Boxed In: the innovation between four walls

All boxed up and ready to go. Designer Windsor Smith in a launch photo circa 2010.

If this dang Corona V is going to have me holed up in the house, I am going to attempt to celebrate the box, both the one I happen to be in Boston, and those that interior designer Windsor Smith minted back in 2010 – a coincidence that her Room in a Box emerged just after the wreckage of our last recession? I think not. Her latest plan to facilitate connectivity, sanctity and community together in a home for the well healed may have to wait, but her 21st Century Fox style video production showcasing her new vision for this architectural template feels anything but boxy.

The New Homefront – The Aqualillies don’t come with the box.

If you are bougie like me, you’ll need more than one box to stand on just to get a glimpse inside one of Windsor’s mansions. No worries, you’ll be able to spy the likes of her work in the glossy pages of a magazine, or just have Amazon drop a copy of her book – Windsor Smith Homefront: Design for Modern Living, on your porch. After all, you really shouldn’t be out wondering around.

I’m all about the small. Of course, some of this is out of necessity, but honestly the sheer magnitude of these mansions has me thinking about the complexity of the machine that it takes to run a household of that size. From the staff, gardener’s, cleaners, security, stable hands – lordly I can barely keep my refrigerator stocked and it’s just 24″ wide. That’s right, it’s tiny. That’s why the idea of a designer of Ms. Smith’s caliber being accessible to someone like me, is so very exciting. While it isn’t cheap – the service runs somewhere between $4K – $14K per room. I consider almost like a master class. Her process is structured, as it must be, to illicit designs that are tailored to her client’s – without ever having spoken to them. That’s right, she never talks to you directly, it’s all conducted on-line, via questionnaire’s and a custom portal that pushing you along through the process until that little blue box arrives with its diamond of a design inside.

I can’t afford the bird, but maybe one of it’s tail feathers.

There were many design in a box services that popped up after the crash, when people had no money to hire a designer to “do their house”, the hope was they might spring for a room that was so egregious to them that they’d rather skip lunch for a few months than keep looking at it. When times got good again, many of these services dropped off. I think it’s a shame. If I have to be boxed in, I sure wouldn’t mind some of the airy inspiration of Windsor escaping as I lift the lid.

WS . Room in a Box

Stay safe and don’t touch your face.

Beauty soothes the soul

I love the word “dust bunny” it’s sounds so much cuter than it is when you are trying to capture that illusive pillowy cloud of particulate matter. Who invited it here anyway? The beauty is in the word rather than the act of removing it for me (a task I am currently putting off at the moment, but not allowed to go to sleep tonight before it is thoroughly behind me).

After a really busy week – which is no badge of honor BTW, I slept in and appreciated the beauty of that. I finished a book – silly but satisfying, and have three others going …. Annie Duke’s Thinking in Bets, Vanity Fair’s Women on Women, and Jeanine Cummins – American Dirt – stop reading whatever you’ve read about it and get to reading it. It’s amazing, and heartbreaking and hold your breath for what’s next to come…suspenseful, and it’s beautiful in between all the pain and anguish that love and loss, life and living throw your way.

Veranda Mag profiles a most outrageous and delightful magenta wet bar. Oh the high gloss money of it all.

So while I haven’t quite made it through my cleaning To Do list, I thought I would share some things that inspire me, make me smile, and applaud the artistry of others.

Suzanne Kasler’s Kips Bay Palm Beach House

Elsie De Wolfe said: I am going to make everything around me beautiful. That will be my life.” What a good life’s goal you had, and how much happiness your brought others in your bold fulfillment of it. I admire you Elsie.

Beware of the Trend

Bumble’s Melrose Place LA Pop-up is a 2020 DO – Bold Monochromatics make a scene this season.

I’m as attracted to what’s on trend or otherwise known as trendy, as the next person. Home design like fashion is subject to the changing whims of the industry, and it matters not what industry you are in. If you are part of the human race, you’ll be racing to keep up with the trends or falling shamefully behind.

Grandmillennial Style – think traditional with a contemporary edge. Clean lines, natural fiber carpets, and Chinoisier panels meet modern art with a splash of leopard (I thought leopard was a neutral).

The cynical part of me, that’s the part that starts in my toes and when I am not paying super close attention can zip right past my mid-section, and go straight for my throat, choking all the positive light out of me, tells me that it’s just another way to ensure the capitalist machine keeps running. I love capitalism, but I don’t love the idea of being duped. The sunnier side of me believes that humans have an innate desire to create and to express – that’s the truth behind trends. Like a stopped watch, even if you steadfastly resist trends, they come right back around, given enough time, and there you are – back in “fashion” again.

Neither of these philosophies are particularly appealing to me, and I am reminded of something my mother used to say about purchasing timeless pieces that make up the foundation of your wardrobe. Not being a supermodel, I try to adhere to a few rules of thumb for all the basics (that’s skirts, shirts, and slacks), if it flatters your form, buy it. Neutrals are your friend and clean lines win out over bold statements. This will preserve your wealth and not leave you scratching your head about how those white, patent leather, stacked heal boots ended up in your closet.

Faux Marble is IN.

These same principles apply to home furnishings. Buy basic pieces that have clean lines and are likely to stand the test of time in your home, no matter where you choose to make it, over the years. If you know, or think you know, that you are always going to love the Louis (that’s French for the XIII – XVI’s Reign of Kings competing to outdo one another, and in so doing created one of the most beautiful and lasting design aesthetics in existence today – a mon avis) or maybe mid-century modern is your jamb. To these styles you can add accent pieces that can come and go without breaking the bank, while satisfying our innate need to “be in the know”, to keep our spaces fresh, and dare I say it – be a part of the machine. After all, I can’t imagine having passed up my velvet scallop shell shaped pillow backed in that beau Belgium linen, any more than I could imagine having it in my home forever.

Rattan Remains on Trend!

Soothesayers may have spoken on their truths about 2020 trends, but neither the newest shade of peachy blush or a focus on they foyer, will be making its way into my home this year. I’ve stuck with my tried and true neutral hue, a pale gray, and my condo doesn’t even have a foyer – so posh. Maybe I’ll just re-style my portable coat rack and call it a day.

Bold Painted Interior Doors.

The Art of Achieving: the imperfect pilgrimage of one person’s journey

I love beauty as much as the next person. I fawn over the craftsmanship of a painstakingly thought out detail, the intersection of a structural beam that kisses the wall and disappears into the great unknown somewhere above the hard ceiling, the paint job whose lines are militant in their precision, the window whose somebody’s forethought so carefully frames out the view in the backyard of the barn with its codfish topped cupola.

Courtney Barton . Twin Throw Dohar . Ector Eggplant $195.

Instagram and social media, magazines, photo shoots, and Hollywood are all staged, and air brushed, to make you believe they were born of the imagination of such satirical thrillers as The Stepford Wives, which is to say, they are robotic in their image of near perfection. Life however isn’t perfect, unless your view is perfectly messy – then you are on the right side of reality.

Maison Balzac . Pink Carafe and Glass $74.99

I have no idea what the point of this particular rant (also known as a blog post) is about today. Maybe its a recognition that doing something well is really hard. Maybe it’s a thank you note and expression of gratitude for all the long hours, dedication, and obsessive tinkering that lead all these creators that I profile, to produce things of beauty. Maybe I am trying to cut myself some slack, at the start of this new decade, which has not been at all easy.

Look at that happy little planter of stars. Star Finished Brass Fire Place Screen. $2,395.

I’m going to work under the assumption that even if it looks effortless to me from the outside, that it likely wasn’t. Perhaps the little flaw was strategically hidden from the camera’s capturing eye, or the maker, made hundreds of that special thing that they make, before one was even close to camera ready. Putting the effort into getting good at something takes time – even if you have a propensity to do it well, and if you don’t – well then, you need to be so stubbornly determined that no collection of failures will deter you from your heart’s desire.

I love a good story. The best have a moral, a lesson, a way of turning the leaf over in your palm and viewing it through an entirely different lens. Perfection is boring you see, and whether I know the real story or not, my version is always going to be interesting. It’s always going to include a little challenge, a little strife, and an underdog that prevails.

Chairish . Lauren Jane Lounging Lady $621.

Happy Saturday.

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.