Design Discovery: On a hunt for talent and treasure.

One of the great things about travel – even if it’s only a weekend getaway, is the discovery of new things, people, and decor stores.  You weren’t going to say that last bit, were you?  Well, that’s what makes me – me, and you – you.  I can be engrossed in a project, intent on relaxing or working out, and the mere hint of an excursion to a new design shop has me donning my Dolce’s, and grabbing my bag, faster than you can say hot farmer.

While I can’t say whether or not the co-owner ever did any farming, he was most definitely hot – sadly I think Joel is married.  You should visit anyway.  The property they purchased is rustic, the vintage outdoor stools, chairs, benches, and re-purposed objects for planting are made hip and inventive with a bucket of paint and a little creativity.  The prices make Home Goods look like the 8th Floor of Bergdorf Goodman they are so good.  No one need leave empty handed when a cute table, fit for the entry of any brownstone parlor will run you the cost of lunch at Abe and Louie’s, with a glass of wine, naturally.  Who couldn’t forgo a lunch or two?

Situated on Route 5 at the Junction of Route 91, Exit 5 in Westminster, VT.  The Cottage by the Brook has a tiny main house, a leanto, and a shed, all cleverly furnished with found objects, beautifully staged – one need not bring too much imagination.  They are supplying it aplenty.

Cottage 1.jpg

$65.00 an unspeakable bargain!

If you fear this simply won’t work for your city home, think again.  There are few things as inauthentic as a home that was shopped from a catalog, that possesses none of the character that comes from collecting things over time.  Stories, whether real or imagined, they are the stuff of life.  Now least you think I have fabricated it all – make a visit, check out hot farmer, buy local.

The Original Tiny: lives large.

Nantucket has such depth – I fear that many that visit today have little idea of the magic of its beginnings – and of its staying power.  Known by the settlers as “Nantocket” meaning “At the Land far out at Sea”, Nantucket was thought of as little more than a sandbar.  Founded in 1676, Sconset – short for Siasconset is the last original settlement on the island.  The Indians came before the “New Englanders”, and lived in Wigwams – Archeologists unearthed evidence that these tiny homesteads existed.

The wigwam

A Tiny Dome . The Wigwam

Once on island, the New Englanders discovered the profitability of the Whaling trade.  Early construction of Whaling Stations, a barracks for 6 men housed the crew when ashore (a tiny house).  Year round residents lived in abodes fashioned by the influence of Georgian Style homes, which became the quintessential cottages of Sconset, and housed many a retired Whaling Captain.  Coveted for their simple shingle exteriors, the gardens, accented by wild roses, and ocean views.  The artist community thrives there today, which is no surprise as the seaside location, the abundance of natural light, and the gardens that are adjacent to most of the cottages offer an ideal setting for a Painter.

sconset 7

Tiny – the island certainly contains much more than tiny today.  Mansions dot every beachfront patch of sand….but tiny attracts a certain type.  Those that don’t demand distraction, those that can sit in a moment, capture a sunset for future reflection, read a book in a nook, lay their head down on a pillow in a hanging bed, and feel grateful for the roof over their head.  There’s community in tiny living.  There’s connectedness – to nature, to one’s space.  It’s special and comforting, and I am fascinated by it.

I love the apartment I live in now.  I am wowed by the number of pathways I find to circulate from bedroom to kitchen, kitchen to bath, bath to living room, living room to bedroom and I can’t forget the deck.  At just 800 square feet this space feels enormous to me.  An acquaintance visited and said – “so it’s a studio”.  I chocked on my words, and thought oh…you aren’t my kind of person.  The vastness of this space is too much for me, and YOU find it limiting.  Me I can find and define myself by a small space, and make no mistake…..I am going to built one.

house t.jpg

A version in the works.

The world is a very small place – build tiny and be nice.


Design Mom’s Hanging Bed….

State of Unrest: Renovating the Manse

I think it’s a natural resting place for we Falla’s – one of unrest that is.  No sooner do we finish a project, we start to get nostalgic for the sawdust and excitement that comes from being involved in a major renovation.  If money were no object – we might be in a perpetual state of achieving a construction vision.  Since it is, we are not.

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The Manse circa 1820

As the Surf Shack embarks on its third summer, it has become apparent that the Main House, which my sister Jo-Jo affectionately refers to as the Manse must be renovated. It’s date of origin is a bit fuzzy, but it was constructed somewhere around 1820.  So obvi it’s old.  An addition here, an addition there haven’t detracted from the attractiveness of this little residence which served as my Father’s Law Office for just over 30 years.  The impact of the additions to the interior is a little less sympathetic as the floor plates don’t align requiring you to step up here, or down there, and contributing to the choppiness of the small rooms.  It sits on no foundation at all, which is nearly unheard of today.  It’s windows are sagging and threatening to drop out.  It’s a clear cry for help.  Hang in there old girl, help is on the way.

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The Manse from the rear.


The effort will be a phased one as the cost for salvaging the warm memories that were generated within these walls is, of course, way more expensive than if we raised it, and built new.  I voted for raising it.  I am often accused of lacking any sentimentality – not true.  I can be as sentimental as the next person, but don’t need the physical place to remind me of what once was.  Further I have a keen ability to recognize the impermanence of things.  So very Buddha of me, I say mockingly.  I wish I were that enlightened, alas, I am just very schooled in the art of moving.

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Things I will miss – I am strangely fond of these stairs.


So up the old house will be jacked, a foundation dug and poured, a new heating and air conditioning system installed, all new windows and siding, and then…..who knows.  We will identify a logical place in the construction process to take a pause, and regroup.  I pushed for a small addition off the back but received an emphatic – NO.  I’m going to practice my powers of persuasion and give it another go.

Two Nickles: getting design on a…

I love beautifully designed things, the craftsmanship, the detail, the line, and the shape.  I love it, but sometimes it makes me want to cry.  The price for that level of artistry is steep, and for me, often out of reach.  It can be hard to reconcile.  I  appreciate – sometimes achingly so – don’t judge – the level of skill, and vision that must be imbued into these objects.  Still if you can’t afford it, you can’t support it.

BP skirted chair

Blue Print Store . Dallas . TX note the upholstered chair with trim.

This is where mass production and guilt come into play.  Yes, guilt, I was raised Catholic and can engender a fair amount of guilt over ginormous, and tiny infractions alike.  In this case I’m guilty of buying stuff that was manufactured in all likelihood in China.  I won’t even allow myself to think of child labor, or minimum wage, or the lack thereof.  The quality surely isn’t there.  The trick exists in selecting pieces, in combination, that resemble the hand crafted ones, or those that are small batch manufactured with strict adherence to original specifications.  I have a number of stores that I consider my go to’s for excellent knock-offs for pillows, lamps, side tables, and decorative accents.  Home Goods (obsessed), and I am unashamed to admit – Target.  Nate Burkas has turned out a low cost line for Target that’s pretty brilliant.  It leans more to the rustic, and masculine side than I do, but it’s still great, and I can pull a piece here and there, mix it in with a bunch of girlie and voila – ca marche.  Which means it works of course.

Ballard Larkin

Ballard Design . Larkin Chair . $799. add a little trim..

Another favorite trick of mine is the semi-customization of pieces.  Off the shelf curtains to which you add trim, or an eye catching tie-back can transform.  When I am just dying to have custom curtains in a fabric that would add years to my retirement age, I purchase a small quantity and add a band to the top or bottom of my store bough drape.  You’d be surprised – nobody but you will know that you made any type of compromise.

Berkus 29.99

Nate Berkus for Target . Vases $29.99

Now I am going to try something that I haven’t attempted before.  Fingers crossed.  Upholstered pieces are all the rage, and I love . love . fashion so I have fallen head over skirted slipper chair for them.  I am particularly fond of the bold striped panel that runs top to bottom down the center of a crisp white chair.  My heart literally bangs around in my chest when I lock eyes with such a handsome display.  That I cannot achieve in a semi-custom derivative unless I painted the stripe on, and don’t think I didn’t consider it, because I did.  I can however add a trim to the skirt of a much less expensive chair with beautiful lines.  I’ve selected the Larkin from Ballard Design.  It’s a glider and a swivel, again, all the rage right now, and priced at $799. in a simple white linen fabric is roughly $2200. less than the Blue Print version.  I am going to attempt to apply the trim I have left over from the curtains to the base of the skirt.  You might be asking yourself how in the heck I am going to do this – I’m asking the same thing, but I know it can be done.

White Clouds Garden Stool

Home Goods Side Table . $59.99

Once successfully executed I promise to tell how I pulled it off.  One mustn’t be made to feel bad about things that are out of your reach financially.  Creativity beats the daylights out of cash every day of the week.




Seeing Blue Print

You’ll have to bare with me while I continue to crush hard on this store.  I would say it’s a passing fancy and in a few short weeks some other shiny new thing will catch my eye, and you’ll be spared the relentless chatter, and name dropping that comes with new infatuations.  I would say it, but it would be a bold faced lie, because its true love, and true love can’t be distracted by a well dressed brand. Je t’adore Blue Print!


Crisp upholstered pieces, marble and brass, Oushak Rugs, and sculptural objects define    Blue Print Store . Dallas. Texas

Agree or not, I have decided to attempt to recreate the magic that those BPS Curators and their brilliant Interior Designers from their sister store – Collins Interiors, seem to so effortlessly achieve again, and again.  I realize this takes time, dedication, and loads of practice, but I am tenacious.

Start with some basics – One Kings Lane features all the elements to create your own blue print for a lasting love. Mono Print in Pink $349. by Solcher Marin.  Sofa . Riviera 88″ Skirted $3099.  Coffee Table . Bamboo Plait Glass $329.

OKL orange rug

A great rug is a foundational element of BP Space . OKL Miana Rug, Orange and Violet 8′ x 11′ $1529.

Now BP is very expensive, making the design inaccessible to many.  I think I might be able to achieve a similar aesthetic shopping One Kings Lane finds.  Here they cater to so many different styles, and while all their pieces are not inexpensive, the selection is amazing.  This means if you go in with a budget you are likely to be able to configure many options until you achieve the look you’re after, for your allotted budget.

Accessorizing is terribly important if you are going to make a bid for the BPS essence.  This Nina Raffia Console Table in Indigo – Looks like Bungalow 5 without the B5 price tag at $599.  Mixing contemporary pieces with antique is a hallmark of their style, as is the use of Chinese vases and jars similar to this oversize 5 toe dragon ginger jar – OKL $499.  Finally a throw offers a chance to tie many different colors within a room together, or add a jolt of color to a pastel palette.  OKL – Brahms Mount . Herringbone Throw $243.

Keith Urban might be singing about Blue Not Being Your Color….and as much as I adore him, I have to disagree.  It’s most definitely my color.

Happy Sunday.

The Aculalization of Style

I don’t think my design style has reached its full potential.  Yes it’s a bit creative, a tad spontaneous (often resulting in regret or a fire sale), most decidedly independent, and it – my style that is – definitely comes face to face with real world realities when I spy the price tag on a much coveted item, or go to pay the American Express bill.  ugh.  None-the-less, I feel that it has a long way to go before it will become exactly what it was meant to be.  I’m not worried about it.  I see it taking shape.  I recognize more clearly what I like, and in what strange and magical combinations.  It’s surprising, and intriguing, like it’s telling me something about myself that perhaps I should have known all along.

Blue Print Store. Dallas. YES …. TEXAS

It is always my visits to Blue Print Store in Dallas that reinforce my belief in what my style is to become.  The sophistication of their design eye, their ability to bring together antique chests, modern and vintage upholstered pieces, lucite, and brass, soft linen and wool, emerging and established artists.  They are crafty and pristine.  They are elegant and cool. It begs the question how does this ensemble balance it so beautifully – accent it with a Chinoiserie vase like the proverbial cherry on top of the ice cream sunday?  That part is the mystery.  I’m getting closer – just out of my reach.  Perhaps by number 10 I’ll have arrived.


Never Gaudy . Just gracious. Oushak Runner 8′ x 3′ $1K with lavender, pale blue, and yellow . yum-o!

One of the Artists they feature I have been a fan of since my first visit.  Stephanie Shank paints mesmerizing works that feel quintessentially Blue Print to me.  They are what makes the pillows pop, give the furnishings pizazz, and make you forget the walls are only white.  Plain, simple white.  They were featuring twin beauties (I am certain in preparation for an art show to be held there this weekend) that stole my breath.  They also would have cleaned out my account.  I considered just the one on the left, but that still would have left my account dangerously low.  I inquired about the possibility of negotiation.  I was scoffed at – which was a bit of a shock.  I know Dallie is full of ludicrously wealthy folks, but still….I was also told she didn’t accept commissions – she didn’t like to fence in her creativity.  Perhaps its all true, but I am going to reach out to Stephanie anyway and plead my case.  She should at the very least understand the hardship she is imparting over my untimely parting with this Greek God of piece of art.  Amen to things this beautiful.


Parting in Sweet Sorrow. 

The painting stayed behind but I took the pillow.  I had to have something to cry my eyes out onto.  This plan was foiled too – the pillow was too pretty to cry on.

Fingers crossed.  I’ll get one of those paintings yet.  Happy Saturday.





South End Open Studios

I put my money where my mouth was, and got out to support the arts today.  One of my very favorite artists is in the Waltham Studios.  Among my friends and I, we own a dozen John Vinton abstract seascapes.

jv in studio

John Vinton in Studio

Some hail from Maine or Manchester, but I selected one he did in Wellfleet.  It’s awash with color and calms me.  A former Architect, John has a real talent.  A few weeks ago, I attempted to copy one of John’s paintings and reinforced the depth of his genius.  I’m glad I stopped by because we got to talking and he just might be willing to conduct a workshop for me and some of my friends.  Perhaps I’ll be able to wade a little deeper in the tidal pool when he’s through with me.

After a month in Napa he’s begun work on a new series from his inspired visit.  Warm days, rich earth, sunshine, and vineyards.  These works, like a great wine, are sure to inspire.

jv napa

John Vinton . Napa Series – in process.

Another notable artist studio I visited was Mark Bouzane’s.  He wasn’t actually there, but the door was open and the light’s where on so in I went.  I am so happy I did.  He had large scale canvases pinned to the walls – frameless.  They were in fact enormous.  They were a bubble of laughter, splashed in a bouquet of color.  They were happy.


Mark Bouzane . 46 Waltham Street . Studio 303 . Boston email:

I went back to M. Flynn again because some spaces just make you feel good.  I love the pale pink walls, and the crystal chandeliers, the Louis Ghost Chairs and the over-dyed rug at the stores entry.  I can see my canopy bed in the front room, and oh the cocktail parties I’d throw.  Sparkling Rose and French Macaroons.  Of course I’d beg the gals Megan and Moria to let me keep the sign that reads:  Faire la fete.  Make the Party indeed.  They are having an appraisal event on 19 May, so dig through your jewelry box, stop by your Grandmothers, and make an appearance.  Whether you show up with a paper bag full of gems or a velvet sack, it’s not their mode of transport that will determine their value.  Maybe, just maybe, your touting a goldmine.  Bonne Chance.


The Tiny House: Two

Last weekend I came across an article in the Cape Cod Times entitled Tiny Homes May Help Big Problem.  The focus of which was the lack of affordable housing on Nantucket.  A 48 square mile island with a lot of billionaires per square foot.  Hum, a problem for those that live year round, don’t own, and are in a near constant state of house hopping unrest.

Emily Seawall-Butler

Emily Seawall-Butler . constructing her own tiny house on island.

An island with a rich history of tiny artist and whaling cottages, it is now quite common for out-of-towners to snap up million dollar properties, tear them down, and erect even more outrageously expensive properties in their place.  Perhaps they weren’t fond of the paint color in the foyer.  Whatever the reason, it’s created an oceans divide between those that live on the island year round, and those that don’t.


Construction Manager, and island resident, Isaiah Stover submitted a Citizen’s Petition in support of tiny mobile homes in designated residential areas on the island. The petition, which had been rejected at a previous town meeting, passed this spring, and now will go under review by Attorney General Maura Healy.  If approved, it will still face steep opposition and obstacles to becoming a legal reality, including building codes which often require houses to be on a foundation to be considered a permanent residence, and of a certain size – larger than the 8′ x 18′ or 20′ homes.  The tiny house size is dictated, in part, by regulations for vehicular size on highways.  Another significant issue is where these homes will go.  Land is as expensive as housing on the island, so if you don’t know a land owner willing to allow you to squat on their property – you might be out of luck.  Of course, if the tide turns and Stover’s idea takes hold, some wealthy and benevolent land owner may donate or lease land for these tiny mobile homes.

Ack Tiny

Word has it, legal or not, the island is home to quite a few tiny homes on wheels. They are not publicizing their existence, as their existence depends on keeping them secret.  Tucked down winding dirt roads, off the beaten path, islanders are literally building their own American Dream.

Build Small . Live Big . Support Tiny!

The Tiny House

I love the word tiny.  It conjures all manner of cozy, innocent, beloved, cherished, untarnished.  It’s fitting that the tiny house movement is dubbed just that.  There is a simplicity to it all that defies the complications of actually making it happen.  One must, I think, approach it like a small child might – without giving too much consideration to all that could go wrong, to the hurdles that will surely be erected to halt your progress, crush your dream, ensure conformity.

tiny cottages:  Top. Case de Sabine . Denmark. Below Left, Pink Cottage . Middle, CA Cottage. Right, Cottages of Nantucket (available for rent)

Ah conformity – look where that’s gotten us.  1/3 to 1/2 of all our income goes to pay for the home in which we live.  And those homes have grown over the decades while the number of people that live within those “four walls” have decreased.  No one said anything that was adult was going to make very much sense.  15 years of your life – just to pay for the place in which you lay your head.  It’s a “tiny” bit crazy, don’t you think?


UK Tiny on the Sea

I’ve talked a lot about my fascination with small spaces.  My Cape Cod upbringing gave me early exposure to the interior of a boat cabin.  I’ll admit the allure is enhanced by the lapping waves against the hull, the bobbing of the cabin lantern strung from a cord that spans the cozy interior.  A little bit of a pot bellied stove, tea kettle whistling.  Back in the womb.  Totally protected.  Appealing, no?  Well it is to me, and I am certain that it is a significant contributing factor to my sense of ease in small spaces, and my fascination with this movement.


Provincetown . Cape Cod – Christopher Seifert via Flickr

It reminds me a bit of the Prius – a social statement that made trading your Range Rover totally acceptable.  It’s hard to imagine living in a 2600SF home – the average size of a dwelling in the states.  I, like a child desperate to feel loved –  need boundaries I can touch.

Now I have made it clear that I am not a builder, and I am not a designer – though I design my own homes as I attempt to flip-flop my way into retirement.  Still many years away, none-the-less, a dogged pursuit.  BUT – the tiny house movement has captured my attention for reasons beyond my fondness for the petite.  I think I could actually learn to build one.  Now I know that is not where my passion lies, but I know too that understanding how things come together, how they work, and being apart of the process of creation, from a construction standpoint, would be both edifying, and incrediblably gratifying.

Stay tuned as I hatch a plan……

Classy Collaborations: South End’s got community

I admire small business owners, and the boutique.  I appreciate the courage,and creativity it takes to pursue a dream and forgo a cubicle in corporate america.  I love that my neighborhood is dotted with shops that express this creativity.  I spend my weekends wandering in and out of the shops, coffee cup in hand, chatting with the owners, getting inspiration, learning about new designers, and artisans, purchasing a card, or a candlestick, a gift, or a bauble to brighten my day.

On Thursday night I popped into M. Flynn at 40  Waltham Street . South End . Boston. A gem of jewelry store, owned by two smart and stylish gals, Moria and Megan Flynn.  MMThey design, curate, and collaborate with other local artists and designers.  After I adorned myself in dozens of beautiful pieces from every day staples to belle of the ball, jaw dropping statement pieces, I wondered into their newly expanded space and immediately spotted some china plates on display.  In a classic navy and white stripe with a gold edge, it really was no surprise I felt as if they belonged with me.  These dazzlers are the result of a collaboration between talented Interior Designer Erin Gates and Pottery Maker Jill Rosenwald.  Erin didn’t halt her inventiveness there – she went ahead and worked with Megan and Moria to develop a line of jewelry which can be found on display at the store.  You’ll go starry eyed for it.  I know I did.

Rosenwald and Gates – at work collaborating.

I thought the plates looked vaguely familiar.  So I dropped by Hudson at 12 Union Park Street . South End . Boston  Indeed, Jill Goldberg, Hudson’s Owner and talented Interior Designer was the first locally to collaborate on specialty pieces with Jill Rosenwald.  Her vases and bowls, serving trays, and lamps in their bright stripes feel undeniably coastal chic.  They are wonderfully contrasted with a signature gold stripe that reminds one that whether you have sand in your toes, or your toes on display in a stiletto these pieces work.

jr jg collaboration

Rosenwald and Goldberg Collaboration

Now tomorrow the weather is going to be wretched.  The kind of day that might convince one to tuck in at home.  Resist the urge.  Make your way to the South End.  It’s Open Studios from 11am – 6pm.  Just three days all year, to peak into the artists quarters, to see established and emerging artists, to purchase a piece for your home, a friends wedding, and any other milestone event.  Supporting the arts, and local business is not only important for our community, but for the enrichment of our lives.  Unless you believe that on-line shopping feeds your soul and real live social interaction is a thing of the past.

Both Hudson and M. Flynn will be open and ready to receive you.  You’ll be better for the visit.  Happy Hunting!