It’s a cool, rainy day in Beantown. A stubborn refusal to welcome in summer. It suits my mood today as I lost property number 8 – three cash buyers, need to close before the 5th of August or suffer capital gains penalties. Regrettably that means that there are two cash buyers still out there. Two that I know of anyway – perhaps there are dozens. Shouldn’t they be bidding on million dollar properties, steering well clear of my range? I’m getting nearly as good at losing as I am at bidding. I came across this poem by Elizabeth Bishop which poignantly, and ever so delicately, indicates that this is not a disaster.
When you are a city dweller, summer solstice marks the start of the season for making your great escapes to the Cape, the Islands, or Newport, if sailboats, surfboards, or Second Beach are your thing. They all happen to be mine, and added to the desperation of the spring hunt. Find a place, make an offer, close the deal, summer awaits, and I didn’t relish the idea of spending it on the hot streets of the South End for the single, I have no choice but to sell my property because my company is shipping me off to Dubai, open house on a Sunday. Alas, that is exactly where I find myself, as the 4th of July closes the door on the hottest real estate season of the year. Spring sprang, and this is what it I have to show for it:
There is of course more data, more stats, statistic upon statistic in fact. Not typically a numbers person, they are floating around my head, and falling out of my mouth like an MIT graduate. My boss Lisa reminds me that not everyone loves the supporting data as much as I do, so I will head her advise, as I so often do, and stop there with it.
Of the 8, there was really only one I knew I could love, the others were just making time. It hurt to lose that one, particularly because I had the highest offer – twice. My eyes welled up with tears over the disappointment. I see it the most vividly of all those 27 properties, in my minds eye, and long for a different outcome.
It was a good eight weeks, with so many properties from which to choose, I often struggled between two or three, but pick you must. Did I make the right choices? Who knows. I did learn a thing or two – I’m damn good at making an offer.
Happy Summer – beware of the sharks. I hear the waters are infested.
I think it only fair that I provide warning that over the next few weeks I will revisit ideas and decisions again and again. This may be an incredible bore to you, but I won’t apologize. It is a necessary part of the process and refinement of any design. The living room will provide just such a challenge. It is already quite a nice, with excellent light, and still, no doubt improvement can be made. Each owner must do their part to care for and enhance the property. The folks that live there now certainly did with a major renovation to the rear of the unit. They raised the dormered roof line, creating full height usable space. A tremendous effort and added value. I too will do my part.
Wall Option No. 1
So back to the living room we go. I am now convinced that a curved wall will add so much visually to the room, while providing much needed storage space. Suitcases, vacuums, brooms, coats, you name it. They all need a place to reside outside the eye of those that live in and visit the home. Nothing is more disconcerting in a small space than clutter. You know the rules – mise en place….EVERYTHING IN ITS PLACE. By beginning the wall at the first hard line within the window bay, and extending it beyond the installed cabinetry (which would be removed) to the edge of the wall and ceiling. This would create a gentle, but noticeable curve, accommodate a 2′ disappearing door, and still bestow the owner with a display opportunity via the bookcase at the end of newly installed wall. Some type of built in cabinetry will need to be designed for the right side which abuts the kitchen. This side cannot be addressed in the same way, so I am thinking about a custom buffet, perhaps designed with cabinet doors utilizing the same material as the wall. Right now in play is a beautiful wood veneer that would pick up the hues of the oak wood floors and kitchen cabinetry. If I go with the navy design it will be necessary to buy new furniture. I’m afraid I’m going to have to open my own retail store with all the furniture I am collecting in pursuit of my crazy design plans. Other alternatives include cedar planking, a plastered wall which will later get painted (perhaps not as much fun, but definitely more cost effective) all must be given serious contemplation. And so I will. Bare with me. I hate it when I make a mistake.
I know I’d like to have a better idea. My visual memory isn’t as sharp as I would like it to be. I’ve seen too many detective shows to know that an eye witness account means next to nothing. My four minutes here and half hour there have not solidified the nuances of the space in my mind – let alone all the actual dimensions which will be required to renovate until my hearts content, or at least as far as my wallet will allow. Photos help, but I know myself pretty well, living in the space brings me to a place of understanding, that a snap of a photo or measuring tape, and a quick pop in, never will.
The title of my book to be – My Life in Sawdust, wouldn’t mean much if I didn’t actually live in the place throughout the renovation. I can and have taken it pretty far, squirreling my way around boxes and through plastic barriers, in search of a dust covered Louboutin – a grounding force in a chaotic half built existence. Rising early to meet with the builder before making my way to the gym where hot running water and free shampoo await. Who’s to be any the wiser that a workout didn’t precede my use of the facilities. Nowhere in my contract did it say that my $160. required sweet at the actual gym before availing myself to all the amenities of the well stocked locker room. Not the least of which is the aforementioned hot running water and sawdust free towels. As Kasey Musgraves says to all those nosy people out there:
mind your own biscuits.
If I do in fact renovate this bathroom, that is where I will draw the line and vacate. Time will tell. I have been giving serious consideration to a nautical color scheme.
Gloss brings glamour.
This should be no surprise to those that have been following my journey. I am a Cape Cod girl. Of course I have no interest in creating a beach house inside a City brownstone, but I have been inspired by the elegance of a deep, deep navy blue, set off against the purest of whites, with glamorous accents of gold, and plenty of reflective surfaces. I love a high gloss paint on an interior door. It whistles wealth, but is really one of the best design bangs for your buck. A little space demands a big bang, and this girl is intent on getting it. Look at that sparkle.
I am troubling over the bay window in the living room between the dormers. The built-ins were undoubtedly installed with all good aesthetic and functional intentions, and are speaking to me, but what they are saying is remove me. I am giving some thought to treating it like the bow of a boat, doing a lovely curved wood-paneled wall on either side to ensure the light is invited in.
Steering this ship in the right direction.
I’d create hidden doors at the front for storage. In my last place the shop vacuum sat just outside the Powder Room until my final moments of habitation, when I unceremoniously abandoned it on the sidewalk. Don’t think me cruel, I feel certain it was adopted immediately. Judge if you will but don’t lose site of the real lesson here – storage in the city is king, and this queen bee is going to make sure the new place has plenty of it.
I do love strong colors, but neutral they are not. I know I entertained the idea of a pink living room but this space will not support that level of girliness. It’s lines are too sharp. I have also been very drawn to the Palm and Banana Leaf prints, papers and schemes a la Beverly Hills Hotel, but I’ve never really been a green person. I worry I will be asking myself incessantly, what was I thinking? I think we’ll take another look at it tomorrow. Until then, think Navy, Gold, and White. I’ll happily receive your thoughts.
I know it’s not yet mine, and that it may not even come to be, but I absolutely can’t resist beginning to conjure up a plan for making this new place decidedly me. I see no reason to hold back, I can value engineer later – now every high-end gadget, every luxe fabric, all the latest in back painted glass systems with integrated flat screen televisions,
tiles in every color of the rainbow, to stain, to bleach, to pickle, to paint, to cover, to hide, blur, obscure, or showcase – the sky is the limit and I feel giddy over it.
Sharp lines, crazy angles, and lots of distraction.
As this is a penthouse unit my plans for moldings and intricate painting schemes must get tucked into a drawer for later use. The pitched roof, dormers, jigs and jogs of the ceiling make this clean lined, symmetry loving gal go a little bonkers. Fortunately I have some experience with this as 19 Milford Street was also a penthouse unit and it was similarly ceiling challenged. Boy did I trouble over that mess but in the end found a way to make it bend to my will without being inauthentic. I have every confidence that Waltham Street will comply, perhaps with some initial resistance, but later learn to love my controlling ways, and be happier that we’ve made one another’s acquaintance.
Typically I start with the low hanging fruit – paint scheme, floors, ceilings, walls, and then move to the more complex challenges of the space – what to do with the kitchen which is an extension of the living room. One of the reasons to begin with color palette is the proximity of one space to another in small units. They must harmonize or leave visitors and guests feeling ill at ease, and more importantly the Owner sans Shui. As I hate being without my Feng, this particular challenge will be analyzed every way from Sunday until I breathe easy over the decision. I know just how I would do it if I were going to use one of my beloved grays, but as I have committed to going in another direction, color introspection will take up a good portion of my mind space for the next few weeks.
The kitchen is interesting and has good bones or so goes my recollection. I have a good visual memory, but 4 minutes of viewing, no sketches, and limited photography only allow for broad brush interpretations and judgments. I know I recorded every detail, but my system for retrieval isn’t as highly tuned. No worries, I will be back Thursday to gather more data. I do think that I will replace the counter tops, tile the entire back wall so that it is a feature to be appreciated as one sits sipping wine in the living room. It’s easy to get dramatic in small spaces, and just as easy to go overboard. I’ll work on tempering that.
The bathroom – what to do. I’ve never had a two bed before, which has always freed me up to rip out the tub and create a sublime and sleek shower with glass wall. I love it and love how grand it makes 39 tiny square feet feel. It’s a haven, and a present to myself as when I was little I thought I was going to be a princess, but instead I am a pack mule. A few minutes to yourself in a place of beauty is very restorative and the next best thing to a romp in nature. My inclination here is to install the shower, but a little voice in the back of my mind says, what if a couple with a little baby moves in – won’t they need that bath. I’m certainly not selfish so I will give equal consideration today, tomorrow, and all the days leading up to the closing, to this important decision.
Now I must be off. There are books I must feverishly pour over and magazines I must rip to shreds in creating my story boards. Happy Sunday.
And so the sun does shine. But not before the wind attempted to push me further back with its gusty blows of discouragement nearly turning me toward the rental market. That wretched thought makes me shiver. Admittedly I did have to talk myself down and think of how much fun I’d have designing and decorating once it was mine. Everyone has there happy place – fabric, paint, furniture, even a tiny little stool will bring a smile to my face.
Number 6 on Waltham Street was not to be. Cash buyer – offering more than me this time won out. It needed a ton of work and ironically I wouldn’t go higher because the square foot price was already outrageous. You’ll learn the irony soon. I suspect if you’ve been paying attention you get the drift – I like Waltham Street a lot, in my defense there have not been any properties worth putting forth a bid, on the other streets in the Eight Street District. For those of you unfamiliar – we create sub-neighborhoods within neighborhoods – if there is a way to squeak out additional exclusivity, well, I guess people will find it. Mind you, I am not snobbish about it, just desperate to build some financial security so one day I’ll be able to stay. I’m not wistful about that day – In fact at this point I still can’t imagine a time when I won’t crave a new project, but as Robert Frost so beautifully penned…
there are miles to go before I sleep
While Number 6 was in play I had a chance to bid on a property on Upton Street, which I did not take. I really liked it, it had loads of opportunity though it looked really nice in the photos, the building itself was in really rough shape. Strange as it was 100% Owner occupied. Something just had me back away, maybe it was Waltham Street again – who knows. I tell this story so you will not think that the cash buyers follow me around like a dark cloud all over town. We’ve got a storm system developing over Waltham Street again, it’s going to start pouring cash… there were times I felt like I was the only one without an umbrella. Not so, there was a frenzy over Upton, bad building aside, and 8 offers rolled in, two cash, and it went for $100K over asking – yowza.
I’ve always liked the number 7, it’s a bit of a cliche but I don’t care because it is indeed lucky. Another Waltham Street property, the fourth for which I placed a bid, and at long last the clouds have parted and the sky is blue. I am allowing myself a moment to bask in the sun, just a moment though.
Number 7 – What a view
There is a long way to go before this deal is closed. I offered a downright absurd amount per square foot, an amount that may simply not appraise out and could result in a tearful good-bye, but I’m in it now and will see it through. Why would I do this you ask when I have been ranting on and on about the SF not penciling out on so many other deals? Three words . love . faith . gumption. jump in, the water is nice. I think I’ll take myself to the beach tomorrow to celebrate.
These days you need to look a little harder, down less traveled alleys, in a vintage shop, or at a tag sale, the back room of a favorite store where the owner is storing items that she or he may want for their own. The homogenization of society has made it’s way from big cities across the globe into small towns. If you crave the rare and unusual you need to keep your eyes open and think about using every day objects and materials…well a little differently.
Twelve Chairs Shop . Boston . MA
There is one such shop located just out of your eyes view on the second floor in the South End on Tremont. Twelve Chairs is a gem of a shop launched by two interior designers – Miggy Mason and Roisin Giese. Their ability to meld old and new, the refined and the raw in their shop makes it worth navigating their strict Monday – Friday hours. If it’s as difficult for you to get there during the week as it is for me – visit them on line at: twelvechairsboston.com they have an easy to navigate site and a feature for which I am particularly drawn – the MAKE AN OFFER button – love that.
More than 12 Reasons to visit
Here’s what I spied on Friday night just before they closed up for the weekend, as I frantically made my way to Waltham Street for yet another property viewing, umbrella blowing in the wind, late already, what’s a few more minutes ….when just up those stairs these finds awaited my arrival.
But where, after all, would be the poetry of the sea, were there no wild waves? Joshua Slocum
Joshua Slocum – Adventure in his bones.
This Captain knew that there was beauty in the pursuit and ugliness. That there would be times of deep loneliness when the fog rolled in, blanketing you in its mist, and blinding you to any possible positive outcome. To be that first lonely soul to sail the world solo, to battle the Straight of Magellan, his tiny craft being pushed back again and again, seemingly insistent that he would be denied access to that which he wanted so much…passage through that narrow windy corridor, separating Atlantic from Pacific and North America from South.
While my struggle has been a formidable one, I am awed at the fortitude and determination that he must have had, drawing from the deepest depths within, to be the first, to show the world, well it’s nothing short of extraordinary. It makes this thing I am trying to do seem silly in comparison. It’s my stormy sea, it’s my thick fog, and it’s my knowledge that this storm too shall pass, that has me white knuckling the tiller. Rest assured, I will not give up the helm – at least not today.
Worcester Square – Crying out for attention.
Enough of all that philosophizing, though I do appreciate your indulgence, after a week of two more offers, and two more cash buyers, the wind momentarily taken out of my sails, I needed to vent. 22 Worcester Square had seemed so promising. It had been on the market for 3 weeks – in Boston’s South End that mine as well be three years. Something was definitely not right. I had known of the property but my attentions were elsewhere. I don’t regret the decision to look on Waltham, where the sun always seems to shine, but it may have cost me the opportunity. A price reduction generated themuch needed activity (the disappearance of all the Waltham properties may have helped) and the offers started to come. In need of a lot of work, thismuch loved home had been lived in for 18 years, and needed a little investment. I estimated that $80 – $100K would have done the trick. As the saying goes – my money was no good there. Highest offer – ME, lost out to cash. I was devastated, my voice wobbled as I reported that it was ok, and a tear attempted to escape. Not having the benefit of the driving rain to hide those tears, I pulled them below decks and bit my lip.
Rutland Square – Well Done.
Remember when my roof was leaking like a sieve and I talked about the importance of resiliency? Here we go again, I got my check book right back out and made another offer on Rutland Square. A property that didn’t need my help at all – way to go The Abbey Group. You do beautiful work, and the owner respected and cared for it. It was a symbolic offer – one to gather data, and stay engaged. It expired last night at 10pm. Though I was in the numbers ballpark. I seem to have that battened down tight, I sadly have not changed my cash offer status. You guessed it – two cash offers. I think it’s hurting the Sellers ability to get the best price frankly. But people are risk adverse, and if security is your number one priority you are going to go for it every time, likely pushed by your Broker who wants to assure the sale. Au Revoir – Rutland.
That makes FIVE for any of you that have lost count. FIVE times I have been pushed back by the gale force winds of cash that are coming over the bow of this South End ship like the storm will never abate. But I know it must.
I will wait until the last responsible minute to put in an offer on another Waltham property. It’s so sad, and in need of my love and attention. The storm for it has been long too, and it’s time to pull it into dry dock and get to work.