I’ve never lived in New York City. I fantasize about being there from time to time, but the time that I long to be there is decades past. I’d love to have lived in NYC in the late 50’s or early 60’s. To have scurried down Madison Avenue amid the AD Men so stylishly depicted John Hamm, as Don Draper and John Slattery, as Roger Sterling of Mad Men fame. I’ll take the clothes the gloved ladies wore with their pill box hats and a different coat for every dress – they had threads – the very definition of in Vogue.
Then there were the offices with the rotary telephones and their mid-century modern furnishings, and their 10am neat scotches and their three martini lunches. How they ever made it to dinner is an exercise in metal calisthenics that has me woozy with wonder.
I liked those offices so much I would have been happy sleeping there, unless of course I lived in Jan’s apartment from Pillow Talk. Jan, also known as Doris Day was an interior designer and she had a dreamy NYC apartment with a pink accent wall, pink kitchen counter tops and a party line. Oh the trouble a party line can get you into. If I had her apartment I would high tail it home to slip into an evening gown and serve Manhattan’s in champagne coupes that I picked up at Bergdorf’s.
The question is, would you want to work in an office that that gave a serious nod to another time? What about one that you could just pop into for a meeting, a strategy session or a toast to a big project win? Would it appeal?
Miraval is all about restrained fanciness. It’s setting in the Berkshires with trees dotting the rolling hills turned mountains for miles – for as far as the eye can see, and sky the beauty of the sky, this sky is the sky that songs are written about. It exists in contrasts. The craftsmanship of the barn and stables is superior, the animals and birds of pray that are housed within them damaged. The one eyed owl Oracle and his friend Homer being whispered back to health by Jen, understand that the price of admission is to stare deep and soulfully into the eyes of the guests, and to commune. Eyes as inky black as the deepest part of the ocean, set in a snow white feathered face feels otherworldly, quiet in the midst of the squawking hawk’s demand for attention. It will come.
The materials, warm reclaimed boards have the softest of landings on the diamond hard surface of the polished concrete floors, stained ochre, a reminder not to jump to conclusions. Even a cold unforgiving surface can change its personality. The luxe velvet chairs the color of an oak leaf, turned in the fall, coupled with the tactile plaid pillow, a nod to the textile factories of the region. The durable charcoal gray thick cushioned wood slat chair, with it’s cross stitch, in a lovely cream, a child’s dream, as you swivel and spin your way into the serious hug of relaxation. The rusted steel column pendants pierced with circular openings of various sizes cast a magical glow. Hard and soft, warm and cold, tough and tender, Miraval understands that to recognize divergence is to bring harmony to the space.
Arguably, Clodagh of the eponymous New York City design firm, had everything to do with the feel of this place, whose very existence is to remind you to feel again, to tune in, to be aware, to taste, to experience, to be present. Remember those birds of pray, they can be nothing but present. They cannot dwell on the past, or worry about the future. Nature is a master class of a teacher.
The food, this dangerous delectable food, will not, can not, keep you from packing on the pounds, despite its healthful nutrients, pulled from the rich soil of the surrounding farms. Carrots like candy, brussel sprouts that taste like none I’ve ever had before. Fish infused with flavors that were not slathered on from a jar, but were plucked from the branches of herbs. I wanted to inhale it all, to miss nothing, how incredibly unzen of me, how contrary to the mindful eating they preach here at the Val.
To walk the grounds in this time of covid is to be transported, there are so few people here that it feels as if I have the place to my own. I wonder if my foot falls in the Jesuit footsteps before mine, or on the same patch of ground that the Cranwell Preparatory School boys galloped upon, or Frederick Law Olmstead strolled as he prepared to impart his landscape architectural stamp on the property? I wonder.
While I did not cover all 380 acres of this property, and only just began to uncover all of its secrets, I’ll share with you this – “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”. Imagine it’s 1942, and I said it in Humphrey Bogart’s raspy, telltale voice. Oh Casablanca.
I am flummoxed by my friend’s flip – a beautiful property in Franklin. He is a terribly talented craftsperson, the kind I dream about having on my jobs, and has already transformed the living room, which is an extension of the open concept kitchen, into a showpiece. With its 18 foot ceilings, and grand gas feature fireplace wall, it’s going to be a show stopper.
Here’s where I’ve helped in the past – color. While he continues to learn more and get educated on all the nuances of hue and light, finishes, and the complicated language of warms and colds, and rules, and the understanding that to break them, you have to be really, really good – I have only just learned how to turn on the table saw, and successfully saw a single board. This single girl is woefully behind her friend.
The challenge for me is that I want to go into this kitchen and rip out that granite countertop. I hate it. I’ve told Eddie this already. He didn’t install it in the first place, so I don’t think I have hurt his feelings in revealing my nose wrinkling distaste for brown, black and tan, but Eddie is practical and knows that if that granite goes, so too will the backsplash. Remember, the hip bones connected to the thigh bone? You can’t just decide to do one thing without it impacting something else, and those something else’s can really cost you.
I want Eddie to use his money on the installation of the 12′ glass wall that will look out onto the home’s glorious 2 acre property with its far from the city forest of a backyard, not on my Vermont Imperial Danby stone countertop. To make it all work I’ll have to do some color gymnastics. It’s possible, but will require a serious warm up and some stretching. Which of these would you choose?
We’ve come a long way from the outhouse, I say with wrinkled nose and a preparatory holding of my breath. I once went on a vacation only to arrive at my quaint island destination to discover that there was no running water in the one bedroom house that I would be staying in – none. I remember it vividly as traumatic events linger in the depths of your being long after they should have said their good-byes, and allowed you to move on with your life. The drama of it all, the longing, not just for a room with a door, with a toilet – wait I’m not done yet, with indoor plumbing, and the whirl, rush, plunge and flush that comes with it.
Having a special place in my heart for the small nooks and sliver thin spaces that exist in tiny homes, it is no surprise that I adore the ingenuity of a powder room. Tucked under the eave or the underside of the stair, slotted between the kitchen and living room. A converted closet, an unused corner, a defunct pantry – any old space will do as long as it backs up to, or can tap into a water source. Otherwise fine friends, it will cost you a fortune, and I like to spend my money where you can see it.
When you open the door of a Powder Room it should transport you to a magical place – the inside of a velvet cushioned ring box for royalty, a first class cabin’s private quarters aboard the Titanic – before it sunk of course, or perhaps a secret garden. It should feel lush and private and very, very quiet. Just you and the sound of a tweeting bird, a distant orchestra, the lapping of the waves on the hull of a sound vessel bound for the horn of Africa. It’s a chance to do something special – really special.
The wallcovering that you wouldn’t dare drop the dough for, in the small space seems reasonable. The fifth wall – also known as the ceiling, suddenly seems to be begging for a bold hue, and while you may never have considered painting the base and/or the molding anything but white – why the heck not give it a try in this spec of a space within a much bigger space? Whether you paper or pad the walls, pour concrete floors or color your doors, the powder rooms the place to think like a kid, spend like a princess and experiment as if you were deaf to all critics. Do it up, do it over, but do something dangerously delicious.
It’s true, and because I feel like arguing today, I’m going to lay out my case for you. You the believer that white is boring, vanilla, without an opinion. Dare I say staid, subtle, without suggestion, or rather you might say, not I, not me, not this one who believes – it is simply a sublime backdrop for the scene of your personal style. Whatever that style might be – you’ll see.
I’ve selected the same clean shaker cabinetry for all three looks. The same hardware and backsplash, and walnut island top that has appeared in earlier iterations of the Willow Bend Scheme Series. I’ve purposefully picked the white cabinetry for its ability to pencil out on a spreadsheet that’s adding up, and a backsplash that you can get at the one buck store. Not exactly, but practically. I’ve invested some dough in the door hardware, and a little more on my lights – good lighting is everything to a gal. Finally I’ve made a little splash with a fabric or a fridge, but honestly there are even less expensive ways to do it. Think a set of dishes in a daring hue, pretty porcelain in a pouty purple, flowers or ferns or decorative urns – whatever floats your boat, let the rainbow be your guide.
White is wonderfully versatile. Like a Chopped competition, I’ve provided the box of basics that you must use, but your personal panache will provide the dash and make the space distinctly you, but if you had to choose, which one would you say was you?