Authentically Venetian

Having just visited Venice and fallen under its spell, I am not quite ready to move on from this new love.  It’s a magical place, and like any new love it feels steeped in possibility.  As I embark on my next project, I want to incorporate a little of that magic into my new space.  Because as I have said before, magic makes the world go round, or is it love?  I better throw in a little of both for good measure.


I am fascinated by the quality of Venetian Plaster, and not at all fascinated by brick walls.  To be clear, I don’t dislike them altogether.  It’s just that they don’t feel right for a city apartment, inhabited by a gal, with a style that leans toward modern glamour.  Now if we are talking about brick in the home of a ruggedly handsome man or in the Tuscan hills – I”m totally in support of it.

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I think you know where I am going with this.  That brick “accent” wall in the living room of No.4 will be politely asked to fade into the background.  At Milford Street I was assaulted by three floors of brick wall.  It was too expensive for me to board it, so I had to settle for painting it.  If I was the Imelda Marcos of one bedroom condos as my boss so sweetly suggested – I totally am not – I would have hired a master craftsman and had every square meter of that brick lavishly covered in Venetian Plaster.


This age old technique, which can be traced back nearly 9500 years, and long before Venice was founded, is achieved by combining slaked lime putty, marble dust and/or quartz.  There are variations on this of course, but this particular recipe is special in that over time the plaster finish will return to its authentic state, which is lime and marble.  Those are both stone in case you were wondering.  It’s incredibly durable, holds its color, performs wonderfully in wet climates, and won’t allow mold to settle on it.  No wonder the Venetian’s like it so much.


Well I like it too.  It can be brought up to a high shine through increased compression as the material dries.  This is the particular finish I am attracted to, though it can be finished in a matte or a rustic style.  I have even seen it finished to look like clouds of meringue in a little clothing boutique in my neighborhood called Viola Lovely.  Lisa Cancelli Picard’s eye for fashion extends to interior design.  When you visit her shop at 1409 Washington Street . Boston . South End, be sure to make note of the amazing Mid-Century Modern Chandelier she curated for the build-out, and go ahead and touch the walls.  They are delicious.


While I love the idea of a pigmented finish, I am planning on using white with hints of cream, and gilt like the finish seen above.  Absolutely neutral, no?


Toeing the Line

My life feels very much like a race.  I am perpetually poised at the starting line waiting for the gun to go off.  A tingle of anticipation running up my spine as I wait to make my mark on the world.  I think it goes without saying that I have a lot of false starts.  A good deal of anticipation, a smattering of anxiety.  You’ve run a race before no?  You understand what it feels like.


Keep the brick or plaster the wall?

Last weekend I was lamenting the lack of distressed properties on the market.  This is fall. Where is all the low hanging fruit, the bruised apples, the rotten pumpkins that need me to convert them into a deliciously irresistible apple crisp or pumpkin pie?  Could be autumn and all those fallen apples are in the suburbs because I wasn’t finding them in the South End.


Breakfast bars – no . no.

Last Sunday, as I contemplated my ruined left toe outside my yoga studio, I made a mental note of all the errands I had to race to get done.  Though I couldn’t really spare the time, I just knew that toe would make me crazy all week, so off I went to the salon via Hanson Street.  Low and behold I came across an open house.  A property that I knew was on the market but that I had determined was not in need of my special attention, but I was right there, and it was in fact open at that exact moment.  So in I went.  I typically spend about 7 – 15 minutes in the units.  Ask the usual questions that don’t tell you a thing about whether or not you should buy the property.  Any planned assessments?  How many units in the building?  Percentage of owner occupancy?  Last time the roof was replaced?  You know, show some interest.  I signed in, grabbed the listing sheet, looked for a floor plan, evaluated my ability to convert to a two bed, asked the deadline for offers and departed.  A seven minute adventure.

Because I am incredibly impatient, I put in an offer, and low and behold I won it!  If you’ve been paying attention you know that it was my first for property four.  Just the fifth property I visited this round.  I never expected to have them pick me and to be clear, it’s really expensive.  Over $1000. a foot, over $700K  both things I said I wouldn’t do.  Hum, it will be interesting to see how this plays out.  I am excited about the design.  I credit my left toe with the win.  Now the real race begins.


Would like to change it all, but…money is an object.



Pappelina: Plastic Rugs

STOP RIGHT THERE.  I know what you’re thinking – plastic – how gauche.  If you think there is no place for a plastic rug in your life, these Swedish beauties are sure to change your mind, and I plan to help that process along.

Pappelina . a mash up of the words; paper, linen, and Lina (Rickardsson) the designer and founder of these unusually thick, soft, rugs.  Pappelina, the name just rolls off the tongue. I like saying it several times in a row.  Some words are like that.   I can imagine the rugs rolling down the hall, in that lonely space between the kitchen sink and the island, in your mud room, on the patio, just outside the splish, splash, bath.  Practical, sure.  Pretty, a mon avis, oui.

The use of roughly twice as many plastic ribbons to fabricate the carpets, along with a technique called Jacquard, which allows for free form patterns, helped contribute to the explosion in sales.  While the BOB – a standard striped pattern remains a top seller, the VERA which uses the Jacquard technique gives it a run for its money.


Rex . Pappelina Plastic Rug.

It naturally lends itself to coastal locales as water, sand, and at times what seems like the entire outdoors, finds its way in.  I would argue though that the beautiful patterns, colors, and durability should not be overlooked for a city apartment, a ski chalet, or a cabin in the woods.

Svea - Pappelina

Svea . Pappeln Plastic Rug.

They are eco-friendly – made of Swedish Plastic Foil.  The plastic ribbons are new PVC, not recycled so they contain no harmful metals, or softeners, and maintain color and durability.  They are easy to care for, and I know that many will argue their Oriental Rug needs no care at all, hides the dirt, and spills, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  Pappelina rugs can be tossed in the wash – you heard me – throw them in the washing machine, and then let them air dry.  Try that with your Oriental, and let’s not forget they are super high maintenance when it comes to storage.  They like to be hung, not rolled, a major inconvenience for those of us that don’t have a rug barn on our property.


Will . Pappelina Plastic Rug.

Pappelina – there I go again – saying it.  It feels as good as taking off my 5″ pumps at the end of a long day and walking up and down my own private runway – I mean runner.


Koi . Pappelina Plastic Rug.

Locally they can be purchased at:  C’est la Vie, Marblehead, MA, Colony Rug Co., Hanover, MA or Isabel Harvey, Wellesley, MA – for additional information and stores near you –


Distressed: We’re not talking wood.

Where are all the gently worn, the thinly veiled attempts at an upgrade, the total guts?  I want the distressed, and frankly it’s stressing me out that most everything that has come on the market has been recently renovated.  The prices reflect it.  For that matter, even the properties that clearly have been used and abused, don’t believe they are any less valuable than those that went to the effort.  $1000. a foot seems to be the South End base line.  What a jip.  The question is …. will it hold?


Happy Holidays – Red and Green….

Since I don’t have the answer, I wait.  There was one property that needed a kitchen and bath gut – legit too, not a Jackie doesn’t like it, so it absolutely must go.  It had a p-lam countertop.  So eighties.  It would have to go, and the walls painted in ruby red and forrest green.  Oh no.  On the plus side it had high ceilings and was a two bed.  While it’s on the market for $951K a foot, it won’t go for that – it will break a thousand.


Dated but the brightest of the rooms.

In my opinion there are major drawbacks to the property.  There is no outdoor space,  no parking, it’s in a converted Fire Station and part of a two building 30 unit association – it looks institutional in the common areas, and the unit itself lacks natural light.  Light is a non-negotiable for me.  It lifts your mood, even when your mood is intent on being dark.  No light – no offer.

Great location – no question it will sell this weekend, but not to me.  I don’t HAVE to feel excited to make money on a property, but I WANT to feel excited about it.  I think it nets a better design, more money, and enhances my enjoyment living in the space.  Will I be able to hold out for true love.  Keep checking in, keep me honest, I promise to tell the truth.

Wanting it in the “Wearst” Way

A mon avis, Kelly Wearstler is an obsession worth having.  She is Modern Glamour  – and if you love design, and don’t have her book that shares this title, move your little fingers as fast as they’ll go to Amazon, and buy-it.  You’ve got 1-Click purchase power don’t you?


Kelly Wearstler . Cleo Chandelier $2100. 14 – 16 week lead time.

She’s a fashionista, an Interior Designer, a Mom, a Surfer, a textile, furniture, linen’s, object d’art, and lighting designer.  How she manages to look so serine in her photographs when clearly she is buzzing with energy and inspiration, is a mystery to me.  Her world is seen in bold accent colors, and through the lens of geometric shapes.


Defying Gravity . Kelly Wearstler’s        Souffle Chair . $7900.

The objects she populates her spaces with, for the most part, convey solidity and presence,  and demand attention.  Now and again she throws in something a little softer, like the Souffle Chair in its buttery pleated leather.  It’s tiny legs supporting its dumpling of a body like a baby giraffe, defying gravity.

I first made the acquaintance of Wearstler’s aesthetic prowess at Bergdorf Goodman’s BG Restaurant on Central Park in NYC.  It served as the inspiration for my first project, though all her beautiful diamond and molding adorned walls, which were to blanket my tiny 500SF in their loveliness, were value engineered out of my project.  Two little doors, with their high relief diamonds, moldings, and ornate paint job, were all that I could squeak into my budget.  When I left, those where the only thing I regretted leaving behind.


Kelly Wearstler . Cleo Pendant . Antique Brass . $840.  14 – 16 week lead.

Her recent foray into lighting design has me glowing with excitement.  Several of the pieces, for which I had an unhealthy obsession, she most certainly drew inspiration from the collection of Jean De Merry.  A lighting and furniture design house rooted in French Artisanal Craftsmanship, who found their way to LA.  They brought their own bright lights with them, and Kelly used their flush mount sea urchin brilliance, and mermaid scones in the BG project.  You’ll note a striking resemblance to her Strada Large Flush Mount fixture, and to her Strada Chandeliers.  I wanted that Flush Mount Sea Urchin in Charlestown – two actually.  One for the living room and one for the bedroom, so badly I would dream about it.  Sadly, the living room got an Expo Close-out Chandelier, which looked pretty good and ran me $400., and the bedroom got stuck with a Home Depot $8. flush mount fixture.  So, all in all, I saved $9,502. on that lighting, but I’ll never forget what could have been, if only money were no object.


Kelly Wearstler . Strada Large Flush Mount . Aged Iron . $1260. 2 – 6 week lead.

Wanting it in the “Wearst Way” just got a little easier with K’s new line.  The prices are far more accessible than those of Jean De Merry.  This surprised and delighted me, as that Souffle Chair, which I also dream about regularly, is $7900.  OUT of my budget, and unless I win the lottery, or Kelly decides to take pity on me and gift me a floor model, I will not be getting that billowy meringue delight any time soon.


Kelly Wearstler . Utopia 5 Arm Chandelier . Gild . $1671. 14 – 16 week lead.

Note that the lead times for these fixtures is long – 14 to 16 weeks, which is 4 months to you and me!  I know all about waiting.  That’s just what I will be doing as I continue my search.  Waiting.  The property that I had set my intention on purchasing turns out to be located next to a BRA (that’s Boston Redevelopment Authority) transitional home for homeless men.  No, no, et non – not for me.  Too hard to sell down the road.  That Cleo would have been divine in the bedroom.  Alas, the search continues.

Make Me Blush

Go ahead, make me.  I’ve had a fondness for pink for ages.  Long before this most recent obsession that has everyone from restaurants to upscale homes crushing on this pretty pastel.  I painted my bedroom pink in my second property and loved how it made me feel. The soft complimentary light, the calming effect it has after a dusty day that tried its darnedest to make you into a dull girl.  It brings a little rose to the cheek.  It makes your lips curl up just a bit at the edge.  Men don’t have to admit to liking it, but I know many do.


Sketch . London – 2 of those chairs arriving today in pale cream!

Today, my beyond fabulous painting that I purchased from Blue Print Store in Dallas will arrive here in Boston after its stopover in New Orleans.  Don’t ask, I just request they tell me when to be there to receive it.


Blue Print Store . Dallas . TX – Stephanie Shank Artist



Runway . Right way.

Kid Gloves will be knocking on the door between 2 – 5pm and guess what colors they will be delivering?  Pink, and blue, and mint, and peach, and red, and black, and my steady and enduring lovely…gray.  This painting will be the centerpiece of my next project.  Tink (that’s my sister) told me in no uncertain terms I wasn’t to buy any new furniture for this one…I crossed my fingers when I promised I wouldn’t.  Really, aside from me going broke and having to live with her when I am old and gray, what could she possibly have in which to object?  She is the happy recipient of many of my cast offs.  The Surf Shack has my beautiful apple green lamps from One King’s Lane adorning the matching Bungalow 5 white dressers, and complimenting the organdy tray ceiling accent color and Designer’s Guild striped curtains.  Come to think of it my little Omph slipper chair from Charlestown is in that bedroom too.  I’ve been thinking about re-upholstering my 6 month old day bed from Restoration Hardware and making it a centerpiece of her living room – another project I am working on for her now.  I digress.

Saltie Girl . Back Bay . Boston – @christiano336

Back to the super hot topic of this really warm color.  Pink.  Is it dangerous to paint a living room in this hue.  I’ve been dying to…do just that.  I saw a sweet little property yesterday that I allowed my imagination to go wild with a redesign.  A good sign that I have a fondness for the place.  It’s been well loved over the years (read:  super warn and in need of some TLC).  Until I find a boyfriend, I have plenty to spare, and want to put it to good use.  An offer will go in.


Featured in Domino Mag – back in the day.

Seems like I am doing a lot of finger crossing these days.  If it chooses me, I just may have to engage in a “Blush with Danger”.  Would you do it?  Paint a living room pink?  Would you object if I did?  Please do tell.

Gaming Your Garage: making the most of small spaces

My gorgeously talented friend Lisa Donovan doesn’t just lend her voice to the Kiss 108 Matty in the Morning trio, as she replaces your early morning commute scowl with a hint of a smile.  It’s impossible not to find her laughter enticingly contagious. The clever wit, strong opinions – sometimes most clearly communicated when she draws out a single utterance “ohhhhhhh” – and generous heart of her on-air personality are all evident in another, perhaps less well known, passion she and I share for design.

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Converted garage exterior

I first met Lisa when she lived in the South End on Harrison Avenue.  Her industrial loft space was beyond fabulous.  I’ve dubbed her style coastal chic, forgive me Lisa if this isn’t at all how you see  yourself!  From the South End to Hingham, Hingham to Milton, and most recently Centerville, I have watched Lisa renovate, and gently manipulate homes with an amazing consistency in her delivery.

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Original plywood structure and Ship Lap – in happy harmony.

As a Cape Codder, I warmed to her aesthetic immediately.  She would have made an excellent Project Manager.  She sets a budget, she gathers the trades, she makes compromises that leave one asking why she would have done it any other way.  I admire this skill in particular.  What to reuse, what to replace, where to skim coat, and perhaps most importantly how to ensure the new and old compliment one another, rather than showcase deficiencies.  I say that I admire this skill, and I do, but there’s more.  Her spaces always feel like a fresh ocean breeze has swept through them and they’ve been awaiting your arrival.  Corny right?  It is, but the feeling you get when you are in them is just plain good.

This most recent reno included the conversion of a garage and adjacent screened in porch. As a summer get away, the garage wasn’t super important for storing the car, and I bet you all have known a home or two, whose garages stored a whole lot more than intended.  Quel domage, what a mess.  Lisa solved this dilemma by converting said garage into a game room.  We are currently awaiting the arrival of the ping-pong table, but it will come.  Garage doors replaced with blacked framed French doors that open wide to the interior of the space, screen doors installed on the exterior to keep the bugs out at night, are the projects biggest investment.  The pitched roof, exposed frame plywood, 2 x 4 ceiling remains in tact as does the concrete floor, both painted – the ceilings and walls in white, and the floor in grey.  If you know me at all, you know this is where my color heart lives.  A final addition of Ship Lap Siding to the front and back walls gives it just enough polish to convey the intention.  Let the games begin.


The Manse: underway

a trench

The uncoupling begins.

The first part of this long phased project on the Cape is the conscious uncoupling of the Main House, known affectionately as The Manse, from the Surf Shack.  These lovelies are daisy-chained together.  This separation is most certainly going to be messier than Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin’s “uncoupling”.  It requires permits, followed by work orders, there are holidays involved, oh and don’t forget weather. When you gaze in wide-eyed awe at The Coliseum, The Pyramids, Notre Dame, know this, not the Egyptians, the Romans, or the French of those centuries had to deal with one ribbon of the bureaucratic red tape that we are now buried in.


So starts the process referred to by me as, “hurry up and wait”.  One mustn’t get too frustrated with the waiting.  There is always something to do.  This project will be a design/build undertaking, so we will in fact be designing down to the last moment the hammer head hits the first nail.  Oh let’s be honest, we’ll continue to design after that.  What fun would it be if we didn’t have to rip something out that didn’t look quite right once we saw it in place?

a plan

Proposed Plan No. 103

To my mind, a major victory has already been won.  The addition off the back of The Manse is going to happen after all.  It’s the right thing to do.  It will enlarge the second downstairs bedroom, allow for French Sliders that look out onto the backyard, and eliminate all that awkward knee bumping that makes one look disdainfully upon a room before preparing themselves for entry.  Solved.

a living room

Co-location . Site Office.

Next I would like to give one more gentle nudge to a full open kitchen, dining/living room that runs the expanse of the West side of the house.  It really would be a beautiful room, but what I want to do is super expensive.  It requires the removal and reconstruction of the fireplace, and I am certain the structural reinforcement of the passageway between what is currently two rooms, once the wall is removed.  I say this not from my vast experience as a Structural Engineer, I am not, but rather from my understanding of old building’s and new building codes, regulations, and requirements.  I feel certain a steel beam will be mandated.

Mother Nature always gets her way, and hidden history revealed.

If we stay with the current scheme which has an open kitchen, and dining room, followed by a distinct living room, I will make the dining room more like a living room than a a formal space to eat.  There will be sofa’s and seating, side tables, and banquets, all happily co-existing in the same space.  This is the room that will always be populated with people. They will come to watch me cook, work on their computer, read the newspaper, watch tv, chat, listen to music.  Don’t feel bad for the living room.  It will get used too.  I’ll make it really comfortable and attractive and put an enormous television in there, in true American fashion.  People will come.

I have a bit of time to develop the overall scheme for the decor.  I’ll start with the living/dining room and then jump to the powder room.  What fun.