The Colors of the Adriatic

The varied colors of the sea are as difficult to recreate in a room as it is for a painter to replicate the movement and shadow, the darkness its depth creates, and the pure lightness of the sun’s rays on the crest of a wave.  Perhaps that’s why I find it so mesmerizing.  Or it could be that it’s the land of the beautiful people.  I mean draw droppingly beautiful.  Young, old, and those closer to my age, they are all fit, tall, and open.  It’s startling, it’s hypnotizing, it’s lovely.

Here in Croatia the sea is crystal clear.  The salt content is so high that algae won’t bother to snuggle into the nocks and cronies of the ocean floor.  Sharks won’t carve a path to this locale, and one can float without much effort at all, baking in the sun like a pancake on a griddle.  Careful now, you will sizzle – it’s that hot, but the water is cool.  So much cooler than the Mediterranean, that if you are like me, you’ll be prone to screech upon entry.  Funny, just a few days later, I’ve acclimated.  I’ve always been highly adaptable, but here it really takes no effort at all.  You just relax into it. boat 6

The textures and colors of Hvar and Croatia in general make for an alluring color palette, a tactile sensation.  Between the deep blue of the sea, more aqua along the coastline, the bleached rocky limestone shore and cliffs, with all their jagged edges, and molten curves, curtesy of the sea’s salty air, and the Bora a fierce wind that kicks up when the cold air of the mountains meets the warm air of the sea, the white stone beaches, the dark green of the scrub pines, the sage of the olive trees, and vineyards (Hvar produces some amazing red wine), the lavender fields, and the pale blue of the sky above – it’s beyond.

The Croatian’s say that it is beauty you get bored of, but it’s this kind of breathless beauty that I would be willing to test their theory on.

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Heart of Stone…

If one’s heart turned to stone,  I could only hope it was Croatian Limestone.  Something that might have been sad would instead be incredibly beautiful.  Here in Croatia, limestone is in abundance, from the most laid back island, to those likely to be featured in Life Styles of the Rich and Famous, nary a foot falls without landing on this hard, bleached ivory stone.  Well suited to the seaside climate, the stone’s durability allowed for structures built during the reign of Rome, when their quarries could be found lining the coastal waterfront.

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Bol . Brac . Historic Center . Croatia

Brac – pronounced BRATCH produced the stone that the Town of Split was built with in the 4th Century BC.  The limestone doesn’t just hang around Europe either.  The columns of the Whitehouse in Washington DC are made of Croatian Limestone, and Battery Park in NYC features statues made of it.

Mondavo . Hvar . Croatia

It’s the small stone cottages, and restaurants tucked into the hillside that I find particularly appealing.  It’s elegant, and cozy all at the same time.  It feels historic and modern, clean and dusty.  While I appreciate the polished version, it’s in its honed form for which my heart is aflutter.  I want to hand select my slabs, wrap a pallet, reserve my spot on a cargo ship, and await it’s arrival back in Boston.

I think I will hunt for a condo that needs a kitchen renovation.  Honed countertop, Zebra Wood veneer kitchen cabinets, 4 x 4 honed limestone floor, Venetian Plaster backsplash.  I can see it so clearly in my mind’s eye…can you?

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Love in bloom . Hear Wedding . Banj Les Bains



Venice Anyone?

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Venice is magic.  I know I sound a bit like a broken record with my use of the word magic, but it’s a feeling that should be repeated again and again until the groove is so habitually carved into your existence that it becomes part of you.  Magic will keep you alive, it will inspire you, it will be the twinkle in your eye that keeps you young, no matter how many years the calendar puts on you.

And this city built on the lagoon and its surrounding shoals has it in spades.  I was told that nobody that’s anybody visits Venice in August.  The heat, the scent, the lack of locals who have made their way to other coastal locales, make it de riguer to be anywhere near Venice in this final month of summer.  Well, I received their memo, but this was the time available to me, and I took it.  Rest assured, there are plenty of people that did the same.  The tiny side streets that make up the Big Island were teaming with tourists this morning, and it is not too hot, and the scent in the air is lovely.

After a long travel day that included taxis, both land and water, buses, trains, and two flights I arrived to sunny skies, bustling activity, and found my way to an outrageously (worth every penny) boat taxis to my hotel – The Splendid Venezia.  Bags on board, wind blowing through my hair as we wound our way through the canals, just slipping under the bridges as it was high tide, so Hollywood starlet I nearly swooned.

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The history is evident in the buildings.  Established at exactly noon, or so the story goes, 25 March 421 AD.  I’m always talking about how super old my brownstones are.  The 20th century has nothing on the 15th.  Venice came to be out of necessity.  When Rome fell, it caused a lot of problems for folks, not the least of which was savage barbarians invading, raping and pillaging.  I wouldn’t have wanted to stick around either.  So off they from the mainland seeking refuge from said inconvenience.  The Savage B’s weren’t that good with the sea, and as previously stated Venice isn’t what one would call easily accessible, so they were largely left alone, et voila, so began the rich history of this splendid place.


uHU: There’s a roadshow coming to a neighborhood near you.

That is – if you live in Boston.  Not wanting to be left out of the tiny house movement, and with many insiders and outsiders questioning the definition of Boston’s so called affordable housing, the city’s Housing Innovation Lab is hopping on the bandwagon.  A tiny wagon for sure at just 385SF.  Still, not as tiny as some of the existing stock in the marketplace from way back when before there were zoning boards, and approvals processes that decided, absolutely no one should live in less than 500 squares.  Potato, potato, small living’s great.  Being forced to sit with one’s own thoughts will help you keep it real.

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All Photography – David L. Ryan Globe Staff Photographer

So, can this tiny stand tall against the likes of Tiny Heirloom or Lumbec?  I have an opinion, naturally.  My design would not have to please anyone but me, while Addison Godine of LiveLight, LLC and Tamara Roy, Boston Society of Architects, President, and Principal – Architect and Urban Designer at Stantec, needed to not only appeal, but persuade many to love their design enough to support allowing these micro-maisons to squeeze into neighborhoods around the city.  The roadshow will include stops in East Boston, Roslindale, Dorchester, Roxbury, Allston, Mattapan, and at The Boston Society of Architects.  290 Congress Street . Boston.


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Shelving units help economize on space and budget.

At it’s current price of $75,000. It won’t be for a lot of twenty-somethings.  Emily Seawall Butler, 32 of Nantucket built hers for about $25,000.  a whole lot fewer clams.  Of course she did it herself – I am all too familiar with the cost of labor in Boston, so an uncharge is to be expected.

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Custom furniture can add to the cost.

All in all, I like it.  It’s sunlit interior made possible by sliding glass doors, drop down projection screen for tv viewing, and distinct living, bed, bath, and hallways make the space feel like a home, rather than a room.  The name is very sweet, announcing it’s arrival like a friendly neighbor from the south might.  uHu….anyone home. Much more welcoming than Urban Housing Unit, for which the acronym stands.  With a demand for 53,000 new units in and around Boston by 2030, someone better be answering yes, because honestly I don’t know wherever they will put them all.

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A place to rest your head.



Leaving my mark on “The Block”

There was a time when I really liked the word journey.  I liked the idea of going on a journey, being on a journey, setting out to achieve something.  Then that darn Bachelor and Bachelorette show arrived on the scene, and they went and used that  word “journey” about a bazillion times in every episode.  Now when I hear it I cringe, and some of my brain cells die.  None of you can relate, of course, because I am the only one that would waste precious time watching a mind-numbing reality show that doesn’t actually depict anything realistic at all….right?

block table detail

The truth is though, that I realize that life’s adventures are a journey of sorts.  The happy doesn’t necessarily come at the ending, but is in all the funny mishaps, failures, followed by small successes, perserverance, friendships, and profound discoveries.  Maybe those discoveries are about life, work, people, or yourself.  If you are tuned in, they can be life changing, if you are so focused on the goal, miss it you just might.

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Standard Kitchen with Island – the Block has lots of built-ins so desks and tables aren’t required.

I’m one of those people.  Moving too fast, telling myself if I can just get on the other side of this week, month, year, I’ll be able to take a rest, enjoy, breath.  As I sit ensconced in InkBlock 2, the auspicious name of my new home, I’ve decided to enjoy being here in this experience.  It’s so different from Brownstone living.  It’s an elevator building with a concierge – three actually.  DeShawn, Andrew, and I’m not sure who the weekend watch is patrolled by.  There’s a swimming pool, and corn hole, outdoor gas grills, and flat screen tv’s, loads and loads of social spaces, gyms and yoga rooms.  I’m easing my way in.  I take the stairs so I don’t get overwhelmed, but I have used the pool.  The Lifeguard informed me that I have to sign in, and no swimming in the pool when she’s not there…liability, you know.

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Large Bed with no overhead light.  X-big closet with sliding barn door.

In my unit, I decided not to paint, which I am a little sad about, but the thought of changing it back in just a few short months deterred me from making the effort.  I did however hang curtains, and some pictures, and unpack most of my belongings.  This is my ode to embracing the moment.  Who knows, I’ve warmed immediately to the idea of allowing these people to help me.  They are all so nice, welcoming guests, locking my unit after the cable man departs, letting the handy man in and out, carrying away my packing materials.  I’ve not been good at asking for help before, thinking that in large part people don’t really want to lend a hand, and being on my own, figured I better get used to doing things for myself.  What if I can’t go back?  Ink Block 2 could be responsible for me finding a husband at last.  See what I would have missed if I didn’t enjoy the journey?

Block Bed

A touch of the familiar.  Re-using what I have in new and imaginative ways.

Happy Sunday.

Doo Wop Baby: This architecture will make you dance.

If you think Doo Wop Architecture sounds funny, try the likes of Googie and Populuxe Architecture, as the style is more popularly known on the West Coast.  This mid-century modern movement found its way to Wildwood New Jersey, where bands like the Ink Spots and The Turbans sang music known as Doo Wop.  According to the Wildwood Crest Historical Society, The Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, so named it in the 1990’s.

Meet George Jetson….

It’s fun, fantastical, optimistic, bold, and at times boastful.  It is so new age that it is reminiscent of The Jetsons produced by cartoon studio Hannah-Barbera, and aired for the first time in 1962.  Pluck the hotels, casinos, and apartment complexes out of the clouds and allow them to hover over Newark before their final gentle trajectory into Wildwood – et Voila, you’ve got Doo Wop!

doo wop quarterdeck motel

Quarterdeck Motel . Wildwood NJ

Marked by 5 distinct styles:  Modern Blast-off, Vroom, Tiki/Polynesian, Chinatown Revival, and Phony Colonee these post-war expressions of our countries fascination with the South Pacific, and with Space Travel – thank you John Glenn, are iconic architectural wonders.

Starlux Motel . Wildwood . NJ

Lou Morey and Will Morey are responsible for much of the design and construction of these star studded, plastic palm adorned, sloped roof, curved wall, concoctions of a wild imagination.  Today there is a push to have them designated as historic, and to prevent their destruction by finding sympathetic ways to preserve and adapt the properties, for use as condominiums, diners, dormitories, and the like.

I am rather fond of Mid-Century Architecture and Interior Design, and find the graphic patterns, diamonds and stars to be rather to my liking.

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Splendid: It’s in the details

I love to travel.  Oh I’ve had my fair share of inconveniences, delayed planes, missed ferries, lost luggage.  I remember a time fondly, when I was detained in China, passport taken – presumably for safekeeping, though very little was communicated to us – and left for 24 hours in a hotel room.  I had no visa, so no actual right to be there, but had missed my connecting flight to Vietnam.

A Spendid

Isn’t that coral glorious?

When I did arrive I learned a thing or two about travel.  First, time is perceived in wildly different ways around the world.  Itineraries are loose guidelines and not permitted to get in the way of adventure.  If you were expecting to start your trip in the Northern region of the country and instead you land in Saigon – you’ve been given the gift of seeing things a little differently.  Train only has one track that everyone must share – be kind – be thoughtful – wait your turn. You’re asked to sample the local cuisine and think to yourself…is it a grasshopper, an eel, some indiscernible meat…as long as it didn’t find its way to you via a street vendor – be polite – try it – prepare to be surprised and perhaps also delighted.

Travel is supposed to be at times hugely uncomfortable, a little frightening, and most definitely frustrating.  If we weren’t made to be pushed outside our carefully packaged existence, how would we know for what we’re capable of?  Where would our very best stories come from?

A Splendid bed

A built-in that accommodates a chair…love at first sight.

For me, some of my greatest inspirations came from traveling to foreign lands.  Naturally I find my imagination is sparked by architecture and interiors, but comes too from the color of the water.  The South China Sea so vastly different than the Aegean.  The ruffled leaf on a plant, a spikey fruit, the smooth ballast stones that line a dusty Roman Street.

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Table with a view.

In just 10 days, I’ll be off to experience a whole host of inconveniences, gastronomic wonders, cultural disconnects and humane gestures, humidity so thick you can cut it with a knife, the crisp prickly sensation of Dalmatian salt drying on cool skin, and with absolute certainty – architectural splendors.  First Stop Venezia.

Tucked under the eaves never felt so cozy, the simple molding makes the space special.  Rich purple accents, front and center on the headboard, and peaking out from behind the curtain tie the rooms accent color in beautifully.

Not Even Through the Gate

Monday morning dawned, and I had troubled over the numbers, written a beautifully heartfelt letter about the care in which this woman’s home would be left.  Three decades of her life spent there, I thought it might matter. And perhaps it does.  Her love of the property evident in the care and preservation of the space.  In the end though money is the almighty ruler.

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We phoned the broker to indicate our offer was coming and learned that it would be joined by 8 others.  That’s a lot to compete with.  Eight offers can make you do crazy things.  Eight offers could have made me bid over a $1000. a foot.  Eight offers could have had me feeling buyers remorse.  In these situations, it’s hard not to feel like you’ve lost something.  You can’t win if you don’t even put in a bid, but that feeling that I could have made something of the place lingers.

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I’ll know in good time what it went for.  My guess is over $700,000.  It was listed at $595,000.  Admittedly that price was artificially low to drive a bidding frenzy.  In this market it works, and it is in the interest of the seller.

9 Greenwich 3

So it’s good-bye to 9 Greenwich Street, #3.  This weekend there were no properties that I would consider.  A few in the neighborhood and in the right price range, but the first on E Springfield Street was perfectly appointed, a lovely recent renovation.  The second on Union Park Street Extension was a steal of a deal for a 2 bed, but it was uninspiring.

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I am only embarking on #4.  I still plan on living in the properties, and for all the trials and tribulations that one must go through – and believe me or not – the moving isn’t one of them, it’s the uncertainty of the bidding game, and mortgages in America today that will be my undoing.  Thank goodness I’ve got my duct tape.  That stuff really holds the fluff of my life together.  Here’s to hoping next Wednesday produces a plethora of properties for which I can choose!