The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Making the most of the holidays requires a gentle tweaking of perception for most of us.  The expectations to have fun, wrap the most perfectly coordinated, and thoughtfully selected surprise gifts, with their dangling baubles and bows, to don the perfect party dress, to buff, shine, polish ourselves, our homes, the children….impossible expectations that lead to disappointment.  However are we expected to not have a blue Christmas without you, or walk in a winter wonderland when the snow decides not to fall on the very day it’s expect to do just that?


Singing a pretty tune.


These questions I asked myself this weekend as my sister and I made a divine Thanksgiving dinner for our family.  It was easy too.  The easiest in years and would have pleased the most discerning pallet.  We are both very good cooks.  This resounding success was followed by my first attempt ever at a gingerbread house.  It was not a success.  Three separate batches of gingerbread dough, several template modifications, frosting cement that wouldn’t hold a gnat in place let alone a roof.  There was structural failure, some cursing, expert consultation brought in, a constructibility analysis conducted, fortification of the walls and roof with the use of non-edibles, and finally, through sheer force of will, compliance.  It’s not pretty, but it is standing.  Rumi said:

“Everything that is made beautiful and fair and lovely is made for the eye of one who sees.”

I choose to see the beauty in this rigged little gingerbread house.  It’s a lot like me, held together by a couple of pieces of duct tape.  It’s the strongest stuff.  It’ll really get you through the rough patches.  I’m sure if I keep practicing I’ll be able to make a decent looking house, but I doubt it will bring a smile to my face and make me laugh out loud the way this half baked attempt most certainly will.


a glorious mess.

Whether you require a few deep breaths or a sledge hammer to get those expectations to line up to attention.  Get out the toolkit – there is joy, and I bet a lot of laugher to be found in the overcooked turkey, the run in the stocking, the gift wrapped in a paper bag and tied with bakery string.  Perfection is overrated, joy underserved, life short.  Happy start to the holiday season.


Taking shape:  holiday diorama.

Permanent Fixture: a river runs through it

Finding fixtures that add sparkle and glamour to your kitchen and/or bath is as important as adding jewels to accentuate your ballgown before appearing in front of royalty.  No outfit  or bit of finery, whether a couture creation or an off the rack – Nordstrom or otherwise, can be considered complete without it.  One CAN go too far though.  Adhering to the less is more philosophy of Mies Van Der Rohe is advisable.


Brass accents glamorize a country kitchen.

I never minded a mixed metaphor, and have adapted or adopted a number of rather unusual ones over the years.  They tickle my funny bone and create vivid imagery – “it’s like trying to stuff ten pounds of sausage in a two pound bag”, “it’s like trying to shoo a gorilla”, so let’s get to it – “it’s time to get all our ducks on the same page”.  And the page I am on, as far as fixtures are concerned, is the one where metals are NOT mixed.


Never tire of the gray and brass combo . so cosmopolitan

Trends come and go.  Chrome is in one moment and out the next.  Gold, brass, antiqued brass, and wrought iron all have had there day.  Remember the seventies and gold swans spouting water?  I feel like I need a shower just thinking of it.  Who knew all these years later I would engage in a love affair with satin brass and polished brass all over again.


Refined elegance.

For most of my fixture finds I go to Rayburn Hardware, 24 Roland Street, Charlestown, MA, but on-line sources offer great discounts if you are certain about what you want.  EFaucets, and FaucetsDirect have great offerings too.  Go bold.  Changing out fixtures isn’t so involved, so if being on trend is important to you, and buying a new home and renovating every season isn’t as compelling as reading about someone that’s crazy enough to do it – you now have the answer.




Color Wars

This isn’t South Central LA, and this war isn’t between the Crips and the Bloods, it’s between me and the paint color.  I’m definitely having a violent reaction to the color I choose.  I was so careful.  Sampled so many.  My greatest fear was that my kitchen cabinets would look like they belonged in an ice cream parlor.  And they do!  They resemble mint chocolate chip gelato without the chips.  What a jip.

Left:  Benjamin Moore – Catalina Blue  Right Top:  Benjamin Moore – Bali  Right Bottom:  Benjamin Moore – Wedgwood Gray

This never would have happened if I had selected a gray.  The reason is … I love gray.  I adore it in every cloudy, moody, chalky iteration.  To me, it’s beautiful.  It can be sophisticated and intense, innocent and fresh, complex and interesting.  I speak it’s language so fluently, it’s as if I was born to it.  Mint Green is as foreign to me as Japanese.  I’m having a hard enough time with French.  Should I bite the bullet and say sayonara to it?

Left:  What I was shooting for….  Right:  Catalina Blue – what I got.

I’m having a hard time choosing between taking a hit to my wallet or to my ego.  Both will suffer the consequences.  I’m inclined to give it another go.  I’ll be looking at these for some time, and I’m not sure I can stand the constant reminder of my mistake.  Off the cabinets will come, they’ll get loaded aboard the truck, and taken to the paint shop.  They’ll be sprayed again, reloaded, returned, reinstalled.  Getting it right takes patience, and obvi…money.  Breath deep and remember the Chinese Proverb about the farmer and his son…maybe it’s bad luck, maybe not.  We’ll see.


Ho Boy!


Behind Closed Doors

A pleasant surprise awaits.  While I am generally conservative in my aesthetic, I am rather fond of secret spaces and unexpected moments.  One must resist, at all cost, the feeling that you’ve seen it all, you’ve seen too much, you know just how the story will end.  The sheer number of mistakes I make daily is my assurance that I am not falling into this trap – had I made them before, I surely wouldn’t make them again, but that’s a song for another time.

Swoon worthy interiors that have inspired me.

A sense of wonder is magically rejuvenating.  Every space . every outfit . every person should have its cache of enchantments.  A hidden talent . an old flannel shirt that conceals lacy lingerie, a simple door that when opened reveals an edge painted in a bold and unexpected color.  It’s a fundamental conundrum of life – we need predictability and we need uncertainty.


Nailed it.  Stunning linen closet.

I don’t know about your life, but mine serves up a lot of both.  Each project has its own unique series of unforeseen conditions – unanticipated structural issues, previously undiscovered water infiltration situations, aging infrastructure that really should be replaced, a crack, a code, a color gone wrong.  It’s all there.  Welcome them all in, like an uninvited house guest.  They will make you wiser.  These I accept, because they are out of my control.  What a terrible thing for a control freak like myself to write.


Cole and Sons . Palm Jungle


This week presented a number of conditions that I could have foreseen, but didn’t.  C’est la vie.  I will balance the scales by asserting my will where I can.  Where I know it will surprise and delight.  I love wall covering but think that it can be somewhat overwhelming in small apartments.  My need to feel a sense of calm when I step off of the streets and into my home has kept me from papering its walls.  But it will not prevent me from hiding it away inside a closet.

Left:  Cole and Sons . Malabar  Right:  Domino Magazine always got it…so pretty.

The guest room will lack detail for reasons of economy, but I still want it to feel special.  To achieve this and to maximize the usable space, I will be install a sliding barn door over the closet.  Think city chic, not country.  The interior of the closet will be lined in Clarence House Tibet Wallpaper.  Those dragons make me happy.  I plan to make the tiny 3′ x 3′ space into a library so I can sit and read, and look at that crazy, funny paper, and be inspired.


Clarence House . Tibet

Kitchen Confidential:spaces that are pleasing to the palette

While I might want to believe my intentions are good, I feel a touch of guilt over my somewhat unsustainable leanings.  One of the very first impressions that my new little home will make once you walk through that door – which also must go, so I am sending up prayers to the Gods of the Trustees … of the condominium that is – that they approve its replacement.  It simply won’t do for the first, first real impression.  But what of the second, once that door opens, you look directly into the kitchen.  A kitchen that has black granite counter tops flecked with mauve.  You can’t make this up.  Followed by shaker cabinets, stained in an orange hue, and sunshine yellow walls.  “Perfect” says my Father and building advisor – “I’d move right in”.  Oh how we disagree.

Left:  Hanson Door . Not to be mistaken for a handsome door. Right:  Original South End Brownstone Door – reclaimed from an earlier project – how sustainable!

When it comes to matters of the heart I have been told I’m too picky.  Discerning perhaps, and since the kitchen is the heart of the home, I plan to keep an eye on it.  My eye is telling me that the cabinets must be changed, the countertops must go, and my heart is telling me to do the right thing where our environment is concerned.  Contrary to popular belief, this doesn’t present a pickle for me.  I’m going to keep those cabinets and paint them.  If you know me at all – the countertops are no longer welcome.  If the suit makes the man, the countertops dress the kitchen, and you wouldn’t put that bird on your Thanksgiving table without dressing it, would you?  Don’t answer.


Simply divine.  Painted cabinetry done right.

Ensuring the coat that will hang over that suit, suits your longing for quality craftsmanship, I recommend getting a professional.  While it’s not impossible to engage in a DIY painting party, cabinets are tricky.  They are finished with, well a protective finish designed to allow you to scrub the dirt and oil that is right at home in one’s kitchen.  Cleaning thoroughly with a TSP Solution, sanding, cleaning again, filling any gauges or grooves, and then painting is a tricky endeavor. Dust likes to get in every nock and crannie. Unless you are planning on erecting Zip Lock Barriers, Installing Hepa Filters, and  constructing a clean room for spraying the fronts, the quality you are likely to get will be sub-par.  If you find yourself tempted to google any of the terminology I used in this paragraph, just skip it, and look for a Pro.  Trust me, the money you spend will be worth it.


Devon Kitchens . my cabinetry crush.

Even my own builder doesn’t like to paint the cabinets.  He says it makes him nervous.  Whenever anyone says something can’t be done, I simply remind them about the Pyramids.  Of course money was no object for the Egyptians, and it most definitely is for me.  Still, I’ve painted a picture of how I see this culinary hot spot, and so it will be.


Benjamin Moore . Catalina Blue.  Did I get it right?

Happy Sunday.


Brass Tacks: The Essentials of Survival

Let’s get right to the point.  For many of us, this was a hard week.  So hard in fact, that I find myself nearly missing the deadline for this post.  The point is, it stung.  Sometimes life draws blood — metaphorically speaking that is.  It might even feel for a time like we won’t survive it all….but we will.  I won’t make light of it as if an ill-conceived decision regarding a sofa can compare.  After all, we can’t return him like I did the Restoration Hardware Sofa that I decided didn’t fit my life view.  So instead I place my faith in a higher power, and turn to something(s) with a sunnier outlook.


Phillip Jeffries Wall Covering


Oly Studio Bed

Tacks that is, brass ones to be specific.  They are so in fashion  from stools to headboards, tables, and uber chic wall covering – brass tacks are a spot of sunshine in any house – they might even offer a little optimism in the House of Representatives.  Dare to dream.


Restoration Hardware Stool

The polls are saying they are trending toward a win.  I don’t want to steer you wrong, but there is something that is both classic and contemporary about furnishings adorned with these beautifies.  They add a little edge to something that might otherwise be prissy, and a little glamour to something that might otherwise be a bit dull.

With this pick – you’ll hit the nail on the head.

Paint by Numbers: I wish

There is no prescribed formula for getting paint right.  See it in a magazine and fall in love.  Visit a friends house and after several glasses of wine get her to reveal make and model.  Dine at your favorite restaurant and look longingly at your perfect shade of taupe.  Even those hues you’ve had ample time to reflect on, and perhaps worked hard to get, begging the Maitre D’ to phone the Owner, find out the designer, inquire with the Interiors group that selected the color…oh you think I haven’t, I have!  Even then, it doesn’t mean it will fulfill your wildest dreams.  You know, the ones where your home is so perfect Architectural Digest is calling to do the cover shoot on you?  That one.


It gets messy before it gets beautiful.  

LIGHT – it’s different in every space, and it’s quality and make-up, natural and artificial, Southern exposure or Northern, city or country….all influence that color.  Were you with me until city or country?  Try living surrounded by tall buildings that cast shadows or a hulking Chestnut Tree – even the pretty pattern the leaves cast on the wall will influence your perception of the color.

Left:  Benjamin Moore’s Sand Dollar.  Right:  Benjamin Moore’s Swiss Coffee.

So what to do about all this?  Get friendly with your local paint supplier or hardware store.  Those tiny little paint chip strips are lovely for an inspiration board or to remind yourself of the color you eventually picked – I like to use them for craft projects myself, but they simply won’t do for informing a decision as important as what to paint your living room.

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

Today I will head back to Warren Hardware my local Hardware store where they are all too familiar with this exercise.  I have sampled:  Paisley Pink, Balboa Mist, Nantucket Fog, Kentucky Haze, Van Cortland Blue, and Wedgewood Gray.  I painted it in big 12 x 12 swaths mid-day when the sun was shining.  Of the six Wedgewood Gray is a winner for the kitchen cabinets.  Nantucket Fog and Kentucky Haze are still in play but uncertain.  I will now try: Sand Dollar, Tissue Pink, Wild Aster, White Dove, and Swiss Coffee.  I haven’t even gotten to the bedrooms rooms yet.  Lordy…I’m dizzy with paint fumes.  Wish me luck.  Thank goodness for that extra hour today.  I’ll need, but when do I not?


Benjamin Moore’s White Dove.

West Elm: Working Partnerships

It was a few years ago when I first started noticing West Elm pieces in Commercial applications.  I spied a side table or two in AEW’s Corporate Offices, in the Seaport, designed by ADD, Inc., scattered throughout.  To my delight I found pillows and side tables in Hawthorne’s artisnal drinkery in Boston’s Kenmore Square, and thought, perhaps they’re on to something here.  Affordable, hip, mid-century design – way to stay on budget, on trend, and allow for the flexibility of change down the road.  Love it.


West Elm with Inscape

A little over a year ago, West Elm partnered with Etsy to bring local businesses together in their Kenmore Square location, allowing them to have a pop-up shop under their roof.  Brilliant.  It happened in cities across the country.  What forward thinking business strategy.  I was introduced to some small business owners I wasn’t likely to have made contact with otherwise, and got to meet Erin Gates of Elements of Style, eat a fantastic bacon glazed donut from Blackbird Bakery in the South End, and leave with two pillows.  A win.

On Thursday night I visited Peabody Office Furniture in Boston’s Financial District for the big reveal of their Inscape Office Line Partnership with West Elm.  I have been waiting for the unveiling for months when I first learned of the dynamic duo’s plans.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It’s got that welcome to Don Draper’s Office, care for a Manhattan look about it.  It’s sixties cool with its clean lines, dark wood, and retro fabrics, I wanted to move right in and have the Mad Men re-make me.  I could just picture it….I enter in jeans and tennis shoes, hair in a pony tail, bags under my eyes….I exit in a red Carolina Herrera gown, Harry Winston choker hanging heavy around my delicate neck, diamonds as big as rock candy threatening to make off with my earlobes, 5 inch Louboutin’s peaking through the swaths of fabric surrounding me like meringue cloud.  Naturally either Don himself or some swashbuckling man trails behind me.


West Elm . Mid-Century Modern Madness


West Elm . Pelle Gooseneck Chandelier $799.

Ah, dare to dream.  Thanks West Elm for that lovely fantasy, and thanks too for finalizing my decision on a living room chandelier.  After all, your first order of business was to help the everyday gal like me have a fabulous home, was it not?