Remaining Resolute: Tapping into Intuition

The Third Eye

The Third Eye

People often ask why I visit so many properties when its months or years even before I plan to buy.  Scrolling through the listings on my computer or going in search of the open house newspaper on Saturday mornings is as ritualistic a behavior to me as having my cup of coffee in the morning.  I love it nearly as much as I love and appreciate that first sip of coffee.  It’s the favorite part of my day.  So enjoyment plays a role for sure, but so does discipline.  Life is full of big decisions.  They can seem scary and dangerous.  You might seek out the advice of people you trust implicitly, but in the end you must be the one to decide.  How do you do that?  Do you trust your own intuition and what is that anyway?

How could one understand something immediately, without the need for conscious reasoning?  Some refer to it as an “inner voice”, or  “divine intervention”, Malcolm Gladwell calls it “rapid cognition” and in yogic tradition it is referred to as the “third eye”, the seat of our intuition.  The bringing together of the mind and senses, instinct and reason, the conscious and the subconscious.

This practice of visiting these properties sharpens my awareness of what is out there, which locations garner the most money per square foot, what people value more – a parking space or a roof deck, A/C or a well ventilated bathroom.  Tour after tour, the information is absorbed, the questions that others ask are processed, and catalogued  along with the lessons I have learned through experience.

Appleton Street Living Room

Appleton Street Living Room

You’ll remember I visited a property on Appleton Street not long ago.  I liked it very much.  I am all about location – it will never fail you.  My GUT told me the seller would get over asking price.  I was right.  It was listed at $907.34 a foot (a very high price as you might recall based on the work that was required – new bath and significant modifications to the kitchen).  The owner closed at $926.57 a foot.  There were two other factors that led me to believe that a bidding war might ensue, the first being the number of properties on the market – hardly any, and the second being the asking price – in terms of dollars it was low.  Remember, while I go in looking very closely at square foot cost, another type of buyer doesn’t necessarily care about that, they care whether or not they can get approved for a certain amount and if they can afford their monthly payments.  Based on the price, I expected many would qualify in category two, and would move right in without doing any work.

This knowledge of the market, the inherent value that a property has, and the demand that exists connect my own instinct and reasoning.  It is what allows me to remain resolute in my decision, to back away from a deal when it is not right, and/or to move forward with one knowing that I have created a win . win for the players involved.

Spring Cleaning: Less is More.

Mies van der Rohe – a man to be revered said:  “Less is More.”  Knew of what he spoke. Mies van der Rohe
Mies van der Rohe

Small spaces demand a type of discipline that I have learned to practice – one in – one out, one in – one out.  I shudder to think of the hoarding lifestyle.  Wading through plastic bags filled with all manner of who knows what, fanatically collecting Cabbage Patch Dolls, trinkets and baubles. It gives me shivers.  I slide to the opposite end of the spectrum.  I’m a serial purger.  That’s right.  I love getting rid of things.  I have rules that I follow religiously and holidays I celebrate not for their legal designation, but for the opportunity to evacuate and release.

I know it’s an obsessive compulsive disorder of sorts.  I look forward to reaching the bottom of the bottle of shampoo or jar of cream – just for the opportunity to throw it away.  I never save the extra heal savers they give me along with the Louboutin’s and don’t give that shoe box another thought – I don’t care how many photos you’ve seen with the boxes neatly lining the shelves of a closet, perfect Polaroid picture affixed to the end.

Non, Non, et Non!

Non, Non, et Non!  C’est ridicule.

Who in the heck wants the inconvenience of pulling the shoes out of the box every time you want to wear them.  It’s impractical and encourages bad collecting behavior.  I forbid it – throw them away!  Rant over, this post is meant to be helpfully encouraging you to take stock.  As someone with her eye always on the next nest, I am ever cognizant of the challenges that moving pose.  It is commonly referenced as one of the top 10 stressors in life.  I know this and preemptively prepare to travel light.

My very favorite holiday to take stock and toss, is New Year’s Day.  Nothing is open, and I always feel a little blue after the festivities of the night before – nothing lifts a mood like sorting through clothing you long forgot you even owned, and making careful piles for donation, sale at Second Time Around or some similar consignment shop. If sadly they aren’t up to snuff for either….then to the bin they go!  It feels good to know you’ve helped another, potentially put a few coins in your pocket and/or freed up a little space for that new handbag you’ve been eyeing.  This exercise can be very subjective, so let me help those of you who have difficulty giving things up –

if you have not worn the garment in the last season for which it was intended…..lose it.

No excuses.

Spring cleaning can be traced back to many cultures and tied to religious beliefs.  The Iranians, it is thought, were the first to celebrate their new year – March 21 – which lasts two weeks, with a thorough cleaning of everything in the house.  Known as the “shaking of the house” this cleaning was necessary in order to welcome in the new year.  I love the idea of “shaking the house”.  Court Yard Hounds

Seriously beautiful album you should buy.

Seriously beautiful album you should buy.

got it right when they said:   “Your winter is nothing but a prison” – that’s New England.  When Spring comes its time to throw open those windows and throw the clutter out – if not with wild abandon, at least with an eye toward a fresh start.

A few additional tips to get you started:

– Magazines:  I love them too.  Enjoy revisiting them, and take the opportunity to tear the pages worth saving out, and put them in  binders.  If you are feeling really organized, create tabs and categorize the contents:  paint colors, sofas, side tables, beds,…you get the picture,

– Books:  I am a reader, and they can really stack up, many I will never read again.  Donate:  Rosie’s Place in Boston, a really wonderful organization in support of woman accepts books, – assuage your guilt and give,

– Anything you have multiples of that aren’t true collectors items:  say avoir.

It will put a spring in your step…ah, and that’s what this is all about.

Desperately Seeking South End Condo: Volume 2

“It’s in the eye of the beholder”.  We’ve all heard it and to an extent it’s true.  What one person sees and falls for can be wildly different than what another sees.  That’s ok.  We can’t go having everyone wanting that single precious thing – it would be mayhem. To the extent that it is not true, is when the numbers don’t work.  If you are in fact attempting to make money, and/or a sound investment, the foundational premise of the decision should be based on the numbers.  It seems so cold and unfeeling to deny ourselves our hearts desire, but what’s beyond that pretty face can be truly ugly, and breaking up is hard to do, so I recommend making a decision with eyes wide open.

Yesterday I visited two properties.  The first on Appleton Street (highly sought after neighborhood) had the following stats:

– Floor through . One Bed . Second Floor Unit . 575 SF/$885. SF

– In unit washer/dryer . AC

– Renovated in 2008

– No parking  . Common Roof Deck . Decorative Fire Place

The second on West Springfield Street (not a highly sought after neighborhood)  looked liked this:

– Floor through . One Bed . Second Floor Unit . 626 SF/$797. SF

– In unit washer/dryer . AC . Private Deck off Living Room

– Recently Renovated by a South End Developer

– No parking . No Fire Place

I hate to use the word “comp”  short for comparable because comparing properties is like comparing siblings – they are all unique in their own way.  I get defensive on behalf of my own property, standing up for its perceived deficiencies and expounding on its attributes.  We’ve been in it together after all.  Alas, I will compare for the sake of this exercise.


Desperately Seeking Volume 2

At first glance, the W Springfield property is the more attractive.  Lower square foot price, a developer:  Sam Hassan of Silverstone Developement who is known for his clean lines, great eye, and beautiful mill work details, is responsible for this space.  It has lower condo fee, appealing entry, and private deck.  One might think that there is really no way to add value to a property like this….yea of little faith.  I would take that challenge, but we are not done here.




This property has a nice layout, a railroad kitchen (sits between the main living space and the bedroom and you must pass through it to access either one).  You feel the difference 51 SF make as there is no defined place for a dining table.  Newly renovated in 2008 is not a selling point to me – even the IRS lets you throw away your tax information after 7 years.  It looks a little tired and in need of an update but at $885. the SF price doesn’t give you much from which to work.

I like a challenge and I like my neighborhoods.  Did I mention that I’m a scare-d-cat?  Well I am, and I don’t pick neighborhoods that leave me afraid to go out at night.  I believe in the veracity of this statement:  LOCATION . LOCATION . LOCATION.  It will pay you back again and again.  For my money, I would take Appleton, I would stain the hardwood floors dark, I would paint the living room a beautiful gray taupe, it’s a special mix I picked up from a Rhode Island School of Design Professor that changes drastically with the light the space gets and is sublime.  I would rip out that granite counter top and replace it with Vermont Imperial Danby.

Vermont Imperial Danby

Vermont Imperial Danby

So beautiful and tres cher but these are the things one must do if you plan to make a profit.  Then I would decorate the hell out of it and put it on the market for $1000. a foot.

Do I seem too desperate?  Happy Spring.

Catherine - Sunday Spring Flowers

Catherine – Sunday Spring Flowers

Getting to the ART of the Matter

Art is the heart of the home or at the very least it can give your home a little heart.  It’s personal and says something about who you are, like those old relics called books.  Books used to be a lovely way of gaining a little insight into the interests of another – they spoke of great depths or shallow pools, they sparked conversations or ended them.

Design Lover

Design Lover

To discover that a book you love is loved by another is to create a bond between you two.  Ah, books I miss them.  It’s not quite the same experience to ask someone to hand over their kindle and allow you to scroll through their title list.  Where’s the romance in that….no opportunity to slide the book from it’s carefully selected location on the shelf (lot to learn from just how they place it there – what it sits next to – the level of prominence it is given, how worn the jacket appears), flip through the pages, remember a passage or moment to its owner, or ask of their recommendation.  So artwork presents an opportunity for others to get to know you, to remember a place you visited, a time you loved, an adventure for which you have yet to participate.

Nice . France Flee Market Find

Nice . France – Flee Market Find

Now Artwork can be expensive and feel a little elusive as you wistfully stroll the aisles of a gallery or the fields of fair. I am not alone in falling in love with art that simply cannot come home with me – I’ve asked, but still they will not consider my Milford Street Residence as a suitable location for Van Gogh’s Starry Night to come on traveling exhibit, pourquoi non, I ask?  I assured them that I would have an appropriate sign indicating it was on loan from The Museum of Modern Art – New York City, but they didn’t bite.

So how does one go about populating their space with pieces that speak to you and speak of who you are to others?

 Art is what you make of it.

Slim Arrons Acrylic Photograph

Slim Aarons Acrylic Photograph

The way you frame it, matte it, hang it, cover it, or expose it, all are an expression of your style.  Whether you choose to take photos of the places you visit, the people you love, a theme or an object, there are so many ways to make what you have shot into astounding art.  There is a wonderful on-line company out of Canada called:  Big Acrylic – 877.234.4466

 that will take your photography and create large scale, customized acrylic hanging art.

 It’s amazing, and it’s incredibly reasonably priced.  If you’ve been to a frame store, coupon in hand, you know how costly having that ticket stub from the theater production in London framed can be….oh lordly, it’s a toss up about whether it’s worth it or not.  Make your plan, select those pieces carefully, and phase it over time as money permits.  Even the simplest framed pieces hung in an original manner can captivate.

Aligned Left looks lovely

Aligned Left looks lovely

 Whether your collection is curated from your travels, you create it yourself, it’s your child’s art project, or it’s a poster from a concert that rocked your world, what you hang on your walls should speak to you, and the things it says should resonate.

Tricks of the Trade: Creating the illusion of space

As far back as my memory cares to take me, all my city apartment bathrooms have been small by American standards.

Designed by TFAD

Designed by  Rozelle Residence

I say American because I recall a brief overnight stay in a kind Parisian gal’s apartment when I was just 22.  A missed train, a miscalculation in funds, a misadventure of sorts found my good friend and I in the company of Anna.  Her bathroom was so small it had a corner mounted sink, a folding door, and frankly I don’t recall a shower.  Personally I like a shower, and I have longed to live in Paris, but if I had to choose one or the other, I am not sure Paris would win out.  Still we were grateful for the accommodation.  We Americans demand a little more space and tend to get it.  Whenever I feel truly wedged in like ten pounds of sausage in a two pound bag, I remind myself of Anna’s petite salle de bain.  I have, none the less, experienced my fair share of steam filled spaces, inexcusably limited storage, and one bathroom that literally had no place to install a toilet paper holder…it had to vie for valuable square footage atop the tank of the toilet.  I briefly entertained the idea of suspending a string from the ceiling and letting it dangle within arms reach.  Thank goodness it was only a moments desperation that passed quickly….still I think it best to tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help me God.  Sometimes a solution simply doesn’t present itself.  Alas, I am human, and how will you avoid my miss steps if I don’t clearly spell them out for you?

I promised a few tricks, did I not?  Here they are:

Getting Tricky with It

Getting Tricky with It

– Glass equals transparency:  transparency creates the illusion of space – if you can design your bath with a glass walled shower it will feel bigger,

– Ceiling mounted shower curtain tracks:  A clean simple, custom application that draws the eye up, is super inexpensive, and easy to install (just three screws) make this a really attractive option.  While it comes with an interior curtain, you will need to have a custom curtain made in your choice of fabric to hang outside the shower.  I like Trax:

– Hardware:  Mount towel racks and holders inside the shower, on the walls just outside, next to the sink – it’s useful space and gets towels and such, out of baskets and off of your floors,

– Cut into the wall:  this last tip admittedly creates actual space previously hidden by your drywall.  Have a handy man install a sleek medicine cabinet like a Robern which has models dimensionally lean and tall to fit between studs.

Interiors by Studio M knows glamour!

Interiors by Studio M knows glamour!

I have employed these techniques in the nests that are part of my quest.  While I dream of one day having a Dorthy Draper style en suite bathroom with a soaking tub, separate shower, Butler that brings me my martini and makes ready my ball gown for the evening’s activities.  Whatever your dream might be, I hope these tips make your reality a little more glamorous.

Rental Rescue II: Livening Things up in the room in which you live.

Rental properties work hard to defeat your creativity.  Limited and/or inconveniently placed outlets. The cable jack on THAT wall?, the absolute last place you would hope for it to be?  Overhead fans where a simple light fixture or chandelier would bring so much more brightness to a space. The most uninspired paint selection.  These are just a few of the idiosyncracies that can plague a rental property.  I implore you to show it a little love, resisting the inclination to wait for your perfect place to come along.  Life rarely presents perfect.  It’s challenges like these that keep me awake at night, in a furious search for a solution, asking myself and others, question after question, hoping to find a simple answer that is nothing less than brilliant.  The whole thing can be a big pain-in-the-necktie, but please don’t feel powerless.

Refined Elegance .

Refined Elegance .

If you are one of those people that feels a little down on a gray rainy day, you probably wouldn’t thrive in an apartment that is dark.
It can cast a shadow on your naturally good disposition.

Where's the Florida Sunshine?

Where’s the Florida Sunshine?

Such is the case with the previously reported on Floridian Rental Property.  Too moody for words. Good bones otherwise.  Remember – no painting allowed in this apartment, so here are some thoughts on how to change this apartments outlook or at least how you look at it:

Stating your Purpose

Stating your Purpose

– Mirrors and other reflective surfaces help capture even the slightest beams of light,

– Lamps:  both table and standing are necessary, giving those reflective surfaces something to bounce off of,

– Art:  large scale, bright art and/or photography is great for covering that less desirable hue,

– 3D Tiles:  a tad trickier than hanging art work, this involves determining a surface on which to apply the tiles, the lighter the better (but it must be rigid enough to withstand warping) as you will need to prop, screw, or perhaps hang it on to the wall,

– Curtains:  Install a rod at the ceiling and hand curtains floor to ceiling in a color that appeals,

– Fabric Covered Foam Panels,

– Wood screens or room dividers that can be painted – in your version of happy – can be hung like paneling, or used more sparingly like a large piece of art work.

All these suggestions require a little effort, but think of the pep you’ll have in your step when you’ve set the room aglow.  Get going now.


Rental Rescue: Definitively You…Even if it isn’t Yours

Use your own photography to brighten the mood in a room.

Use your own photography to brighten the mood in a room.

Some landlords are decidedly lax in their restrictions about the interior modifications you make to their place.  I once had a Landlord that happily granted me permission to paint every room in the apartment, re-tile the kitchen floor, paint the cabinets and change all the hardware, generally allowing me to use it as an interiors test lab.  This sadly is not the norm.  Many Landlord’s fear a whole laundry list of horrors being unleashed on their unsuspecting, and defenseless dwellings and therefore forbid, that’s right, FORBID, even the tiniest of modifications.  There will be repercussions.  Deposits will be withheld, regrets will ensue, the backlash will come to bite you.  Who wants and/or needs all that, I ask you?  Well no one of course, but to do nothing is really unacceptable.  Wouldn’t you agree – of course you would, it’s not your hard earned money in jeopardy.

Florida Guest Bed

Florida Guest Bed

As everyone is frightfully aware, we here in Boston are inundated with snow, cold, and increasingly dark moods.  I ask you all for forgiveness in advance for anything dull or distasteful I may have said during these difficult winter months.  In consideration of you all, I escaped to Florida for a long weekend, and was blessed with two hours and twenty minutes on the beach basking in all 85 sunny degrees.  Beggars can’t be choosers, and I took my Vitamin D where I could get it.

My good friend kindly put me up in his two bedroom rental property.  I am sure you can hazard a guess as to which camp his Landlord falls.  It seems so wrong that the very thing that can so quickly and inexpensively turn dull into dynamic is so readily denied.  NO Painting.  I’ve never been a big fan of a boldfaced NO, but respect the limitations.  I decided to start with the guest bedroom.  It’s really a bit yellow bellied of me to begin there, but I am less likely to step on his stylistic toes.  After all, who puts anything they really care about in a spare room?  It gives me a little more freedom, and while still in the midst of this winter – I think I’ve earned it.  Here is what I would do.

Guest Bed Option One Story Board

Guest Bed Option One Story Board

Rooms are dark, lacking natural sunlight, which is accentuated by the muted cream walls.  Drawing my inspiration from the Cole & Sons Palm Jungle Paper, which fingers crossed, I have enough left from a previous project to paper two panels.  These will be placed at the corner on both window walls.  I would outfit the bed in crisp white cotton duvet and sheets, trimmed in Kelly Green.  Years ago I stumbled upon a little shop in the LES (that’s the Lower East Side of NYC to you) called Hable Construction.  I immediately fell for their style and their nod to the ocean through their textile design.  Their Bead Pillow in green would be the perfect accent on either the bed or a chaise under the window.  I love orange and green together and the octopus seems ugly enough to be masculine and a great compliment to the bead, so I throw it in there.  On the chaise you can see another longtime obsession of mine, the Brahms Mount throw.  I’d cover the floor in this great Lattice Knot Wool and Jute Rug from Ballard Designs.  The Eames Task Chair by Herman Miller and West Elm Parsons Mini-desk will ensure he visits the room now and again even if it is just to stare at the computer. Alternately I love this mid-century West Elm bench.  Which could be really beautiful under the window.

Hip to be Mid-Century

Hip to be Mid-Century

Stay tuned for additional rooms to follow.  I promise no paint, just cleverness in the face of conformity.  Rent without reluctance.

Drawing the Line: Giving definition to floors and ceilings

Go for broke

Go for broke

My mother was a Francophile and I am most certain that she passed her love of France on to me.  I am enamored with French design, fashion, and the language.  Even the mundane can be made to sound better in French, n’est pas?  I often feel that way about designers and have a great appreciation for their ability to meld the jaw dropping architectural elements of a space with über modern furnishings.  Most apartments I have found could stand a little of that je ne sais quoi, that a really wild molding can add to a space.

Add a Little to Existing

Add a Little to Existing

It’s versatility should not be overlooked.  Inexpensive, stock molding, that can be picked up at Home Depot or your local lumber yard, can not only be applied to the ceiling, but strip molding can also be applied to your wall.  A carpentry purist should stop reading at this point because I do not strictly adhere to any rules regarding baseboard, moldings, casings, half rounds, quarter rounds, etc.  If I can adapt it and I like the look of it, I use it.  However, when it comes to coping – it’s a non-negotiable.  It’s the only way to create a seamless corner, and I am pretty persnickety about things like that.  Don’t even get me started on the section of molding that stops short of its destination.  Who does that?  I cannot tolerate that kind of laziness.  It’s like a missing tooth, just staring at you all the time, begging to be filled. John Wooden said:

“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

Molding 2

I couldn’t agree more and there are loads of times when my limited patience is tested and I want it to just be finished, but deep breath, that last bit of effort will save you some regret, which you can use wisely elsewhere and at your own discretion.

Whether you are looking to make a declaration, clean up and define the lines of your space, or something in between, molding most definitely presents an opportunity for you to express yourself.  If you thought we would have a discussion about molding without talking paint …. well, I don’t think you really know me at all.  It’s like asking someone to go outside without being dressed.  How declasse.

My Father and I, with whom I am blessed to have worked on many a project, had an argument centered around a particular paint scheme I was intent on carry-out.  This scheme was specifically focused on the molding.  I believe it was a nod to the grand old Louis XVI era with all its dramatic paint, gold and gilt, and its associated extravagance, but tempered to a more modern aesthetic.  He felt otherwise.  My plan was to paint the molding and walls in the following:

– Mineral Ice (gray) wall

– metallic silver half round

– thin band of matte black between the half round and the molding

– Chantilly Lace White egg and dart molding.

To say he was concerned that I would ruin all his beautiful craftsmanship with the scheme is an understatement.  It still elicits a giggle when I think of him telling me it was going to look like a “cat house”.  If you don’t know what that is – Google it.  Even Crickets had to admit that when all was said and done, it drew worthy attention to flawless woodwork.

Floor to ceiling there are so many ways to define your space.  We’ll save door casings and plinth blocks for another post.  Without question they add and complement what is being proposed here, but they are inextricably connected to other facets of your home or project.  Therefore, and sadly, they cannot be tackled in a vacuum.

I hope you’re inspired to give it a go.  If you absolutely hate it, paint it the same color as your wall or ceiling and it will virtually disappear.  No permanent damage and you’ll be a little more keyed into your personal style.  Not a bad thing.

Trend or Tradition: A Tilt Toward Tile in the Home.

An Inarticulate Utterance New Ravenna.

An Inarticulate Utterance
New Ravenna.

I’m rarely speechless but I have to tell you … I needed a moment to compose myself.  All I can say is STOP IT – no tile should be that beautiful.  I’m not creating the Sistine Chapel here.  I’m just trying to bring a little pizzazz to my place, but for this tile I’d consider giving up my handbag addiction – just to be in the vicinity of its exquisiteness.    If you choose to go this route, there’s no where else to go but breathless.  Like  wallpaper, tile has evolved from merely a utilitarian covering for the interior of your tub or sub-floor, to a focal point.  The addition of complex pattern, the illusion of 3 dimensions, metallics, high relief, and the sensation of movement make these innovations award worthy, and yes, sacrifice.  I do really believe I would give up a shoe or two, and that cobalt blue Goyard bag I’ve been eyeing, for this tile.

Telltale Sign You're Getting Warm

Telltale Sign You’re Getting Warm

But let’s just say I am slightly on the fence about giving up that bag.  The allure of a simple, inexpensive tile in a hip pattern appeals.  If you’ve got a little adventure in you, use a colored grout to provide the novelty.  People, and me specifically, love when something is inexpensive and clever.  I’m always most boastful about the bargains I manage to find or create, and more than a little sheepish about the splurges I make.  Subway tile remains a traditional mainstay.  Change it up if you like by using a bold color, creating a herringbone or basket weave pattern, stacking it vertically instead of horizontally, using multiple colors to fade from dark to light.  Bring your childhood self to play and see what your imagination hatches.

Whether you are with means, or saving your pennies, there is often a middle ground which shouldn’t be overlooked.  Think big picture. Ben Franklin famously said:  “Failing to Plan is Planning to Fail”  With a plan in place you will make better decisions about materials, finishes, and furnishings that will become your big impact moments throughout your home, and feel less like you’ve made a series of compromises elsewhere.  And there it is – the word compromise.  I do it often.  With that big picture in mind I reconcile myself to the intent, and am often quite pleased with my inventiveness.  While perhaps not exactly in the same class as the New Ravenna tile pictured above, this herringbone tile in my kitchen was definitely a splurge for me.  Instead of tiling the whole wall as originally planned I kept it level with the counter top and made it an accent.

Just enough...

Just enough…

It saved $2000. and I am now convinced it was absolutely the right thing to do.  I can envision the impression one of these stand out tiles would make in a small vestibule, as an accent in a bath, or narrow hall.  If you bare resemblance to me friend, and  must preserve those pennies – take heart – like the beautiful man you find from whom you have to avert your gaze, a little is more than enough. Grout with gusto – until next week.