Side Table Challenge

Top: All Modern . Keith 1 Plug-in Wallchiere $92.99. Bottom: Bungalow 5 . Isadora Tea Table . Natural $663.00

Bedside tables are very personal. Are you a reader, and need to stack up books and magazines next to the bed? Prefer a vintage alarm clock and not much more? These considerations have to be – well considered before you lay down hard earned cash. Too tall and you are apt to knock your noggin on it at night. Too short, and you’ll find yourself tossing down the expensive iphone, putting the screen in peril. Think about what makes you – you when your tucked beneath the sheets on a Sunday night. It’ll serve you best all the other nights of the week too.

I love a lamp on the bedside table, but it does take up a lot of room. For this challenge I looked into wall sconces – plug in only. Unless you are renovating the bedroom the prospect of bringing in an electrician for the one tiny job of installing sconces in the bedroom can seem daunting. If you are a little bit like me, you might tell yourself that you will definitely do it, likely after having fallen in love with a ridiculously expensive pair of wall scones, awaiting their arrival, and then looking at them wistfully for weeks – maybe months on end, watching as “call the electrician” gets kicked down the To Do List, and you go to bed without reading your book because it would necessitate you getting out of bed after your all warm and sleepy – to turn the light out. Boo – who wants that.

Worry not, I have selected quite a few DIY sconces for the refresh. Check them out and let me know which combo has you singing your favorite lullaby.

Sidelined: A tiny attempt at building

Not exactly tiny, but sublime.

I’ve spent my whole life watching other people build things. I read about, write about it, make my living working around people that actually do it. With their hands and their minds and their patience and problem solving they are cleverly places that matter. Place-making, make no mistake, matters. How we live within those walls has as much to do with what we do in it, as how we are influenced by it. Sure I can slap a coat of paint on it, put up a pretty picture, and cover the floor tired and worn spots, dents and dings and imperfections, but gosh darn it. I want to have my hand in the mix of making something perfectly imperfect.

Built into the landscape . be mindful of your town’s ordinances – they may require a set back from your property line.

I realize with a deep sense of impending dread that what I am likely to create when I stubbornly embark on this tiny house adventure is a host of frustration over my inability to execute what I so clearly see in my mind.

I love the idea of barn doors opening onto the back yard or garden.

I understand that writing about something – is not the same thing as actually knowing how to do something. It’s not posing exactly, but it’s also not creating, and creation of anything is really the closets thing that we mere humans can expect to get to nirvana. I want to feel that elation – that oneness – that sense of belonging that comes from building something.

Slipping into the scenery.

Since 2020 was undoubtedly going to test me, I decided to at least be in control of a singular element of the many that were out of my control. Last week I started my Tiny House Building Class. Let me say right out of the gate, this class is tiny-lite. Lite because carpentry and the laws of construction are complicated. Yes, three are laws – whenever mother nature is involved, you can expect that you better learn to follow them, or she’ll get the best of you. Trust me on this one. These laws are complex. I don’t allow myself to feel too badly about that, primarily because even the very best builders can get stumped by them. It’s true. Second, I’m terrible at math. If you say, oh what’s that 8 x 12.5 tiny house in square feet….I’ll look up at the sky for a while and say, hum, like 84SF? Trying to remember if I read it somewhere else and am even close to right. Now, this might seem daunting to someone that, like me, is horrible at math – that’s both algebra and geometry – not like most people who are good at one OR the other. I’m terrible at both. This might lead you to the conclusion that I shouldn’t even bother to try. Forget it. I’m trying. I can use programs that figure the math out, I can apply manual tricks like measuring things out with small scale mock-ups – or full scale if I have to. The point is, I won’t be deterred, and no amount of telling me to … Carl (that’s my teacher’s name) will get me to listen.

What I can tell you is, it would be super expensive – mistakes always are, if my father who is brilliant, and really good at math, building, zoning regulations, history, boating, fine finish carpentry, how the world works and so much more, wasn’t helping me. But he is. You can get help too. People are surprisingly willing to help when you just ask…nicely.

Room with a view.

My tiny house isn’t going to have wheels. If it needs to be moved, we’ll just have to jack the whole thing up and truck it away – that can be done too – I’ve seen it.

Any tiny house of mine needs a heat source.

Applied Knowledge: Make your own molding

Flat faced doors and cabinets can feel modern, or boring or both. That’s not to say that I don’t like modern, I do – very much in fact, but unless you are doing something to that flat surface – like say crafting it out of an extremely rare wood, or painting it with a gazillion coats of high gloss until it shines like a veneer…it may look like a tag sale find that’s not so special.

I adore a long sentence but I might have broken my record with the above. Any who, I am not bashing a tag sale find, and the Cape Cod Townie in me will always be in turns conflicted about lovely that elegant wood, and resenting it. I’m a complicated gal, but I like to believe that somewhere in the midst of that turmoil – something beautiful emerges.

If I am to apply the things that I have learned in the past, sometimes “faux” is the way to go. It’s not the wood that’s so expensive, it’s the labor. Further, if you paint on a definitive border as an inset to your paneled door in place of a molding, you move from traditional to contemporary – cool even. Now I wouldn’t go so far as to say you can’t make “traditional” moldings cool. I know you can. As I so often say to my incredibly talented friend Jennessa…..”I’ve seen what you can do with a cupcake”. Well, I’ve seen what Kelly Wearstler can do with a molding and a can a paint, but every pony needs more than one party trick. Don’t you think?

Stage Right. Just a hint of reality.

Get after this week or it’s liable to get after you.

Suzanne Kassler . Daybed by Atelier Vime – Beaucaire.

I wish I could say that this was the last of it, but like a tween – I’m smitten, and there really is no way of telling when I’ll stop crushing so hard on rattan. Maybe some adorable bit of eye candy will come along next week. Maybe it’ll be another month, however long it takes to get it out of my system, be kind to me. You remember what an all consuming heart throb does to you.

Rattan can be ratty, and I’m not opposed to a little tattered and worn, as long as it doesn’t poke me in the butt. I don’t appreciate being jabbed under any circumstance. As long as I won’t be physically accosted by the piece, a significant amount of high-gloss paint can go a long way to making that piece look perfectly at home, in a fancy setting, or on some old weathered porch.

However, it’s the sublime perfection of these latest pieces that have been capturing my imagination. Still very much in the dream stage, the piece that I have my heart set on is so obviously outside my price range – though I can’t tell you what the price is other than to say that its “upon request”, which is just a nice way of saying, forget about it. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

Atelier Vime . Beaucaire . Stool – Price upon request

They can go on being that way if they want, but I have found that if you set your mind to it, and the it that you set your mind too is something that you want very, very badly, well then you’ll find a way to get it.

Perigold . Gold Metal Vase with Rattan Trim and Glass Insert . $94.80

Suzanne Kasler, I rue the day I met you. Oh, wait a minute – I never did meet you, did I. I just stalk you on instagram, buy your books, and end up getting hooked on ridiculously expensive finds like Atelier Vime’s Beaucaire Daybed and stool. I think you owe me an apology. You could make it up to me by shipping that little beauty of a stool to my home address.

Happy Saturday.

Hush Little Baby: Nurseries that calm

Hidden Falls would provide a wonderful accent on all three of the base wall colors. I would hold it down an inch from the molding, painting a 1 – 1.5″ perimeter strip around the entire room. Great for low ceilinged rooms as it lifts the eye.

We seem to be having a winter baby boom in my industry. The gals are popping up at events with beautiful baby bumps – left and right. A few have already delivered their new year’s baby bundles, and it got me thinking about all those tiny little fingers and toes, and paint colors and furnishings, rugs and lighting, you know, all the normal things someone that is obsessed with design thinks about.

Overland . Long Wool Sheepskin Baby Rug. $79.00

A baby room should be cozy and calming – not for the baby, they are happy in a onesie, snuggled up next to mummy, but mummy – well she needs a space that will making her happy, smooth out the rough edges of motherhood, because what she does is hard.

Given the crib and the bedding from which to launch the plan, I developed a number of different options for the color palette. I have to recommend mineral ice again and again and again. It’s worked in NYC apartments, in Cape Cod Cottages, in ski chalets. It’s so versatile, which is ironic because it reads so wildly differently from location to location, time of day and amount of light the space receives. Still it is beautiful. It is subtle, it is neutral….serene. There isn’t a person or a place that can’t benefit from my very favorite Benjamin Moore color.

Gabrielle selected PB Kids . Ramona Woodland Baby Bedding, which ties all the colors I selected together seamlessly – though it is not my recommendation that they all be used. Rather I would select one of the three: BM’s Bridal Rose, Mineral Ice or Lavender Mist for the base wall color. For a more traditional feel I’d paint the casings, base and molding in BM’s Chantilly Lace, more modern and I would paint the base, case and moldings in the same color but change up the finish – walls in egg shell, wood in high gloss. An option I’d consider creating a faux wainscot by painting up the wall from base to roughly one third of the overall dimension from ground up, in the selected color – again – high gloss finish. These little tricks add visual interest to the room. A note of caution – if the walls are in less than perfect condition, high gloss won’t be your friend. It shows all the imperfections. Want to make it super cozy? Paint the ceiling the same color as the walls or a hue that is slightly darker, and prepare to snuggle in.

Left: Etsy . Little Playhouse $12.41. Middle: Society6 . Here Comes the Sun $21.59 . Right: The Small Art Project . Woodland Animals . $179.99

PB . Dahlia Flushmount $224.

Other touches that make the space feel particularly special include lighting. Ceiling fixtures, and tabletop lamps help to warm up the space – dimmers required.

Yume . Branch Mobile. $68.00

Wall art need not be all about baby, though a little bit of happy, a little bit of silly, soothes the soul. Etsy provides offerings at really affordable prices that allow your taste to evolve as baby grows.

I love soft things. I want a carpet underfoot that I can sink my toes into. If you are not in the market for a rug that is just for baby, consider a tiny sheep skin carpet that you can throw under your tootsies will you rock your screeching child to sleep. You’ll thank me for that tiny bit of comfort you get from the carpet.

Double Take: Cane Wallpaper that'll make you look twice

Drop – NXLX Wallcovering Cane Webbing Collection

We owe a lot to the Greek’s – in door plumbing, the olympics, philosophy, democracy, modern medicine found its way from the Greek exploration into the same. Where would we be today without any of these amazing inventions and conventions. They were also responsible for painting in the form known most commonly today as Trompe-L’oeil – a word that means to deceive the eye. Who was it that said, “people loved to be fooled”? I cannot remember, but it’s true. I supposed it has to do with the element of surprise – that moment that washes over you when you feel young and curious again.

Sheer genius – you’d think if you got close enough you could see through it.

I felt just this way when I saw NLXL’s new wall covering collection entitled: Cane Webbing Wallcovering which they market alongside a complementary wainscoting covering to be featured below your selection. Having just completed a caning project of my own – I hired a company to build me cane front doors for two amoires that were as plain and off the shelf as they come. This wallcovering is anything but! Tricked I was, and though I have yet to see it in person, it looks so authentic, magically making me believe that it has texture and dimension.

Add dimentionality and texture to your space.

So many of the homes I take on have walls, nooks and jogs that are far from attractive. What an opportunity this cane webbing presents to transform the unimaginatively dull, the old, worn, and lackluster – into something truly special.

Why pay the cost to build it when you can roll it on?

I’m absolutely on the edge of my seat with anticipation for No. 6, and Netherlands based NLXL is going to help me do it. Founded in 2010 this company is clearly making a splash. When your work is featured on 5th Avenue, and embraced by the fashion industry – you’re hot. Like the Greek’s whose inspirations have been around for centuries – caning made its debut in the weaving of baskets in ancient China before finding its way to France and other European destinations. From basket to chair, it revolutionized this simple household object, making lighter, and cheaper to make. Esther Viak and Rick Vintage of NLXL found a way to make it new again, and that friends, is what innovation is all about.

Happy Sunday.

Back Splashes that take the spotlight

Orlando Photography showcases the reflective beauty of mirrored glass back splash.

Nary a home renovation magazine exists that doesn’t place the kitchen at the center of any publication. After all, it is the gathering space for most families, the location that guests and friends convene to catch up on the latest gossip over a glass of wine or a hot cup of tea. There is a warmth to the kitchen – a vibrancy, an electric energy that draws people in. It’s one of my favorite places to design and to be in, despite the reality that I am rarely there to cook for myself. It is made all the more special to me, because when I am there, I am preparing meals for friends.

The wood back splash envelopes this kitchen in cozy – and btw it’s one of the best materials to have underfoot when cooking.

I love tile. Manufacturers are always developing new twists on something that could seem, same old, same old. The colors, textures, gloss and matte, metallic, honed and glazed bring a never ending array of twists and trends from which to select, but it’s an ode to the industrial that’s captured my attention of late.

Hello…if that rolled brass back splash doesn’t grab your attention, what will?

When I worked in a kitchen it was not at all unusual for the back splash to be a simple stainless steel sheet, cut to the appropriate proportions, scarred by the fast working, abrasive steel wool cleaning pads, but at turns both tough and beautiful. A few years ago I spied in a magazine an amazing little kitchen with a rolled brass back splash and I knew instantly that one of my projects would include the same. Having seen Jean-Louis Deniot, a brilliant French Interior Designer – I’m not just saying that because he loves the color grey and I feel we’re kindred spirits because of it, but because he so cleverly uses materials – particularly metals – to make his point – having seen his little Parisian kitchen designed with hammered metal cabinets. It was those cabinets that elevated him to the realm of brilliance in my mind, and reminded me that it’s the unexpected that draws in the eye.

Jean-Louis Deniot – starry night.

Using a mirrored back splash does quite the same thing, but so much more. Its reflective properties expand the proportions of space, a decidedly enormous benefit when you are dealing with tiny galley kitchens, little corner nooks, spaces that demand their size not relegate them to an afterthought.

As we launch off into the vast unknown of this new decade, I plan to make a commitment to the unexpected. Why ever would anyone want to be predictable?

Grand Finale: another decade down

I can feel a little Charlie Brown about the end of the year. Oh bother, another one down. In full disclosure – I wrote the text for this cartoon strip, but it’s all Charles Schultz – with all his brilliant insight into the frailty of the human condition. Must we….really…do an accounting? Yes indeed we must.

live the dream?

This decade I sold my very first house. I bought it in the previous decade, but didn’t sell it until 2013, after three extensive renovations, and out of the wreckage of the worst financial crisis in any living person’s memory. It was hard and gritty, nail biting (if I bit my nails, which I don’t), and many a night’s sleep was lost – well over considering the possible loss of my job, my very first house, and a place to store my beloved shoes. Well, you can’t imagine the stress I was under – or at least I hope you can’t.

Gut renovation – circa 17

The decade followed along with the purchase of four more properties and the sale of three others. I experienced roof leaks, ground water surges, heat that didn’t come close to heating, a door that knocked me on the ass every time I entered or departed, leaving me to believe it wasn’t all that happy that I had taken up residence. Sometimes a building issues its objections louder than its residents, though mostly it’s a close contest. No one loves it when you begin construction. They only want it to end – resulting in the increased value of their own – no personal equity having been contributed to the cause.

I made bet after bet after bet, and traveled with my winnings, berating myself when I lost, and hung my head when others said I should have known. If I am leaving this decade with anything – it’s this thing…the amount we don’t know is enormous, the amount we CANNOT know – incredible. I’m in it for the long game, each property a piece in the overall portfolio. Some will be winners, some will be losers. Some of the winners will be due to my skill and experience while others will be pure luck. Some of the losers, I’ll have done absolutely everything right, with the information available to me, and they still won’t net a win. That too will be luck.

I’m sticking to the plan. I’m going to take the wins and the losses, analyze them with a detached clinical scrutiny, and strive to do better in the next decade.

All and new, custom and blue.

Happy New Year’s Eve.

Ever a Feather to Furnish: the sharing economy expands

As someone that moves constantly….well not exactly constantly, but typically every two years, with bursts of increased activity which can result in interim moves of between five and six locations, so pretty serious moving. The idea of living like a millennial, which is to say – someone that takes their sharing versus owning, very seriously, is appealing. The freedom that goes along with a rental is, well liberating, particularly if that rental can’t be stuffed into one of two suitcases and carried away by ME.

Common . has arrived in Boston. Co-living.

Residential rental furniture seems to be the next wave in the sharing economy. Which should come as no surprise in the wake of the Air BnB and more recent Co-living craze (in case you missed it, this is furnished rental space that you can “let” for a week, a month, a year – in major cities. it’s just arrived in the Boston Area under the management of Common. You get your own room, plus a few amenities like toilet paper, cleaning service, olive oil – you know – the necessities, while you share the common space with others. Service compris). Now these newly minted home furnishing rental cos are targeting a bit of a different market. Think post-grads and young adults that have selected their city, are drowning in college loan debt, and yet, are ready to begin being. If they are anything like me, the beginning, without sounding too ungrateful, can look like a hodge-podge of undesirables and toss-aways, grouped together to make some semblance of a home. I once had a dinner party for two with a corrugated card board box covered in a cloth as a dining table. I kid you not. The indignity of it all.

Well, for those that are ready to get started with a little more style than that, ingenuity has arrived in the form of some pretty cool furniture rental companies. Or, I should say, almost arrived. The affordable ones appear to only serve the cities of NYC, LA, and Seattle – who knew. Boston cannot be far behind, and if Fernish, Feather or Everset don’t take up the challenge, I am certain others will. If I were a betting gal, and I am, I would say West Elm, who has been incredibly entrepreneurial for a big company – would get into this game.

Now I don’t want to ruffle Feather’s feathers, but the furnishings are not high style. No matter, they certainly will serve a market, as they offer a cohesiveness for the inbetweeners that is rather attractive. Rent it on a 3, 4, 6, or 12 month basis with an option to purchase. Throw in a design consultant, free delivery, set-up, and removal, and I am whistling dixie. How ’bout you?

The Everset . The Ellen . 5 piece set $28.00 a month

My final thought here, and perhaps its not an original one, but I dare say, there are others like me out there – well, not exactly like me – I’m rather unique, but like, in the way that they abhor moving, and marvel at the thought of someone taking care of it for them. Further, I would guess that there are others, like me, that have a hankering for change, that want to investigate different styles, and colors and moods. I know from personal experience that this changing of the mind thing is rather pricey, so here’s my thought – One King’s Lane should launch a rental division….look out 2020.

Fernish . The Roxbury . $261. a month

Decisions . Decisions

Down to the wire on your holiday preparations? Or like me, you’ve decorated, but haven’t even purchased present number one. Feel stuck? Paralyzed by the sheer number of decisions that need to be made before the 25th rolls around? Let me add a little more pressure by saying that there are others in your life that work on a different timetable, and if you haven’t missed it already – you will soon.

Holiday chaos….will it matter to my happiness next year?

I arrived at the last appointment with my hair stylist before the holiday with no gift, and I spend more time with Briana every year than I do with my boss or my boyfriend. There were others too that have slipped by to date. I have in my mind some Type A organizational bandit that has all the most important people in their lives – birthdays carefully cataloged with notations about the type of present, the time of purchase, the accurate address, and have scheduled the purchase well in advance. They probably have pre-selected wrapping for the same. Me, I’m more like an old teddy bear running around town, with fluff falling out in small tufts everywhere I go. Granted, they are billowy, pretty little puffs of fluff – pale pink – but still, if I don’t collect them and stuff them back in, there will be nothing left of me when I arrive at the Christmas finish line. Now that won’t do at all.

I had the very distinct fortune to have attended the MA Women’t Conference on Thursday. The largest in the nation, 12,000 women in 12 men convene for what is a day long tournament of inspiration, intellect, and EXTRA-ordinary women. It began 17 year old Amanda Southworth. An iSO Developer and mental health and human rights activist, and went on to feature Yara Shahidi, Tara Westover, Malala Yousafzai, Megan Rapinoe and more. If you don’t know these wildly talented women – begin your exploration now.

One of my very favorite things to talk about…we all have a story,
make it a good one. Yara Shahidi

Today I want to talk about Annie Duke. Annie was a breakout session speaker, a World Champion Poker Player and an expert (cognitive scientist) on the subject of decision making. See where I am going with this? Today, I’m going to give you some of the basic facts about how we make decisions, waste time, and the cost of that approach to us personally and professionally, and in a future post I am going to show, how in the somewhat high stakes game of house flipping it applies – so you can apply it to your own life. While I am not an expert yet – these were my takeaways from her talk:

Over $4M reasons to believe she’s a pretty good decision maker.
  • Average person spends 150 minutes a week deciding what to eat,
  • Average person spends 50 minutes a week deciding what to watch on television (not actually watching – just deciding),
  • Average person spends 90 – 115 minutes deciding what to wear each week.

Annie’s framework is based on the idea that we spend a whole lot of time deciding about things that aren’t going to increase our happiness in the long run. Yes, it might ruin your lunch in the moment, but tomorrow, you’ll get to choose again. In most cases you are troubling over something that you can’t know anyway. Like poker – it’s a bet. You’re betting that the fish will be better than the chicken. When the stakes are low – you’ll have a chance to do it again – just decide, then incorporate the information into future decision making.

Luck + Skill + Life

I like this idea very much. Today, as I launch out with my list of people that I care deeply about, and whom make my life what it is, the pressure to be perfect will be dulled a little. After all, next year, God willing, I will have another whole chance to buy and try again. Annie did make $4.2M during her career, so I’m going to bet she knows a little something about decision making.