Desperately Seeking Inspiration

It’s a perfect sunny fall day, the last vestiges of October hang in the air ready to be snapped away by the goblins and ghosts that will stroll the streets in search of tricks or treats tomorrow.  We New Englanders love to be fooled into believing that this weather will last, if not forever, at least until it’s supposed to snow on the night before Christmas and then never again, unless it’s on the mountain you plan to ski down. 

I watch envious of the walkers by that have embraced the day daring to live in the moment.  I supposed I am living in mine, but fully embracing it I am not.  My head turns again to watch the diners in the street, sipping wine and savoring grilled octopus and fried zucchini discs.  My stomach grumbles and my taste buds tingle at the suggestion of the tangy tzatziki mingling with those crispy zucchini chips.

I turn my head away from the diners and back to my space.  The pale cream walls resemble a baby’s cheek after a mid-day nap.  The slightest flush of heat becomes evident to the eye that gazes at them long enough.  It’s been months.  Shouldn’t I have resolved this by now?  Shouldn’t I know the answer as to the color palette, the furniture layout, what’s going to stay and what’s going to go?  Shouldn’t I? 

I don’t.  For all you readers that believe it just comes naturally, that the ideas pop into my head like the rising bubbles in a glass of champagne, let me disavow you of this notion.  It takes practice.  A lot of practice.  It takes an obsessive dedication to observation.  It takes a willingness to perservere when you want to give up and turn it over to someone that you think might know better.

I practice this a lot, but my natural state of practice is eradication of past wrongdoing.  What’s right or wrong can’t be relegated to referencing the ten commandments or the even state or federal laws.  My righting of what I consider to be wrong might include surgically slicing that gas fireplace from the wall that it was lobbed onto.  You might consider this anathema.  Yes, you.  You’re always going on about how lovely it is to have a fire in the fireplace.  To snuggle up next to it with a warm mug of steaming cider and a good book on a cold day, or to trim the tree and admire your handy work by the dim glow of light that it emits accented as it is by the twinkling lights that drape the fragrant branches. 

I know it all sounds very romantic, and it is.  I love a fireplace with real wood and a man that lugs the logs in from the snowy porch knowing that he halved and quartered them using his muscle and brawn to render them useful when the occasion called, but I need my space.  That honking fireplace, slapped on the wall in the very spot that the existing fireplace once stood, stands out in a most oppressive way.  29.5”  it announces itself in the room like a mount Vesuvius sized pimple on the otherwise fresh face of your prom date.   You can’t do anything but look at it and wonder at the unfortunate timing or choice.  It just feels wrong to me, and it takes up physical space in a room that I can hardly afford to have it stolen from, nor the mental space in my mind which on a good day is overcrowded and on a bad day in danger of being condemned. 

The big question today is should I consult a psychologist and make peace with what I was given to work with, OR should I consult a surgeon and get cutting.  I’d have them carve that malignancy right out, and lob off the overhang of my kitchen island while they were at it.  It would gain me three feet in all.  That’s not nothing, but would it leave me bereft on those cold winter nights?  What would you do?

Feels Like Home

Private Events or a hot toddy on a cold day with a warm blueberry muffin?

My lips parted and my mouth formed an “O” of surprise. If anyone noticed it was only to confirm that the others gathered in the bookstore/cafe were wearing a similar expression of reverence for the space. In an age when bookstores are disappearing at an alarming rate, only to be replaced by corrugated cardboard boxes adorned with a swooping blue arrow, the arrival of a new bookstore on Charles Street in Beacon Hill, where two others have shuttered their doors on this very street, feels optimistic to say the least.

BHB . Ready to Read.

Fortunately for me, I adore optimism. I encourage bravery. I live for a good restoration project, and I applaud business ingenuity. Melissa Ferret, if you happen upon this little blog of mine, I hope that you can imagine me, in your minds eye, bowing down to you. The same goes for you Cathy Kincaid Interiors.

The five story brownstone houses a cafe and wine bar on the terrace – not yet opened to the public. Permitting. That’s all I will say about that, but food aside, the setting made me long to be sitting in the serene blue and white subterranean dining room, accented by Nantucket Red trim, here and there, with an abundance of Sister Parish wallcoverings and fabric. The sister’s design aesthetic manages to be sophisticated yet fresh. It’s grown up whimsy. I’m planning a private event, for whom I have not yet determined, for what occasion? One will present itself to me, and if it takes too long, I’ll make one up.

Spy those squirrels?

You will find on each floor a lit fireplace. The narrow floorplates accented by floor to ceiling bookshelves, little nooks to hideaway and read, ample comfortable seating, natural light, and squirrels. Yes, there are squirrels everywhere. Which came first the Beacon Hill book about a squirrel or a building that happened to have a few in residence? If it sounds nutty, it is, but in a good way, and they run with analogy by placing an acorn on a book each day that the squirrel recommends to young readers. I love sugar so the concept isn’t too sweet for me, nor is the little train that rambles on the custom track that circumvents the perimeter of the room just below the ceiling, disappears from view as it enters a tunnel and makes its way back to you. Surprise and delight. Surprise and delight. Whoever came up with that idea, and the tiny little doors that lead from the children’s room to the hallway should be entered into the hall of fame for fabulous ideas.

Stop by for a visit at 71 Charles Street . Boston . MA. Be prepared to wait your turn to get in.

Charleston Charm

We took a boat cruise around the Charleston Harbor.  Being on the water for me is as ordinary as my morning coffee and as necessary.  It grounds me in a new place.  Allows me to gain perspective, to be an observer, to listen to the distinct inflection that comes with the colloquial delivery of one’s homeland.  In the case of Charleston it’s all about the “yaaaawl, usually followed by “have a good day”.  Those southerners are nothing if not polite. 

I adore exploring a new place through the observant eyes of a child.  The wonder of watching a formation of five pelicans swoop low across the water, followed by a pod of dolphins arching through the water had me squealing with glee at my very first sighting.  I’d be remiss in my reporting if I didn’t admit that I squealed when I saw the array of thousands of BMW’s ready to board container ships and cross one ocean then another on the Atlantic Route to Japan.  Who knew we manufactured BMW’s in Charleston?  Needing a new car and lamenting the chip shortage that is limiting my options, I considered hopping off to broker a deal.  Would they really miss one less car?

No wonder the antiquing is so fabulous, two days from France to the 6th largest port by volume in the U.S. equals fantastic and affordable furnishings from the 19th century, and by the way when you buy there and ship home you don’t pay any tax.  Did your heart just skip a beat like mine?  I not only found one dining table for my new home which largely unlocked the key to the layout I was troubling over these past few months, but two!  One English Loo Table with incredibly marquetry, and a second French Regency with a dolphin base to die for. 

Decisions, decisions. Won’t you please weigh in? Let me know which one you would choose.

A town that survives on tourism is bound to have good food.  My dear southern friend mapped out a culinary experience for us girls that would make a star-studded Michelin Chef smile with supreme satisfaction.  The Caviar Experience at the Zero George was magical. The candle-lit veranda was aglow in fairytale light.  The bar tucked at the end of the porch a jungle of tropical plantings lorded over by a King, known as both a purveyor of spirits, and the resident photographer – look for him in Travel + Leisure Magazine next month.  Young, polite, handsome Huck – yes, that was his name – Huck, don’t you just want to keep saying it?, served us Osetra in silver domed glass dishes, accompanied by split soft boiled eggs their golden yokes puddling on the plate, brioche toast, ramekins of crème fraiche, and chive, and salty potato chips.  You won’t believe me when I tell you that the crab souffle that followed was even better, but it was. 

Zero George and the Caviar Experience is not to be missed.

If you haven’t been to Charleston, get it on your list and include:  Frannie & the Fox at Hotel Emeline, Husk for the Chicken and Waffles, Leon’s Oyster Shop for the Buck Bay Blades, and Bar 167 for the Arroz con negro.  Go hungry, leave happy.

Boxed In: not letting your walls define you

People are always saying you should “think outside the box”. Which aside from the fact that it feels as tired a saying as “let me unpack this for you”, or “the optics are bad”, the overuse of these metaphors are unimaginative, and imagination is the very reason we are implored to leave that corrugated cardboard vessel in the first place.

A Layout, but not the ONLY layout.

I am not living in a box, though the developer left the space decidedly without detail. I did read in some design magazine about a group of architects that got edgy when they conceived of a home erected from storage containers, one stacked atop another. If the box requires a rebar ladder to climb into bed at the end of a long day, it’s not for me. The trouble with thinking broadly, differently, expansively, is that despite all the proclamations cast about in pursuit of a panoply of possibilities, people largely want something on the fringe. They don’t for instance want you to place you bed in the middle of the living room next to the kitchen island because that room has better light, or less light, or its proximity to the coffee machine suits your morning routine. The bed belongs in the bedroom, the sofa and chairs in the space designated for living. In keeping with the box analogy, it might be best to just pop open the flap and let some fresh air and light in to shift your perspective.

A table I would like to own and use for dining.

That is precisely what I am trying to do with my new condo. It’s an inelegant process that can find me disassembling the components of the sectional sofa and dragging them around the living room to try out different layouts. None of them have been satisfactory to date. I’ve tried snuggled up close to the fireplace for intimacy. Pushed back against the wall in the L-Shaped nook that looks like it was made for a sectional, but that I want desperately to place a custom-made banquette and circular Regency dining table. Aside from the fact that the chaise is oriented on the right side instead of the left, if all feels wrong.

I’ve tried it in the bow front window, but am disturbed by the half moon gap left between it and the windows. Considered a modern crescent shaped sofa, and another that was highbacked – a diver sprung from the board beginning to form a jack-knife. None of it feels quite right. I’m going to continue to stew over the layout for a while longer, but I can’t be held responsible for having resorted to tearing out the kitchen island, stripping it of its waterfall marble, and relocating it a foot deeper into the space designated for cooking. I rarely cook in the city. It’ll be fine.

Suggestions welcome. Please feel free to open the flaps of the box wide, and provide me with a proper desk, sitting and dining area.