Living Room: the grown up version of your den

Option 1

I wonder if the empty room feels exposed, naked, vulnerable, or perhaps she is an exhibitionist, that revels in her sparse beauty.  Begging to have the observer, look at her, admire her, sit with her.  There is something wonderfully rich about the blank slate.  My imaginings made manifest with the sweeping away of all obstacles.  Admittedly some of those obstacles come in the form of walls and doors, diminutive moldings, or grotesque protuberances – the gaudy mantle or casing – lob it off, somewhat less delicately than the plastic surgeon, shaping and sculpting the next, in a long line of Bougie Barbies.  My goal is not perfection – perfection is decidedly boring.  I’d rather be interesting, the cocktail party guest that amuses and entertains, and that above all else, makes you feel special. 

Option 2

Rooms can do that too.  They draw you into a conversation, even when you didn’t much feel like talking.  It can start slowly with that interesting object displayed on the coffee table.  What is it?  A gourd handled, porcelain brush?  It looks Asian, maybe Japanese.  Where did it come from, what is it used for? Now you’re getting into the swing of it.  You see, you can’t stay silent when there are so many interesting things to discover.

Option 3. what will be will be…..

Today though, we need to start with the basics. This room has sat empty for far too long. Sure it might have been home to a dust bunny or a plastic bunny on wheels, left unattended by the two year old ready for a nap or a snack or some other distraction. It’s time to give its due.

Should I Stay or Should I Go Now: Selling a home during a pandemic

Is the residential market on the decline?

Clearly I am seeking.  I have made no secret of it.  This Quest of mine has been neatly packaged and bound, flip after flip anchoring the pages of my story to the tacky binding of my unfinished book.  Whether you are rooting for me or against me, indifferent, apathetic, or uninclined, you’re seeking too.  We’re seekers.  That urgency, the burning need to leave a mark, the charcoaled edged of the embered wood lending credence to our existence.  Of our 7 core instincts; anger, fear, panic-grief, maternal care, pleasure/lust, play, and here it is: seeking, it is thought that the last of these instincts should in fact be the first.  It is considered the most powerful of them all.  Isn’t that delightful, delectable, darned amazing?  We want answers, we want higher ground, clarity, clairvoyance or something close to it.  Something that makes our us-ness special.  Chevy Chase used to open his Saturday Night Live performances with:  I’m Chevy Chase, and YOU are not….  I think that sums it up nicely.  We are looking for validation, in the way only we can.  The way that matters to us most, though admittedly, that too can be foggy at times.  Doubt creeps in and rears her gorgon, snake filled main of hair, her monstrous wings propelling her through the air, swinging dangerously close to you, and all your uncertainty.  Don’t let her mystical beauty lull you into a false sense of security.  Medusa is not your friend, stand your ground, fling barbed questions to pierce and silence the snakes.  I think it helps in finding the answers for you, and your personal pilgrimage.

Here I am on the threshold of yet another milestone, technically it is time for me to sell my little one bed, tucked away off the busy city street, behind a gated entry, that opens to a tree filled courtyard, and a front door – your own front door.  Who gets to live in the South End for under a million dollars, with their own front door?  Well, me, and perhaps you too if you are desirous of that sort of thing.  A home that lives like a town house, instead of a condo.  Your own private entry, your own mail box, your own wood burning fireplace for cozy fall evenings, and central air for hot late summer days.  It’s a magical jewel box of a property, but as the Budda says – everything is impermanent.  It is time for me to pass the pleasure onto another.  The question is, two years or not, should I be selling during a pandemic?

It’s never been my wish to have a hoard of people on the steps of my home, fists in the air like the floor of the stock exchange at the final bell, begging to buy my property.  No, I am more interested in that one person, one couple, that falls madly in love with what I have created, and knows instantly that they have found their mate in this home.  I guess the answer that I am looking for from you is yes, it’s possible to find someone like that, even in a pandemic.  Am I right or am I wrong.  Feel free to weigh in, everyone has an opinion.

Is Your Home Driving You Crazy? I Can Help

It feels appropriate right now to acknowledge all that we have lost during this pandemic. I’m all for positivity. I love being around positive people, it makes me feel amazing. Throw in a little manifestation, an affirmation or two, some being in the moment and you have the makings of a hot fudge sunday with marshmallow, nuts and a cherry on top of the happiness hill, but NOT acknowledging loss can lead to listlessness or worse, and we can’t have that.

A friend, of a friend, had reached out to me over a year ago to talk about reconfiguring her living room. Then life got in the way, as it is want to do, until so much of this life got in her way that she was finding a classroom, a dog, two kids and a husband underfoot. She hadn’t just lost her work-from-home, make my life easier existence, she’d nearly lost her sanity, and can you blame her?

Elizabeth Bishop and Dorothy Parker, both poets, could wring tears from scorched earth in the Sahara with the prose that spilled forth from their pens, on the subject of loss. At turns brash and edgy, and then slow and sorrowful, they saw what it was to be left wanting – a hunger pain begging to be fed. I suspect many of us are feeling this way and I think I have an answer – we must gravitate toward structure during these times to manage the loss.

Kate, in her wisdom, knew this to be true, and I am happy to help show her some ways in which order can be brought to chaos through reordering her living space, relocating her office, so the kiddos don’t think that “seeing” is believing, that Mommy is available for games, consultation, lunch prep, or an attempt to locate the left sock with the locomotives on it – she’s working.

This pandemic has made me a believer, even the most free and easy among us crave structure. Here are my top three tips:

These beauties will be displayed prominently in the space.

  • Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Keep the furniture that speaks to you in some way – most of the time it can be made to work,
  • Find ways to store, hide, arrange and organize the little things (bins for legos, blocks and art supplies, files for bills, trays for keys, loose change, and remotes, and baskets for bigger items), also, don’t be afraid to hang it on the wall – that guitar would look great in the kids craft area!
  • Grab your partner or a friend or two, a bottle of wine and start moving that furniture around the room. Break every rule! Put the sofa in front of the window, the media cabinet “floating” between spaces to create barriers between space uses. If you hate it, move it back – no law.

Take a deep breath. This will end, and if it isn’t ending soon enough for you, I find screaming into my pillow helps. Happy Sunday.

What’s Your Design Voice?

I’ve often wondered what my life would be like if I had a voice like Uma Thurman’s, I could have you know. She developed that voice out of thin air, well maybe it wasn’t thin, it could have blown in from the Swedish Alps. Her grandmother was Swedish, her grandfather German, and her mother was born in Mexico City. Throw that in a blender and see what you come up with for an accent. Don’t forget that Uma herself was born in Boston, mostly raised in Amherst where her very famous, Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies father taught. Now if an I-T Buddhist doesn’t have a voice, than I’ll Winnie-the-pooh myself back to the 100 Acre Wood and re-read the Tao of Pooh until I get it right.

Like the color orange? See where it takes you.

One thing is for sure, Uma may have been an uncarved block when she started, but she and her vague European accent catapulted her to stardom, and I for one, believe that voice of hers had something to do with it. Which got me to thinking about my own voice. I’ve never liked it that much, the sound of it that is. My passion is mistaken for anger, and my voice is loud, so very loud, that I’ve been told repeatedly, and much to my chagrin and personal humiliation, that as a result of it, I cannot be heard at all. That’s just disrespectful.

Gray – don’t you just love that sound of that color?

A voice is so much more than the sound that rumbles up from your chest, and whistles past your lips to find a brief moment of freedom before it winds its way into the ears of its intended, and sometimes those that co-opt it, as if they were part of the conversation. I sometimes do that in a beauty salon. The things people say, right out there in public, astounding. There are other types of voices too. My writing has a voice without ever making a sound, and so too does your fashion, and of course your design style.

A lot to love with texture.

The care you take in putting your house together says so very much about who you are, that if you were on the receiving end of an actual voice, you’d be begging for some peace and quiet.

Look at those birds, singing a pretty song.

Like my quest for Uma’s breathy, insert made-up country across the pond here, I want you to discover what your design voice is – in the way it will reflect the very best of who you are, and hope to become. Uma, cue the story boards to sell this production, well, to a producer. The storyboard is your ticket to finding that voice. Start clipping, circling, tearing, pinning, and gathering all the things that you like, and that inspire you. That voice will start to emerge like an opera singer hitting a high note. Go get ’em Tiger.

One King’s Lane

Closed due to Covid and 19 other reasons these windows are papered.

Another victim falls. I just want to cry and scream and throw a proper toddler-style tantrum that adequately convenes my frustration and powerlessness in the face of this pandemic. Those three year olds have it figured out – rage at the indignity and injustice, exhaust yourself in the process, take a nap, eat a snack, feel better. There is beauty and simplicity in their approach, and freedom, oh blessed freedom.

Taste Maker . Corey Damen Jenkins

Clearly I do not have that luxury. I had my three year old chance, and now that time has passed, being well beyond three years – even three decades, but still surprisingly feeling quite young and vulnerable at times. I am going to have to accept, in an irony, bookended by disastrous recessions, that One King’s Lane’s Boston retail shop couldn’t survive.

Curated collection of interesting objects is signature OKL.

I doubt that they are on a respirator, are we still in dangerously short supply of those? When they launched their on-line store in 2009, they did it in the midst of one of our worst modern day recessions. Such ingenuity and can emerge in times of great distress – I for one have my eyes peeled for a little magic right now. Their model was built on two primary premises, that they would cull overstock items from brand name designers – many of whom would formerly only sell to the trade, and offer them up to you and me (regular people without a tax id and a list of vendor references that rival the guest list of the MET Ball). The second crucial element of their business plan included the use of flash sales. This lent an element of distress to the moment, playing on our greatest fear of missing out. Those FOMO geniuses built an empire, founded on that fear, and I am fantastically jealous of the fame and fortune that followed them.

Celerie Kemble . Interior Design Celebrity and Taste Maker.

Them – clever dames, Susan Feldman a fashion industry veteran that moved from NYC to LA, and became obsessed with the home goods marketplace, for which I am grateful, and Ali Pincus who brought some much needed Silicon Valley know-how and I suspect money to the table.

No need to be blue when this ocean of happiness awaits.

They used their industry connections to maximum benefit, conducting Taste Maker Tag Sale, with items plucked from the homes of celebrities including; Steve Martin, Dianne Keaton, and Courtney Cox, and went on buying trips across continents with the likes of Bunny Williams, Nathan Turner, and Michelle Nussbaumer. In 2015 they opened their first brick and mortar location in Soho, added interior design services, and caught the attention of some serious big wigs. In 2016 they sold to Bed, Bath and Beyond for $12M. Like so many companies that lose their founders, the company floundered. Taste, passion, vision, design eye, the pulse of the marketplace is often diluted in the sea of corporate execs. A few more tears certainly won’t help this situation.

Leopard is a neutral after all.

I think I’ll spend my afternoon surfing through the vintage section, swinging by the swell slipper chairs, and humming a happy tune of gratitude for democratizing design on my behalf – and yours.

Don’t Fence Me In

A home of her own.

I adore being a contradiction in terms. The high fashion, well not skyscraper high, but at least mid-rise high – we’re Boston, not New York City, stiletto wearing gal that works in the construction industry. The diagnosed dyslexic that veraciously devours volume after volume, of whatever I can get my hands on. The singleton that dreams of a house with a white picket fence, but that fence is strictly there for aesthetic purposes, and I own it.

I like to keep as much of the structure as possible to save money – I’ve got big ideas for the inside. Toward that end I’d carefully remove the lattice from above, plug the holes, add the new details, and repaint. On the lower level, I’d either match the house paint’s pale green and see if we can make it disappear or clad it in stone. I do the same with the risers.

Kate Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Patti Page and many before, sang about, or as I like to tell it – demanded: “land, lots of land, under starry sky’s above”…”let me be by myself in the evening breeze” …. “let me straddle my old saddle underneath the western sky”. They begged not to be fenced in, just as I beg any gal that will listen to me, to buy real estate. It’s the realest thing you can do, to build financial security, which is why I am so happy for my friend Jenn. She took those reigns, mounted that horse, put in her offer, and she’s off and running.

Give the steps some distinction.

To this city dwelling gal, the home feels really big, so we’ll need to take the renovation in stages. It has great bones, and looks to be in really excellent shape, but that doesn’t mean that she won’t want to put her own stamp on it, and to begin with, she plans on stamping out the lattice at the front entry. I agree, it feels like it’s having an identity crisis, so I have made a few recommendations for alternative fence options for the porch that feel a little more in keeping with the neighborhood, and its Colorado location.

In this second option I am recommending the removal of the lattice from the fence and top, replacing it with vertical running wood details, and adding trees to block the lattice and create a more welcoming approach.

Once the lattice is gone and is no longer a distraction it would be really nice to have a zippy front door color. I’m back to being in love with a racy red or a violet. I’d avoid orange, though I love that color, I’m afraid with the home’s pale green exterior it will look too much like a pumpkin, and since Jenn has just made it clear, with this offer, that she needs no prince charming to save her, we’ll leave the field mice to convert someone else’s pumpkin into a carriage. She’s taking that horse and plans on jumping the fence.

Playing it Safe

Left: Hable . Beads . Sea Foam Right Top: Hable . Tiny Stripe . Barbados Ombre . Right Bottom: Hable . Mum Eden

Is so utterly boring that I cringe a little when I type the title here. Who wants to read about someone’s bold and wild adventure into the use of three different shades of white, and a punchy taupe grey – yawn, but when it comes to choosing a color for our house, our front door, or our living room we balk. I know I did. I carefully selected three daring hues for my front door – a bright blue, a Louboutin, sole of your shoe red, that would have suggested that what was behind that front door was worth seeing, and a violet that just made me happy. It was all ridiculously expensive because I had to buy the quart size, and I had to have Aurora, and of course I wanted to see it in high gloss. Guess which color I picked – white. That’s right.

Top Left: Sister Parish . Appleton . Sea Foam . Top Right: Sister Parish . Tukerman . Kravet . Switchback Nautical Trim

When it comes to taking risks, you and me, we’re not that practiced at it, and practice is just what we need to get better. I call my technique for this, Lilly Padding. Sure when you take that first hop and the lily pad bobs and wobbles threatening to throw you off, you immediately begin to question the veracity of your decision to jump in the first place. Settle down, the platform is pretty wide, and the place you came from is right there, in spitting distance. Your little leap didn’t take that much bravery, but when the ripples subside and you become comfortable on your slick green platform, and you spot a gorgeous pink blossomed water lily a stone’s throw away, you decide to take another little hop in its direction, and well, before you know it you’re leaping left and right, making faster and faster gains, until you can barely see off in the distance that place that you started from.

It’s pretty amazing how far you can go when you muster up that courage to dip your toe in the water. I recommend starting with a story board, a slew of samples, a favorite color, and maybe even a lovely tray from Home Goods to toss it all into.

Charlestown Lacquer Side Table . Green (because what would this post be without a lily pad green?)

Here’s my attempt at mixing and matching, playing it safe was making my lily pad feel awfully small. Happy Sunday.

Something I Made

I’ve made a mountain out of a mole hill, I’ve made a last ditch effort, I’ve made eyes at a handsome man, I’ve made up my mind and then changed it, I’ve made my head spin worrying about whether it was all going to work out, I’ve made do with what I’ve got, because what else can a gal do but make do, and along the way, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I mean a lot. I make making mistakes look like its my full time job, and yet, somehow I can still make something out of next to nothing, a good situation out of bad, make a comeback when I had counted myself out of the game, and despite all these mistakes I make, I’m making my own way.

Follow the 10% more guideline so you don’t fall short of what’s needed.

I’ve found it incredibly helpful when others share the mistakes that they have made along the way instead of pretending that all their efforts were the result of flawless execution. It’s impossible, and yet, impossibly we seem to believe what we see, instead of what is likely hidden just off camera, the unfinished tile floor of the bathroom – opps, didn’t order quite enough and now it’ll take three weeks to get the additional amount needed to finish the job, the custom curtains that I had to have before I had measured the actual windows, and ended up being super wide (not necessary) and so short they looked like that poor kid in junior high that seemed to grow inches overnight and had high tides, his pants looking as if he were ready to go wading in the sound instead of sounding off in the sing along for the school’s production of Our Town. Thank God for a brilliant seamstress that matched the intricate pattern stroke for stroke, and nary a stitch could be seen. You’d think that I’d have gotten the measure twice, cut once rule down by now, but sometimes I am a little slow, and take things far too fast.

My Galbraith & Paul Curtains – saved by the seamstress!

I’ve had quite a run with panel ready dishwashers. I had purchased a single drawer Fisher & Paykel for my very first place. I was so excited, not having had a dishwasher at my last rental. It was super expensive, but I splurged and when I walked into the apartment after a long day at work to find its guts spilled out across the floor, you would have thought my eyes had sprung a leak. I thought my tears would flood my little living room, and I would drown in my sorrow. Turns out my builder had no idea how to install it, so decided to take it apart – I had to buy a brand new one, and have Yale Appliance come and install it. My most recent dishwasher got installed but three separate builders couldn’t figure out how to put the panel on. They kept telling me that I had the wrong panel size. Two special orders later, I said to myself, something’s going on here, and it has nothing to do with the size of this panel and everything to do with the installation guide to the galaxy not being right. Getting people that really know their stuff – the first time, can really keep your costs down, even if it cost you a little more up front.

And as for the tile – purchase 10% more than you think you need for the square footage you are covering. It’ll cover the chipped, and broken tile that are all part of process, and allow you to pick and choose the tiles that “show” the best.

Go ahead, make something beautiful.

The Why’s Have It

People – you know, friends, relatives, acquaintances, you, if you know me, ask, tell, or inquire, in a somewhat perplexed, searching for understanding kind of way, why I do what I do. I’m glad for the curiosity. I want you to know why I buy, and sell, pack, move, repeat, live in sawdust, out of suitcases, and a seemingly endless state of chaos. Aside from the somewhat contradictory truth, that I am a control freak, and all that disruption can appear to the casual bystander, as a cataclysmic mayhem, it is designed to bring just the opposite. That’s right, it’s designed to bring me control, in a world that is largely out of my control.

A little piece of the South of France, this modest painting, picked up in Nice at the Flea Market is one of my favorite pieces. Paired with an antique dresser, Kate Spade Lamp, and set against Ben Moore’s Bridal Rose it really pops. Photography @curtona

Sure things happen along the way that I hadn’t counted on (also known as things out of my control), but each time I learn something new, file away a truth about real estate, which to my mind, it the realest, most sure investment you can make, and in so doing, I take back a little more of the control, I thought I had lost, but probably never possessed in the first place. Have I confused you yet? Action is agency, and agency is all about exerting power. When I am drowning in self-doubt over how I got myself into one mess or another, I remind myself, that it can be figured out, that I am not the first person to encounter water spraying in through a conduit, into my tiny bedroom, like a fire house let loose on a three alarm inferno. No, if fact, someone else out there has done it, solved it, and lived to tell about it, and when I find that person, or the dozens of others that have had similar experiences, and bow to their infinite wisdom, with desperation and reverence, I am almost always granted the benefit of their experience.

Worried that you won’t be able to incorporate it into your City apartment – don’t be. See it done with effectiveness and flare above.

To most people my confession that desperation is what compels me, feels like a comedic line I’ve honed to illicit a laugh. While I am never afraid to employ a little self-deprecation into a tale I am weaving, I can assure you, this is a bold-faced truth. My survival instinct is incredibly strong, it is in fact this desperate need for security that keeps me moving through some of the less comfortable moments of my existence, but there are secondary and even tertiary reasons I do what I do. I’m complex, and am still working on figuring myself out, so you’ll have to forgive me.

This pastel brushed beauty above the bed was found at a second Nice Flea Market and depicts of all things, pigeons. I adore it.

Design and travel – I’m not sure in which order I place them, are compelling reasons for my constant motion. All this moving and flipping has afforded me the opportunity to do both, and for that, I would argue, the sawdust in my shoe, and other unmentionable places, is worth it.

Louis XVI Side Chairs.

On this Sunday, I don’t know when I will be able to travel again, but it has me thinking about one of my favorite European destinations, the South of France, where for me, inspiration abounds. The pace is slower, languid, indulgent, and bright with promise.

Provence . Tile . Available on Chairish.

The dusty heat rises up off the fields that are littered with purveyors of antiques – cast away by a generation more interested in modern wares, than Louis XIV commodes, and Bergere chairs. Paintings, silver, tile – broken and chipped but in the most beautiful blue hue you can imagine, transport me to a white washed, sun soaked veranda over looking a pool. Can you see it?, the interior rim, edged in this sublime ancient key fret design….drop on in, the water is warm.

19 Century French Wood Painted Mirror.

Put Your Right Foot In

How often do we over look a foot? We take one step forward and two back. We predict that when all is going right, that a foot will fall. We feel flat footed, put our foot in our mouth, play footsie under the table. It’s time we do something productive with those feet. Let’s be sure footed instead of soft footing around the issue. It really doesn’t matter how many feet you have – you can have gobs of feet, and still make a mess of things, or you can use those feet to draw the admiration of all those lucky enough to, well you know what I’m going to say — set foot in your little jewel box of a bathroom.

OPTION . 1

I’m not going to tip toe around the issue. I’ve estimated that we’ve got about 21SF to work with, bigger than many of the washrooms in the South End Restaurants I frequent. Bigger than the last two powder rooms I had, but still small enough so that you can touch both walls without fully extending your arms. I love small spaces, there is a quiet comfort in them.

Let’s jump in with both feet to this small footed challenge. Like a petite bebe of a beach cottage, I feel that a modest bathroom abode should have a name. The right name stands to give it distinction, the wrong name subjects it to humiliation, a funny one – a laugh, but is that the best idea when someone is hunting around for relief? Relief was in fact the name proffered the grand restroom at Thompson’s Clam Bar, the seasonal restaurant that I visited every summer of my youth until I was finally old enough to wait tables there. When they closed I would have paid all my six years of earnings for that single sign. It’s funny how much meaning can be packed into a single word. Maybe the design will help me decide.

OPTION 3

A small space must work extra hard to garner the attention of the tall’s and the beautiful’s, the distracted and the charmed, it must raise its voice, put on camera ready make-up, and prepare to compete, without looking like its competing at all. I hope you are getting my drift. In a sea of McMansion Style bathrooms, with their soaking tubs, and separate showers, their private sound proofed toilet rooms, double sinks, and Butler’s call box, a more modest sized space needs to through its hands in the air – not like it doesn’t care, the opposite. It needs to throw them around in a pick me sort of way, which is to say, partially crazed, and then once selected become totally refined, adorable, graceful even in the way, once selected, she reveals all her subtle offerings.

OPTION 4

Which one says that? Put your left foot in and shake it all about.