Kicked to the Curb: out with the old landscaping

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A patio in the middle of the lawn – genius.

I didn’t even think it was possible for landscape design to go out of style but…I could have been wrong about that.  It can certainly fall into disrepair.  One plant takes over, another flounders, a weed sneaks it’s way in,  rocks begin to fall from the carefully erected wall, and poof it blows up into a mess.  This is what I am faced with – a major undertaking, a minor budget, and the need to create something that is fairly self-sufficient.

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Stones help limit upkeep – attractive to me.

I can buy plants, pick and arrange flowers, weed, and water, but none of that means I have a green thumb.  Growing things is not a strength, most of my plants seem to die, so I am a bit worried about the prospect of taking on a home landscaping project.  Not worried enough to not do it though.

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Ground cover is an attractive option.  Spreads like wild fire and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.  Looks pretty too.

My plan is to combine a series of hardscape areas with plantings.  It will be important to limit the grass in the yard, which would require an irrigation system (out of my budget).  I want to remain true to the indigenous plantings, and those that are iconically New England Coastal.  How to do that without buying loads and loads of plants that look wild and natural will be the challenge.

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Seagrass. floral ground cover, and stone looks organic – looks low-main!

While I encourage sitting with a space, a new home or apartment for a bit of time before embarking on a renovation or major furnishings refresh – all I want to do is rent a back hoe, tare up the yard.  Then I want to bring in mature plants, stones, chairs, and planters.  I want it all done like that time I took the long walk from my house in the North End to the Government Center T-Station.  I crossed a temporary bridge that went over a strip of highway – now the greenway.  I marveled over the effort it took for the crew to erect the foot bridge each morning and rebuild it every evening – in a location roughly 6 feet from where it resided in the morning.  I never found out why they did that, my cynical self said it was to ensure hefty overtime checks, but who knows.  It was however topped, when the DNC came to town, the Mayor called whatever the equivalent of a public Winston Flowers is, and pouf – a beautiful greenway dropped from the truck like magic fairy dust from the wand of a fluttery fairy.  It was beautiful.

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Love this raised bed planter, but it looks complicated.

I know that I shouldn’t want it to just arrive, no effort, no pride, no sense of ownership or accomplishment, and like that magically appearing greenway, a few days later – it was gone.  Every stone I dig up, and put into place, every bush I plant, flower I select, stone I collect on the beach is likely to be special, to be cared for, to have lasting power.

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a happy little bed at the foot of the tree trunk.

Suggestions are welcome.  I’m in unchartered tall grasses here.

She had it in Spades: Ode to Kate

Bubbly, sunny, joyful style.  She had an aesthetic that danced point, and playful sophistication.  Her fashion style brought a little Holly Golightly to the office, and who couldn’t benefit from a tiara at the Monday morning meeting?

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Her home was a cacophony of color, a gallery of fine art, and fancifal finds, of child’s drawings, and family photos, and beautiful prints, stripes, polka dots and layers upon layers of texture that might make you tired if they didn’t make you so darn happy.

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That art, those pillows, that expression…

My very first Kate Spade was a black and white gingham check bag, in one of her original shapes.  I carried that bag around until the fabric was threadbare and the dirt made it a little more gray than white.  Still, I wouldn’t have replaced it for the world.  Others did follow, there was a leopard print, and a satin back pack, there were clutches and weekenders, make-up cases, and suitcases, and pretty dresses in between.

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That was the print featured on my Nantucket Weekender!

In retrospect I have to believe that Jenna Lyons was a fan – all those statement necklaces, fur capes, and sparkly party skirts paired with a work shirt, a la Fifth Avenue, or a work shirt straight from the trenches.  The juxtoposition seemed to work coming from these gals.  If they put it together – it undoubtably WENT together.

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My dream kitchen.

Even her freckles gave her a relatability that I respected.  They weren’t bleached out with expensive creams, her face wasn’t lifted ten ways from Sunday, and she wasn’t a NYC waif.  She was a classic beauty because she put care into her appearance and she shown.

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graphic with a splash of color.

I feel like the theft of my Kate Spade for Steamline Luggage, along with my satin make-up case, the metal tagged zipper long ago broken from forcing one too many tubes of lipstick into the little case,  was a foreshadowing of what was to come. I had that make-up case for nearly 20 years.  I’ve written about that Steamline case so often I feel as if my blog should be entitled: Carry-on: One Gals Travels with her Kate Spade for Steamline- instead of Quest for the Nest.

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Wherever the mood took her.

I spent a whole decade carrying a weekender back and forth to Nantucket.  It’s iconic print, and pretty neo-pink and kelly green stripes seemed just the pop of preppy required for the island, and made me feel super special.  I think I’ll pull it out of the closet.  It’s as lovely as it was the day I spent more than I could afford to buy it.  It was an investment as my sister Mary Beth would say, and sometimes, material things can bring you happiness.

Thank you for that Kate.

Bygone Days of Books: Style your shelves

Have you ever been in a situation where you found yourself unloading a storage unit, and asking yourself what the heck were you paying to store all that stuff for?  I’m not judging you if the answer is a resounding yes.  Me, I have the opposite disease.  I like to unload things, leave them on the street, give them to a friend, let one of my sister’s borrow the rug, chair,  painting or pillow –  permanently.  I don’t know why this is my particular affliction, but it is.  So you can imagine my surprise when I found myself unloading a storage unit – that did not belong to me – to take nearly all the items to the dump – there final resting place.  Not happy!

Books

Birds of a feather.

Among the items that were discarded where boxes and boxes of books.  Having been stored in a damp out-door storage unit for the winter – they were worse for the wear, and sadly had to be tossed.  Having moved a time or two in the past, I am well aware of the weight of books, and have carefully culled my collection to those most prized volumes, and my desire resource books for which I find regular insight into the most perplexing interiors challenges.  I can never seem to remember where to hang that painting – is it 54″ on center from the floor – one of my books will tell me, so you can see the necessity in keeping those around.  Beyond that – bookshelves are all about visual interest for me.

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Minimalinteriordesign.com

A little bauble, a wooden bird, a small painting that would be lost on the wall but comes to life on the shelf.  a Chinese Urn, a succulent or petit potted plant, a paper weight.  Large, small, tall, fat – varying the sizes of objects on shelves creates interest.

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Studio McGee

There was a time when I thought that nothing else could provide as much insight into another as a bookshelf full of books that they love.  No one could accuse me of being nosy for pursuing a bookshelf, but it’s another thing altogether to pick up the kindle that’s just lying out on the table and start reading the stored book listing.  You mine as well just pick up there phone and start scrolling through their call log.  As if!

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OKL

Fear not, a well styled bookshelf tells a story too.  Not in words of course, but I think it will provide those of you that are curious enough to ask, with a conversation starter or two.

Pattern Recognition: New to the Rack

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Medium Diamond . Indigo

If you ever cruise through the design center, in whatever city you live – you’re familiar with the racks and racks of hanging fabric.  If you don’t keep up with it, you might have to spend weeks looking through it all, and that many choices can make a gal insane.  While going insane for “A” fabric is recommended – going insane over fabric options is not.

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Arabesque Poppy . Lilac

The way to avoid this catastrophic breakdown is to visit often, and keep your eyes peeled for the telltale “new” signs that tag the panel samples that are hot off the presses.  While I was innocently strolling from my morning meeting, which was conveniently located in the Innovation and Design Center (Boston’s Version of To the Trade), I spotted a whole slew of those signs in one of my favorite design salons – Studio 534.

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Hourglass . Turquoise

My heart skipped a beat, and I beat it into that studio freeing my hands of any encumbrances and reverently slipping the through the 8′ panels like a beloved book.  Among the many new Galbraith & Paul fabrics, and the Sister Parish designs – impressed with both, my eye caught a serene and happy collection by Betsy Textiles.  Who is Betsy I asked myself?  I had never come across her before, and my adoration was instant.  She represents the colors I adore in this new color collection beautifully.  Sometimes with elegant subtlety, sometimes with a whimsy that has you imagining a tea party in the English Countryside with Alice in Wonderland.

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Jardin . Pink

Let me assure you I fell right down that rabbit hole, and I didn’t even have to wonder how I’d gotten there.  I worked all weekend, selling, and bargaining, and doing my very best to resist the temptation to buy anything at the Decorator’s Pop Up sale for which it was my mission to unload – not restock, and opps, I simply could not get that collection out of my mind.  I had my sites on a pair of board room chairs that made there way across the pond from London, and I thought – it’s meant to be.  When they didn’t sell, I simply could not let such a fine pair of chair return to the damp, dark barn – so I grabbed them – telling myself I was doing those chairs a service, finding them a home.

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Poppy . Cream

Well, I think you probably know the story.  The samples are being ordered.  I’ll select the fabric and Betsy Speert will be an accessory to the transaction.  Betsy, I am not accusing you – I am thanking you.

Free and Easy Down the Road I Go: floral expressions

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Flora Chella Design . Cape Flower Shed Installation

I love a Winston’s floral arrangement.  It’s crisp and tight and fresh.  It’s formal and elegant, and refined.  It’s special occasion.  It has the power to turn a not so special space into something notable.  I love wondering into the store on Newbury Street or Chestnut Hill with all it’s vastness and inspiration.  The sheer abundance of stems with their blooming beauty puts me at ease and fills me with wonder.

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Horseshoe Crab, Sea Shell, Seaweed, Driftwood – MAGIC!

So it may come as a surprise to you that I went in an entirely different direction for the shoot on the Cape last weekend.  It was as unstructured as I think I have ever been.  I didn’t dictate a color palette – so unlike me.  I didn’t demand a particular blossom, bloom, fern or stem.  Instead I let the floral artist go where her heart wanted to go.  She walked the home, she got the vibe, and she filled her little truck with a most wonderful and unusual combination of flora and fauna I ever did set my eyes upon.

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Wooden Dory awaiting snacks – seaweed, horseshoe crab case, and floral design behind in a silver punch bowl.  

Kate Formichella of Flora Chella Design is a floral installation designer, a grower of edible flowers, and artist.  She used seaweed and horseshoe crabs, driftwood and succulants, an array of unusual flowers for which the names escape me.  We gathered punch bowls and some of my carefully curated pieces from Jill Rosenwald’s collection, perfume bottles, and silver Dory’s, sand pails and antique glass spirit bottles.  This eclectic array of materials resulted in one of the coolest floral installations I have ever been a part of.  I wish I had taken a picture of Kate – so super hip with her long gray hair, and her shortie black and turquois cow boy boots.  Love!

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Hydranga – quintessentially Cape Cod

A real artist.  Chicago . NYC . Cape Cod.  If free and easy, and totally on-point is what you are after.  Kate is your gal.

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Look at the fern, cascading down the side of the table in my Jill Rosenwald vase.

Kate Formichella – Owner/Designer . 847.204.6627 – kate@florachella.com

 

Sail Into Summer: Decorator’s Pop Up Sale

CC Fabrics Sale

Nautical Accents galore!

Having successfully finished the design of The Manse, and completed the photo shoot last weekend – cue empty feeling.  I find myself with some free time – time, by the way, I have been begging for, and now, I’m not at all sure I want it.  As I write this I can hear my sister saying “don’t you go filling up that blank space with another activity”.  I believe she excluded learning Portuguese, buying any more real estate, or ripping the deck off my boyfriend’s house.  What a buzz kill – I mean concerned sister.

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Pillows:  Custom Designer, nautical and every day:  change up your design with a few easy accents.

When I completed the project, I found that I was surrounded by a number of beautiful pieces that either didn’t end up working in the home – think massing, style, placement, and a number that were just plain wrong, even though in another setting they would be nothing but RIGHT.

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who doesn’t need a little end table to place your cocktail on?

That got me thinking.  Here I am, storing and moving, and shuffling, and loaning, all these carefully curated – hold it – not everything is carefully, thoughtfully curated – some things simply steal my heart and scream “take me with you”, and so I do.  While I have loved these things, used many of them (gently) it is time to find them permanent homes, where they will be loved and cherished, for longer than the shutter speed of the flashy camera, that my brilliant photographer wields.

 

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A little bar, a side table, a book shelf – use your imagination – it’s beautiful.

So, together with my best friend – who has a penchant for collecting (with France being a favorite spot), and an incredibly talented, and dear friend that is an Interior Designer on Cape Cod,  we have mined the depths of our closets, storage units, barns, back offices, and shops and are bringing together an incredibly eclectic, carefully curated (this time it’s true, I promise) collection of furniture, art, pillows, lighting, accents, nautical knick knacks and more, that are bound to delight, and shine light on your interiors.

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Mid-Century Nautical – look at that in-lay detail….summer breeze.

Saturday:  8:30am – 3pm

Sunday:  9am – noon

Cape Cod Fabrics/Helen Baker Design. 94 Rt. 28 West Harwich, MA

We’ll have Rosé – so there’s really no way you shouldn’t be there.  Cash or Venmo.

 

Vaguely Vignette: creating moments that won’t last

As I prepare to have my sister’s home shot on Saturday, I have come to a number of realizations.  First, that which I have come to consider “normal” is anything but.  I have had to explain to my Father at least a half dozen times, why we were hanging paintings, photographs, signs, and the like off center, up high, down low or not at all, letting them lean casually on a piece of furniture as if I was deciding whether or not the wall above would become its permanent home.  The reason of course is…staging.  What gets framed out within the confines of the view finder looks entirely different – dare I say horribly wrong – in real life.

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Proud moment when everything came together.   I painted that console table!

In small spaces, where cameras, and tripods, jigs and jogs in the walls, eaves, and any number of less than perfectly wide-open, square spaces (like say a 1789 home that was renovated – maintaining “most” of its original integrity might have), faking the scene is critical to telling the story.

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Coasting into the shoot as if it was no big thing….

If this feels like an Is this Real or is it Memorex commercial – it sort of is.  For you younger readers, that’s a reference to a cassette tape commercial.  If you are still not with  me – look it up.  I’m thrilled that I have such young readers.  The point is, cameras cannot capture everything, despite what TMZ might lead us to believe.  There is a lot of pulling pieces into a frame, with great effort, making the dress appear as if it has been tossed on the settee, awaiting the cocktail party in just a few hours, the book lying open on the bed, having just been abandoned for a dip in the ocean.  These things are carefully manufactured.

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Flowers in a Jill Rosenwald Vase … cut scene.

I have been filling this home with furnishings and objects for coming on 6 months now.  It wasn’t until the last two weekends that I even attempted to start and set the scene.  ( I only work on this project on the weekends).  Scene setting is an exhausting endeavor.  It requires gathering hundreds of objects, some rare, some cheap but interesting, some vintage, some natural- think shells and drift wood, some art, and some others would never consider art, and pulling it all together.  Is there a secret to it?  A science?  I’m still not sure.  I try and test, remove, and replace, add and subtract, curse and commend, and eventually after a little more nudging, a tiny bit of consideration and consultation, arrive at the vignette.  Alas, the point of the story.  While I cannot show you all I have been up to, I am happy to share this one perfect moment.  Perfect, anyway, from my point of view.