Paintings: The only palette you’ll ever need

They are so brilliantly expressive, marrying hues that seemingly don’t go together, in a way that is at once natural, and entirely logical. If painting were only based in the world of reality, for which I am ever so grateful, it is not. Frankly I don’t know where I would be without a pink hippopotamus, a blue tree, and a violet sky – well sometimes the sky is violet, but it’s very rare, you have to admit. The beauty of uncommon pairings is itself an artform, and I find it incredibly comforting to know that even if I appear to have made a terrible misjudgment with the colors I selected for one of my flips, I can flip that script with a painting, that makes it alright again.

Just see how many colors you can squeeze out of a single painting. Your furniture will pick it right up.

While I understand not everyone buys, renovates, sells, buys, renovates, sells, buys, renovates, sells – well you get the point, it can be exhausting and exhilarating, and leave you, loyal reader, with the incorrect impression that after a while, I surely get it right. Oh, how I wish that were true, but I often get it wrong. This may lead you to ask yourself, why ever would you listen to a word I have to say, if I am not perfect, not always right, so often get things wrong? I understand your hesitancy, but lean in here while I tell you this secret. Have you leaned in? None of us, not even the people you revere the very most, are perfect. They make mistakes too. It’s called being human. Life is so much softer when you understand and accept that.

A favorite Texas Artist of Mine . a happy mess of colors.

Let’s just assume for the sake of this post that you are pretty perfect, but someone, say your grandmother or aunt, or brother, or old college roommate gave you a sofa or a rug, for instance, and you are not at all like me. YOU ARE sentimental. The not at all like me part comes in here because I am not sentimental at all. I would give that sofa away, leave that rug in my childhood friend’s home, never to return to collect it. I wouldn’t bat and eye or shed a tear, but as I said – in this story, you are not me. You are terribly sentimental, so play that part please. How could you just sell that gifted carpet, that beloved sofa, where so many lovely memories were made? You couldn’t, you wouldn’t even if you were beginning to resent the gift and all of its design havoc wrecking qualities. You had a nearly perfect (really – was it? Be honest) home, until that gift horse arrived in your house.

Even an old master can be made new again with color.

If it’s old and weathered and all your other pieces are new, if it’s a violent blood read, and your were going for serenity in the form of pale grays, embrace the change. Art will make it feel intentional.

Add a black accent and watch it pop.

Do You Design

Polka Dots and Stripes go with just about anything. Try it.

I am more of a doer than a show you how to doer, which is interesting because I love to learn, and revere a good teacher. The kind that stokes your curiosity, getting you to lean in to investigate a little closer, the magic that is being explained. The very best teachers seem to make my impatience fall away like a towel on a kid, ready to plunge themselves into the ocean. I wish I could do that for you, but my notebooks have notes, ideas, sketches, and list after list of To Do’s, that wouldn’t explain how I get anything done, though I accomplish a lot, sometimes a little, and mainly feel as if I’ve done nothing at all. How is it possible to be this way, and to explain to others, how to do it. It’s more of a How Don’t Guide, than a How To Guide, but there is something that I wanted to share about how this doer gets a design to be done.

For me it starts with color. It hurts my heart a little when the people that I am working with don’t like the hue blue. It’s not as if it’s the only color I like, but I’ve told you all before, I do adore. So let’s just say I start with the color blue, then I ask myself, what are we dealing with? A house, a home, a shelter – blue will still do, no seriously, whether I am dealing with a whole house or a single room, having a palette that is complimentary is important to me. Will I be able to close one room off from another, or will there need to be a relationship between the two? One of the drawbacks of open concept spaces is that delineation is hard to determine. Where does one room begin and the next end? Who knows. Many designers choose a single color to address these wide open spaces, which I’m not at all opposed to doing.

Give definition with trim, piping, pom-poms or fringe.

Here’s my how don’t guide to getting it right:

  • Don’t make decisions in a vacuum,
  • Don’t be impatient – gather your materials samples, paint, finishes, and put them on a board or in a tray, are they visually appealing to you?,
  • Don’t be afraid of prints and stripes together – stripes go with everything,
  • Don’t order everything from the Restoration Hardware catalog and call it done, people will talk about you behind your back, no matter how much you spent,
  • Don’t beat yourself up for making mistakes – even the very best designers make them, it’s part of the learning process, and yes, there may be tears due to the literal price of the lesson, but that’s life,
  • Don’t think that you can see a paint color on the pages of a magazine and know what it’s going to look like in your space – the time of day, year, exposure, even your own mood can influence the way in which that color reads – you must test it, sit with it, and sigh, be patient.

These are my Sunday don’t, now go out and get after the month of March. It’s be worth doing.

Materiality Matters: concrete answers

Concrete Collaborative . Calafornia dreaming. Ventura . Concrete Terrazzo Topping

Well, about concrete, which is making a strong comeback for a material that typically gets the short end of the pretty stick. It’s always had substance, but its make-up matters, and this dense version, gleams. The fact that its color range would make a chameleon jealously prepare to defend their territory is testament to its range, but even if you decided to stay firmly rooted to its color of origin, its anything but average.

Ribbed . raked boarded, anything but boring.

There are few things I like as much as supporting a family-owned business, one owned and operated by three sisters seams steeped in some mystical meaning. I can’t help but think of Irving Berlin’s White Christmas – Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen singing, “Sisters, Sisters, lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister”…. I’d revise it to say, lord help the mister that comes between me and my design. My sister may have discovered the Concrete Collaborative on Goop – she’s obsessed with anything Gwenie picks, and GP picked a pretty pink terrazzo called Venice Alabaster Large Pink Chip Tile for her Hawaiian store. Big island indeed.

Pacifica . tough as nails.

Admittedly, it was only a few months before that I was introduced to the company, on a cold fall day, as I stood outside, investigating the materials for our new office headquarters, covid-style. I honed in on it like a sharp shooter picking their target out of a crowded arena. I could pick a diamond chip out of a stretch of beach a mile long. I’d like to think that it has everything to do with my sense of refined elegance rather than my nose for money, but honey, I’ve never been able to determine whether it was a gift or a curse. Someone has to pay the bills after all, and this concrete doesn’t come cheap, but if statement making is what you are after, you’ve come to the right place.

Venice . beach, city or terrazzo – you had me at hello.

Countertop, tabletop, paver, breezeway barrier, tiled or poured, raked, ribbed or formed with a board, be prepared to be impressed.

QUIN.tessential Design: getting social in Boston

The Algonquin Club is getting a face-lift. Known as the finest, and most perfectly appointed clubhouse in American, when it was designed by McKim, Mead & White in 1886, ideals change. No offense to Charles McKim, who designed this limestone jewel on Commonwealth Ave. in Boston’s Back Bay. You were cutting edge at the time, and I still wander the BPL in wonder over the vaulted ceilings, grand marble stairs, courtyard seemingly plucked from a fine Italian estate (if you haven’t been to the Boston Public Library of late, do not let the skate punks deter you from your mission. March right up those granite steps, past the wrought iron lanterns that could slay a dragon, and take a tour – admission is free). The Algonquin had remained, in this gal’s humble opinion, decidedly stuck in another era, where social club’s were the exclusive right of upper crust male businessman, heavy velvet curtains cloaked dark brooding windows, and cigar smoke hung heavy in the air. Cough, cough, um hum, excuse me, could a waiter please bring me a sip of fresh air.

The Swan and Bar Bevy. Design: Ken Fulk

That fresh air, as it turns out, was blown in from the West Coast, SF to be specific, at the bequest of Sandy Edgerley and her husband Paul, who purchased the old gal in 2018, and began renovations in preparation for her unveiling in June of this year. I wonder if McKim and Fulk – Ken Fulk that is, would have become fast friends. They shared a love of Paris, Charles having studied at Ecole des Beaux-Arts, bringing that lavish and grandiose architectural style to “the club”, and Ken having absorbed, perhaps through osmosis, the very essence of Parisienne culture, custom, and design. While McKim was all balustrades and balconies, columns and cornices, symmetry and the sublime, Fulk is classically tailored and fearlessly modern, and it must be said, nothing short of a magician.

Carbone . Las Vegas : Design Ken Fulk

A modern mood was in order. The shrugging off of the Algon – coat of armor has left The Quin’s essential elegance in tact, thrown her windows open to welcome in the light, invite a sense of pretty playfulness – introducing us to what is at once delightfully surprising, and as familiar as a friend you plan to have, when only you make their acquaintance. What better place to do it than within these scrubbed marble walls. Dine in one of the seven restaurants, tap a button and champagne will appear, get well and ready after a work-out with a championship winning, Boston Celtics ring wearing, personal trainer. Follow it with a steam, a spa service, and a blow-out, when you ascend the stairs, you’ll have level after level from which to choose. Will you work, learn, congregate, sip, simply soak up the beauty of her interior? A comfortable home away from home for some, for me, more comfortable than any home I’ve called home before.

Fulk’s essential talent lies in the details. It’s the bones of the building, the color selection, the matte surfaces paired with polished, glazed, and mirrored. It’s the unexpected combinations, the acids and pastels, the cocktail napkin, the floral arrangement, the uniformed servers, the bed linen, the art work, nothing that can have an impact on your sensory experience is likely to be missed by this mystery of a man. Go ahead and keep me in suspense – you have my heart . total adoration . and I must say … reverence this Valentine’s Day.

The Hirst Bar . Design Ken Fulk

Rush . Rush Baby: Entrepreneurial carpet innovations

First of all, I adore a women owned business. Second of all, I adore it when friends come together to collaborate, and third of all, no one says third of all, but grabbing the attention of readers is difficult at best, and sometimes you have to annoy them before you please them. Bear with me here, I plan to please.

Designer: Emily Painter | Photographer: Peter Murdock

Friends and travel enthusiasts, Page Mullins and Liz Strong, both interior designers that put their talents to work as stylists and editorial producers for the likes of Coastal Living, Elle Decor, Garden & Gun, Real Simple, Veranda, and for lifestyle brands like Serena & Lily – one of my favorites, and Boll + Branch, came together during the pandemic to start their own venture – Rush House, which I sort of wish was called Rush Home, because the image of a place that you sought out, and designed, with so much care and love, that you want to rush to get there from wherever your day has taken you, is comforting and emits a sunny glow of warmth. It’s not called that though – it’s called Rush House, which is also a lovely name.

Cut the squares free of the rug to customize the size you are looking for….

Rush, rather than referring to hurrying around, which is what I mainly do, refers to the material from which their carpets are produced. Sparked by the artisanal craftsmanship of tiny villages in Mexico, the push pin on the map of their adventure centered on Oaxaca, back in 2015, resulting in the first stitch of an idea that brought together, in neat rows, their love of craftsmanship, design, and finds that they wanted to share with the world. The simplicity of the concept is brilliant.

…or stitch together individual squares to increase the size of your carpet.

One rug, three products, endless possibilities. By offering a simple, affordable 9 x 12 seagrass rug, they keep the business model tight. They have full time professional careers after all. I suspect that you are asking yourself, what is a gal, or guy, to do if they don’t need a carpet that isn’t 9′ x 12′ – get out your scissors, that’s what. Cut the stitching to free the 1′ squares from the captivity of the carpet, and voila – you’ll have the size you desire. Want the opposite? Buy extra squares, and rush thread and needle, to stitch the number of squares required to get you the custom size you desire. I watched the video – it all looks pretty easy, and kind of fun.

Affordable . customizable . DIYable. Joy: one square foot at a time.

Page and Liz, I’m not only jealous of your business model, I’m jealous of your adventures, design aesthetic, and creativity. Thank you for bringing this product to market. I plan on getting to the serious business of buying, and using these beauties in my properties, because you are right, I’d be hard pressed to find an application for which it doesn’t add texture and style. I think that might be true for you too – yes you, the one reading this, that’s who.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

The Academy Hotel . London

I had a great uncle that was rather famous in literary circles. A Jesuit Priest at Boston College, Father Francis Sweeney was most notably renowned for starting the Humanities Series there, and for corresponding with, and bringing literary masters to BC. Jack Kerouac, Katherine Anne Porter, Robert Penn Warren, and Thomas Merton – the revered Trappist Monk and author of The Seven Storey Mountain, a spiritual tome, were among those Uncle Francis brought to the college, and helped to promote. My mother was photographed along side Robert Frost, and Father Francis, at one of the regular luncheon celebrations, that were part of his normal existence.

Chairish . Casa Cosima . Desk in Chrome Green.

Poetry, I would not say, is one of my favorite things, but whether it was the connection to Robert Frost, his ability to tether you to the landscape of a New England town, so much a part of my DNA that when my eyes scan the words, they set my cells tingling with sensory memory. I feel at once calm, and at home.

Birdcage Coffee Table – a little bit of sparkle in the space.

Nothing Gold Can Stay . Robert Frost – 1874-1963

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

My beloved Christopher Farr . Carnival

Such a beautiful poem – a departure of sorts from my normal posts, but in my defense I was thinking about gold accents and how important bringing the glint of metallics into a space is to our overall enjoyment. That little bit of sparkle that catches your eye. We are calmed by movement, its hypnotizing effects putting us into a temporary trance-like state, like watching the flickering of the flames alight in a fireplace, or the flutter of a curtain in the breeze, metals seem to invite light and reflection, creating curiosity, interest, an enticing invitation to take a closer look.

I’m awfully fond of curiosities in a home. I welcome the questions that come from the objects – a gold guilted sunburst mirror, a nautically inspired hurricane lantern, a recent gift from a dear friend that knew I would adore it, the bee hive knobs that adorn my wardrobes, the brushed bird cage base of my coffee table, which I spotted, to my delight in The Good Fight sitcom, in Diane Lockhart’s living room.

Robert Frost might have been tickled pink to know that green is the new gold this season. Look for it in fashion and home design. Now that you know, I bet you’ll see it everywhere. After all, Nature’s first green is gold.

Midnight Dream: Redoing the bedroom

Phillip Jeffries . Seaside Linen . Indigo Nights. Only a 12 yard minimum order I type, my words heavy with sarcasm.

It’s no secret that I love Benjamin Moore. I talk about him ad nauseum, sure there are other paints on the market with clever names, but are they as dependable as Ben? I think not. I know I am not going to be in this condo forever, maybe just a few months more, who knows. However long it is, it feels like if I have to have that bedroom the way it is now, one foot in and one foot out the door, I might just scream.

I’d like to vigorously enforce my right to change it up. I want to paint the moldings midnight blue or soot or blue note. I want to cover the walls in Phillip Jeffries Indigo Nights, and snuggle a couple of Bungalow 5, Benjamin bedside tables, in navy blue, right up next to the bed, or maybe the Serena and Lily Blake Nightstand in blue. They are both grass cloth covered, but the Bungalow has soft edges and chrome hardware and the Serena and Lily is a Parsons knock-off, hard-edged with a gold pull. They are both so pretty, and having a bedside table would mean that I wouldn’t have to get out of bed when I was done reading my book to turn off the light.

Matouk . Joplin Sheet Set

I could get a new year set of sheets. I have my eye on Matouk’s Joplin, it’s blue floral pattern is sophisticated and happy all at the same time.

Oomph . Wilson 4 Poster Bed in Hinting Blue.

Dare to, wouldn’t it be, life is but a dream. Heck, if that’s all it is, throw in the Oomph four poster bed while your at it.

Going Once, Going Twice: On-Line Auctions

For when you can’t or won’t go there. I have found memories of auctions – specifically a single auction house on 6A in Dennis. My mother and her best friend loved that auction house and would go often. I’d tag along reluctantly for the viewings – I never actually went to any of the live auctions, but I loved the green and white painted barn that housed all the treasures and the fact that I got my very own bed in a winning bid that I still have today. I loved it because it was so high up off the ground and had to have a custom mattress made for it. Not quite a full, not quite a queen, somewhere in between the two and perfectly suited to a six year old. I adore it. There were other big purchases, a kitchen table, a set of French china in pale sage and navy. Was it the thrill of the hunt, the adrenaline that surged through my mother’s chest, propelling her hand with the tightly clutched want in the air, was it the deal? I don’t know, and I cannot ask, but it was a summer ritual for many years.

Skinner Auctioneers . Nautical Dresser . Opening Bid $250.

Recently I was asked to investigate auctions and the practicality of utilizing them as a strategy for furnishing a new home. Always up for a challenge, I began to do my research, and what I found was this: FleaPop – out of business, Furnishly – finito, LushPad – liquidated, KRRB – kaput, leaving me to believe that being an auction house is a tough gig to sustain. I did find that Live Auctioneers is still in biz as is Invaluable, and many other local houses that allow you to bid on-line – essentially during a pandemic, and for those that want to source items from far and wide across the globe.

Invaluable Auctioneers . American Federal Bullseye Mirror . Opening Bid $200.

The far and wide does come with consequences. For those of us that have surfed a property or two on sites like Zillow or Redfin, you know that photos can be deceiving. Buying a piece of property or a home, site unseen is not advisable, nor is grabbing a Chippendale sofa from France via auction. The “deal” you thought you were being dealt, comes with shipping fees, buyers premiums – that’s the cut that the auction house gets for getting the goods in the first place and can range between 25 – 30% of the purchase price, and there are no returns. The term “good condition” is relative. The buyer needs to keep all these things in mind when looking for a special piece for their home, establish a budget, factor the additional costs in their not to exceed column, and don’t allow their emotions to get the best of them.

Live Auctioneers . Danish Modern Arm Chairs . Opening Bid $350. Picture these with a navy ticking fabric in a boat house – dreamy.

As for my good friend I recommend taking it slow. It doesn’t need to be furnished overnight. As long as you have a bed, a living room sofa, a coffee table, your tv, and a good book – you’ll do surprisingly well for a time. Use the auction website to augment your space with special pieces – again, taking your time to understand what it is you are looking for, what spot in your home it will fill, and what you are willing to pay for it. There is a reason site like One King’s Lane and Ruby Lane charge a lot for the wares – they’ve curated them from a time consuming process. Hunting is fun, but can be expensive. If you’ve got the time – an auction might not only provide an engaging afternoon’s activity, it might just bring home a show-stopping sette or Stickley Armchair or some other fabulous find.

Live Auctioneers . French Bed . Twin . Opening Bid $250.

Feeling Blue

Oomph Headboard

It’s a bit ironic that my very favorite color, the color that makes me smile from ear to ear, and brings cheer to my heart is saddled with an idiom that means the opposite. That’s just wrong. As it turns out I am feeling a little blue. It is the end of the holiday season, which provided such a delightful distraction to the pandemic. What bauble, bell, and holiday whistle doesn’t? As I look longingly at the Christmas Tree that I have put at the bottom of my to do list until now, I feel sad. It really does bring a special glow to my space, and let’s face it, we’re all in for a long winter. The good news is that I wasn’t using my fireplace so that I wouldn’t have to clean it between showings, and now that I am not showing the old gal – she and I can get fired up.

To make extra sure I don’t shed any tears as I dismantle the tree, I went on the hunt for a bundle of blue best ofs to share with you. Since the color blue signifies the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven, according to the color wheel pro, and who wouldn’t believe them?

Chairish . Umbrella Chandelier

As a Cape Cod Gal, it is no surprise that this color calms me and makes me want to take a deep cleansing breath. Just thinking of the ocean allows me to conger the brackish salinity of a Wellfleet oyster and set my taste buds a tingling. The vast expanse of blue sky dotted with gauzy clouds that greet you on a summer day, the blue birds darting through the marsh and bogs in spring, the inky darkness of a muscle shell, the proud hull of a sailboat. Who wouldn’t be made happy by seeing that rainbow of blue hues?

Collins Interiors . Forever in the details and my design heart.

Pull them into your home all year long, or start slowly. Maybe a single gingham cocktail napkin in a pale blue. No one has to know, you can keep it in your pocket or underneath your water glass. Just try and see if it doesn’t make you smile. Go on, we’ll get through this winter together.

Sexy Sinks

Oh Baby . you had me at pale blue.

It’s not often that you hear the word concrete and sexy in the same sentence. Pier Luigi Nervi, a famous Italian Architect did such beautiful form work that it earned him the moniker “Poet in Concrete”. Tadao Ando became famous for his concrete structures, exposing the forms rather than hiding them like a pair of dirty underpants. Nood Co.’s Co-Founder Matt Di Costa wanted that undergarment to be the equivalent of high class lingerie – meant to be shown off, and I think he accomplished here. I could throw out a couple of others famous for their form work, but for centuries it’s done all the hard work of holing up its end of the bargain behind the scenes.

Whether Nood is an acronym for New Object of Desire – I have one of those every few days, or the urban hip slang for “nude” or daring, this sink skirts the line between demure and sultry, with her sleek lines, sinus forms and slue of colorful hues from which to select. 14 off the shelf colors, but if your want to be the Imelda Marcos of the sink world, and are willing to purchase 20 at a pop, there are more than 90 color combinations they can develop to suit your fetish – I mean need.

I love contradictions, incompatibilities, incongruities – they please me. Concrete is expected to be tough, and tough isn’t expected to be pretty, and yet the Nood sinks are delightfully so. They invite you in for a peak at their powder perfect finish. Sleek and durable, petal pink or pale baby blue they are as hard as a daisy at daybreak.

If you are planning on incorporating one or two into your next project – start saving now.