Take a Hike: Interest Rates and Home Ownership

The Fed. Now that’s a big bank.

The Fed is fed up with our spending habits. We consumers are consuming at a rate that apparently can’t keep pace with production. If you have a finger to point, you may be stymied about which direction it should target. Should it poke the Russian Bear that marched on into Ukraine and announced their intention to stay? What about the pandemic, a reduction in production, a supply chain broken, Amazon promises, and a desperate need to fill ones time? Oh there are so many places we could go to place blame, if placing blame is what we are intent on doing?

The whole thing had me stewing, primarily because I too like to buy, but rather than surf the web in summer, I like to cruise the open houses and I happened to be in the market for one. All the while the Fed was reaching into their tool box and pulling out the only tool they had to tamp down inflation and up went the interest rates. My two bed condo dreams were dashed, alas it seems I would be destined to live a one bedroom existence. I find some solace in the fact that I live alone, and don’t have visitors often, so practically speaking don’t need two bedrooms. Need aside, the upside potential of a two bedroom condo far exceed that of a single. Humph.

I’d be feeling a little sorry for myself if I wasn’t getting such a fabulous one bedroom, and significantly a very good interest rate, one tool titans, I have a trick or two up my own sleeve. I am no finance expert and understand that there is much in fact that I don’t understand at all. I have long been fascinated by the fact that the mere mention of a rate increase gets banks scrambling to hike their rates in advance of the actual announcement, which got me thinking that it wasn’t a law that required them to raise the rate, so what compels them to do it?

Big commercial banks are tied to a rate range for their overnight loans – the loans they make to one another, and to requirements for liquidity set by regulators. This forces compliance which trickles down to we average buyers, looking to get loans for cars and boats and houses and such. In my years of shopping loans, I discovered that working with small banks was easier, faster, less cumbersome. In my most recent transaction I learned that there is another benefit. Small banks don’t sell your loan, at least not as a matter of course. They are in the business of holding it and using the money they receive from your down payment, and others – to lend. They want and need to attract borrowers to keep their business moving and few things are more attractive to a borrower than an incredibly competitive interest rate. When others were offering 5%, I shopped and discovered 4.75, then 4.25 with a small bank out of Maine, and finally 3.99%, which as I like to say, is not nothing!

In conclusion I would like to say I still have no idea how the Federal Reserve operates, and why they have so few tools to address inflation, but I implore you to support small banks if you are in the market for a home.

Stress Less: Part II

Hello again. I wouldn’t dream of thinking of leaving you with all those philosophical thoughts on things, and not tell you some tips on what to do with them. It is important when you are considering a move to take the time to reflect on the things that you have tucked. It really can tell you so much about what’s going on with you as a person if you observe and listen, which is really hard to do when you are sooooo busy.

Those Home Edit Gals really appreciate beauty.

I am going to assume that you have done that and now we will move to the organization phase. We organize before it even goes into the big moving boxes because that will reduce your stress when you arrive at your final destination. See title. If haven’t come across the show The Home Edit you may now excuse yourself to go get a snack and a cool beverage of your choice and sit and watch a few episodes. Clea Shearer and Joanna Teplin are obsessive compulsive organizers who appreciate beauty, color blocking, and containers. If the show doesn’t send you peeling out of your parking lot or space or hopping a train to the Container Store – purveyors of all things organization, then shoot me a note and I’ll mail you five dollars. It will be like the birthday card that you received from your grandmother or a favorite Aunt. Really, I’m not joking. I’ll do it.

The Container Store is pricey, and I for one don’t want to make what is already an expensive undertaking into an even more costly one for you, so consider Home Goods as an alternative. They have much of what’s available at The Container Store for less, but there are certain items like wrapping paper containers that I haven’t seen on sale anywhere else and these are wonderful! I use them not only for holiday and birthday wrapping which seems to take a beating, particularly when I move, but to store roman blinds that I paid an arm and a leg for and plan to reuse later. They would work well for field hockey sticks, bad mitten or tennis rackets, all those random balls that have collected on the bottom of the closet. Trust me, after watching the show, you’ll have more ideas about how to contain your life than time to contain it.

Now for the junk drawer. My intent isn’t to overwhelm you or change you into someone that you are not. Take that drawer and dump it into a box, tape it up, and label it junk drawer. Done. Not every aspect of this process demands you address it in this moment, but I will ask you to consider dumping the junk drawer into the trash. It’s called junk for a reason. Starting fresh has its own rewards.

Ok, so you’ve sorted, donated, dumped, and contained. You’ve put your containers neatly inside boxes, that on average weighed no more than 30 lbs. Wait – did you not do that. I told you there were loads of experts with hacks that would make your moving life so much easier. If you couldn’t squeeze in the time to watch them, let me also tell you that you should get the enormous plastic vacuum seal bags from Bed Bath and Beyond or the Home Depot and fill them with all your winter sweaters, ski clothing, blankets, the bulky stuff. You’ll be amazed at how small they get once you have sucked the air out of them. It’s like a five course meal, Apollo 9 style. You should take all your framed photographs and wrap them in paper and stack them vertically, side-by-side in the box to avoid breakage. If you can shake it and things move around inside, it’s not ready to be taped up. Add a tea towel or a blanket to the top before closing it up. One last tip for the kitchen – use paper plates between your dishes, stuff glasses with socks or dish rags, and treat larger items- think pots and pans – like Russian Dolls, hide away more delicate items inside their protective shells.

We are working to limit the number of trips, the size of the truck, and the number of people required to do the move. This is real money, and you’ll want to reserve some of that to organize your new space. I go so far as to use gym clothes for packing materials. It’s free, sustainable, and on hand. I encourage you to do the same.

I promised I would provide resources for donation so here are a few. If you are not in the Boston area, you can conduct a google search or make a call to a few non-profit organizations. You’d be surprised at the randomness of the items they are willing to take. Shoot me a note if you have suggestions for our readers that I didn’t capture, and we’ll share it.

The Salvation Army: locations nationwide. Donation Type – appliances, cars, furniture, clothing and household goods.

Rosie’s Place: food, toiletries, socks, sneakers, boots (seasonally only due to storage), and books.

The Ronald McDonald House: toys and books for kids undergoing cancer treatment.

Stress Less: Preparing for a Move

Bird by Bird . Box by Box . Item by Item. You’ll get through it.

I move a lot. The look on people’s faces when they learn how much varies from sincere sympathy to abject horror. Some people go so far as to step away from me as if they suspect that what I have is contagious and they don’t want to catch it. Moving is an anxiety inducing life event for most. A shock to no one that has done it badly, recently, or without a superior moving company. That it ranks third in the most stressful life events that you can undertake, stationed behind death of a loved one and divorce, seems absurd. Really?, We can do better.

I love public speaking too, so before you go judging me as someone that you can’t relate to at all, and will never come to believe that either experience can be liberating, let me set the stage for you, pull back the curtain on the kerfuffle over organizing your life, categorizing it, leaving bits of it behind, and starting anew. There is so much that can be eliminated from your life that holds you down when you could simply decide to begin.

That moment could look like a Model T Assembly Line instead of a fifth birthday party for a rambunctious little boy and twenty of his closest friends, hosted in your Cape cottage instead of the backyard because of the downpour outside. Clear the slate. We’ll take this Bird by Bird as Anne Lamott tells her impatient students, her would be published writers.

Before we start in earnest I think it is only fair that I share with you that this is more life philosophy than moving hack or How-To. There are loads of people and resources that will support you if you want to learn how to stuff ten pounds of sausage into a two pound bag and move it from point A to point B. They have valuable advice, but like an investigative reporter, I am more interested in what’s in the sausage. Should you be moving it? Ingesting it? Living with it. Is it healthy? Did it once serve a purpose in your life, feed your soul, but now it’s holding you down, or back, or up, when you need to be free? That’s what this is all about, so let’s get started.

Being in any room. Pick one. Which room do you love sitting in, working in, sleeping in, being in? Begin there. Gaze up at a shelf or open the Armoire, or closet door or peek under the bed. I know you keep things under the bed. Please don’t tell me that the last time you looked there was when you moved in. Ok, we’ll discuss that later. Now for the good stuff.

Pull things out, hold them and turn them over in your hands. Do they illicit a memory? Tell a story, make you smile, or serve a need. Keep it. Set it aside in a pile , ask yourself when you used it last. Become a Parochial School Nun instructing the class. Clothes: if you haven’t worn it in the season that its intended for here are your options: Donate it to a Charity, Consign it on-line or at a neighborhood shop, Gift it to a friend or colleague, or Toss it.

While this approach may not work for everything in your home, you’d be surprised at how many organizations are begging for strange food products, will accept small furnishings or kitchen items, and of course books – beyond libraries there are homeless shelters, soup kitchens, nursing homes. Those books that are collecting dust could open the hearts and minds of the lonely and suffering, doing so much good. Would you deny them that, when you could load up your wheeled suitcase and whistle a tune as you prepare to change someone’s day or life or just dust the corners of their existence free of loneliness? A book can be a wonderful friend.

Part II to follow with links to resources for donating. Happy Wednesday.

Historic Nantucket Inn: Up in Flames

Up in flames . 7.9.22 – the fire broke out around 6:45am.

I write about Nantucket at least once a year. I have been visiting the island since I was a very small child. I am aware of the power of a place that you associate with simpler times, when your biggest challenge was how you might convince your mother to buy you a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone with chocolate jimmies, or beg one of the adults in the party to slide you a crisp dollar bill so you could run wild down the docks to the penny candy store and score golden foil wrapped chocolate coins, smarties, reams of paper spotted with rainbow colored candy dots, and a small handful of bit-o-honey. Innocence is an aphrodisiac that paints the town in pastel hues. I know this to be true, and yet, upon polling a number of adults whose experience of the island came much later in life, I can report to you with a ferocious certainty, the Gray Lady is magical.

I have stayed on the southern shore of the island facing the Atlantic, the northern side on Brandt Point, over the harbor in the Boat Basin, in town and Cliff Side and have had the pleasure of staying at the Veranda House on several occasions. Built in 1684, it survived the Great Fire of 1846 which destroyed roughly a third of downtown, engulfing more than 250 buildings in flames and reducing them to rubble. Stick built and loaded with whale oil the fire spread quickly. 338 years, several owners and iterations later the Veranda House is no more.

Back in the Boarding House Days.

My last visit was in December of 2020, nary a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. My two girlfriends and I were the only occupants of the recently renovated eighteen room boutique hotel. We commandeered the reception come living room by the fire each morning and evening of our stay alternately sipping coffee and then wine by the fire. She was a beauty with her three decks that wrapped around the building, allowing you to sit and appreciate the view from her mountaintop location. I hope that her current owners will rebuilt and that the spirit of the Veranda House will live on.

The Soul of a great old dame.

Stepping out on Ben: A Date with Farrow & Ball

Farrow & Ball . Marbled marvelousness

When I was 12 years old I worked as a pot washer. Not a very glamourous sounding job, but I took pride in it. I learned things like the optimal number of pots you could wash before having to drain the large stainless steel sink of the roughly twenty gallons of dirty, now lifeless suds and await their slow dissent down the drain. Getting it just right was critical to avoiding repeating this process too many times. The extra time I gained allowed me the luxury of watching the Chef and Sous Chef prep the beef, tying it into its lattice cage of string in preparation for roasting. I loved watching the vegetables being julienned, the sauces being whipped into creamy concoctions, and discovered that it wasn’t only baked goods that required an understanding of chemistry, any good dish blends fats and acids, layers aromatics, herbs, and spices creating complex cuisine.

Liberty of London Wallcoverings Paired with F & B.

If you’re wondering what pot washing has to do with paint, it’s the chemistry. Color is pretty complex, even if it’s the pretty part that I’m mostly interested in and attracted to. I’ve been a long-time loyal supporter of Benjamin Moore. Its easy application, brilliant colors, eco friendly Aura had me going steady for years. Best paint for the money I’ve said again and again and believe it. It isn’t going to stop me from trying F & B.

KW . Your allure never fades.

Farrow was a chemist, Ball a prisoner of war, they met in a clay pit. Fascinating as that all is, it’s the quirky named colors that seem to hold an ancient wisdom within their powdery atoms that has caught my attention. A little muddy, a little mysterious, sophisticated where my Ben is an easy going happy sort. They can be moody and a bit chalky even when they are attempting to be upbeat. The California Collection by none other than Kelly Wearstler is more hazy smog than sun soaked, but that hasn’t stopped me from falling for No. CC6 a blue/gray and considering it for my next project.

I think I’ll gathering together a few sample pots and get splashy with it.

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc: Tender is the Light

Just like Slim! The shot that sealed the deal for me.

Cut from the ragged rocky coastline of the Cote D’Azur, a Michelangeloian feet of genius, rose the iconic pool and restaurants, and the grand promenade leading to the now famous hotel. It requires more than time to make an icon, though Eden Roc has that on its side having celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2021. A lovely way to exit the pandemic, not its first. It takes more than celebrity, though its had its fair share of those too in Marlene Dietrich, Liz Taylor, Kings and Queens, Politicians, and at least half of the inhabitants of the Cannes Film Festival. Toss into this glorious Mediterranean salad of celebs, Picasso, Porter, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, and Jean Cocteau, and further credit them for making it a summer haven, and you have an inkling of what makes this place special – it is aglow with inspiration, with beauty that floods down from the heavens, and on those rare days when a cloud or two dots the sky, the beauty can be found in the rays of sunshine that filter through the gathering raindrop soaked cumulous forms that dapple the blue.

Its natural setting, painstaking elegance, and dedication to leisure, joy, celebration and relaxation make it anything but stuffy. It’s a happy orchestra of bassoons and dancing violins and violas, of laughter and quiet solitude, of sun, salt, and solace. My love of Eden Roc came the first time my eyes knocked with Slim Aarons’ 1976 photograph of the pool overlooking the rugged coastline of the French Riviera. I have yet to stay at the illustrious venue, but have not given up the dream. I did however dine here. My obsession with design makes me bold, and somewhat unforgiving. I return to my five year old self, deaf to my mother’s insistent cries not to touch anything. My outstretched fingers are running across the corrugated wooden panels that line the walls and mimic the movement of the waves on the sea. The alabaster luminaries, custom designed by Atelier Alain Ellouz for the space emit a soft moonlit glow. Every serpentine sofa, every soft cushioned seat where custom designed for the space by Brazilian Interior Designer, Patricia Anastassiadis, who can be credited with the new life that honors the history of the place while giving it a crisp seaside contemporary vibe – that I adore.

From the artwork to the setting, the choice of pin-striped fabrics on walnut backed dining chairs, the orange and blue banquettes, piped in crisp white feel fresh, and playful. It is a wonderland of detail. The fluted exterior of the curved bar in La Rotunda is a wave on a different day. The bar cart adorned with a bunch of grapes begs the question “Why wait”? Anastassiadis’ understanding of place, of nature, of light and of history brings the outdoors in, mingles past, present and future in a honeysuckle/rose bouquet that is intoxicating.

CAN I GET AN AMEN: distillery goes digital

Nestled between the High and Lowlands, Speyside is one of the six whisky distilling regions of Scotland. A place where the tradition of distilling whisky is a religion. It’s in their blood, the spring water that runs through the Town of Rothes cutting across the Glenrothes Distillery property, begging to be baptized and born again. Aged in Sherry casks, patience, dedication, and service to a higher standard of production delivers a fruity, creamier single malt scotch and congregants that worship its purity and perfection.

Illustration by famed New Yorker Artist Maddie Dai

Like any good story, the Glenrothes tale is one of a hero’s journey. James Stuart was a whisky maker with a dream, to build a distillery that did it differently. He teamed with two local businessmen to construct the Town’s second whiskey making plant, but in the summer of 1878 a financial crisis struck Scotland and stopped construction. One might say that divine intervention interceded. Reverend William Sharp was true to his name, understanding that pride and purpose were essential to the strength of any community, and his parishioners needed a place to work – idle hands and all that. He aided in the raising of funds, construction commenced and the rest, as they say, is history.

The buildings of the distillery are architectural wonders, punctuated by a tiny pagoda that reaches toward the heavens.

There is truth in the old adage that history repeats itself, but it is not static. History is being made, crafted and curated every day. To stay small requires specialization. It requires ingenuity, grit, and determination to fight mediocrity, to embrace innovation when it serves to enhance and sustain the guiding principles that are foundational to your reason for being. Will Glenrothes go down in history for hitching their wagon to the digital blockchain in the form of a NFT? Time will tell.

Purchase a bottle of the special release 36 year old single cask whisky, and you’ll receive with it an Non-Fungible Token of the label, designed by Maddie Dai. Dai’s illustration feels reminiscent of the New Yorker Magazine, having illustrated for them since 2017, her designs convey a deep understanding of place and human nature. Where will this illustration live? On your phone if you so choose, or stored safely on the Block Chain known as Solana. Non-fungible doesn’t mean worth nothing, it means it can’t be replaced by something else. In addition to being one of a kind art, it’s dynamic. The illustration will “come to life” when viewed, even changing color, but wait there’s more. Your token will grant you access to special events which will happen in this universe rather than the meta. As our worlds converge sipping this celestial whisky just might be the answer to helping you slide your toe or your mind, into this new world.

Inside the distillery.

Fit to Be Trimmed

If you’ve ever had custom curtains made for your home you have likely come to understand, on a deep and abiding level, the metaphor “You could have knocked me over with a feather”. The cost of that to-die for fabric, the labor associated with nipping, tucking, pleating, pressing and detailing the curtains in a way that only the top 1 percenters (those with the keenest of design eyes) will recognize, is breath-taking. As in you will be robbed of the very oxygen that keeps you alive, and will be required to find alternative means for funding your children’s higher education.

Prone to hyperbole I am, but in this case, I am NOT. It’ll be curtains for your dream vacation or any vacation for a long time to come if you happen to have a home with many windows that need to be clothed. That is if you go the custom route.

Nobody wants to feel, or for that matter, and perhaps more honestly, others to think, that you cheaped out. That’s the worst, and you need not feel that way at all, if only you are willing to do a little leg work. Off the shelf curtains abound. Stay away from cheap synthetics, seek out natural fibers, backed by heavy cotton so they’ll hang from your fenestration like a Fendi gown on a famous actress. Once the gown has been selected, I like the offerings at Restoration Hardware. They are well made, come in an abundance of lengths and shades, and offer the perfect backdrop for the final flourish – the trim. Here’s where you’ll make a splash. Whether baubles or glass beads are your thing, pom-poms, or the clean classic look of a key fret, you’ll find a wild array of offerings to express your individuality that will be anything but standard.

Lose Farther and Faster

I lost three properties in a seven day span. Mary Oliver would be proud of me, the Art of Losing isn’t really hard to do at all, not when you practice as I do. It does require a special quality nonetheless that I call “detached investment”. You can’t get cavalier about what you choose to bid on just because you may not be successful in your quest to obtain it. No, you need to tip toe across a tightrope – not quite a forever property but a property that you are going to spit, polish and shine into something for which you can be proud, not regretful. You can’t fall victim to your competitive instincts to win, if that winning isn’t keeping pace with reality. How much work does it need? How easy will it be to build it? Will permits or variances or condo approvals be required? If you are starting to get a headache, good. It will dissipate nearly as soon as you stop reading this, but if you win that bid for a property in which you overpaid and underestimated what it was going to take to convert it, well you better get accustomed to living with it.

This post is not meant to dissuade you from the hunt, just to keep you from the buyers remorse that some people may be feeling right this second. Three flights up a narrow, uneven staircase, the unit without air conditioning when we are moments away from sleepless nights, damp sheets and the always precarious installation of an in-window unit with its awkward distribution of weight, sharp edges, and need for two people to execute what should be a solo effort. Enough about that. You get the point. You don’t want to be that “guy”.

Continue the hunt does, and it does offer something exciting even if that something isn’t a win. I love the process of imaging how I will design these spaces and get pretty far along in the process between the offer and the verdict before ball up the trace paper and make a three point attempt from outside the paint toward the circular file. It’s not an entire loss, while every property has its quirks which lend themselves to particular furnishings layouts, art placement, lighting schemes and the like, color palettes can travel from property to property with relative ease.

Melinda Headrick . Owner and Principal Designer

I was super excited to learn that Chatham Interiors is coming to Boston, and not just anywhere in the city, but on the very same street that I currently live. Melinda Headrick is both the Owner and Principal Designer. I have frequented her two shops on Main Street in Chatham for years. I consider my style to be a happy cross pollination between Melinda (her first shop) which is all about sophisticated elegance and TA . TA, a younger, hipper, poppier aesthetic for those that have money.

Those striped pillows – available at TA.DA

Melinda is a beautiful designer, and offers an array of options for accessing her talent. Full design services aren’t for everyone as it can be prohibitive for those working with tight budgets. There are virtual consultations and room by room options with the extra added benefit of having them order and track all your purchases for you, ensuring they arrive at your home. Ah the possibilities, keep bidding, keep believing, keep on dreaming.

On Point . AKDO x Jill Rosenwald . Fort Point Collection

A Twist on an old classic. 5 x 5’s shown in Harbor and Salty with an undulating surface that shines.

When it comes to the tried and true lovers of blue, Mark Sikes and Summer on the Coast seem to love these hues the most. As the days get warmer my excitement for the sand, sea, light linens, and fresh cut flowers outpace our New England weather. No worries, as the temperature bounces around like the metal ball in a pin ball machine I’ll be planning my next summer home renovation for a home I don’t yet own, in a place I am not entirely exists, with a fervor that defies all reason. It will be fueled by Jill Rosenwald’s new line of tiles entitled, Fort Point – the name of the section of the city in which her eponymous pottery shop resides, and from whence her inspiration is derived.

In partnership with AKDO, a NYC dealer of luxury tile and stone, Jill created a small but mighty line of tiles that are both an ode to our revolutionary ways, our coastal location, our love of tea and hatred of taxes. I for one often feel that I have a little revolt in me, adore tea, am calmed by the sea and salt water, and hate taxes as much as the next hot blooded American, so would feel a kinship with the tile even if I were blind, which I am not. They are gorgeous.

Sublime elegance in the elongated subway tile. You can never go wrong with this selection.

Five colors, two patterns, two sizes, endless inspiration. Hello Sailor, you had me at navy blue stripes. Is there anything that is more quintessentially nautical than that. Don’t answer, or do, I won’t hear you argue with me. It’s the number one, number one, plus it’s very French, which makes me adore it even more. Brushy and Flora the two patterns are simple yet inspired. The color palette which includes Hello Sailor, Tea Party, Harbor, Salty and Wharf is serene and cheerful. Whether you are rinsing off in a cool shower after a hot, sandy day at the beach or prepping chilled margarita’s and a mint, feta and watermelon salad in your sublimely tiled kitchen, this tile will offer you a safe harbor.

Refined meets easy breezy.

I think I will go in search of a wallcovering to place in a nook inside my imaginary pantry for good measure. Aren’t you just begging for an invitation?