Is it the Quest or Is it the Nest?

I do love the achievement of a goal.  Some scientists believe that the sustained commitment to a goal is what leads to happiness.



Zen Buddhist’s live in the notion that being present, living in the moment, bringing mindful attention to the task at hand brings clarity and happiness. What I like about the Quest for the Nest is that it is both these things.  Mindful in that the quest is happening all the time, teaching me to appreciate being in it – it is in and of itself, an arrival.  The homes along the way, those that have been completed (an achievement of a goal) and those yet to be (the striving) represent satisfaction in having committed to and to having achieved something, which was hard and worthwhile.  Are the Quest and the Nest in opposition to one another?  I think not.  I see a beautiful and symbiotic relationship between the two, and the fun in it all.

Is it uncool to be excited?  Maybe, and I don’t care.  I love exploring colorways, imagining textures, and materials, billowing curtains framing out the stately windows, light fixtures that are enormous, dramatic, dazzling, selecting furnishings that demand attention, and are the undisputed stars in the room.  This daydreaming is the stuff of life for me. It surprises and delights me.  Some version of it will arrive on the stage, something will be left undone, something will be better than I could have envisioned, and some mistakes will be happy ones.

This hobby of mine brings me immense pleasure.  My mind is awash with possibilities for this Parisian-style Pad.

The Problem with Plans…..

…is that they change, of course, and one must be prepared to roll with that reality.  Discouragement and doubt can start to lap at your ankles, it’ll work its way up to your knees and then make its way to your eyeballs if you let it.

Proud to be...

Proud to be…

Fortunately for me, I am Irish and practiced at pushing it down to my toes and with, great determination, keeping it there.  That’s just what I did when I signed the Purchase and Sale yesterday for my 9th attempt at a property in the South End.  Oh, I made concessions.  You didn’t think I was going to get a property, sans cash, without agreeing to a host of unreasonable conditions, with a smile on my face and feigned gratefulness, did you? Certainly not.  One of the many concessions includes an extended closing – November 2nd to be exact.  Lordy, that’s a long time from now.  While I am revealing all of the less favorable, anxiety-inducing aspects of the acquisition, I should say that this Waltham Street Condo doesn’t need to be renovated.  Not at all.  Typically, I can find something to change – perhaps when I have spent more than 20 minutes in the apartment I will discover it needs my help after all.  But right now, I am signing on for a property that doesn’t need to be renovated, at an outrageously high square foot price.  This, if you have been following along, IS NOT at all what I planned to do.

Live in this room ... no doubt

Live in this room … no doubt

Now for the good news: its ridiculously beautiful.  It screams elegance and excess with its architectural detail of a time gone by.  Thirteen foot ceilings and floor to ceiling windows refuse to allow you to feel hemmed in, making the 800 sf feel grand.  It’s fancy and as my nephew Sam likes to say….Aunt Jackie is fancier.  It’s true I report to you unapologetically – my City-Self is fancy, which seems absolutely appropriate.  If you can’t be fancy in your city – find another city.

Oh La La

Oh La La

All that being said, I am going to have to redouble my efforts to find another flippable property, convince friends, relatives, acquaintances – whomever has cash, and will be persuaded to fall in love with my plan. Acquiescing to my will is essential to my success.  It’s for their own good.  They have money and I want to help them spend it…..I mean invest it.

So dear followers – don’t throw your hands up in disgust and make some hasty determination to break-up with me.  We may not know one another terribly well at this point, but I am tenacious.  Plans will always get interrupted, sidetracked, run aground.  I’ll reset the course, right the ship, and continue to flip.  Keep your feet in my corner.  Your support is like a warm summer day after a wretched winter.

Tangled Up in Blue

As long as I can remember, blue was my hue.  Whatever the ocean can dream up based on time of day, year, weather condition or geography – I warm to what it produces.  My latest obsession is a deep dark navy, so blue it is almost black.  I envision it splashed across a living room wall, softened by a curtain that references the different moods of the sea and me.  Accented with gold, it brings city sophistication, with chrome its at home near the beach.

Soir dans la ville.

Soir dans la ville.

Double Duty

Double Duty

Just a few subtle changes – a canvas slip cover instead of plush velvet, a light fixture that is silly not serious – allows this color palette to transition from one local to another with ease.  While it’s not possible to be all things to all people – no one is enamored with a one-dimensional gal – be prepared to get a little sand in your shoes and clean up for cocktails in the city with this pairing.

Surfs Up

Surfs Up

Gals Guide to Getting it Done: Flip No. 2

There is much I could say about the way I found this troubled little property and, frankly, how I troubled over its transformation.  To me, it was an ugly duckling and I wasn’t sure I could ever love it.  It lacked the architectural details that, for me, illicit inarticulate utterances of ardor.  Still, with a nod to the sixties and an obliteration of the seventies cottage era, Milford Street was reborn.

First Date Doubts

First Date Doubts

I know how many folks adore an exposed brick wall. For me, it lacks the polish and clean lines for which I am drawn.  If money were no object, I would have brought in a whole team of Venetian plasterers to artfully hint at the texture below, creating a surface that shined.  Three floors of brick ran through this property, which contributed to my lukewarm feelings.  Oak floors, naturally stained with their parochial school connotation, strangely proportioned fireplace, a built-in and hidden door that may have been completed by a carpenter’s apprentice in need of a few more years experience, glass back splash, granite counter tops, pendants that missed the mark, and mill work and doors that screamed Cape Cod Cottage, all made me want to scream!

Seeing Sixties

Seeing Sixties – Carly Gillis Photography

What’s a gal to do?  Accept a second date and explore the possibilities.  Here’s the long and the short of it:

No need to start from scratch:  Fresh Face

No need to start from scratch: Fresh Face -Carly Gillis Photography

Brighten, beautify, store and stow.

Brighten, beautify, store and stow. – Carly Gillis Photography

– Floors were stained ebony

– All doors were replaced with solid wood custom Jenn Air doors

– All new door hardware:  Baldwin

– Lighting:  Living Room Chandelier by Arteriors – Zanadoo Chandelier, Kitchen Pendants by Jonathan Adler – Rio Pendants, Bedroom Flush Mount fixture by Shades of Light Olive Leaf Ceiling Chandelier

– Kitchen:  Counter tops Carrera marble countertops, Tile Accent Wall, Polished Alaskan Blue and Eastern Carrera from The Tilery, Orleans, MA, Cabinets Painted in Benjamin Moore’s Dior Gray, Hardware by Colonial

Paint:  All by Benjamin Moore, Powder Room – Peacock Feathers, Living Room – Cloud Gray, Bedroom – Pink Paisley

Powder Room:  Wallpaper – Cole and Sons:  Alpana . Aqua and Gold

Hidden Jewel

Hidden Jewel – Carly Gillis Photography

Slip Sliding Away

Paul Simon was right –

you know the nearer your destination…the more you’re slipslidin’ away.

Four properties came on the market this week that show real promise.

I would have ripped out that build-in in a hot second...and then felt bad about it.

I would have ripped out that build-in in a hot second…and then felt bad about it.

A veritable windfall for the summer and here I sit, uncertain whether or not to bid.  It was a battle to get to see them before I had to leave Saturday morning for work.  One broker flat out refused – no showings until Sunday.  They have their reasons, but surely they are not in my interest.  One other agreed after much begging and a few tears. The other two wisely held Friday open houses: as it’s summer, most people are out of town on the weekends, and it’s in the seller’s interest to have Friday and Saturday showings during this time.

The Upton Street property I liked very much.

That molding brings tears to my eyes.

That molding brings tears to my eyes.

Beautiful Parlor Level floor through, with architectural detail galore, A/C and a parking spot.  The trouble is it was priced high and it didn’t need much attending to.  How much could one expect to get for a one bedroom?  I think it’s already dangerously close.  The Hanson Street property was also very cute, and also over priced.  While some touches could be made to it here and there, I would have felt the guilt as I ripped out the perfectly good built-ins that were absolutely not to my taste,and replaced that cliche of a granite counter top and already looking dated back splash (I am sure they were both new).  It’s funny because both these properties could not have stood up to this pricing three weeks ago: too much competition for places that were in better shape and/or had two bedrooms.  Today is another day, though, and I am certain they will be go for over asking.  The last of the group is a different story.  Warren Avenue was in rough shape.  Both the building and the unit.  It surely had some upside potential and was very large for a one bed, but, again, the asking price left little room to move after an estimated investment of $80K.

If budget and time were on my side....this would have been mine.

If budget and time were on my side….this would have been mine.

So here I sit, no offers in, the Pembroke Property open house having come and gone without my eyes on it.  On paper it was the most attractive.  A profit, albeit a small one, could have been squeaked out…..but site unseen is a dangerous proposition.

Sadness.  This is beginning to feel even harder than the Boston dating market.  Who knew?

Superficial: The Surfaces Get a Bad Rap

They have the ability to awe and inspire, reflect light and mirror reflection, surround, envelope. or cast aside.  They have power, and lasting impact. So why does a hard stone, mirrored glass, rich wood, or cool metal not run deep?  In my humble opinion anything that wraps around the contours of a space and is ever-present should be granted the courtesy of its depth.  So today I pay a little homage to the glitz and glamour, the rough hune wood, the prickly grass cloth, the powdery velvet of stone, a tactile individual’s delight.

Finding your glamours side

Finding your glamours side

Elsie De Wolfe Said:  “I believe in plenty of optimism and white paint.”

The fabulous Elsie De Wolfe

The fabulous Elsie De Wolfe

An interior designer, actress and writer among her many talents, she was certainly entitled to her opinion.  Me, I believe in a healthy skepticism, and gray paint, but now and again a color captivates my imagination and pleads to be placed against a stark white so it can be truly appreciated.  This beautiful green, the gold surfaces, the pureness of stone and glass – this is just such a case, Elsie was right.  She also said “Be pretty if you can, be witty if you must, be gracious if it kills you”, and really ….. who could argue with that?

Summer . Sand , and The Surf Shack

My sister Jo-Jo has always been fond of naming places.  Places that live only in her imagination (Shangri la. Come to think of it, I believe she appropriated a third floor getaway in one of our houses), naming things gives it a proprietary air, warding off others that might consider its use, and places that she doggedly brings to reality.  We won’t discuss the decades commitment that allowed The Surf Shack to become a reality, but suffice it to say, it’s a well deserved retreat.

Surf Shack Before and After

Surf Shack Before and After

The Shack began it’s life as a barn.  My father, having built it or built on to it back in the ’80’s (barns being a long time obsession), he warmed to Joanne’s vision of a guest house – for her, of course – to visit on weekends quietly away from any hub-bub in what she affectionately refers to as “The Manse”. The Manse being the main house – home to my father’s law practice for over 30 years.  The Manse is “rustic” – The Surf Shack is not.  It took form as a collaboration – program dictated most definitely by Joanne, design by my father, and interiors carried out by yours truly with a strict budget, and guidelines, with last right of refusal by Jo-Jo, of course.

The primary adjective used to describe what she was looking for was “California”.  Clean, white, modern is what I set out to deliver.  I am a fan of navy blue and orange – she is not, We settled on accent colors of aqua and yellow, and despite my concern that it would be austere, it is one of my favorite places to be.



Breathe easy. It’s the perfect way to kick off summer.

Treasure Hunt

I think my love of a prized find can be traced all the way back to childhood escapes to Boston, which among our many stops always included Filene’s Basement.

The one and only - Filene's Basement

The one and only – Filene’s Basement

The end all be all of a bargain, the couture find for $25. There are few things as gratifying. I mourn the loss the Downtown Filene’s Basement.  It is now home to Havas – Arnold Worldwide.  It was bound to have a new life, and they did pay homage to it by naming the conference rooms after the varied departments:  Hosiery, Dungarees, Housewares, etc.  I’m fond of the old names but that’s not where the real action took place – anything worth mentioning, anything worth remembering – happened in the basement! Lord and Taylor was one of the stops on our circuit. Back in the day they had a restaurant –

The Birdcage - designed by Raymond Lowey

The Birdcage – designed by Raymond Lowey

The Birdcage, where we fortified ourselves for our next six or so hours of shopping.  Poor Jo-Jo, my baby sister, hated the Birdcage, but I rather admired the chirping that filled the air and the delicate birdcage painting that adorned the walls.  The entire experience was steeped with anticipation and illicit as all get out.  I call it an escape because shopping to my mother was an experience both revered and respected.  We were taken out of school for these adventurers, and told under no circumstances were we to share them with our Father.  It was our secret, and admittedly a habit carried into adulthood – nothing is ever new (a brief confirmation that you looked fabulous in the dressing room made the item old of course).  That’s an issue – I mean, a story for another time.  The delight I find in a bargain often supersedes my most high-brow purchases.  While I appreciate the artistry, they lack the magic of something discovered, re-purposed, given new life with imagination and a loving hand.

An Estate Sale, a Flea Market, a Yard Sale all offer the possibility of something magic among the tattered and worn, broken and almost forgotten.  I spotted an estate sale on my way to yoga this morning.  As the car whizzed past, I spotted a pink commode and instantly imagined it in black lacquer with gold hardware – divine, but yoga awaited, and I get so little time to take care of my personal well-being so the commode had to wait.  Regrettably, when I returned it had been purchased.  I considered it in a beautiful gray – matte finish, marble top, gold hardware.  The second iteration was just to torture myself.  As it turned out – all the items I wanted at the sale were taken by one of the Cape’s best – Helen Baker, of Helen Baker Interiors with whom I collaborated on The Surf Shack.  Helen is a peach, and clearly has a great eye as she snapped up all the pieces I would have purchased for myself. No hard feelings, she’ll give them the attention they deserve and they will land in some deserving person’s home.

I made the acquaintance of

Ed Tessier, MV Auctions and me (after hot yoga!)

Ed Tessier, MV Auctions and me (after hot yoga!)

Ed Tessier of MV Auctions and the man responsible for the Estate Sale.  He too has a good eye, and a great job.  His prices, however, could not be considered bargain basement.  Still there were several additional items that Helen hadn’t purchased that I gave consideration too – The marble Buda, the Day at the Beach Oil Painting,

Seaside Oil

Seaside Oil

but at $350. and $1200. respectively, I reminded myself that I was still in the hunt for a house, and passed.

My real bargain came in a place that by all rights should have a bargain – The Wellfleet Flea Market.  A beautiful brass. horsehead hangar of sorts – origin not exactly certain.  I know this, I have seen it sold before I could get it – as a coat rack.  I fell in love with it and was heart-broken to learn that it was one of a kind or at least they only had one available, and there it was, amidst all the tee-shirts, and photos, records and fishing reels, on a table with oodles of costume jewelery.  They wanted $28.  I paid $15., and I will have it fitted with a brass rod and hangers so that after a long hiatus in storage – my coats can be proudly displayed.

Brass Horse Coat HangerThe clouds parted when I saw that brass beauty on the table – what fun.  I owe a special thanks to my new, and wonderful friend Caroline Hughes-Wilder for alerting me to the market, for her love of a good find, and for her unique style!

Happy Fourth.