More to Dior: Reimagining the luxury retail experience

Peter Marino in uniform.

The first time I met Peter Marino I was struck by the juxtaposition of his black leather clad figure amid the refined elegance of Chanel’s Boston Flagship. From this came that? I thought to myself without letting the thought slip through my lips, even if it would likely be goggled up by the cicadasian roar of guests. Curated from the Boston crowd for their allegiance to the brand, ability to influence, their press pass or celebrity status. Not me of course, I was a plus one, and happy to have the invitation without distinction.

Homage to Ombre.

There is something to be said for anonymity. It allows you to wonder, listen in, even approach and ask questions. You have nothing to lose and they won’t remember you one way or another after the last of the crystal coups are cleared. I took my chance and approached stealthily. Mr. Marino I asked with awe and trepidation. I couldn’t tell whether or not he was looking at me through his dark sunglasses and his head didn’t incline in my direction. That might have encouraged me unnecessarily. I forged on nonetheless, my desire to know about the rock crystal chandeliers defying gravity with their weight and solidity. A frail matron able to raise the hand adorned with a 12 carat stone.

Tooth Fairy . Please leave me a stay here.

It was that moment that I understood from whence genius comes and not to judge a book by its cover. He’s done it again with Dior, and I want more. The Flagship that started it all on Rue Montaigne in Paris underwent its third reinvention sprinkled as it was with Peter’s fairy dust. 108,000SF, so much more than a store, it is a museum, offering the only collection entirely dedicated to Fashion in France – having attended an exhibit a few years ago I can assure you there is a history, artistry, miniature monuments to masterful design – over 1500 of them, paper patterns, muslin mock-ups, and gorgeous full sized gown, after gown. It is an education in patience, beauty, pursuit of perfection, one stitch at a time.

Love in White

Rue Montaigne houses so much more. Christian Dior’s office has been reassembled here. A restaurant – Monsieur Dior, Haute Couture and Jewelry Workshops, three gardens, and the keys to the palace in the form of hotel room, butlers and all. Wander the museum, host a dinner for four, the place is yours for 24 hours or as long as your credit card swipes approved.

More Than A Letter: A Design philosophy for life

Me in the Nashville Dry and Wash Scarf Activation. 2017

The tenants on their own are inspirational, steeped in the heritage of their humble beginnings. It is with my marketers heart in hand that I bow down to them with love and deference year after year. They are brilliant. It starts with a theme which is carried out in the collection. The collection is comprised of clothing, furniture, bags, fragrance, shoes, watches, jewelry and their famous scarves. To be tethered is to open up to the boundless. What bursts forth is genius. It’s aspirational. It’s humbling with a capital “H”.

I’ve been wearing my Hermes “H” belt for over two decades now. It’s part of my uniform and I wear it proudly. It stands for all the things I hope to someday be or embody: a spirit of conquest, authenticity, patience born out of a desire to craft beautiful objects, independence, and quality. To aspire to embody the qualities of a brand may sound unusual to you. Ridiculous even? Ponder that, we’ll come back to it.

Their spirit of conquest takes them on some unusual journeys. The outfitting of a luxury yacht. The hand-stitched seats of a Bugatti Veyron Fbg which sold in 2010 for a cool $2.1M. Exclusivity creates longing. Which is why I squirreled away the little money I had to spare for years before I was able to purchase that belt. Patience has never been a strong suit, but the pull of exclusivity, shockingly exerted a will stronger than my need for immediate gratification.

All that ingenuity doesn’t just sit in the store on a shelf waiting for you to notice it when you happen to walk past in a big city or airport. It comes out to meet the people in unexpected places, catching you unaware, converting the young hopefuls into the new, the next, the now Hermes generation.

Style makers. LA . Fit to be Fashionable.

It is their last foray into the wild that has me celebrating its brilliance and lamenting my lateness to the party. I am sad to report that it’s over. It was held in November for 4 short days in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Scarcity, a powerful tenant of marketing. A pop-up fit gym. Who would have ever thunk it? An instagrammable, influencers haven. A hipsters hunt for the next craze realized. A gal with a marketer’s heart – throb. Ridiculous I ask you again? In what way did this inspire you? Please share.

Swoon Worthy

Articulating what is worthy of knocking you off kilter, and awash in emotion, can challenge even those that haven’t come across a word that they didn’t love. And a lover of words is rarely at a loss as it pertains to finding inventive pairings. So what exactly is it about this phenomenon that has us begging to teeter, to become unbalanced, to feel as if we might fall? I like my breath like the best of you, but would happily have it robbed from my chest if it meant spotting a space, a place, or a swarthy man that made me dizzy with desire. Falling can be a very good thing to do.

Tucked in, cozy, intimate and inviting despite its size, the deep hues are intoxicating.

I did just that when I saw The Vanderbilt Hotel. While clandestine affairs are not my thing, grand gestures that include real estate deeded to me, most certainly are. To think that Alfred Gwynne Vanderbilt had an in-town, Newport “Love Shack” designed and built for his married lover is wonderfully scandalous. To know that he never had one moment of unwedded bliss in the place is another. It is our happy fate, that it is one of the few that is open for more than a museum tour. 33 Luxury rooms await, and they have all been designed “to a fair-the-well” as my father would say. I have to agree, and steady myself as I gaze longingly at the photos.

First impressions are critical – Swoon at the entrance or forever hold your peace.

Dallas based design visionaries, Samantha Sanos, and Partner Joslyn Taylor of Swoon, don’t just tackle interiors, they take on your brand, art direction, and more in a holistic approach to finding that je ne sais quo, that sums up the swoon vibe so nicely. After all, the allure of the unspeakable is magnetic.

warm and inviting, other worldly, traditional and modern, this hotel seems to “have one foot in tomorrow”.

From coast to coast, these gals are the most.

Home Scents: Creating your own reality with smell

The buzz of the door signaled its release. I yanked it open anxious to step in out off the street and the 90 degree heat, and into the temperate environs of the cavernous double height space. Beautiful it was, a happy hipness that welcomed you to inspect a little closer, peak around the corner, but it wasn’t the design that created the first impression, it was the scent.

7INK . Inclusive Living. National Development does it again.

I’ve long been fascinated with smell. I don’t consider myself to be a “nose”, the special beings that can detect hints of this and subtle aromas of that, but I can wrinkle my nose up with the best of those presented with a fowl smell and expand my lungs beyond what seems possible to capture just one more tiny breath of an intoxicating memory.

That’s the thing about scent. It is more closely tied to memory than any of the others – senses. It’s attached to the olfactory bulb in our brain, which in turn is connected to the amygdala and the hippocampus. If our brains were pinball machines they’d be lighting up with emotional reactions and memories, lights flashing to announced you’d scored the jackpot.

7Ink had me at the scent in the foyer. Fresh, clean, and intoxicatingly green, I felt young again, and youth being wasted on the young as it is, I wanted more of it. So much so that it got me thinking about my own home and what I want to evoke. While I cannot control what others will feel as a result of what I choose, and certainly not what memories will spring forth, there are universally agreed upon scents that people seem to love. Clorox, cut grass, laundry, lemons. If you guessed that people like aromas that invoke cleanliness, you are correct. Baked goods are high on the list of likes, presumably for their yummy nurturing quality. There are the oddballs like gasoline and tobacco. The inexplicable – licorice. Those that calm, lavender and eucalyptus. A few that energize – peppermint, rosemary and cinnamon.

Snow has a smell. It’s called wonder.

I think I want seasonal scents for my home. Spring: lilac and lemonade. Fall: Cinnamon, Anise and wood fire. Summer: Salt air and Rosa Ragusa. Winter: I’m stumped. What would you suggest. I’m open to recommendations, it’ll be here before you know it.

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.