Relatively Small: small solutions furniture

None of my properties have broken the 1000SF mark.  The largest at 935SF wasn’t the one that felt the biggest and the smallest –  525SF didn’t feel the smallest.  Layout is everything when it comes to the livability of a space.  Natural light and high ceilings also contribute to a feeling of expansiveness even if you don’t have a sunroom off the kitchen or a game room for the kids.

Boston Home Magazine Summer 2011

Pint Sized . 525 SF

At 708 SF property No. 4 feels smaller than I’d like.  The living room is petite and as I have mentioned there is no room for a dining table.  All around, furniture solutions will play a big role in my comfort and overall happiness in the space.  Fortunately I have learned a thing or two about furnishing small spaces, and new clever, creative and well designed solutions for those of us that choose to live small, arrive like welcome house warming gifts to the market all the time.

Tried and true small space hacks include:

Lucite Chairs – they stack, disappear, and can be used in endless ways from desk chairs, to living room seating,  at the dining table, or tucked into a corner of a bedroom.  I also use mine as a stepping stool – it supports up to 300lbs.


Barely there.  The Louis Ghost . Phillip Stark for Kartell

Side Tables – placed side-by-side they eliminate the challenge of a large single coffee table, and can be broken apart and moved around to accommodate a guests cocktail or an Hors D’oeuvres platter.

Kasler Living Room

Suzanne Kasler’s Living Rm. uses upholstered stools and small coffee tables for interest and versatility.

Stools and Poufs – seating in small spaces is always a challenge.  Multi-purpose furniture is a must.  Whether you choose an inexpensive garden stool, upholstered piece or a pouf, whether you display a flower arrangement, a stack of coffee table books,  or rest your weary legs after scurrying around the kitchen preparing cocktails for an impromptu get together, I take seriously the adage – you can never have enough!


Pouf an extra spot for someone to sit.

Some of my favorite new to market finds include a modern take on an old European favorite – The Gossip Chair by Oomph.  Oomph really understands how to design these tiny little petite-fours that they call chairs and have them comfortably accommodate a a 6′ tall, 285lb man.  No small accomplishment.  Having used their Slipper Chairs in two separate applications – both in narrow living room spaces – I can attest to their elegance and functionality.  If you must gossip – do it in this chair.


Oomph . Gossip Chair $3630.

CB2’s Recluse Desk is contemporary cool – hung on a wall, and disguised as an objet d’art. Clever and functional.  Now that’s sexy.


CB2 . Recluse Desk $449.

In my hunt for a dining table solution, my friend recommended a company called Resource Furniture.  Who knew a 17″ console table could expand to a 115″ dining table.  Now that’s brilliant.


Resource Furniture . The Goliath Console . price upon request.

As I prepare for another busy week, I’m hoping for a dash of that inspiration to float my way.  Happy Sunday.

No. 4: Out of the gate

Out of the gate feels daunting.  Before the closing the only thing on the line was money.  Now it’s an entirely different story.  Now I have to put my money where my mouth is and deliver on the design.  There are approvals to be sought, permits to be procured – though the design was complete – let’s face it, it’s never really done.  It’s already gone through it’s first major change, and once we are in the field (also known as the bedroom) more changes will be required to address those quirky unforeseen conditions.


The way it looks tonight….

For those unfamiliar with the terminology it means just that …. we couldn’t have known it was going to be the way we found out it actually was once we started demolition.  Unforeseen conditions are also synonymous with additional costs.  Contingency is just a nice way of saying you are going to run into these types of situations, so you need to put additional funds aside to address them.  Would I sound jaded if I said – you get less for more?

If so, let’s not start this project out that way.  The next few months will require beaucoup de creativity and positivity if we want to get this modest little home to blossom to its full jewel box potential, and WE DO!


Jean-Louis Denoit . Stilnovo Chandelier

Now I just know you are waiting for me to tell you what I decided about the lighting, but I can’t.  I’m stuck.  I want a beautiful Stillovo Vintage fixture the likes of which the French Designer Jean-Louis Denoit has used, but alas I cannot find one that meets my size, price, and aesthetic expectations.  I am frustrated.  I then fell in love with Aerin Lauder’s Cristol Teired Pendant…it hangs down 49″ – I can’t even begin to get into a discussion about ceiling heights required in that mansion to support this fixture.  No wonder they call it a pendant.  The others that I have seen of more modest proportions are leaving me uninspired.  I can myself answering the door at the crack of dawn to let the Electrician in sometime in March now….oy vey, if only I could make a decision today.


Aerin Lauder . Cristol Tiered Pendant $1600.

I’m moving on to the doors for the moment.  They will need to be ordered before Wednesday.  I am going with a Jel-Wend single panel door.  It’s clean and simple, and in keeping with the style of the unit.  I will use hollow core flush front doors – super cheap – for the laundry and boiler closets.  This will allow me to make it appear as if it’s a clean wall.  I’ll run the base board across them to further trick viewers.  While these doors are very inexpensive at less than $30.  a piece, it requires advanced skills to install without a casing, create the 45 degree angle necessary for the base molding to accommodate the door swing, and to install the hidden hinges, but it’s really worth it.  In a corridor to have more than a dozen doors simply won’t do.  The new design streamlines, eliminates, and blurs and obscures this reality.


Jeld-Wen Doors . Single Panel seen here in my Milford Street Apartment.

My own reality will need a little of the same treatment as I work through this.  A shout out to my team:

Alan Duggan – Compass, who let’s me be me with the offers and the sale pricing, and who always has great design ideas.  xo to you Alan.

Sarah Ricciarelli – Ricciarelli and Small, LLP – like my shadow she always has my back.  I am filled with gratitude.  She is sharp as a tack and nothing gets past her.

Tracy Bellavance – Blue Hills Bank – who made getting a mortgage easy…that’s right – you heard me – EASY.  Go ahead – release your contingency.  You’ve got it.



Lights . Camera . Action: procurement matters

How did I get myself in the spotlight so quickly?  There will undoubtedly be delays on this project, and though I hate them, I’d rather they not be associated with me!  The biggest cost of project overruns is….the Client.  That’s you and me folks.  Our inability to make decisions costs us money.  Oy Vey.  And there are dozens and dozens of them to be made.  Though the project might sound simple when it’s all said and done, getting there will be anything but.  How much trouble could putting up one, none structural load bearing wall be?

Option 1 and 2 – Living Room:  Left:  OKL, Slant Cut Chandelier $1,155.  Right:  Kelly Wearstler, Utopia 5 Arm Chandelier $1,671.

Option 3 and 4 – Living Room:  Left:  OKL, Classic Star Arm Chandelier $4,999.  Right:  OKL, Ziti 8 Arm Chandelier $945.

Glad you asked.  It can be a lot trouble.  Let’s start this Sunday off with a bang.  In the end we will need a wing and a prayer to get through the project whole, or “holy” as the case may be.  That one wall will require the relocation of the door to the second bedroom inside the current bathroom entry.  The material on the floor will be impacted.  How would you like to address that?  New hardwood?  Would you like to keep the existing, hollow panel doors or replace?  Hardware?  What about the base?  Replace in kind?  New hardware on the doors, or re-use, and replace in kind?  If new, what, and how long?  And what of the closets that are going to be constructed in the bedrooms?  What material will they be built out of, plywood, MDF, Pine, something else entirely.  Think it doesn’t matter?, wait until it warps and won’t close, until the pine knots make an appearance when the sap seeps through your beautiful paint job.  Speaking of paint … is that how you’ll dress them?  And if beautiful really is on the inside, how will the interior be designed?  Hardware, interior lighting, configuration.  The decisions are overwhelmingly bountiful.

Option 1 and 2 Master Bed. Left:  Calais 34″ $3,139.  Right:  OKL, Lacy Drum $799.

Sometimes it feels like the really big decisions are the easier ones to make.  If the code requires an extension of the fire escape across the back of the building to accommodate the change from one bed to two, if it requires sprinkling both beds – well that will be costly, but the decision will be made.  No choice if I want to pursue that option.  I’ll find out the answer to that, and another really big one…will they allow me to install central air? Please, I am begging.  I can’t go through that again.  I’m considering offering the guy in the Garden Unit a 100 year land lease for the 15 SF I need for my condenser if they won’t allow me to hang it off the back of the building.  Trustees, I am trusting you’ll do right by me.  I promise to do the same by you and the building.

Options for Guest Bed:  Left:  Ro Sham Beaux, Malibu$1,998.  Right Top:  OKL, Pontil 6 Light $379.  Left Bottom:  OKL, Markus Hanging Shade $1,365.

I’ll find out those answers soon enough.  With just five days till close, I’ve got to take action on some of my material buys, or my builder won’t have anything to build.  Long-lead items are a drag.  For those of you less familiar with this terminology, it has to do with inventory, and shipping time frames.  That Kelly Wearstler Chandelier that I have been eyeing for the living room has a 8 – 14 week lead time.  Think it doesn’t matter?  I’ll be answering the door while brushing my teeth at 7am to let the electrician in to do the install he couldn’t do when he was in the unit to rewire in December.  I’ll be navigating around a maze of furniture I relocated the night before to make a path for him to get to the location of the install.  We’ll be just shy of locking down the first month of the new year.  Time… make a decision.  Will you help me?  Which would you choose?



Fabric Softener: knocking down the hard edges in your home

I love crisp lines and modern pieces, but I’ve never warmed to the minimalist aesthetic.  Too much cold and not enough cozy.  Fabric, for me, is the key to having both.  Because I move so much, and windows sizes, and the challenges of floor to ceiling dimensions, and molding to casing dimensions are so unique to the space, I end up getting a lot of custom window treatments.  It is expensive.  I remind everyone that in my quest to flip 10 homes and make a million – a modest nest egg if I am going to live to 100 – creating distinctly different color palettes for each home is part of the fun of it.

Zimman’s . 80 Market Street . Lynn . MA:  Hundreds from which to choose.

Fun is a non-negotiable, because when all is said and done I will have moved roughly 20 times.  I will have lived in properties while they are being renovated more than 10 times (remember some go through multiple phases, separated by years).  Being covered in sawdust and searching for a fork to eat your Chinese Take-out under a tarp covered in sheetrock dust, on your hands and knees, after a long day at the office – is NOT fun.


Bring a power bar.

So you’ll have to indulge my desire to purchase the latest, and often trendiest in designer fabrics.  I do like a bargain so always have a trip to Zimman’s . 80 Market Street . Lynn . MA on my T0-Do List.  They have a dizzying selection from which to choose, and a Sales staff that are knowledgeable and design savvy.  From the low-end to To The Trade Only, if they don’t have it, they can get it.  That means that anything you can find in the Design Center in Boston, can be yours!   They are currently having a FALL SALE Event – 20% off any in-stock fabric (sorry – this doesn’t include anything from the Design Center) with the use of their custom services.  They will upholster pieces (and they will pick up and deliver) and fabricate custom curtains and/or roman shades.  Their service includes deploying an expert to handle measurements and later do the install.  These kinds of one stop shops are hard to find, usually require the use of a designer, and can be costly.  Zimman’s is a great alternative.


Preparing for a new life.

Other tips for economizing include semi-custom curtains.  I do this again and again.  I buy an off the shelf curtain in a versatile neutral, in linen, or silk, and then add a cording or trim in an accent color of my choice.  In the new condo I will re-use my white linen curtains (currently trimmed in a navy and white Samuel & Sons velvet trim) in the living room.  I will strip that off and replace with either tan or pink trim to complement my overall color scheme.


Turkish Linen …. I can’t wait.

Today I got the fabric for my sofa.  Zimman’s will come and collect it next week and make it new to me – all over again.  See, I can have new and OLD, all in one piece – so can you.


Cabin Fever: configuring space

As I prepared to write this post I thought a Northeast winter a good analogy for tight spaces, and it is.  It has a special way of making you feel trapped. Snow piled high in 10 foot drifts, creating tight, single file lanes on sidewalks, blocking sight lines, turning sunshines meager attempts at entry away.  Then I thought, what if you were sitting on a chaise poolside in Brazil.  It’s possible you couldn’t relate to the desperation one feels having been dumped on, again and again.  That seemingly innocent, fluffy white stuff, becomes so evil.  So, if you ARE in Brazil, or Costa Rica, or Bali, imagine instead Hurricane Anna Clara, Tica, or Kirana (ironically this means “ray of light”) have blown their way into your corner of the world, forcing you indoors.  Lights out!


Hanson Street Takes Shape

Now that we are all trapped together, we can really begin to understand the importance of a good layout, no?  Whether you are in 3000 feet or 500, how you choose to place your furniture can have a major impact on your state of mind, and the state of your knees.  Oh, I hate bumping into table corners, and navigating a relay race of objects to get from one side of a room to another.  I just had a semi panic attack as I recalled attempting to make a bed that was wedged up against a wall.  Ugh, frustrating.  That is not the experience I want for me or my guests.


Low Tech Templates help you plan to get it right.

I’m a planner, I plan things.  That’s not to say that I am rigid about it.  I un-plan nearly as much as I plan.  That’s what I refer to as process, or acceptance that most things are entirely out of my control.  A room layout is in my control, the space configuration I am given – out of my control.


For the tech savvy options abound.

There are lots of cool tools for the tech savvy to plan their space. Room Planner, The Make Room, House Plans Helper are a few that exist, though I cannot vouch for any of them.  I prefer a manual approach and use templates – in this case – I made my own because I wanted the exact dimensions of the furniture I plan to use in No. 4.  Low tech templates exist too, and many designers will begin their process with a roll of trace paper, and a marker.  I like to be able to pick up my sofa and coffee table, and move them around.  That’s were some of my very best ideas are generated.


Just like mine.  A two bed with dining and living room.  Table stowed when not in use.

Last night, as I shuffled the coffee and side tables about I discovered an essential truth.  It will not all fit in.  The living space, which is open to the kitchen, and must serve as a dining space too, has no room at all for a dining table.  Now that’s not a problem for me per se, but while I don’t bother to cook for myself, I am an excellent cook, and enjoy entertaining.  And what of the others that will come after me?  Won’t they want a place to eat that isn’t the coffee table?  I suspect yes, so I channeled L. Francis Herreshoff and The Common Sense of Yatch Design, and asked myself how he would solve this challenge in the cabin of a boat.  I think I have come up with a clever plan.  It will require the custom construction of a panel that will get fastened to he back of the kitchen wall facing the living room.  Like an old style card table, the legs will fold up to allow the “table” to be stored flat against the wall, and to make a magical appearance for dinner parties.  Yes, furnishings will need to be moved to accommodate this, but it will work.

Boat design is so perfectly resourceful.  Thank you L. Francis.

Fall in Line with Fashion

The Gates have opened even wider with Elements of Style, Erin Gates new product line entitled:  Elements.  Whoever said “success begets success” was referencing just these types of phenomenon.  Blog, booming design business, book(s) – a second is underway, jewelry line, pottery line, and now full blown product lines which can be found on Wayfair and All Modern.


Erin Gates brings Elements of Affordable Style to your home through Wayfair and                  All Modern.

You’ll find pillows in her signature leopard print.  This is an element of her style that precedes this Fall’s trend, and is near and dear to her heart.  Not only does she have quite a few pairs of shoes in this spotted animal print but she wasn’t afraid to bring a little of this Sub-Saharan grace to the runner on the stairs in her entry.  Meow.

Left:  Elements. Leopard Print Pillow $48.  Right:  Zara . Leopard Print Shirt $39.

The bold black and white stripes that to me seem so very French make an appearance in throw and lumbar pillows, as well as the wrap on the scented candles.  Sweet Smoke, Lavender Leaves, and Blackberry Pumpkin, Juniper Moss, and Currant Rose are the alluring combinations she has imagined to fill the air in your home.

Left:  Zara .  Off the Shoulder $39.  Right:  Elements . Solid Stripe Throw Pillos $38.

Throws and ottomans, baskets, and lamps in warm hues, cozy fabrics, clean lines, make it appear as if it’s easy just to throw it all together.  I wonder how much Erin would charge for a paint by numbers guide?

Left:  Max Mara . Striped Skirt . $595.  Right:  Elements . Sweet Smoke $18.

The line was well received – many items sold out almost immediately.  Still others never made it to the site, but Erin assures us, that like any product launch, bugs need to be worked out of the system.  Elements 2.0 will be along shortly.  Your wallet might just welcome the pause.

Left:  Elements . Ottoman $68.  All Modern  Right:  Max Mara . Gray Coat . $2,850.

Congratulations Erin, and thank you for opening the “Gates” to a beautiful and affordable collection of home wonders.

Falling for Another Tiny House

I can’t help it, and no sooner would I try to forsake my love of shoes and the unthinkable price I pay for them, than I would give up my adoration for the tiny house.  I wonder sometimes if people think this fondness is disingenuous.  I get strange side-ways glances from folks when I tell them I love tiny.  There exists a coziness, a deliberateness in one’s existence when you live small. It seems simpler in a world that is incredibly complex, like a childhood story book.

Fall Foliage.jpg

Fall Foliage Abounds . New England

I admire the level of inventiveness that one must resort to in both the design, and how you go about your everyday life.  What to shop for, and store in your 24″ fridge.  Clothes shopping, one in, one out.  There is absolutely no place for big box store purchases of 196 rolls of paper towels.  I feel relieved about that.  On so many levels frankly.


In the eye of the beholder.  

Small living, I believe supports good decision making. You don’t invite people to stay that you don’t really like – there’s simply no where to go to get away from them.  You don’t over eat, thinking to yourself you’ll just wear your “plump you” clothes – there’s no place for two sets of clothes.  You have one special set of things you were with pride.  Put that cookie back on the platter…says the girl that lives small.


Seriously …. could be the sweetest home.

This weekend I found two little gems.  Sure they need some love, but I simply adore a project.  I fell hard for them both.  It was a coup de coeur – that’s a real estate crush.  I see a lot of real estate, I like it, but just not enough to stop dating.  Here’s hoping that I find one somewhere on this crazy journey that removes all doubt.

Happy Columbus Day!

Tone Deaf: neutrals that sing pretty

Neutral isn’t exactly a melodic word.  I’m afraid for many it elicits feelings of the lukewarm, of the refined, of the boring.  However will I scale that steep hill of prejudice and ensure that my new space is happily sophisticated?


White, cream, tan, brown, grey, and black are all essential neutrals.  They are not necessarily quiet, as is evidenced by black and white combinations, or dark chocolate and a cool stark white, but they can be.  Warm creams, paired with tan or taupie grays, and whites that incorporate trace amounts of the primary colors – Red, Yellow, and Blue, and your secondaries – Green, Orange, and Purple, create the subtlest undertones.  I know this, and I know which neutrals sing the prettiest tunes to me, so why am I denying myself the sweet sound of gray?  I love it.  I am hypnotized by it.  This is not poetic license to sell a point.  I literally become entranced, and am calmed by gray spaces.  For me it is the perfect cool compress to a heated day.


Amir Khamneipur’s Manhattan Apartment . House Beautiful.            Heaven to me! 

The reason is simple.  When I started this quest, I promised myself that every nest would be different.  Now I suppose I could have sold a book about ten gray, one bedroom condos, but even writing it sounds a little boring to me.  So number four is going to be cream and white in the living area, some variation of sage green or slate blue in the kitchen.  The bedrooms are still to be determined.


I would be lying if I said this palette didn’t make my chest tighten a bit.  My breathing become a little shallower.  Who would have guessed that something so bland could initiate a panic attack?  Don’t worry, I won’t pass out.  With my new Stephanie Shank Painting as my point of focus, with all its beautiful peaches, and sea foams, sky blues, and purple hues, I can feel the rosiness returning to my cheeks.  I’ll get through this, and I know just how I’ll do it.

Benjamin Moore’s:  Left . Paisley Pink.  Right Top . Tissue Pink . Right Bottom . Wild Aster.

Accent colors will play an important role in this new home.  In keeping with the soft whistle of a tune I am creating, the shades will be pastel.  Pinks, violets, pale blues, and greens are all getting serious consideration at this stage.  To give it a little edgy interest I will throw metals in the mix, perhaps a brass legged coffee table, brass hardware throughout, fabrics of varying textures for those that feel the need to touch everything…like me.  Ah ha, it’s feeling more interesting by the moment.

Left . Oly Studio’s Diego Cocktail Table . Right Top . Schumacher’s Najang . Right Bottom . Knoll’s Boucle Classic Fabric in Cream.

Painted Into a Corner

Ever feel like that?  Wondering to yourself how it was possible you didn’t see where this thing was going?  Seven minutes, a floor plan no one can, or will verify, an inadequate video, and a few pictures cribbed from the on-line posting.  That’s what I have to go on by way of making my design decisions.  Oh – it’s ill advised to do it this way.  Mistakes will be made, unnecessary expense paid.  Why wasn’t I born with that patience gene?

Option 1:  An asymmetrical built-in in the living room which would house my enormous television or a decorative plaster wall.

These are questions I often ask myself and clearly I am unwilling to change.  I will be designing it before I have the keys and can sit quietly in the middle of the living room and figure out why the space feels so small when it’s got such great volume.  12 foot ceilings are pretty grand.  Is it the size of the windows, the standard doors which are a little too wide and not quite tall enough, or are there simply not enough squares in my corner?  I’ve lived in spaces far smaller than 708 feet.  In my experience these questions get answered in dramatic aha moments when you are finally given time to be in the new home.

Option 2:  Keep it clean and simple.  Left:  Benjamin Moore – Chantilly Lace (cool)  Right:  Benjamin Moore – Swiss Coffee (warm).

These moments are sustaining.  This gal can’t be expected to only experience the type of aha that comes along with an unforeseen conditions report, followed by a change order, a schedule delay, and if you are me, tears of frustration.  Some of it has to be good, and much of it is.  That’s the news I would like to share today.  Remember, paint is cheap.  If you do find yourself in that corner, as I often have, just sit tight.  Let it dry, walk right over that problem, and start again.  It’s not finding yourself in the corner that presents the challenge.  It’s not exercising the muscle that let’s you find your way out.


Farrow and Ball . Lotus

Option 3:  Paint and select accent wall for the use of this sophisticated wall covering.

You see what I just did there?  Gave myself permission to make lots of mistakes.  It’s Sunday.  Absolution abounds – if you are prone to similar mishaps, just remember, some corners are cozy.

Designer Profile: Erin Gates

“Sliding head first  is the safest way to get to the next base, and the fastest.  You don’t lose momentum, and there is one more reason I slide headfirst, it gets my picture in the paper.” – Pete Rose

That kind of momentum takes courage.  It takes faith.  It turns a blind eye to thoughtful contemplation, which might lead to a logical, risk free path.  Which just might lead you nowhere fast.  To a place that isn’t new, that doesn’t inspire, that won’t challenge.


Erin Gates at home showcasing her signature leopard print.

When I consider Boston-based designer Erin Gates I think of some serious momentum.  I admire it in such an enormous way, and frankly it isn’t limited to Erin, but to people that have the courage to defy common wisdom, to launch into uncharted waters, even if they are only certain that the current pool they are in, doesn’t suit their temperament, but aren’t at all sure which pool will.


Velvet pillows with Key Fret Detailing under $100.  Erin Gates Collection for Wayfair and AllModern.

Art Gallery Manager, Fashion Stylist, Event Planner, and Interior Design Assistant, from what I’ve read it doesn’t appear that Erin’s early jobs where anything but that – a job.  When she launched out on her our, I bet she didn’t imagine that she’d become a business mogul.  An author and publisher of multiple books – her first Elements of Style is an amuse bouche for the eye, her second, out soon will surely be as delicious.  She has collaborated on jewelry design with M. Flynn in Boston’s South End, pottery with Jill Rosenwald, also of Boston, she provides her own fine art pieces to accent spaces when the occasion calls, and her latest venture has her teaming with Wayfair and AllModern to produce a line of home goods.  Her blog – provide a sneak peak of what she had to offer.


Juniper & Moss . Follow her on Instagram…it’s worth it.

While I think of her signature pattern being a leopard print, and admire the joie de vive it took to put aa stair runner in the front entry of her suburban home in the same, her book jacket which captures my attention.  The bold white and black stripes are distinct and instantly recognizable.  Whomever came up with it should be given a prize.  It’s brilliant, I spy it in dozens of Instagram photos, and it always makes me smile.

Look for the collection on its release 5 October 2015, and visit her blog for additional information on her signature collection.