Stepping out on Ben: A Date with Farrow & Ball

Farrow & Ball . Marbled marvelousness

When I was 12 years old I worked as a pot washer. Not a very glamourous sounding job, but I took pride in it. I learned things like the optimal number of pots you could wash before having to drain the large stainless steel sink of the roughly twenty gallons of dirty, now lifeless suds and await their slow dissent down the drain. Getting it just right was critical to avoiding repeating this process too many times. The extra time I gained allowed me the luxury of watching the Chef and Sous Chef prep the beef, tying it into its lattice cage of string in preparation for roasting. I loved watching the vegetables being julienned, the sauces being whipped into creamy concoctions, and discovered that it wasn’t only baked goods that required an understanding of chemistry, any good dish blends fats and acids, layers aromatics, herbs, and spices creating complex cuisine.

Liberty of London Wallcoverings Paired with F & B.

If you’re wondering what pot washing has to do with paint, it’s the chemistry. Color is pretty complex, even if it’s the pretty part that I’m mostly interested in and attracted to. I’ve been a long-time loyal supporter of Benjamin Moore. Its easy application, brilliant colors, eco friendly Aura had me going steady for years. Best paint for the money I’ve said again and again and believe it. It isn’t going to stop me from trying F & B.

KW . Your allure never fades.

Farrow was a chemist, Ball a prisoner of war, they met in a clay pit. Fascinating as that all is, it’s the quirky named colors that seem to hold an ancient wisdom within their powdery atoms that has caught my attention. A little muddy, a little mysterious, sophisticated where my Ben is an easy going happy sort. They can be moody and a bit chalky even when they are attempting to be upbeat. The California Collection by none other than Kelly Wearstler is more hazy smog than sun soaked, but that hasn’t stopped me from falling for No. CC6 a blue/gray and considering it for my next project.

I think I’ll gathering together a few sample pots and get splashy with it.

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc: Tender is the Light

Just like Slim! The shot that sealed the deal for me.

Cut from the ragged rocky coastline of the Cote D’Azur, a Michelangeloian feet of genius, rose the iconic pool and restaurants, and the grand promenade leading to the now famous hotel. It requires more than time to make an icon, though Eden Roc has that on its side having celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2021. A lovely way to exit the pandemic, not its first. It takes more than celebrity, though its had its fair share of those too in Marlene Dietrich, Liz Taylor, Kings and Queens, Politicians, and at least half of the inhabitants of the Cannes Film Festival. Toss into this glorious Mediterranean salad of celebs, Picasso, Porter, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, and Jean Cocteau, and further credit them for making it a summer haven, and you have an inkling of what makes this place special – it is aglow with inspiration, with beauty that floods down from the heavens, and on those rare days when a cloud or two dots the sky, the beauty can be found in the rays of sunshine that filter through the gathering raindrop soaked cumulous forms that dapple the blue.

Its natural setting, painstaking elegance, and dedication to leisure, joy, celebration and relaxation make it anything but stuffy. It’s a happy orchestra of bassoons and dancing violins and violas, of laughter and quiet solitude, of sun, salt, and solace. My love of Eden Roc came the first time my eyes knocked with Slim Aarons’ 1976 photograph of the pool overlooking the rugged coastline of the French Riviera. I have yet to stay at the illustrious venue, but have not given up the dream. I did however dine here. My obsession with design makes me bold, and somewhat unforgiving. I return to my five year old self, deaf to my mother’s insistent cries not to touch anything. My outstretched fingers are running across the corrugated wooden panels that line the walls and mimic the movement of the waves on the sea. The alabaster luminaries, custom designed by Atelier Alain Ellouz for the space emit a soft moonlit glow. Every serpentine sofa, every soft cushioned seat where custom designed for the space by Brazilian Interior Designer, Patricia Anastassiadis, who can be credited with the new life that honors the history of the place while giving it a crisp seaside contemporary vibe – that I adore.

From the artwork to the setting, the choice of pin-striped fabrics on walnut backed dining chairs, the orange and blue banquettes, piped in crisp white feel fresh, and playful. It is a wonderland of detail. The fluted exterior of the curved bar in La Rotunda is a wave on a different day. The bar cart adorned with a bunch of grapes begs the question “Why wait”? Anastassiadis’ understanding of place, of nature, of light and of history brings the outdoors in, mingles past, present and future in a honeysuckle/rose bouquet that is intoxicating.

CAN I GET AN AMEN: distillery goes digital

Nestled between the High and Lowlands, Speyside is one of the six whisky distilling regions of Scotland. A place where the tradition of distilling whisky is a religion. It’s in their blood, the spring water that runs through the Town of Rothes cutting across the Glenrothes Distillery property, begging to be baptized and born again. Aged in Sherry casks, patience, dedication, and service to a higher standard of production delivers a fruity, creamier single malt scotch and congregants that worship its purity and perfection.

Illustration by famed New Yorker Artist Maddie Dai

Like any good story, the Glenrothes tale is one of a hero’s journey. James Stuart was a whisky maker with a dream, to build a distillery that did it differently. He teamed with two local businessmen to construct the Town’s second whiskey making plant, but in the summer of 1878 a financial crisis struck Scotland and stopped construction. One might say that divine intervention interceded. Reverend William Sharp was true to his name, understanding that pride and purpose were essential to the strength of any community, and his parishioners needed a place to work – idle hands and all that. He aided in the raising of funds, construction commenced and the rest, as they say, is history.

The buildings of the distillery are architectural wonders, punctuated by a tiny pagoda that reaches toward the heavens.

There is truth in the old adage that history repeats itself, but it is not static. History is being made, crafted and curated every day. To stay small requires specialization. It requires ingenuity, grit, and determination to fight mediocrity, to embrace innovation when it serves to enhance and sustain the guiding principles that are foundational to your reason for being. Will Glenrothes go down in history for hitching their wagon to the digital blockchain in the form of a NFT? Time will tell.

Purchase a bottle of the special release 36 year old single cask whisky, and you’ll receive with it an Non-Fungible Token of the label, designed by Maddie Dai. Dai’s illustration feels reminiscent of the New Yorker Magazine, having illustrated for them since 2017, her designs convey a deep understanding of place and human nature. Where will this illustration live? On your phone if you so choose, or stored safely on the Block Chain known as Solana. Non-fungible doesn’t mean worth nothing, it means it can’t be replaced by something else. In addition to being one of a kind art, it’s dynamic. The illustration will “come to life” when viewed, even changing color, but wait there’s more. Your token will grant you access to special events which will happen in this universe rather than the meta. As our worlds converge sipping this celestial whisky just might be the answer to helping you slide your toe or your mind, into this new world.

Inside the distillery.

Fit to Be Trimmed

If you’ve ever had custom curtains made for your home you have likely come to understand, on a deep and abiding level, the metaphor “You could have knocked me over with a feather”. The cost of that to-die for fabric, the labor associated with nipping, tucking, pleating, pressing and detailing the curtains in a way that only the top 1 percenters (those with the keenest of design eyes) will recognize, is breath-taking. As in you will be robbed of the very oxygen that keeps you alive, and will be required to find alternative means for funding your children’s higher education.

Prone to hyperbole I am, but in this case, I am NOT. It’ll be curtains for your dream vacation or any vacation for a long time to come if you happen to have a home with many windows that need to be clothed. That is if you go the custom route.

Nobody wants to feel, or for that matter, and perhaps more honestly, others to think, that you cheaped out. That’s the worst, and you need not feel that way at all, if only you are willing to do a little leg work. Off the shelf curtains abound. Stay away from cheap synthetics, seek out natural fibers, backed by heavy cotton so they’ll hang from your fenestration like a Fendi gown on a famous actress. Once the gown has been selected, I like the offerings at Restoration Hardware. They are well made, come in an abundance of lengths and shades, and offer the perfect backdrop for the final flourish – the trim. Here’s where you’ll make a splash. Whether baubles or glass beads are your thing, pom-poms, or the clean classic look of a key fret, you’ll find a wild array of offerings to express your individuality that will be anything but standard.

Lose Farther and Faster

I lost three properties in a seven day span. Mary Oliver would be proud of me, the Art of Losing isn’t really hard to do at all, not when you practice as I do. It does require a special quality nonetheless that I call “detached investment”. You can’t get cavalier about what you choose to bid on just because you may not be successful in your quest to obtain it. No, you need to tip toe across a tightrope – not quite a forever property but a property that you are going to spit, polish and shine into something for which you can be proud, not regretful. You can’t fall victim to your competitive instincts to win, if that winning isn’t keeping pace with reality. How much work does it need? How easy will it be to build it? Will permits or variances or condo approvals be required? If you are starting to get a headache, good. It will dissipate nearly as soon as you stop reading this, but if you win that bid for a property in which you overpaid and underestimated what it was going to take to convert it, well you better get accustomed to living with it.

This post is not meant to dissuade you from the hunt, just to keep you from the buyers remorse that some people may be feeling right this second. Three flights up a narrow, uneven staircase, the unit without air conditioning when we are moments away from sleepless nights, damp sheets and the always precarious installation of an in-window unit with its awkward distribution of weight, sharp edges, and need for two people to execute what should be a solo effort. Enough about that. You get the point. You don’t want to be that “guy”.

Continue the hunt does, and it does offer something exciting even if that something isn’t a win. I love the process of imaging how I will design these spaces and get pretty far along in the process between the offer and the verdict before ball up the trace paper and make a three point attempt from outside the paint toward the circular file. It’s not an entire loss, while every property has its quirks which lend themselves to particular furnishings layouts, art placement, lighting schemes and the like, color palettes can travel from property to property with relative ease.

Melinda Headrick . Owner and Principal Designer

I was super excited to learn that Chatham Interiors is coming to Boston, and not just anywhere in the city, but on the very same street that I currently live. Melinda Headrick is both the Owner and Principal Designer. I have frequented her two shops on Main Street in Chatham for years. I consider my style to be a happy cross pollination between Melinda (her first shop) which is all about sophisticated elegance and TA . TA, a younger, hipper, poppier aesthetic for those that have money.

Those striped pillows – available at TA.DA

Melinda is a beautiful designer, and offers an array of options for accessing her talent. Full design services aren’t for everyone as it can be prohibitive for those working with tight budgets. There are virtual consultations and room by room options with the extra added benefit of having them order and track all your purchases for you, ensuring they arrive at your home. Ah the possibilities, keep bidding, keep believing, keep on dreaming.

On Point . AKDO x Jill Rosenwald . Fort Point Collection

A Twist on an old classic. 5 x 5’s shown in Harbor and Salty with an undulating surface that shines.

When it comes to the tried and true lovers of blue, Mark Sikes and Summer on the Coast seem to love these hues the most. As the days get warmer my excitement for the sand, sea, light linens, and fresh cut flowers outpace our New England weather. No worries, as the temperature bounces around like the metal ball in a pin ball machine I’ll be planning my next summer home renovation for a home I don’t yet own, in a place I am not entirely exists, with a fervor that defies all reason. It will be fueled by Jill Rosenwald’s new line of tiles entitled, Fort Point – the name of the section of the city in which her eponymous pottery shop resides, and from whence her inspiration is derived.

In partnership with AKDO, a NYC dealer of luxury tile and stone, Jill created a small but mighty line of tiles that are both an ode to our revolutionary ways, our coastal location, our love of tea and hatred of taxes. I for one often feel that I have a little revolt in me, adore tea, am calmed by the sea and salt water, and hate taxes as much as the next hot blooded American, so would feel a kinship with the tile even if I were blind, which I am not. They are gorgeous.

Sublime elegance in the elongated subway tile. You can never go wrong with this selection.

Five colors, two patterns, two sizes, endless inspiration. Hello Sailor, you had me at navy blue stripes. Is there anything that is more quintessentially nautical than that. Don’t answer, or do, I won’t hear you argue with me. It’s the number one, number one, plus it’s very French, which makes me adore it even more. Brushy and Flora the two patterns are simple yet inspired. The color palette which includes Hello Sailor, Tea Party, Harbor, Salty and Wharf is serene and cheerful. Whether you are rinsing off in a cool shower after a hot, sandy day at the beach or prepping chilled margarita’s and a mint, feta and watermelon salad in your sublimely tiled kitchen, this tile will offer you a safe harbor.

Refined meets easy breezy.

I think I will go in search of a wallcovering to place in a nook inside my imaginary pantry for good measure. Aren’t you just begging for an invitation?

Dream in Color

Carissa of A Bold New Hue

Not everyone can make you wish you could pull off pink hair. Some people just have that flare about them. They ooze creativity, and that creativity won’t stay in its lane. It’s nothing short of fantastic. From the pretty pink painted toe that slips into a leopard velvet flat, mixes high and low, texture and print, color and pattern like a tornado swirling around her petite frame, her style is a centrifugal force pulling you in. Instead of reemerging with a tumbleweed on her head, Carissa looks like she’s ready for tea with the Cheshire Cat in Alice and Wonderland. I am left wondering alright – how does she mix and match the full spectrum of pattern and texture with the colors of the rainbow?

An Interior Designer she is not. Not in the classic sense that is, but classic is so last century. Creativity is all about breaking the rules so why would one let a degree get in the way, I ask you? Knowing that I have loads of followers that are in fact Interior Designers – in the classic sense, and being a lover of education i would never disrespect a degree. I do wonder if you applaud or disdain the untrained. Please do weigh in.

Note the Van Gough Style Painting and the way she pulls the color palette straight from the artwork.

Trained or not, Carissa’s style, while not for everyone, is a master class in the complex layering of hue, color blocking and pattern. I suspect that my next statement will cause some of you to become red-faced and argumentative, but an entire room in a series of whites, off-whites, ecru, and pale cream is safe, formulaic and predictable. It screams lack of self-confidence in either the owner or the designer or both. Of course it works together, its tonal, but I dare you to tell me it wows.

Again see the painting for color inspo. Black is always a welcome and grounding addition to a room. Check out the mix of patterns, leopard is practically a neutral and works well with the curtains. She didn’t miss a texture beat either with the sofa and rug.

Quirkiness is part of her charm and evident in her design aesthetic, the naming of her animals – a cat named Hot Dog, a dog named Waffle and another named Queso. Her irreverent, funny, and educational Instagram posts, and her willingness to share some of the tricks of the fashion and graphic design trades that have helped her excel in the world of interiors.

If maximalist style isn’t your thing you can still test the waters with color.

Reinvention is the catchphrase of the 21st century. I applaud Carissa, want to take one of her design classes, Zoom her into my living room for a strategy session all the way from Dallas, and thank her for pointing out a few color hacks that will have you building your own color confidence. Select a favorite piece of art, a scarf, or something straight out of nature and start playing.

Spring Has Sprung

Except here in New England where spring is more likely to still be caught in a long winter’s nap, and be skipped over entirely for summer. My fever for the season has not diminished an ounce despite my regions unwillingness to embrace renewal.

Ah renewal, an opportunity to dust off the doldrums and bunnies that have surely collected in the darker corners of your house and give it a proper cleaning. Root around in the shed or the storage closet to see what potting soil remains to plant a happy row of tulips or daffodils, a perfect urn placed at your front door, punctuated by pussy willows, and a trail of ivy. Polish up your bike, grease up the chain and launch off for a ride to the beach or farmer’s market and fill your basket with honey.

I like to give my decore a refresh while I am at it and Spring always makes me long for a coastal cottage to call my own. Perhaps that dream will have to remain a little further down my dirt path than I would like as I am currently without a primary home, and while I am not homeless, my restlessness for a renovation project feels like it’s reaching a feverish pitch, which no amount of house hunting has yet sated. Touch market. I got a punch in the gut when I saw that the only property I placed an offer on since the start of the year went for $100K over ask. It’s a one bedroom. Instead of a fresh start, I feel like I’m back to square one.

Fortunately I possess a vivid imagination and am happily putting it to use designing a home of my imaginings that would make the Equinox come-a-knocking for cocktails.

Color Me Happy

Mood Boosting Yellows by Ben Moore

I get a rosy glow when I do something that makes me money. While green isn’t ever going to be one of my go-to hues for home, my affection for it is inextricably tied to its universal associations with luck and wealth, with nature and sustainability, with spring and the circle of life. Green will always have a place in my heart where regrettably one of my less favorable qualities – envy lives. I hope that with a large amount of awareness and a Birch Stick I am able to beat it back, making way for the dewy rose bud hue of possibility that sits on the precipice of a new day. Ah color.

Pratt & Lambert . Rose Quartz

It’s big business. At $30B in US sales annually, you can bet they don’t just let anyone name the colors, which naturally got me thinking about who does get to name them. Color Theorists/Specialists, Psychologists, and Marketing Professionals with a Lawyer or two thrown in to derail your plans, least you think you’ve got an original when you don’t, can all play a role in the naming process. The process by the way isn’t all flapjacks and silly putty – though the names might incidentally or accidentally make their way into the collection, it’s far more scientific than that.

BM . Salamander . @Lindsay_Salazar_Photography

Color naming falls into four basic categories: Geographical, Experiential, Emotional and Visual. Geographical names are pretty obvious. They evoke the feeling of a place and might be named; Sand Dune, Parisienne Cafe, Turkish Delight, or Ocean Meets Sky. My choice for experiential colors, because if I didn’t make it clear, I’d like to be a Color Marketing Manager that spent more than 10% of my time naming colors would be Cliff Walk, Tango in the Dust, Deep Dive, Runway or Sun Salutation. Emotional can be felt in the names; Bashful, Buttery Bliss, Cruel Crimson, or Naughty Noir. Visual Colors are meant to evoke a thing rather than a place, and bring the hue to mind like Cotton Candy, a pale spun sugary pink or Coffee Bean a rich dark chocolate brown, or Marilyn’s Dress, named by Monroe herself for a color that reminded her of a dress she owned when she was a child that made her happy. Apparently working at Ben Moore did not illicit the same feelings.

Parisian Cafe . Je prend un cafe s’il vous plait.

As for my color naming career, I am not sure I’d pass the mustard – not a tone you are likely to see me choose, and interestingly very similar to Farrow & Balls Color of the Year – Babouche, which I like for the way it rolls off my tongue and the association with the Moroccan slippers that the men of this country famously wear. Naming has to do double or triple duty. It must win you over in the war between brands that have similar shades. It needs to inspire and forge an emotional connection, and it needs to be true its descriptor. While we adore incongruity in writing, we seek harmony in our homes.

Catastrophic Construction Costs

I feel comfortable admitting to you that I am getting pretty jiggy without my usual renovation fix to carry me through. While I generally do a darned good job hiding from the news, it’s evident that several things are happening that are going to put the kibosh on, if not my hunting efforts, at least the actuality of a purchase and potential renovation. You see, my desire to do it, even if it’s not good for me is so inexplicably compelling that I may need to be held down. I think it’s fitting that I riff on Oliver Hazard Perry’s famous sentiment when I say, “I have met the enemy and it is me”. Hazard indeed.

Timing is everything.

In the News external problem No. 1: interest rates are going up. I did search for a property with a renewed fervor from the start of the year, knowing what The Fed was up to, and hoping that I could get a property under agreement prior to the first rate hike scheduled for sometime in March 2022. I did not succeed. You see I have my own internal problems that are reeking havoc on my ability to buy. I was burned on my last property, not badly, not a third degree burn or anything as serious as that, but enough to be cautious in this heated market. There were two one bedroom properties that I loved, one of them I made an offer on, but many others wanted it more. A whole lot of cash makes its way to our city and it’s not my kind of cash, it’s the kind of cash that doesn’t bother to consider interest rate hikes because they don’t subject themselves to them. Damn you cash buyers – I hope to be you someday!

Peace really is the best answer.

In the News external problem No. 2: war. This is a heartbreaking injustice on so many fronts. Lives lost, upheaval, displacement, nations aligning as the dark curtain of divisiveness is drawn across the globe. This type of unrest does not scream optimistic time to buy. My second problem stems from my age and the volatility of the markets. I’m losing big when by all rights I should be sliding into stabilizing stocks or bonds or whatever will carry me into retirement.

They always say, don’t gamble money you don’t have to lose.

External Problem No. 3: Supply Chain and let’s go ahead and throw in labor resource challenges while we’re at it, and combine it with my own internal issue – I can’t leave even the best of properties alone. I have to have it my way. I have to rip and tear, tweak and squeak it into my own version of perfection and that is going to cost you in this market, I don’t care how patient you are, which I am not at all, it will cost you. What a pickle I’m in. If you’ve got any advise at all, now is the time to give it.