The Halfway Mark

Otherwise known as feeling utterly stuck, and the clock is ticking.  I feel it getting louder and faster, and utterly unbearable, as the deadline for my closing bears down on me.  Just 10 days away and I’ve made nary a decision.  I’m stuck.

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Note the asymmetry of the fire place on the wall, and the tiny little corner by the window.  Cute and quirky if you aren’t riddled with the symmetry desease like me.

Five should be a big deal, a milestone, and I think I’ve said it before, but it feels lack luster.  Is it because I have made the decision to just move in?  To let the place be what it is and see how that turns out?  Maybe.  I was reviewing the pictures and all those things that seem inconsequential when you look at a place for 5 minutes, with an eye toward a gut, suddenly spring to the forefront.  The dated opening into the kitchen, the granite counter tops, the white appliances, the window casings, the doors, the lack of symmetry.  The stairs that go to nowhere on the lower level, the carpet, really I could keep going but it just takes me down a path that I may not find my way back from.

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Retro 80’s opening to the kitchen.  Wasn’t my best decade.

Then I wonder if I should just blast the whole place in gray.  Despite what the rest of the world may think about this color, it is in fact my happy place.  Is it possible to cover all manner of design insults with a coat of paint?

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This one is entitled…going no places.

Before I asked this question I thought it wouldn’t be so bad if I just tore out that little half wall at the entry – such a minor offense.  Then I thought, while I’m just in there tearing out that little bit of an inconsequential thing, why not just address that kitchen wall.  Sure it has a whole set of cabinets on the opposing side, but it blocks the site lines through the living room – what’s that you say, it has that convenient little opening that you can look through – You had to bring that up – didn’t you.  Now that wall will have to go, and the pots and pans will just have to find another home.  While we are doing that we mine as well address the asymmetry of the fireplace wall, and what of the floors?  Should those be stripped and painted too?

This star

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This stair could be really pretty with that brick painted, don’t you think?

You see my dilema.  That tiny little duplex will be a gut before I am done with it, and it’s really not in the budget.  Santa Baby, I’ve almost got the duplex, just send checks.  I’ve been an awfully good girl.

London Town: Deck the Halls

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All you need for Christmas.  I’ll take the car.

For an international city – London is unabashedly celebrating Christmas.  It’s true that the Crown Rules there, and Londoner’s, whether natural born citizens, or transplants, love their Royal Family.  As political as they are, and they know their politics, they appear to leave the political correctness at the border,and deck the halls, and the streets, and the salons, in full celebratory regalia.

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Crafted by a designer that creates for Katy Perry and Beyonce – you could DIY this holiday fascinator.  

Nary a window isn’t dressed for the season, nor do they need much more of a reason.  Without a recognized day to give thanks – the boxes and bangles, branches and berries, leafy flocked goodness, and boughs filled with holly all make their way via dark dingy corners, to brighten every doorstep, every hearthstone, every foreigner.  Forgive me my artist license.  London Town put me into full-fledged merriment.

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The Royal Holiday Seat.

Far from feeling oppressed by the season, they embrace the spirit and warmth of it.  They are friendly, dare I say, their typically reserved personas are brightened and lightened by this special time of year.  They engage in a most American of traditions – Black Friday, taking the day off from work to make the most of the holiday sales.  As I walked through the neighborhoods I was delighted to see many a Christmas Tree light up a window, and I thought – why not?

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Candy Land.

Winter can be long and dreary, holiday decorations bring joy – even the most refined of decorations could not be classified as minimalist, and I found that that made me smile too.  Picnic hampers, and crystal encrusted lobsters, splits of champagne, and giant shiny baubles decorate the branches – any old thing is fair game as long as you bring a little sparkle to it.

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F & M Styled Tree.

In a city that screams poise and sophistication, this lighthearted holiday from seriousness seems right.  More than right, it is a reminder that tradition and celebration are not for the simpleminded.  To the contrary, they enlighten and enrich the lives of those that believe.  It inspires, feels hopeful, and happy.  Who among us couldn’t use a little of that.

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Stick around – every 5 minutes they make it snow.  Magic.

Whatever holiday you celebrate – let it be Merry.

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Light it up. Harrod’s – London.

King of the Road: OKL opens flagship

One Kings Lane was never on a quiet little street, even when it was an on-line shop.  It did however sprung up quietly, at least at first.  I remember using OKL eight years ago when I was working on my Charlestown property.  Having purchased the property in March of 2008 – OKL was co-founded by Ali Pincus and Susan Feldman, though I don’t think it went live until early 2009 – a particularly bad time for most folks, these two savvy business women made a go of it.  Seeing an opportunity to grab end of life inventory and present it in “flash sales”  (buy now or forever hold your peace) they launched the brand.

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Soho at the corner of Spring and Wooster

While I am a tactile person, the reality that you could get hundreds of brands, previously only sold to the trade, was more than enticing –  I bought my first items that very first year.  I love too that you can like or love as the case may be, your favorites and they get stored and saved so that you can revisit them later.  i don’t know what year OKL abandoned the flash sales or why – perhaps their success gained them cred in the marketplace and they outgrew their need to offer excess inventory, skyrocketing to the just released stratosphere.  I liked the excitement of the sales, but am happy to take a little extra time to formulate my plan, compare and contrast my finding, before I make my final decision.

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Some incredibly good stylers work at OKL!

A few years ago I wrote about their new design service.  You could visit their showroom in NYC or CT, see many of their product offerings and get FREE design help.  Send a photo of your space, the pieces you are in need of, and in advance of your visit they will flag items for you to consider.  Fun and helpful, and with hundreds of brands represented, there is plenty to select from – you need not feel as if your space will look like it was delivered straight out of the Restoration Hardware catalog.

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It just so happened that the day I visited the Soho shop for my design appointment they were preparing to move, and guess what – they were selling everything in the store to avoid having to pay to move it.  As a display only gallery, this was not normally allowed, and I went a little wild with the excitement of getting to see, touch, an examine massing and scale before I hit send.  I still have those things I bought that day.

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Pick your micro-vertical and go wild!

I wonder if this little economization resulted in the opening of their bricks and mortar store.  I can’t be the only one that loves to touch, see, and test the quality of items before buying.  Now you can.  Visit:

143 Spring Street (at Wooster)  Soho . NYC  – www.onekingslane.com

or 11 Jobs Lane . Southhampton . NY

Co-opting roommates: the co-living fad

Being in the real estate industry, I attend loads of conferences where “tech” and “disrupt” are like contestants in a spelling b, spitting out words as fast as their little minds can organize them, when the appropriate combination of letters are assembled, Silicon Valley comes a knockin’.  Long exposed to the concept of Co-working – Co-living was new-ish to me, and it definitely caught my attention.

I read quite a few articles about this new trend, the majority of which bashed it for not being new at all.  You’ve heard of roommates before, haven’t you?  That’s not a new concept.  You may even have heard of Boarding Houses or single gender hotels of old, places that a single women or man, traveling from far afoot to NYC for the very first time, could go, stay, be with other singles, build friendships, and live in a city that they otherwise knew no one.  Pretty good idea.  So what makes this Co-living thing any different?  Good question.

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I have no issues with millennials.  In fact, as I said in my speech last week when I received my volunteer of the year award, I’ve learned that I really do love them, so much so that I wish I were one of them.  Now, admittedly part of this desire comes from my shear jealously over their youth, but it’s more than that.  They are technically saavy, they are entreprenureal, they are open to ideas, and if I have learned anything along the way, reinvention is critical to survival.  In the olden days that was called “adaptation”.  You see how we just created something new and hip, out of something old and staide?  That’s what Co-living is all about.

My ears perked up because as a flipper, and a non-liquid one at that, I move a lot.  I often need temporary quarters to reside between purchases.  I’ve lived with friends, a situation that might be classified as “roommates”.  I’ve slept on sofa’s at family members homes, I’ve lived in furnished Air B-n-B’s, and short term leased, furnished properties.  If you mooge all of those together – Co-living seems to take shape.  Not so dissimilar to the popular rental “communities” that are popping up all over Boston.  Swimming pools, pool parties, wine tastings, common rooms for working and play, fitness, coffee, concierge services of all kinds.  I’ve written about my experience living at the Ink Block in Boston’s South End.  Were it not for the kindness of friends, away in Europe for 4 months, I would likely be there right now.  It was the easiest living that I have ever experienced.  It is like living in a hotel.  So what does Co-living have that Ink Block doesn’t?  I’m glad you asked.

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Owned by National Development, the Ink Block concept – build a community and they will come, was a home run for Ted Tye and company.  Common, pushes around the edges of this concept by offering furnished apartments, bedrooms within units, with roommates that you don’t know until you arrive.  Sort of like college.  All the amenities that you have come to expect within these “communities” exist.  The “members” have some extra benefits that you don’t find at a traditional leased property – house cleaning.  Yes, you get maid service.  Once a week a light clean, once a month a deep clean.  You can walk into your new home with a tooth brush, a carry-on, and your kindle and make yourself at home.  Every last item you need to live is already there, down to the face cloth and the dust mop.  You can stay for one night, one week, month, year or more.  It’s entirely up to you, and by the way, your fee includes all the bills you might otherwise pay in an apartment.  Brilliant – I would love to stop paying all those pesky bills and reliquish the responsibility to my Commune-leader.  If this is a cult, I want to join it.

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Not this kind of like minded community.  The other kind.

With all of the negatives that were bandied about in the articles I read, I didn’t hear mention of the “gig-economy”.  Growing in popularity, there will come a time when contract employees make up the majority of the workforce.  There are challenges that come along with that – think health care, and oy vey – sexual harrassement laws which archaically only provide recourse for FT employees – but there is tremendous freedom too.  Why not try out six different cities in as many months before you decide where you want to live?  Why not indeed.

San Pancho Retreat

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I often feel like an arrow.  While I am clear on the target I’m intent on hitting, it requires a pulling back, a pause, a refocused effort – a collection, a reflection, a question.   Each time I sell, and prepare to buy again, the arrow quivers just a little less in its trajectory.  This period of retreat is important to me, it keeps me grounded, it allows me to feel what I am doing, and prepares me to return, fortified for battle.

I closed on Halloween, rolled my suitcase and a bag down 8 blocks to my sister’s house and left the following morning for Mexico.  San Pancho is a quiet little town on the West Coast, not far from Puerto Vallarta.  I smile when I think of that city because it reminds me of The Love Boat, Captain Stubing who I actually waited on at Thompson’s Clam Bar in my hometown of Harwich, MA, in the nineties.  I would watch The Love Boat and the Fantasy Island with Mrs. McLaughlin, while I was babysitting on Saturday night’s.  The Love Boat always visited Puerto Vallarta.  If Puerto V is the big city, San Pancho is the outback.  Tucked away in the shadow of Sayulita whose popularity has grown since I visited 10 years ago.  Tucked into a bay, it became famous for its surfing, and art community, and the undeniable hipness of its inhabitants and visitors.  San P is its humble, quiet sister whose beauties and mysteries unfold with the passing days, and her softly spoken “buenos dias”.

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Life here is simple.  You need not guess at a person’s motivation.  It’s beauty is juxtaposed with its grittiness.  The dirt roads, and cobblestones, that are as likely to have a horse and donkey meandering through them as a honking car or motor bike.  Absent are the rules and regulations that we organize our lives and priorities so carefully around in the States.  Construction sites spill out into the street with nary a barricade or warning in site.  It seems to say – “live free or die” without saying it at all, which really is a good lesson, regardless of where you live.  Pride, and family, and preparation, and gratitude are in abundance.  I think of my old yoga coach who would tell me to “try easy”.  I push so hard, so forcefully.  San Pancho allows you to pull back.

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Here I have retreated.  I have risen, and pushed, and pealed back, and exposed all of my flaws and insecurities to a people that will not judge me, because judgement is not part of their lexicon.  I have lived under a GMO Free Zone for just a short time and the elegance, simplicity and vitality of the food has restored me.

I rose early, practiced hard, explored my artistic side, experienced the beauty of Gisella and Calista’s carefully curated hotel – rustic and refined, thoughtfully designed, suitably pancho.  More and more, square foot, by square foot, I gain an appreciation for the artistic talent of others – even when the style is not my own.  Hotel Ciele Rojo is exceptionally well executed, but those words do it an injustice – it’s designed with heart, and you feel the love when you are here.

Visit, and tell them I sent you.

Moving Day

Yesterday I moved.  I did it without fanfare, anxiety, or anticipation.  I just did it.  I made the call to Humboldt Moving and Storage who have steadfastly supported me throughout this quest.  I packed my boxes in-between the dozens of events I’ve had over the last few weeks.  Tossed the clothes, donated the books, re-gifted, re-cycled, re-peated all the things required of someone moving, for the 8th time in 10 years.  It no longer feels special.  It feels mechanical.  Even the hunt, which has always been one of my most favorite activities – seems less exciting.

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It’s a wrap.

Is it the fact that there are so few properties on the market?  Is it the fact that the stocks are being batted around like a ping pong ball being hit by a pale blue Tiffany Paddle (it’s true – they have these – I just saw it advertised for the person who has everything – good golly!  If I was gifted such a thing I’d feel compelled to encase it in a lucite frame and design a room around it.  Suffice it to say, that I am not in danger of having this happen, and you are not in danger of having to witness it.)

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See…there they are in all their Tiffany Blue glory.

So what is dampening my enthusiasm?  Number 5 should feel like a milestone – half way to my quest.  Is it that I am not half way to my financial goal of $1M.  I say this and fail to scowl as I envision Mike Meyers with his pinkie finger poised at the corner of his mouth….one million dollars – as if that were a lot of money.  But it is a lot of money to me, and I imagine to many of you, and that does make me smile.  Am I making more money for the people associated with the process than I am making for myself?  Is the only way to do this, to do it on the cheap.  I rail against that realism, and steadfastly refuse.  I am interested in design.  I want to create beautiful spaces.  I believe that the beauty of them is not skin deep, that proper wiring, sound structure, solid doors, and working plumbing are all beautiful – even though, like a problem child, they are only given any attention when they are acting up.  I know, and work hard to leave what lies below, better than when I found it.  This costs money.  I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.

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Adios pretty pastel kitchen.

This is an important time.  I have four months to find a place or I’ll be forced to rent.  Four months of living out of a suitcase, and by the kindness of friends.  Four months to figure out if a need to move into another that I own, invest in a rental with friends, find a suburban property that I can flip for the cameras.  It’s a lot to consider, and I have never before had to consider so many options without a clear answer.

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Sayonara!

Advise welcome.  Happy Sunday.

Shine on You Crazy Diamond: star worthy finishes

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Lime Wash . Skipping Stone.  Gives that traditional, relaxed feel.

For the love of the craft.  Jamie and Casey Davis –  brothers, and founders of Portola Paints and Glazes have an eye for architecture and for color.  I think it’s cool that their Dad was a high-end builder, their appreciation for craftsmanship and artistry growing from this exposure.  Each taking it in their own direction – one as a fine artist, the other a photographer, before coming together to start Portola.  Even the name is cool, but I would expect nothing less from a company based in Cali.

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They are so right.  Bedroom, Powder Room, Front Entry – if London’s Sketch can do it – I can too.

Undoubtably these California roots fed their knowledge and respect for sustainability.  Their paints, glazes, clays and washes are almost entirely green.  All the acrylics are zero VOC’s though their enamels do contain low levels,  out of necessity – shhh.

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Roman Clay Finish – the combo of dull and shiny is sexy.

They make them here in the good old USA, they hand mix them (quality control at its finest)  and even hand paint the sample decks before mailing them out to you.  From smooth to textured, pearlescent to trowel finished, they marry old world tradition with sustainable tech and innovation.  Paints that take on the appearance of patinated copper and aged iron, to the weathered lime washed wonder of the Mediterranean.

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Note that slightly textured finish – Sandstone…who knew.

They offer up the look of Venetian plaster in the form of their Roman Clay – though buyer be ware – this is trowel or putty knife applied, so the skill of the craftsman WILL make a difference.  The last thing you want is to pay a lot of loot and have it look like porridge.  Oy vey.  This is for a property yet to be known to me, but it remains a happy visitor in my rich fantasy life where at the end of all this flipping I’ve become flush with cash and fame (not likely) and have the money to buy a home the size of at least three of my tiny flips put together.  That Roman Clay will adorn the walls of the entry, and be the wow I’ve been waiting for.

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Lime Washed Moodiness.

Until then, I am intrigued, though admittedly a little nervous about their semi-gloss and sandstone finish paints.  These have a slightly textured surface.  They show the brushstrokes and give the impression of a silk fabric – albeit a slight one.  It interests me still, particularly when I consider how it might look side-by-side with a high gloss.  They carry a hybrid enamel, which I envision on a ceiling, the moldings, base and/or door, and juxtaposed against this slightly textured sandstone wall.  Too much shine, too many hard surfaces, too much perfection is simply uninteresting.  Appreciation grows when juxtaposed.  I’m so clever with my rhyming today, don’t you think?

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HAND Painted.

Two final things that will have me stepping out on my boyfriend Ben (Moore that is, and not my real boyfriend) support and pride in, and for the small business owner, they really do make our world go round, and the luscious names they have assigned to their pretty little palette….El Mirage, Fountain Stone, Blue Moon, Sweet Water, Gypsy Eyes, Sayulita (a place that I’ve been and loved), Magic Potion, Show time and Simmer Down.

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These guys….hero’s of tradition.

I could just drown in those lovely names.  Happy Sunday.