Hooked on the Holidays: Decorating without damage

Mybellastoria – instagram beauty!

As you all know, because I’ve carried on about it ad nauseam, I have been working tirelessly to make this little lemon of home into a golden pear. It’s taken some doing, but this week I had my own little Christmas miracle in the form of Bruno Guerriero Construction Inc. Double emojoi hearts, and a huge namaste to this stellar crew. I am mustering all the light that shines in me, and am spraying it out in sparkling bursts of happiness onto YOU Bruno. My home is finally water tight, my wall is finally, well, a proper wall, with paint and everything. Hallelujah!

The Potted Boxwood

It was a whole three homes ago when I last had a Christmas tree and I miss it. The holiday season is one that I typically dread. It’s like the death march for me. Beginning in September with industry award season, it rolls right into Thanksgiving with a host of architectural open houses, and holiday galas that have me flitting around town every night of the week – and I mean every night – like I were Holly Golightly and it was my business to entertain – oh, it is my business. Any who, it can be exhausting, and I find myself just praying I’ll make it to Christmas day and can hide in my cozy bed all day after the presents are opened.

Magnetic Wreath Hooks

Not this year. I love the holidays and want to celebrate and decorate this festive season. I’ll hibernate January through March, but after all the work I did to get this zesty citrus twisted into shape, I sure as heck don’t want to deck it out, only to find holes and stripped paint patches left behind, so I embarked, in typical Falla – la – la – la fashion, on a research expedition on how to avoid just that. I found some simple, but pretty good recommendations that I am happy to share with you.

  • Magnetic Wreath Hooks: great for adhering to metal objects or double them up on the inside and outside of a window to get that clean, floating wreath look,
  • Command Hooks: you can purchase these inexpensive temporary hooks for use indoors or out. I even saw a really smart tip about leaving the tape in place for the following season – as long as its location isn’t somewhere visible to the eye – next year will be made that much easier,
  • Binder Clips: while I’m not suggesting you raid your office supplies, I bet you’ve brought a handful or two of these home over the years and they come in handy when you are attempting to get the light placement on a garland just right,
  • Glue Gun: Every now and then you need to take a little bit of a risk. I for one am not going to be placing anchors in the brick wall exterior on my home, so I’ll glue the lights around my door to the brick using a glue gun. Warning – monitor your own risk level before attempting – painted brick and/or stucco could lift off when you remove that lumpy glump of glue, post holiday. That is what we are attempting to avoid here.
Chronicles of Home

Lots to do to get my place decorated for my holiday cocktail get together Tuesday, so I will sign off. Happy Holiday weekend.

Unhinged: hidden doors

With the holidays suddenly, oh so suddenly upon us, becoming unhinged might seem imminent. As a bit of a control freak, I find that during times like these – that is … massive amounts of disruption to one’s normal schedule…if you take the opportunity to just put a few things in order, it can make a world of difference to your mental health.

left: FritzJergens Pivot Hinge. Right: Soss Hidden Hinge.

Me, I like things to be clean, in their proper place. I know my boss will get a kick out of this when she reads it, because my office is typically a disaster. I’ve got stacks of priority stacks, emergency stacks, stacks that must be attended to before I leave for my next evening outing. I’ve got baubles, bells, lights, and ribbons, quotes, and mementos, inspiration photos and post-its full of ideas. My office is chaotic. Marie Kondo would have a fit – Lisa is kind enough to mostly leave me to it – even if – it – isn’t exactly what she had in mind. It’s a process.

In plain Site – a whole other room behind the bookcase.

So too is one’s home. Part of that process for me, has always been the hiding away of things. They call it a facade for a reason – it’s hiding something, even if that something isn’t a stack of magazines or dirty dishes stowed in the oven until the unexpected guests take their leave. Everyone has something to hide, which is why I love secret doors and compartments. It adds to the air of mystery that surrounds a person. It hints at the layers, their depth, the intrigue. Just when they (all those people in your life) think they have you all figured out, they discover, that that book shelf of yours, is actually hiding a passageway to a secret room.

The French knew – all those years ago. Curved door, curved molding, hidden hinges.

How you go about getting that hidden room, or door that looks like a wall, was initially, a tightly held secret. I knew that it could be done. I’ve seen the Oval Office, well not in person or anything, but on tv, and in movies, and the doors look like they are part of the room – no visible hinges. What a wonderful trick. For my Charlestown place I had to settle for a flush mount door with beveled molding, and visible hinges. Even though I hated conceding to a visible hinge , the door looked pretty good.

Even ship lap gets into the trend.

Today, hiding is made so much easier with pivot hinges. Concrete, tile, wood, whatever your material challenge, there is a hinge that can handle it. Soss can take on doors up to 1100 lbs, they’re pricey but that is a pretty big door. HD has options at a much more affordable price point, and there are many others in-between. Slap a little molding on an inexpensive flush mount door and paint it, and you have a work of hidden art. Add wall covering and you’ll really have them fooled.

Just think, if the holidays get really tough, you’ll have a place to stow away for a few blissful hours – drama free.

Birds of paradise…dare to dream there’s an en suite bath on the other side of that door.

Gratitude: the season for…

I’ve done a lot of complaining this past year, bemoaning the water infiltration issues – one following another – and yet another. The little inconveniences that are part of life – the missing, lost or tossed hardware that went with the stand to the fire tools set, and lies across the hearth – reprimanding me for not getting to that item, on my very long to-do list, that would have the nuts and bolts arriving in the mail within days. The half painted deck, that now will have to wait until spring. The doors that were taken off, but not away, the doors that have yet to arrive, and the wall that awaits its interior dressing, sits naked – vulnerable – cold.

The truth is that all these things are a blessing. I have a home and a roof over head, and as my Dad likes to say – even a leaky roof is just fine when the sun shines. I have a lovely fire place and tools to poke those blazing logs into rosy submission, even if I do have to pick them up off the floor. Those old doors will get carted away, my wall will get built, my closets will be shuttered – my clothes neatly tucked away, and my tiny little fridge will, I am certain, always be as full as I need it to be.

My closet doors – almost done.

For this abundance of wealth I am grateful. I hope everyone’s Thanksgiving is as good to them, as this year has been to me.

No sleep til BROOKLYN: across the river

I have to admit that in all my travels, which have been extensive, I’d never really spent anytime in Brooklyn. I’d been to lunch there one day, and I couldn’t even tell you which of the bazzillion – that’s a technical term for the many neighborhoods, I visited that day. There are so very many, with names like “Little Poland”, “Fish Hook”, “Pig Town”, “Starette City”, “Cobble Hill” and all manner of creative inventiveness. All with their own distinct character – and quite a few characters to boot.

Dining in the penthouse restaurant inside the Hoxton Hotel in Williamsberg, I overheard a women comment that it felt like central casting had a cattle call for hipsters, and dropped them all off in one square mile. They were indeed, super hip, having refined the best of our 1980’s style, adapting it to be something new and decidedly cooler than anything I wore. I suspect that the selfie was invented here, or at the very least they were making a serious case for ownership.

There’s a quirkiness to the place that makes it very interesting, new mid-rise luxury apartments nestled next to high rises and single family homes clad in outdated asbestos tiles – spooky – and a bonanza of amazing restaurants. They are afraid to be different either. There’s a ski lodge, the Brooklyn Brewery, a sweet little Bakeri (yes, that’s the way you spell it) and so many more yummies. The creativity was palpable, and I adored it.

The Devil is in the Details: A glimpse inside Chicago Athletic Club Hotel

Chicago Athletic Club Hotel . Chicago

A Venetian Gothic gem of a property, modeled after Venice’s – Doge (I’ve been there and I can report, it’s one heck of building), the private club launched itself onto the scene in 1893, in the very midst of the World’s Columbian Exposition – also known as the World’s Fair. The much more modest Chicago Athletic Club was elegant in its own right though. Designed by Chicago Architect Henry Ives Cobb – While he might have made a name for himself in the White City, I would like to point out that Cobbs was born in Brookline, MA, and therefore, I claim some kinship. I wonder too, if of his two preferred styles, Richarsonian Romaneque and Victorian Gothic, Henry Hobson Richardson wasn’t to be richly credited.

I am certain that the private club could fill libraries full of memoirs – outlining the sordid and frightfully interesting tales of the clubs inhabitants, leading up to its closing in 2007.

In AJ Capital and Partners, knight in shining armor fashion, or should we say “light” in shining armor? An ode, to the street lights that dot the tree lined avenues, not only providing the illusion of safety – let us not forget the Devil – but its white clad stucco buildings, making them appear as if they were aglow, once again stepped in to repurpose a landmark, and yowie, did they ever.

The 240 room hotel – open to the public for the very first time, adeptly mixes glamour and grit – pardon my overuse of the word in these past posts. Designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architects and Roman + Williams, responsible for the breathtaking interiors, this baby has panache. It’s the very type of destination that the bold and beautiful likely clamor to for roof top drinks, to make it official under the White City Ballroom’s, upsidedown cake meringue of a ceiling – stunning, or to fulfill their ballpark bucket list adventure. If you are a fan, Rigley and Fenway are on your list.

I really do believe the devil is in the details. I’m not always focused on every last one of them, but appreciate it when other’s are, and at the Athletic Club Hotel – they sure were. From squash court flooring in the high speed elevators, to pommel horse benches in the guest rooms – you’ll see and feel the history of this storied building, celebrated in its design.

Once Upon a Time: An Adventure in hotels

I love a good story. I love reading one, living one, writing one. It should be no surprise to me that I’ve fallen right into AJ Capital Partners story-telling clutches, and I’m not even attempting to wrestle free. They had me at “counter-culture investors”, or maybe it was “relentless grit and obsessive determination”, or the adventurous journey they promised to take me on.

The Graduate Hotel.

When Chip and Joanna announced that they were making a foray into the hotel business with a Waco, TX location and they were partnering with AJ Capital Partners to do it, inviting me to Google them in their comedic video announcement, wasn’t really necessary. I was so going to check them out anyway, and what do you think I found? If the suspense isn’t yet killing you, it will be. They were the money, and the brains behind The Thompson Hotels, specifically the Nashville location in The Gulch, where I was first introduced to the Rose 45, served up in a brown paper bag – now that is the epitome of grit and sophistication if I ever did see it, and I did, and drank it too.

The Thompson Hotel . Nashville.

No visit to Nashville is complete for me without a stop by the Thompson. I enjoy the lobby, and the curbside restaurant and bar, as much as the rooftop, with it’s panoramic views of the city, and graphic pink tiled floors – the design (interiors created by NYC firm – Parts and Labor Design). It’s a stunner.

From their Graduate Hotel collection, situated strategically in University Towns, and offering a cleverly structured Public/Private Partnership Program called Class, to help institutions finance, develop, and operate a Graduate Hotel on their own campus, eradicating the dreary and dated accommodations so typically offered up on campuses, and elevating them to whole new story and design heights.

May Hosiery . Nashville.

Intent on finding properties that have fallen on hard times, are ripe for development but have been passed over by others for fear of cost, lack of creativity, and/or inability to identify their beneficial supply and demand characteristics – they appreciate the power of a historic building to tell a story, to reinvent itself, to be a major player in the conversation. Consider, May Hosiery, founded in 1908 as a sock factory – which grew out of founder Jacob May’s successful bid to run a sock manufacturing project out of a prison in Nashville. 50 inmates, .50 cents a day made May a rich man before he lost the contract and started his own factory there. May Hosiery Hotel is scheduled to open this year, and if you think the prison workers is the best of the story, hold onto your socks, there’s more – in addition to its title as oldest southern sock company, its distribution of 1M socks a week across the nation in its hayday, the building and the company have a heart. During WWII they provided sanctuary to over 300 Jews fleeing Natzi Germany, in the 60’s and 70’s their socks hitched a ride to the moon on the soles of ALL the Apollo Astronauts, and now is starting it’s next development chapter by housing Apple Music – with a focus on Country – what else, and other makers and innovators like architects, old school barbers and more.

Chicago Athletic Club Hotel . Chicago

Each property polishes the patina off the copper, giving it 21st century shine. The Landmark Chicago Athletic Club Hotel is a kitschy marvel, more on this 240 room hotel tomorrow. The Pontchartrain Hotel is all class and style, sweat and contradictions, music and a menagerie of cultural references, as only a hotel in New Orleans whose clientele included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Truman Capote, President Ford, and Tennessee Williams who is said to have penned, Streetcar Named Desire while in Residence. “What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.” — beautiful, and no wonder, when you can simply look out your window onto St. Charles Streetcar Line for inspo.

Calistoga Ranch . Napa Valley . CA

These stories and more are the foundation of AJ Capital Partners investments. Oh how I wish I could put my meager pennies in with their own.

Two Faced: What to do when your back is your front

Your front entry that is. I know what I am doing is considered rather unique. Not the flipping part. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry is a flipper these days. No disrespect to Tom, Dick or Harry and most certainly none intended to the Tomasia’s, Dorathea’s and/or Harriet’s that are forging their own path on the road to financial security – I salute you all. The point is, this is about me, the me that can’t seem to do anything normal, or easy, or in a way that I can just blend into the crowd. Sometimes blending is a welcome cloak against the condemnation that follows from the pitfalls of this business of being human – if you know what I mean.

Enough greenery can make anything look better.

When I selected No. 5 I didn’t give much thought to the fact that you enter through the back of the building. Not just because that’s the convenient way to get there, but because it’s the only actual way to get there, unless you want to crawl through the window. The window BTW is the intended exit route if there were a fire. It works, but nobody is worried about what they look like when the are escaping a fire…am I right?

This particular set of row houses (those intended for the servants) are pretty, in their simple, unfussy way. They certainly don’t look like the brownstones of the eight street district, or Beacon Hill, and the back of them – well, it’s the back. They are draped in wires, cables and cords. They are gated or fenced in from the street, but still can be viewed from the same. My gate is a thin barrier at best to the outside world, and yet, I am decidedly subconscious about the way it looks.

When you open the sage green gate (anyone that knows me well, knows that THAT color has to change), and are presented with a small wooden walk way leading to a few steps, a small outdoor deck and my back door. My back door is really a kitchen door. Three rows of divided lights sit atop two long vertical panels. It would be fine for a country home – even better if the top half opened to a grand back yard, and it were the fifties, but this is neither the country or that decade, and as for privacy, don’t think I haven’t noticed the next door neighbors, on floor two, peering down in at me. I’ve got my eyes on you too, and a stun gun, so beware. I also have a new front door sitting in my living room. I’ve always wanted my own front door. Condo living doesn’t really afford you a front door in the traditional, single family home sense of the word, and I have visions of a southern porch, inviting me down the boxwood bordered path on perfect pavers, to my glossy doored destination. If there is any solace in the selection of this soggy bottomed abode, it’s the back door – which of course I am going to turn into my very own front.

Wayfare . Metalic Galvanized Steel Coated Planter.

Due to the fact that a good deal of my entry is “common space”, for those of you that are unfamiliar, it’s like being married and having to negotiate with your partner for approval on purchases. Since the sale of the unit below is under negotiation, I can’t even being to hypnotize him into accepting that there is no other color in the world more perfect than gray. It’s a real drama for me, A. Because I am not married and don’t negotiate getting what I want with anyone, and B. I am totally impatient. So I just began painting. I painted everything that I “owned” and then started to slyly move down the corridor until I was made to stop. Well now it just looks silly, and will have to be painted, and since I never selected that detestable first color, I have no idea what it is. The logical thing to do of course is to continue on with my beautiful Benjamin Moore . Trout Gray.

I have a happy entry mat that says “HELLO” and I purchased some beautiful long, linear and tall black planters in which boxwood’s will be planted to hide the condenser, and the less then happy trellis that sits in front of it. I am going to trim the windows out in black, and hang large beautiful wreaths in them both. The piece de resistence? There is going to be a black and white striped canopy. I haven’t figured out how to do it just yet, but trust me when I tell you, when I am done with it all – my back is going to be the very best front you ever did see.

Happy Saturday.