grower of edible flowers, and artist.  She used seaweed and horseshoe crabs, driftwood and succulants, an array of unusual flowers for which the names escape me.  We gathered punch bowls and some of my carefully curated pieces from Jill Rosenwald’s collection, perfume bottles, and silver Dory’s, sand pails and antique glass spirit bottles.  This eclectic array of materials resulted in one of the coolest floral installations I have ever been a part of.  I wish I had taken a picture of Kate – so super hip with her long gray hair, and her shortie black and turquois cow boy boots.  Love!

FC 5

Hydranga – quintessentially Cape Cod

A real artist.  Chicago . NYC . Cape Cod.  If free and easy, and totally on-point is what you are after.  Kate is your gal.

Flora 2

Look at the fern, cascading down the side of the table in my Jill Rosenwald vase.

Kate Formichella – Owner/Designer . 847.204.6627 –


Sail Into Summer: Decorator’s Pop Up Sale

CC Fabrics Sale

Nautical Accents galore!

Having successfully finished the design of The Manse, and completed the photo shoot last weekend – cue empty feeling.  I find myself with some free time – time, by the way, I have been begging for, and now, I’m not at all sure I want it.  As I write this I can hear my sister saying “don’t you go filling up that blank space with another activity”.  I believe she excluded learning Portuguese, buying any more real estate, or ripping the deck off my boyfriend’s house.  What a buzz kill – I mean concerned sister.

CC Fabrics 2

Pillows:  Custom Designer, nautical and every day:  change up your design with a few easy accents.

When I completed the project, I found that I was surrounded by a number of beautiful pieces that either didn’t end up working in the home – think massing, style, placement, and a number that were just plain wrong, even though in another setting they would be nothing but RIGHT.

CC Fabrics 3

who doesn’t need a little end table to place your cocktail on?

That got me thinking.  Here I am, storing and moving, and shuffling, and loaning, all these carefully curated – hold it – not everything is carefully, thoughtfully curated – some things simply steal my heart and scream “take me with you”, and so I do.  While I have loved these things, used many of them (gently) it is time to find them permanent homes, where they will be loved and cherished, for longer than the shutter speed of the flashy camera, that my brilliant photographer wields.


CC Fabrics 4

A little bar, a side table, a book shelf – use your imagination – it’s beautiful.

So, together with my best friend – who has a penchant for collecting (with France being a favorite spot), and an incredibly talented, and dear friend that is an Interior Designer on Cape Cod,  we have mined the depths of our closets, storage units, barns, back offices, and shops and are bringing together an incredibly eclectic, carefully curated (this time it’s true, I promise) collection of furniture, art, pillows, lighting, accents, nautical knick knacks and more, that are bound to delight, and shine light on your interiors.

CC Fabrics 5

Mid-Century Nautical – look at that in-lay detail….summer breeze.

Saturday:  8:30am – 3pm

Sunday:  9am – noon

Cape Cod Fabrics/Helen Baker Design. 94 Rt. 28 West Harwich, MA

We’ll have Rosé – so there’s really no way you shouldn’t be there.  Cash or Venmo.


Vaguely Vignette: creating moments that won’t last

As I prepare to have my sister’s home shot on Saturday, I have come to a number of realizations.  First, that which I have come to consider “normal” is anything but.  I have had to explain to my Father at least a half dozen times, why we were hanging paintings, photographs, signs, and the like off center, up high, down low or not at all, letting them lean casually on a piece of furniture as if I was deciding whether or not the wall above would become its permanent home.  The reason of course is…staging.  What gets framed out within the confines of the view finder looks entirely different – dare I say horribly wrong – in real life.

vig 1

Proud moment when everything came together.   I painted that console table!

In small spaces, where cameras, and tripods, jigs and jogs in the walls, eaves, and any number of less than perfectly wide-open, square spaces (like say a 1789 home that was renovated – maintaining “most” of its original integrity might have), faking the scene is critical to telling the story.

vig 2

Coasting into the shoot as if it was no big thing….

If this feels like an Is this Real or is it Memorex commercial – it sort of is.  For you younger readers, that’s a reference to a cassette tape commercial.  If you are still not with  me – look it up.  I’m thrilled that I have such young readers.  The point is, cameras cannot capture everything, despite what TMZ might lead us to believe.  There is a lot of pulling pieces into a frame, with great effort, making the dress appear as if it has been tossed on the settee, awaiting the cocktail party in just a few hours, the book lying open on the bed, having just been abandoned for a dip in the ocean.  These things are carefully manufactured.

vig 3

Flowers in a Jill Rosenwald Vase … cut scene.

I have been filling this home with furnishings and objects for coming on 6 months now.  It wasn’t until the last two weekends that I even attempted to start and set the scene.  ( I only work on this project on the weekends).  Scene setting is an exhausting endeavor.  It requires gathering hundreds of objects, some rare, some cheap but interesting, some vintage, some natural- think shells and drift wood, some art, and some others would never consider art, and pulling it all together.  Is there a secret to it?  A science?  I’m still not sure.  I try and test, remove, and replace, add and subtract, curse and commend, and eventually after a little more nudging, a tiny bit of consideration and consultation, arrive at the vignette.  Alas, the point of the story.  While I cannot show you all I have been up to, I am happy to share this one perfect moment.  Perfect, anyway, from my point of view.


Spring has Sprung: Garden Party?

Prada GP 5

Miles Redd . An AMAZING DESIGNER. He can stay in my day dream, he is charged with dressing me!

At last, the weather has shown its sunnier side, bringing with it my desire to be outdoors, turn my black thumb to green, and throw un petit reception de plein air – a garden party of course.  If I’m being entirely honest, which I feel like being today, it’s not just the weather, but the fact that I’ve been busting my tuchus and want to sit on the deck, surrounded by flowers, and potted topiaries, feet up, listening to the birds chirp, and sipping rose.  If you’d been up to what I’ve been up to, you’d want to too.

Prada . $3,495. or some such unattainable dress (at the moment) My pick – not Miles…

Of course I don’t want just a daisy and a gingham check table runner to set the stage, though that is super cute.  I want some elaborate floral arrangement that climbs over the door, runs along the railing, and cascades down the steps, puddling in a perfectly messy splatter at the foot of the stair and beyond. Though I haven’t ever walked atop rose petals or chamilia, I image the velvety feel on my feet and aromatic scent that would fill the air would be lovely.

Prada GP 3

One of the most recognized sounds in the world….happiness.  $49.95.

I want string lights, tea lights and a spot light for the guest of honor.  I want fresh strawberries and sage, peaches and thyme, beechwood and basil, just because they sound nice, and I love herbs and fruit mixed together in drinks, appetizers, and floral arrangements.  I swear it works in all cases.

Prada GP 4

Beyond fab, puddling flowers…still want them over the door, along the rail, down the stairs, in a puddle on the grass.  (you can have whatever you want in your dream).

I want a flowy floral gown, a la monde, one made of reams of fabric, but light as a feather, that makes me seem other worldly.  I want a humming bird to alight on a flower near by and bless me with a season of good luck.

Prada GP 6

Humming Birds are magical!


I want the popping of corks and the clinking of glasses, toasting one another to good health and wishes well to the masses.  Ah imagination, it’s a terrible thing to waste.  Thanks for allowing me to indulge in a fantasy.  Off to work.



On Point: Target hits a bullseye

Target:  Lily Rattan Arm Chair – Left $139. and Lupini Rattan Bench – Right 180.49

Having just spent a gross amount of money on furnishing The Manse, carefully selecting a combination of that “it’ pieces, the cheap and chic, with the up and coming little known, and vintage repurposed, I’m not only exhausted, but I am broke.

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 7.27.21 PM

Love this mid-century modern inspired chair.  Peoria Wood Arm Chair – Target $169.99

I wondered if, like the contest I had with my older sister a few years back to see who could get the best Target outfit for under a $100.  Had to be complete.  I think we both did pretty good.  It got me wondering if you could furnish your whole house in Target and be as happy as a lark with the results.

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 6.53.58 PM

Lyre Chanel Tufted Velvet Ottoman – Opalhouse Target $56.99 (sale price)

I took a gander and I have to say, I really liked what I saw.  Now that’s not to say that I wouldn’t want to accent it with a Sister Parish pillow or a Scalamandre leaping zebra wall covering for my powder room – who wouldn’t?  The point is, they’re hip collection is likely to make you happy, without breaking the bank.

Screen Shot 2018-05-06 at 7.29.27 PM

Faux Fiddle Leaf Fig – Target $149.99


Tips for the Phased Occupied Renovation

…occupants that is.  We aren’t talking about the best approach to sequencing your project – though that will help speed it along.  We’re talking about how to survive, and come out alive on the other side of the construction.  If you haven’t done it before, don’t assume that you – or your partner, husband, wife, kids, pets, furnishings, electronics, etc, are up for the challenge.  Individually and/or collectively they may have no desire to be exposed to the dust, the frustration, the workers 7am arrival each morning, and so many more inconveniences real, and perceived.  Preframing the situation is critical.

construction 2

Expect the unexpected.

First, understand that whatever schedule has been provided to you will undoubtably be breeched.  There will be a delay in material, a subcontractor that didn’t show when he or she was expected, a piece of equipment required that breaks, lost, was stolen, or just plain disappeared.  Without this piece of equipment – your job will suffer delays.  Tack on an extra week for each month required in the original schedule.  NEVER say it out loud but do prepare yourself the modified completion date.  This little trick will give you an extra boost of stamina, you’ll need it.

hanson 3

The destruction moves quickly…the construction moves slowly.

Second, it’s going to cost way more than you expected.  This can happen for a number of reasons.  For instance, you or your builder may discover something unexpected when they start ripping and tearing.  The fancy word for this is “unforeseen” condition.  Just because it’s fancy doesn’t mean it’s nefarious.  It’s just the way renovations go.  You remove the bathroom floor only to discover that the joists are rotted – uh oh – unforeseen condition – added expense.  Then there’s the reality that the lighting you wanted, and which fit your budget won’t be available before your project is supposed to be finished.  Now you have a choice here, go with the more expensive version that looks almost exactly the same or a discount store knock off that’s off-white instead of pure white.  You know what you’d do.  Last of all – brace yourself, because if you thought the first two increases were bad enough, you’re really not going to like the last – You.  That’s right – you are the reason for the increase.  Either you didn’t make the decision you needed to make in time or you made it and then regretted it, so begged the builder to change it.  Which he/she did, but it cost you.  Ouch.  The tip here is to add an additional 15% to the cost.  You’ll either get close to the number or happily not spend it all.

hanson hall

What?….It’s just a little dust.

Create zip barriers to the spaces that you will occupy and never leave them open to the construction dust. On average it takes about a year to get the dust out of all the nooks and crannies.  A plain old sheet of plastic over the door, held up by Duct Tape won’t do.  Now I know what your thinking – Duct Tape can handle anything, unless you want to be sipping sawdust with your morning coffee, laying your curly locks on a pillow of billowy wood shavings – heed my warning.

hanson 5

Learn to love it or leave it alone!

Finally, be kind – whether to your family, your pet, or yourself – blaming never comes to a good end.  Embrace the disruption, appreciate your new space when it’s over, and say a prayer to the construction gods to deliver you safely onto the other side.

From Nothing – Something: The planned community

seaside 2.6

Small craft warnings….

As a frequent traveler, I find myself smiling when others talk of Boston’s history.  Not even 400 years old.  A drop in times bucket in comparison to the likes of Rome, Athens, or Alexandria, but Seaside, Florida – founded in 1981, and Rosemary Beach Florida – 1995, clearly win for fewest pages in the history books.  It’s ironic then, that this community was based on a Pre-WWII concept of development, which is dubbed New Urbanism.

This master planning model is based on a few concepts, first it must be an environmentally friendly, transit oriented – designed for the pedestrian as well as the car.  They should be diverse in use and population, and they should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions.  COMMUNITY.  A simpler time and place.  A place that celebrates local history, climate, and ecology.  I feel as if I am breathing in the salt air, and becoming calmer, just talking about it.

seaside 2.0

It just makes me want to go to the post office and mail a letter!

Seaside, the brainchild of Robert S. Davis, who inherited 80 acres of land on the Northwest shore of Florida from his grandfather.  Together, he and his wife, and Architects – Duany Platner-Zyberk & Co, toured the South, and created the plan for the community.  Community, and not a town, as it is not incorporated.  A crafty little loophole that allowed the developers to create their own zoning!  Et voila, 423 homes, 12 restaurants, 40 plus shops and galleries, and later, their own schools – the first charter school in the state, their own church and post office – arguably the most photographed post office in the states, designed by Davis himself.

Seaside 2.1

All roads lead to food, entertainment and the beach.

The houses designed in the Victorian, Neo Classical, Modern, Postmodern, and Deconstructivism styles have lovely porches from which to watch the world go by – no front lawns – just natural plantings.  They are painted in pastels and are placed side by side in neat little rows or clusters.  It’s lovely.


Porches not yards rule the day in Seaside.

I wonder if New Urbanism is synonymous for Utopia – it felt pretty perfect.  So perfect in fact I wondered if my cupcake, flower, and design store all in one was just around the corner.  I didn’t see it but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there.