Distinctive Excellence: The making of an icon

My first love. Mies van der Rohe . Barcelona Chair . 1948.

Iconic pieces hold value. Trends do not. I was attempting to explain this to my Brother-in-Law who is embarking on a fairly significant renovation, along with my sister, of their LES apartment. A lifelong resident of Manhattan, Andy has an appreciation for art – fine, film, not food per se, but most definitely the musical arts, and culture. His interest in pop, international, historic/ancient, make him a fairly typical New Yorker, which is to say, very well versed in a whole lot of things, that most people know nothing about. If I am being nice about it I’d say it is likely due to the fact that it doesn’t sit on their doorstep waiting to be consumed as it does in NYC.

Marcel Breuer . Cesca Chair . 1928 tubular steel frame provides flex and comfort.

With all this intellectual sophistication it’s not that he doesn’t know logically that if you purchase a Renoir it is not going to depreciate the moment you walk it out of the Christie’s Auction House – at least I hope that’s the way in which you’d find yourself acquiring it. Of course there are other ways. I prefer to inherit my art, but if I do, I want it to be any one of the most famous impressionists. They knew how to turn a swirl of paint into a pot of gold. I would happily inherit a Mies Van der Rohe, a Saarinen, an Eames, or a Platner right along with that piece of art, but here is where we two differ. I can tell that Andy is skeptical of my assertion that these iconic designer’s furnishings are of real value. “Why not simply get a knock off”? he asks.

Charles Eames . Lounge Chair . 1956. This is the definition of fitting like a glove.

All this got me thinking about what makes something move from a trend, to a classic, to iconic. What made this fashion of a time, fifties design move beyond the three year mark, into classic territory? Design excellence, detailing, simplicity and ingenuity combined. How did they turn a formed piece of fiberglass known for its toughness into a sensuous slide that you could sleep on for hours? The angular tilt of the Barcelona Chair is a piece of sculpture in its own right, its design – like that of a master artist, a showcase of understanding of the human form. The materials, the detailing, assembly and execution are why these pieces are revered, and why they hold their value.

Give me a bouquet of Tulips any day. Eero Saarinen . Tulip Chairs and Iconic Saarinen table. 1957.

I’m all about the high and low, but if you can afford one iconic piece instead of ten from Room & Board, I’d remind myself that I can only sit in one chair at a time, and if I had to choose one, I want it to be the very best.

Work from Work: Reading the tea leaves

Are you staring at that Chromcraft Fiberglass Sofa and those Bahama Yellow walls – an ode to a vintage Porsche paint color?

As obsessions go, I’m a luxe minimalist. I adore interior design and shoes. My love for both go deep, and my travels in pursuit of them take me far, far, away, to places both predictable and unexpected. Paris like New York City are obvious travel destinations for both, but are anything but de rigueur. They dovetail an innovation and vibrancy that spills forth from young creatives, who blessedly don’t know what they don’t know, with an old guard of visionary icons whose names are both whispered in reverence and shouted from the rooftops. These places are home base for those likeminded souls who found their differences weren’t so different from those whose existence sat squarely at the epicenter of creativity inside a Parisienne cafe, the garment district, the Triangle D’Or or Nolita.

While we’ve been hibernating, these very creatives have been abuzz with the activity of refining and redefining, and I am unabashedly agape, agog, and in awe of what some of the masters have produced when time stopped. Miles Redd, some of you work from homer’s will argue, has been up to no good. A longtime favorite of mine for his maximalist restraint, his sleek lacquered walls, ceilings, and furnishing, that give way occasionally to silks, seagrasses, and intricate art installations, no surface is safe from his magical make-overs, and now he has taken on a partner!

Practically the most impractical thing I have ever seen, and I adore it.

Together David Kaihoi and Miles Redd set out to set the record straight on where work should take place, and what it will look like hence forth, if I had my way, for ever and ever amen, with the following caveats: most offices don’t adorn their walls with incredibly famous, pretty famous, soon to be famous -works of art that are gallery worthy and should have their own security detail, but that’s not to say you can’t do it your own way. Second, it’s entirely impractical to outfit your Zoom/Podcast Room in head to toe Schumacher crimson silk velvet – be impractical anyway if you can afford it. Surprise and awe, surprise and awe, surprise and awe.

If you’re cool and you know it – clap your hands.

Beauty is inspirational, and makes the world go round. Never be afraid of it. Beauty begets beauty, institutional imprisonment begets government quality service – just sayin’. Now for the do’s. Do have fun with it, get cheeky and clever like Redd and Kaihoi with the 19th century giltwood mirror that they flipped upside down to resemble a pair of sunglasses – so Cali cool I’m gushing. The conference room’s ceiling is a gold diggers paradise, but you need not break the bank when you consider you own fifth wall. I do implore you to consider it nonetheless. Some of my very best ideas come when I am staring up at one, or off into the distance where brilliance lies.

Give them something to talk about.

It’s time to give the tired tale of boundless productivity a rest. Put on a party dress, pant suit or pair of $500 jeans, embrace the commute and all that moving from one place to the next offers. We’ve all been motionless for too long, wouldn’t you agree?

Paris, like Eames is always a good idea!

Heading Home

The Team that lasted til the end. Wonder Women.

My quest for one nest after the next is a privilege. An inconvenient one at times, but a privilege nonetheless. I have agency over my own actions, even those that have me living out of two suitcases between flips and hopping from one friends home to another. I’ve done a stint as a house sitter in a penthouse unit for neighbors deployed to Europe for a few months. Slept on my sisters sofa – as a very uninvited guest in her home, stayed in a five-story walk-up of a Airbnb that I shared with a mouse, and many other houses, while I awaited the arrival of my next nest. Privilege.

Yesterday I took that privilege and put it where it matters most, in the hands of a young grieving widow, and her three baby boys. I did not do it alone though. A team of amazing corporate real estate industry professionals banded together to raise money, source donations, volunteer time and their considerable organizational, project management, design, assembly, staging, and house cleaning talents to a cause…this cause. Look out @CleaShearer and @JoannaTeplin of The Home Edit, we’re gunning for the title of fast and furious, having completed our Up and Out for @HeadingHome – the entire outfitting of a three bedroom apartment including stocked refrigerator, in six hours. I even arranged the cans of seltzer in neat rows, branded labels facing forward of course.

I’ve moved dozens of times, times at least three, but none of them have been as meaningful as this move to make someone’s burden a little lighter. An enormous debt of gratitude to @ColliersBoston, @ElaineConstruction, @Samuels&Associates, @EastdilSecured, @ElkusManfrediArchitects, @Officeworks, @Restream and to @KristinBlount and @LeslieCohen who together led this team, and brought us all together for the Heading Home cause under the angels wings of @SuzannePicher and @CaleighLeach. Thank you.

Making too much into just enough

43 Hiawatha Road . Harwich Port . MA

Running my weekend errands typically includes a round of open houses, whether I’m in the money or feeling closer to the skids, looking costs nothing, and the education one receives is priceless. It’s like the equivalent of getting a masters degree from your public library. And I so love to learn.

FYI . Mice love that Homasote Ceiling. It’s like paper-mache.

While I wish I could attribute my bout of dizziness to the head-swirling prices for which homes are on offer, I cannot, but metaphorically speaking, I’m reeling. I visited a vessel on a “close” to tony little street, who takes its name Hiawatha, from its adjacency Nantucket Sound, and the Iroquois Indian Tribe. “He makes Rivers” gives some mean to the list price of this 3200sf vessel of a home, but doesn’t fully account for its cost. At $1.5M, boasting 7 bedrooms and 3.5 baths, one might get an all together different impression of what is being hocked here, but as my father likes to say: “People loved to be fooled.” It is after all how most of us get into the beautiful messes we get into. The “had I known what I was getting myself into, I never would have done it” laments, are the ones most likely to categorically change you as a person, and who among us couldn’t use an overhaul?

Whoa . This “refresh” is baffling to me.

This property would need just that. I recklessly threw a $600K price tag on the renovation, and that was for something that wouldn’t be at all high-end. What do I know about costs? I’m not an estimator, I having little to nothing to do with supply chain issues unless you count my chase for toilet paper in every megastore and outpost from Boston to Orleans expertise, but I have ears. It’s incredibly difficult to get anything from kitchen appliances to labor for construction and even my tenth grade math class, or was it history? taught me the laws of supply and demand. I’d like to demand a reinstatement of sanity, but I am afraid no one will listen, still the renos to this modest Cape home will cost you.

Love the wall paneling, but don’t think it can be saved.

Constructed in 1948, aside from a somewhat laughable kitchen refresh in the form of a veneer of glass and subway tiles, it appears to be a perfect specimen of a time capsule. Those seven bedrooms wouldn’t fulfill the modern day needs of a walk-in closet. The one en-suite bath in what appeared to be the master bed was so small that one would be advised to disrobe before entering to preserve elbows.

Promise of the Fifties.

The warren of tiny rooms would all need to go, though there will be little the next owner can do about the floor to ceiling heights which will give new meaning to “cozy seaside retreat”. Once you’ve stripped away the interior, installing a state of the art HVAC system will become much easer, but it won’t be cheap, and you’ll lose at least three of your seven bedrooms. You won’t be receiving a refund. The good news is, they have an adorable mudroom, just inside the back door, which is likely the place everyone enters as it’s just off the car port,. If they once had a garage it was converted to an in-law apartment, making it possible to recover some of your renovation expense, if you so choose. That mudroom, don’t touch it, when all is said and done. When the floors gleam and the ocean breeze blows through your new Anderson windows into your spacious and airy living room, remembering where you started your journey might just make the investment worthwhile.

Flagstones are a telltale hint of the times – not this time of course.