Room with a View – Oceanside

The first weekend of summer just wouldn’t feel the same if it wasn’t on the water.  Typically I can be found among the masses fighting the traffic to get to the Cape, but the truth is I can be made ridiculously happy with any body of salt water, and get by in a pinch with fresh.

Boston Yatch Club – Waterbug Race

This weekend I find myself in Marblehead blogging to you from my lounge chair overlooking the harbor, waving to my neighbors the Boston Yatch Club.  I do love sailors, they are a handy bunch, rigging, splicing, tying knots.  I may have mentioned a time or two before that while I am happy to make polite conversation with a man that knows how to make a phone call, the one that wins my heart is the one that knows how do to things, build things, carry heavy things.  I digress.

Lobster Shacks … I could tuck in here for the night.

“Call it unique, picturesque, cussed, distinctive, pixilated, fascinating – that’s Marblehead, a town in love with liberty and rugged individualism, its people and its history, its crooked lanes and irregular houses, its customs and humor defy conformity and dullness.  The irreligious settlers, the adventurous fisherman, the zealous patriots of 1776, and the daring Privateers of 1812, the clipper ship captains, and yesteryear’s fish peddlers, imbued their town with a spirit as rocky as the peninsula itself.” – Opening paragraph of Marblehead – The spirit of ’76 lives here by Pricilla Sawyer Lord and Virginia Clegg Gamage (1972)

Room with a view.

These gals were right about the winding roads, and crooked houses.  The streets make Boston’s one ways look like Washington DC, but getting lost in Old Town will likely end with you finding something out about yourself, and the history of this quaint New England town.

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It’s no surprise that Marblehead is home to so many architects, the buildings – from lobster shacks to mansions are irresistible.  I’d love to get my hands one, strip it down to the studs, and give it a whole new lease on life.  I think I can smell the sawdust, or is it the salt air?  Either way, two of my favorite aromas.

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Happy Summer Sunday to all you salt water babies.

Inking About the Amenities

Boston is booming in case you haven’t heard.  They are adding residential units to the City’s stock like a short order cook turning out pancakes on a busy Saturday morning.  They say we need them, and perhaps THEY are right.  It’s astounding nonetheless.  Micro Units – those teeny, tiny 350 SF rentals that are more like dorm rooms than apartments as the building offers all the social interaction, and third place opportunities that your room and board, I mean bed, cannot.

600 Harrison Avenue

600 Harrison Avenue . New Atlantic Development . Utile Design

In the South End, Harrison Avenue said good bye to the Boston Herald, and hello to Ink Block a two building complex and the focus of this post, Sepia, and a 160 Unit Mixed Use Complex being designed by Utile and developed by New Atlantic Development whose construction will be wrapping up this summer.  Albany Street won’t be outdone is it has The Troy, and The Flower Mart just down the street is going to be flattened like those pancakes and tossed to make way for more….you guessed it, mixed use residential units.

600 Harrison Ave 2

600 Harrison Ave . New Atlantic Development . Utile Design

Having been blessed with an early release – thank you Lisa Wexler for helping us start summer off right – I took the chance to see what all the hype is about. Ink Block is comprised of 4 buildings – 3 of which are cleverly titled InkBlock#1, InkBlock#2, InkBlock#3, and Sepia.  There are 471 units, amenities include; a Whole Foods in Ink #1, an outdoor heated swimming pool – with Life Guard (I’m not kidding), a gym, a yoga studio, conference and meeting rooms available at no additional charge, underground parking, and I am sure much more.


I took a tour of the property with Heather Kavanagh, a young, energetic, and well informed leasing agent.  I suspected it would mostly be young people that lived there as the vibe is urban edgy, but unless they are rich young people, they’ll have to find other accommodations.  I did see a Mom with two kids, and a guy my age – if you think that means I’m telling you my age, you are crazy – so a mix of folks.  Heather reported that the flexible leasing timeframes mean that they get a lot of out of towners on assignment, and she also shared that many moved in while they were having their houses renovated.  Interesting.

ink 1 bed

InkBlock . 1 Bed

The units I saw where quite nice – a good size, a little over 500SF for a studio, and 700 plus SF for a one bed.  They are well appointed with modern design aesthetic, in unit washer and dryer, and AC.  Some units face the pool which are no doubt much quieter than those that face the highway.  Each to their own.

InkBlock Common Areas

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised.  I thINK I give Ink and A.  #InkBlock

Weathered Shingles and Cozy Cottages

That’s signature Cape Cod – more specifically Old Cape Cod.  These little gems, rather like doll houses, were quintessentially the Cape, where one was meant to spend their time on the dunes or seaside, rather than seated on the sofa watching a Real House Wives marathon.

When the rain came down, or night fell, the interior – walls paneled in pine with built in bookshelves, laden with board games and puzzles, beckoned, offering comfort and good old fashioned entertainment.  It’s funny how the walls don’t close in on you when the room is filled with laughter.


Color me….

Yards were meant for entertaining and didn’t require the newest outdoor furniture line release from Restoration Hardware (sorry RH, I love you, you know I do!) to tender an invite, a couple of folding chairs and a card table sufficed.  A holler over the fence, a last minute plan hatched on the beach, a run-in at the grocery resulting in an extra package of hot dogs, another bag of chips, and a few more bottles of wine.  The more the merrier.  Another reason to love these gatherings…they were come as you are.  Off the beach, after a round of golf, having whiled away the hours swinging in the hammock, reading a good book – no worries, you’re perfect.  Just the way you are.

the priory

The Priory circa 1910

While the Cape isn’t know for pastel painted shutters, and flower boxes, I will admit those that have a little pop of color have my heart.  Once those shingles weather, which they are known to do, they need a little happy to soften the grey – in my opinion.

To all the Dad’s this Father’s Day – I hope you found your own uncomplicated hap[py with your family.

Seeing Clearly: Lucite looks good in any setting

Ever have a piece that you loved so much you didn’t want anything else to overshadow your feelings for it?  You want all your guests to only have eyes and admiration for your prized sofa, or work of art.  We can’t have you refusing to furnish your room because of these feelings.  I would NEVER suggest, that for utilitarian purposes alone, one might need a coffee table, a sofa, dining table, chairs and the like….I am a designer – even if my own home(s) are the only places I design.  Some things you should be required to buy just because they are strikingly beautiful, just because the color reminds you of the ocean on a particularly sunny day, just because it made you smile.

lucite lamp

Lucite Baroque Lamp – Lamps Plus $79.99

In the event you aren’t quite convinced, and you haven’t had the practice I have had justifying outrageously priced objets d’art, finding them comfortably snuggled among your other possessions, and responding without hesitation to inquires regarding your new purchase –  “That old thing, I had it tucked in the back of the closet, stored on the Cape, lent to a friend”.  You get the picture, be creative.  Let me be CLEAR – it won’t kill you, and that new little happy might make you just that.

lucite crib 4500.

At $4500. This All Modern Lucite Crib would have to be my permanent bed!

So back to being clear, lucite is a wonderful way to ensure the focus stays on that sofa, or stunning pair of French Bergere’s.  Today you would be surprised by the breadth of items and lines that are made with lucite and lucite accents.  If making decisions is hard for you, this exercise will not be easy.  Narrowing down by price and type will help.  You’ll find loads of side tables, chairs, and coffee tables, and just a few dining tables, and desks.  Lamps, stepping stools, cribs, and more can be found bent, laser cut, pierced and perforated to allow light to pass through.  They can be found mimicking traditional pieces, or their clean lines showcase a decidedly modern aesthetic.

Both of these glamorous pieces won’t be 2nd Act for long.

For anyone building up the courage to debate the “fit” of lucite within traditional settings, let me say, I love a good debate, write away, but I am unlikely to be swayed in my thinking.  Lucite lets things be what they are.  It doesn’t fight for attention, it allows you to see through it, to feel the vastness of the space (even if it’s not vast at all – which you should note is a wonderful designer’s trick), to let someone, or something else be the headliner.  Now that’s one CLASS ACT.  I’d expect nothing else from faux glass.

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It’s called “The Social Climber”  are you surprised it’s price upon request?

Hope your weekend sparkles.

Eye on RE – South End Find

Steal of a deal?  Probably not, with the voraciousness in which properties have been gobbled up in the last few weeks in the South End.  Still, 75 Waltham Street, Unit 2 looks like it has potential.  2 beds in just 615 SF of basement level living, private deck, in need of a refresh.  Money could be made.  Never underestimate the lure of a 2 bed, even if it is in the basement.  Even if the beds are small.  Even if the building does need a little TLC, and that TLC will come out of your pocket.

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75 Waltham Unit 2 Boston . staged for sale…sort of.


Last on the market in November 2003, it sold for $335K.  It will undoubtably go for over asking.  My guess is $45K over ask -it’s listed at $529. which would have it sell at $933. a foot.  That seems about right. No featured pictures of the bath lead me to believe it’s a gut.

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Serviceable Kitchen . With a face lift this could be a “wow”.

The owners will stand to make about $215,300. or $18,721. a year for the 11.5 years they held it.  Not bad, but when you renovate and return to the market you can make a lot more.

Waltham Street is considered a prime location in the South End.  Add to that, the building sits on a corner lot, abutting Ringgold Park, a lovely sunny, kid friendly location.  This is my Sunday Open House pick.  Listed with Thom McGair of Hammond, they will likely do best and final Monday by noon.  Come with your checkbook in hand.

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Happy Hunting.

Single Aint Your Color

I sometimes forget, as a single person, how much negotiation must happen when planning for the design of someone else’s home.  There’s a husband to consult, two small children to consider (no sharp edges, no materials that cannot be cleaned, no delicate lamps that the dogs tail will whack to the ground) hum.  I thought my own internal dialog was noisy – that my love of pale grays, shades of white, and creams required advanced skills in persuasion.  I think it’s evident, these aint gonna be the colors we (my other single minded design friend Tiffany and I) are allowed to use for a young active family, that wants to play, lounge, and generally not have to worry about their every move.

HG Carpet 2

We’ve made some forward progress, and I’ve been asked to “scratch that” and erase this, and tuck our bright color ideas away in a drawer marked – maybe in 12 years.  I giggle to myself because I am sure that there will be several iterations between now and then, but a family room should be supremely comfortable above all other rooms  in the house.  To be comfortable it must suit the personalities of its inhabitants.  I lost sight of that for a moment.  I am so rarely in my own space that some weeks the only rooms I spend time in are the bedroom and the bathroom.  Enough of that honesty – on to what I hope will be a solution.

Last week the decision to purchase one of the Home Goods Rugs was made.  This was a good decision for a number of reasons.  First – the price was unbelievable at $149.  It offers the lightness we were looking for in a dark room, and the Client (that’s our dear friend Melissa) loves it.  These are big wins.  A tiny drawback of this particular carpet, which I point out for your consideration when buying your own, is that the palette is limited.  Its base is cream with a black and gray motif.  This will limit what colors we can introduce into the room.  A rug can be a powerfully unifying element.  The more colors in it, the more you can pull out of it – for solid chairs, for pillows, accent tables – you get the picture.


Trellis curtains – Fabric Kravet – from Charlestown found a new home in Dallas.

I think by selecting a Basketweave Trilby Gray Fabric for the Eton Chair by Ballard Design we’ll allow the neutrals (pale flax sofa, carpet, and chairs) to live in harmony with one another.  I should remind everyone that they must also work with the trellis curtains, which were repurposed from my Charlestown Condo.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you custom curtains are one and done.  We can cut them down, let them out, stitch them together…find a way.  Yes, there is a little work, and creativity involved, but it makes for a better story, oh, and more pride.

Brahms Mount Herringbone Blanket and Jo-Jo Designs Striped Pillows.

We’ll pack a little fruit punch of color here, and there, with varying shades of orange – a favorite shade of the Lee Family.  Maddy can only bark her approval, and Maggie is too young to voice her opinion, but I just know she’ll see it my way.



Timing’s Everything: eye on re

I love looking at real estate, which is a good thing because when you’re flipping, you need to be in tune with the tiniest nuances of the market.  I start big.  What’s happening in China?  The election?  Luxury properties in New York and Miami.  Who’s hiring, who’s laying off?  State Street – Golman. Where are interest rates going.?  As a professional and skilled worrier I can cover a lot of ground.  One might ask what the heck any of that has to do with real estate prices in Boston’s South End.  The answer is of course, perhaps everything…perhaps nothing.  I could talk to you about global unrest and perception impacting the markets.  I could discuss the implications of increased regulation on banking and the end of an era of gross bonuses, corruption, and excess.  I could walk you through my logic regarding luxury properties in other major cities and the trickle down effect to my little neighborhood.  I could, but when even the best and the brightest only get it right a fraction of the time, it seems pointless that I would try.  My worrying is very personal you see.


Boston’s South End

Once I’ve run through global points of concern, I bring it down to a local level.  Plenty to be concerned about here too, but also much to get excited about.  I love stats, and there are some good ones being developed in this spring market.  Last week’s home’s sold in the neighborhood included:

  • 20 sold
  • 8 over $1M
  • 5 over $1000. a foot
  • The highest at $1218.58 a foot (a brownstone)

This is good news.  I bought at over $1000. a foot.  at $1008.75  Very high, very risky.  Now if I planned to hold for a long time, that would decrease the risk, but a flipper can’t be hanging onto properties.  It’s contrary to the objective…which if you’ve forgotten, is to retire some day.

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The Unit in my Building . Staged for Sale

Now none of those properties are on my street, but the unit above mine sold a few weeks ago.  I had the opportunity to visit it before it was cleaned and staged.  Here are the stats:

  • 2 bed (both small)
  • In unit washer and dryer
  • small rear deck
  • marble working wood fireplace
  • lovely architectural detail
  • 815SF
  • Listed at $725,000.
  • Sold at $817,000.
  • $92,000. over asking price.

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This is very good news for me.  This unit, to my estimation needed between $75,000. – $150,000. worth of work.  The kitchen and bath both need to be gutted.  Floors and baseboards need to be replaced, doors and hardware need to be replaced, bedrooms retrofitted with closets, rear deck needs to be replaced, windows in this unit replaced in the front.

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My Unit – Coming Along.

What my unit needs is air conditioning – nothing else.  What it doesn’t have is a second bedroom.  Which is a big selling point – even if the room is undersized, people will pay considerably more for a two bed.  Still, I’m not sure I can resist the frenzy.  It may need to go on the market in the fall.  Timing is everything in this life.

Home is Good

Thank God for Home Goods.  I continue to be amazed by the design quality, the prices, and the knock-offs.  They have them on the shelves before the trend even reaches its peak.  It’s impressive and I am happy to be the beneficiary of the creatives that are in their employ.

HG Flower

Home Goods – $69. Sculptural Elegance on its way to Dallas.

As I work on my friend Melissa’s Dallas Living Room project I thought I’d pop into Home Goods one more time before I make final selections.  As always, I consider the overall budget from which I am working.  Nothing makes me happier than finding a steal of a deal on an item or two, allowing me to splurge on a statement piece.

Both of the above from Home Goods at $69. each.  It’s true!

One might think that all Home Goods carry the same products nation-wide.  As a frequent traveler that has visited Home Goods in multiple states within the same week, and many in-state within the same weekend, I can regrettably report that isn’t the case.  I am still pining for a console table in faux eel skin – the turquoise color and brass fixtures calling my name.  $150. bucks but it wouldn’t fit in my suitcase and a search of three HG’s Stores in my area turned up bupkis and has me convinced that when you see something you like, you’ve got to take it.  The wares are a bit like an elusive unicorn, capturing them requires speed, vision, and leaves no room for indecision.

Carpets from Home Goods $299. and $199. Respectively.  Ca Marche. They work.

A pair of the first lamp featured, which are beyond fab, will be packaged up and shipped west to their destination.  At just $69. each, it’s worth the extra effort, as none of the local HG Stores had them in stock.  A lamp like this could easily run $600. a piece, which makes this bubbly bargain tres excitement, non?

Ballard Designs Valentino and Fine Rug Collection Oushak

We have been in search of a rug that will help tie it all together.  Oushak is our preference but we’ve been resistant to spending more than $3k on one.  With two little ones likely to smear yogurt, and grind Cheerio’s into the delicate fibers, not to mention the wine I am likely to spill when I visit, and the desire to change things up from time to time, this price seems reasonable.  But wait, I found a number of ridiculously inexpensive carpets at HG that would give the overall design feel we are trying to achieve.  With out doubt they aren’t going to win any quality or craftsmanship contests, but at $199. and $299. they will win A prize.  To be fair we are still considering a lovely carpet from Fine Rug at just $1170. and yet another from Ballard Design at $2299. (on sale right now for an additional $20% off) – Valentio Carpet.

OKL Sara Coffee Table

One Kings Lane – Sara Table $659.

Now if I play my cards right I could get a couple of these sublimely pearly side tables – Perla Table Kabibe at $1530. found on, and this lovely OKL Sara 55″ Coffee Table at $659.  It’s starting to feel like a Good Home – or is it a Home Full of Good?  You be the judge.


Perla Table Kabibe $1530.