Good Bones: Adding the details where details lack

Applied trellis detail, and sophisticated screens bring interest to the Hotel Thomiuex . Paris Designed by India Mahdavi

Though I’ve been surrounded by construction my whole life, I don’t remember picking up the term “good bones” until I started working at the architectural firm after college. My dear friend Brooke made mention of it when we looked at some fine old house. I think I intrinsically understood that it made reference to its skeletal structure, its roof and foundation, wires and plumbing – which are all incredibly important, but once I was assured of their soundness, I only had eyes for the details. Did it have grand proud baseboards with any kind of molding that might draw the eye, or that I could draw eyeliner on in the form of a black painted stripe. Did it have crown molding, adorned with the ancient egg and dart motif, rosettes or wainscoting, paneled walls with carved diamond patterns. Did I ever hope it would, but more often than not, it didn’t.

Look at the baseboard detail by Claude Cartier in this living room – simple square of light blue against the charcoal casing.

What’s a gal to do if it is just a simple, clean, unassuming white box? I have answers, you didn’t think there would be no answers to my own questions did you? While I rarely start with a budget, I suggest you do. When you don’t, and you have a wild imagination like me, it often leads to disappointment and self flagellation when you stare down at the estimate in astonishment and realize there is absolutely no way you can swing it. Avoid that if you can. If you are wondering how you’ll know, without having an estimate developed in the first place, you can use the level of detail you are looking for as a yardstick for measuring cost. If you are willing to DIY parts of the process – it can help keep the cost down.

A simple California Living Room by Cliff Fong utilizes inexpensive molding to create interest. Painted all the same color it adds subtle texture.

I love adding a trim detail to the top of a baseboard, or throwing up a plastic molding. While it’s terribly unsustainable, it’s super easy to work with, and inexpensive, AND from way down on the ground, it’s pretty hard to tell what the material is. If you don’t go too wild with it all, it can be relatively inexpensive to add it. If that is still too much, paint can do the trick. Hombre the walls, paint the casings in a color, add your diamonds or moldings to the wall with the dip of a brush into the silky center of a pool of paint, and draw it on. Spray an old screen, wooden or rattan in a hue just a few shades darker than the wall for added texture, or a metallic for extra drama. In the end, it’s never ONLY about the money. Creativity, riffed on, borrowed, or stolen from the pages of a magazine – the marrying of ingenuity and execution makes it more fun than just showing up when it’s all done.

Ramy Fischler takes the hombre look to the extreme in this “good bones” Parisienne apartment.

Cali Come Cape Cod: dreaming of my next home

A home of my dreams.

My stomach twists with the thought.  An uncomfortable wringing of my internal hands as I consider the distressing notion – should I lower the price again?  Should I call even a win?  Nothing gained after all that work feels like a loss.  Feels like a devastating defeat.  “Would it be drastic” ?  I ask myself as I feel my stomach clench again.  My seat of intuition lives squarely in my gut.  I adore all the flowery language about a fluttering heart, a swooning head, the walking on air sort of talk that I want to force myself to feel, but my stomach is the ruler of my kingdom.  It knows all the good, all that is possible, and all the evil that is likely to come if I don’t turn heal, and run as fast as I can in the other direction.  My stomach is so much smarter than my head, or my heart.  Those two jokers leave me in the lurch again, and again. 

Dior Pop-up at Rosewood Miramar Beach Luxury Hotel – Photo via Dior

My colleague Bruce Shick reminded me that “no decision, was a decision” just the other day.  He wasn’t talking about my house when he said it, but he mine as well have been.  I pick up pieces of wisdom, and sometimes bad advice, Hanseling my way through the forest of recommendations, only to find that some bird has made short work of my path home, and I’ve become completely lost, immobile, unable to make a decision.  Bruce’s thoughtful grandfatherly tone rings in my ears:  “no decision, IS a decision”. 

Diorivieria launched large with their eleven pop-ups worldwide. Photo via Dior

I guess I have decided to leave it on the market for now.  Leave it at the price it’s currently listed.  Leave it up to hope, or fate, some higher power – boy I thought St. Joseph would have grown terribly uncomfortable, situated as he was, in the garden, upside down and all, but he seems to like it enough not to find me a buyer. 

Who wouldn’t want a Vespa at their Cape-Cali House? Photo via Dior

This Delta Variant isn’t going to help the fall market, and those stubborn work from homer’s will continue to work from someplace that I suspect isn’t their home at all.  This not selling isn’t a disaster, though it feels a bit like one.  My intuition, that bellybutton of a bullseye has released its iron grip as I come to terms with the fact that it’s really my impatience that is driving this panic to sell.  What do I always tell my readers?  “Don’t make an emotional decision friends”.  A buyer will come along, and in the mean time I will get working on designing my next imaginary dream house.  I’ve never been inside, never seen a photo of its interiors, I just keep a steady pace as I run by, weekend after weekend, imagining my California House on Cape Cod coming to life.  Happy Saturday.

Coastal to Cosmo: Bringing city sophistication back to an NYC pad

Change, it’s inevitable. Take this pandemic. No one wanted it, and now so many don’t want to let it go, well perhaps not the pandemic itself, but all that change it pushed on us. The washing of the hands, the working from home, the family time, the need for less, the quieting of the frenzied existence. The irony is that we so often want what we can’t have.

It seems fitting that after many years of living with watery blue gray walls, linen shaded glass lamps, white tree stumped side tables, and a pastel blue sectional anchored by an enormous painting – its field of green meeting the sky, revealing not a hint of its place on this earth, that this coastal setting within the confines of its solid cement pre-war walls, will take its leave. Where will it go? I imagine it will find its way back to a place with fewer skyscrapers, less lists, and more leisure time.

After living on the water for nearly a year, my sister is ready to turn her city dwelling into the picture of sophistication, which got me asking what makes a city apartment feel city? It wouldn’t do at all to have the home not feel homey, for it to be stiff and rigid, as if it were shellacked into the glossy pages of Architectural Digest. No, tassels, and Tudor High Boys, tightly tailored seat cushions on uncomfortable chairs wouldn’t do. A man and his dog need a place to rest their head on a comfortable sofa after a long day in a city that doesn’t sleep, and the lady of the house deserves to have that same space look as good as it feels.

Antique Wrought Iron Horse Sculpture and Havenly Boucle Chair . $499.

What epitomizes New York City design style? This is the question that I was asking myself – weigh in if you have ideas of your own. This concept is not yet cemented. It’s not about the money, though money can go along way toward enhancing the look of the space – so often quality and craftsmanship come at a cost, but you can find oodles of talent on that little island. A gal that can turn a dime store purchase into an elegant backdrop for her five floor walk-up, 325sf studio, separating bed from Bohemian living space, turned cocktail lounge, guests huddled around a small coffee table, perched on pillows, candle lit casting a soft happy glow. No, it’s not about the money. It’s about a story – everybody has a story. Sure some tell it too fast. They build no suspension or intrigue. Some get overly verbose, losing you in a cluttered room of their story, before rushing you down the hallway blurting out an unceremonious ending. No, a good story is balanced, and starts when you open that door. Here’s how I think we’ll get it started.

SCREEN Play: A short history of latticework

Burji Alshaya Developement . Kuwait City . Gensler . An example of Mashrabiya in 3D – latticework within a latticework screen wrapped around the building envelope – pure genius.

As I contemplated my broken wooden lattice fence last week, and its need for repair, I got to thinking about who wrote it into existence. My somewhat flimsy version is both decorative and practical. It provides an interesting detail between railing and deck, and screens my outdoor activities from the view of passers by on the street. It accomplishes all this while still allowing precious sunlight to stream on in. A feature that comes at a premium in the city.

“Form follows function” said Louis Sullivan, and function is what the Egyptians had in mind in their hot weather climate when they first designed the latticework screen known as the mashrabiya. Derived from the Arabic root meaning, place for drinking, the screens allowed for airflow, and the cooling of water jugs. This same concept was later translated to balconies and the cooling of people, often with the extra added benefit of hiding the lounging individual, stretched out on the divan, from the view of pedestrians on the street below.

Layered and luxe this design by Shelly Johnstone- Paschke . Interior Design is luscious.

Wood, metal, stone, structural applications like bridges and girders, or steel sculptures like the Tour Eiffel, lattice is literally everywhere, if you choose to pay attention to it. Italians and their Neoclassical Architecture, a style for which I am very fond, had their own term, Roman Lattice, also referred to as ‘transenna’ or open work screen, whose Latin root is derived from the word ‘net’. As in the mechanism used for catching birds, which resembles the lattice. It is likely this influence that was so prevalent in the early 20th century in America, particularly as an element of design in civic architecture, think museums, government buildings, banks, and universities, that led to our current day uses. Gardens and gates, ceiling and wall details, room dividers, cabinet door inlays, and utility cover casings – lattice lives large in our surroundings.

Sunny and Southern . Southern Living

It feels very southern, or coastal, which makes sense as these are warm weather, often seasonal places, but I’d love to try it out in the city and see if I could get away with it. Would you risk it?

Naming Names: Making our Mark with Monograms

Marni Jameson does it with class.

What’s in a name? Romeo, or Shakespeare as the case may be, said: “A rose would still smell sweet”, but would it? Psychologists, behavioral scientists, technologists, me, and perhaps you too, are fascinated, either for intellectual or financial reasons, by names, and what those names compel us to do, think, and feel.

Bella Lino . It’s the little touches that make a big difference.

As a Business Development professional, I am well aware of the importance of remembering acquaintances names, of using my Clients names in conversation, as a tool to draw the listeners attention back to the subject at hand. I’ve stood in a room filled with hundreds of people, the din so loud that I could barely hear myself think, and yet miraculously, when my name is shouted from a football field away, I am instantly on alert, feverishly in tune to the call. Dale Carnegie’s famous statement ringing in my ear, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Is it possible that, our own name also sounds louder, that its significance to us is a survival mechanism of sorts?

I like to believe I am my own person. If we can’t be our own person, than the implications seem dire indeed, but I am not naive, I remain a mystery to myself most of the time. I do think that I am subject to The Implicit-Egotism Effect, which basically means we are drawn to people and things that resemble ourselves, which includes our name and our initials. It’s comforting, and got me thinking about Monograms and their popularity.

Monograms can be traced back to 350BC, and first appeared on coins. The Greeks, or the Romans or both were involved, as they so often were, talk about an ego – those guys take credit for everything. Then the royals got into the game, and everyone that wanted to be royal, had money, but no lineage, followed suit by putting their initials on everything they could embroider, emblazon, or embellish. The Guild, which was a Union of sorts, used Monograms as identifiers for their artists, sculptors, and craftspeople to ensure they were a legit member of the club. Now we are getting somewhere – everyone wants to belong, and to stake claim. It’s hard to claim something is yours if its initials don’t align with your own, which brings me to a bone I have to pick with my sister. Is it wrong of me to get annoyed when I see her pocket book, the three uniform letters, stamped in gold on her tan leather bag? Those initials belong to me, she doesn’t even have a middle name. Sisters. I wouldn’t really let the letter “A” get between us. How would I ever get to the rest of the lovely alphabet if l did something as silly as that?

Kevin Malone . Powder Room Pronouncement

Our need to belong, to stake claim, to feel important may be the very reason we warm to these interlinked letters. In the design world they appear everywhere. You might find them on a crest, your very own personal logo of sorts, stitched in brilliantly bold letters across a bolster pillow on your bed, or tucked into the corner of a linen napkin, in the tiniest font, a signal to the guests that their host has pride of place, and that something special their way comes.

Do I think that you can take it too far? That I do. Monograms can be made brass and garish. They can be used to intimidate – think the crest on a blazer, fitted for a member of a club for which Woody Alan wouldn’t want membership, or a home with nary a surface free of the three. I prefer them on the back of a Cartier Tank Watch, presented as a gift to me. How would you like yours served up?

Homework? The office is where it’s at

When I finally crossed the threshold from Elementary School to fifth grade, I thought I had arrived. I left a new elementary school to a broken down, historic building that had a list of past lives that was rather long. It served as a town hall, a high school, a community center, and a middle school. When the town grew up, the family had to split to accommodate its growing population. Fifth and sixth graders remained in the battered old building, and Seventh and Eight Graders high tailed it to the high school, only to find out that they’d be housed in trailers and carefully segregated from the bad influence of the older kids. That old dame of a building is still standing, testing out her new life as an Arts and Cultural Center. I liked her. I felt that we were kindred souls, it was the administration that I had a bone to pick with, having discovered that I was expected to do homework, like, for the rest of my life.

Image 4 . Graphics with impact

I hated homework then, and I hate it now. Who wants to work at home I ask you? Home is a sanctuary, home is a place to sink into the sofa, flip on the tv, or your Sonos speaker system, and rock out to whatever makes you happy. The works that are meant for home are house, yard, and repairs or improvements, not paperwork, data analysis, or budget logs. While we weren’t paying attention, they slipped in a series of systems – smart phones, laptops, compact printers, and we all smiled while our sovereignty was sliding from our grasp.

Every Space should have a statement piece like this light fixture.

This weekend I worked on the semi-final push to open our new headquarters – semi-final because I don’t know of a place at home, or at work that is ever really done. As any major project does, this one had a host of helpers make it a reality. There were designers and engineers, project managers, and graphic artists. We investigated live walls and preserved gardens, indoor gathering space and outdoor. We talked amenities, adding workouts to your workday, and showers so you could freshen up after miles of meetings held while speed walking on your tred desk. We brought back food, unveiled a new coffee machine whose bells and whistles rivaled my first car – though I think I will continue to love both them with equal ardor.

For me, there is no argument about going back to the office. I told some of you already, but I love working in the office. I love my monitors, my walls adorned with post-it notes, and strategy boards. I love my quotes and photos, paint swatches and pinned poems, and snippets from my very favorite projects. I love that my fifth wall is the floor and no one tells me not to use it. My most pressing priorities sit in my path and demand my attention until I complete, and put them to rest for the night. I love the people, and the noise that comes with production. I love creating stuff and printing stuff. I love work, and I am so happy to work in a place that values aesthetics as much as function, people more than profits, construction and community. Now how would I ever find all of that in my living room? Well, often the construction part, but the rest I’ll find at Elaine Construction. Hope you’ll come visit me there.

In Search of a Pretty Property

Have you ever seen a vine as happy as this one?

I’ve been casually looking around for another property. Casually because my Boston condo has yet to sell – it will though – just a matter of time, and Chatham doesn’t close for a few more weeks. The rate at which properties pass papers these days makes it silly to do anything other than gaze, and gander from a good distance away. The looking is a sort of disease. I’m signed up to so many alert services that some days slogging through the in-box is like moving through quicksand, but when I come across something that shows potential, it stirs the butterflies in my belly.

Set me up in this one.

I got a text this weekend that had my heart stop for dramatic effect before it started to Salsa. It was a tiny little two bed in Chatham, NOT yet on the market, but the owners were ready to say good-bye to it. They called it a tear down – impossible I thought, they know not what they speak of. It’s a non-conforming lot, and the risk you take if you remove a building is that you won’t be able to replace it, let alone put another larger home on the property. Of course their are Zoning Boards of Appeal, where you can plead your case, but it’s a gamble, and I am not willing to put $1.1M on the line for the chance they might be in a good mood the day I ask.

A pillow, a good book, and both my feet up, you’d find me here in the morning.

My heart returned to its steady beat when I learned about the size of the lot. It slowed even further when I visited the property to look it in the eye from the outside, assess the neighborhood and such. She knew it, and I knew it, the company that she kept was not stellar, star-studded, or seaside. A problem if you want to cash in that lottery ticket.

I’ve never wanted to force myself into being a numbers person, but when it matters, I seem to be pretty good at doing the math. This little house had numbers that didn’t work. I have never expected to get something for nothing, but renovating a home is hard. The only easy part of the process is spending too much, taking too long, and underestimating what others will give you for it. No, she wasn’t for me, but I’d take one of these little beauties, whether it was falling down or not. I’d move right in, set up my laptop, and tap away, breaking now and again to gaze out at the sea, and think to myself, how very fortunate I am to just be.

You mustn’t forget the view – even if it is only in your mind’s eye.

Making Waves: toss those scallops ashore

Lulu Little

The trend started quietly to build a few summer’s ago. A scallop shaped velvet pillow, backed in linen and available in a host of delicious jewel tones. I bought one, and then another. I’m a sucker for summer, city and seaside. Yes, it’s true the city can incorporate coastal and still feel sophisticated, and the coast can make the most of a sophisticated vibe that keeps it from looking too country. Decisions, decisions, it’s all in the decisions you make, we make, let’s make some together.

It’s time now to fully embrace that beloved little bi-valve, and ride, at least one scalloped edge to shore, because sure shootin’ these sweet little curves are making waves. It’s fitting that I only have eyes for this edge detail, as scallops, most interestingly, have 32 blue/green eyes. They don’t actually see with them, they are used more like a homing mechanism, sensory perception, instinct? I can’t exactly remember what Mr. Hammond, my fifth grade teacher, who taught us all the subjects, including marine biology, had to say about that pretty little mollusk, but I think I’m in the ball park, or the Sound as the case may be. They also swim backwards by opening and closing their shells in rapid succession to escape predators, and you can eat those eyes, just as you would a muscle – aka, the scallop, but nobody entertains that idea – it’s simply not as appetizing as a pillow-y white cloud, puddled in Saffron broth, served aside a linen napkin with that semi-circular edge, stamped and repeated, stamped and repeated, stamped and repeated, in some wonderous shade. I bet you can imagine your Easter table coming together.

It’s everywhere, like a newly discovered vocabulary word, you’ll start seeing that seaworthy rippled edge on everything. Trust me, and please do report back on your findings, you will. There’s the bar cart/side table – not surprisingly Serena and Lily is up on a coastal trend. The lovely lamp shades with their velvet edged detail, and their Liberty of London lined interiors. There are bed linens, and banquets, backsplashes and beautiful vanities. There are patio umbrellas, pretty little planters, and platters for which to serve Sazerac’s in sexy stemmed glasses.

Trove . Avalon Monumental Double Chest . 3050 – pounds.

The whimsey that this detail brings to the staid interior is some kind of wonderful. We could use a little wonderful right now. If you can’t do a loop-di-lo, at least do a half. It’s bound to make you smile.

Upholders: The original interior designers

There seems to be quite a lot more to learn here than I thought.

Ah Spring, I’ve been waiting for you. Normally I enjoy a little winter, time to burrow in, and rest, but my burrowing feels more like bondage, and my resting more like restricted chaos. I’m ready to be born again, and if this turn of seasons doesn’t allow for that, I’m not sure what does. It’s not just me that needs a fresh look, feel, life – it’s my furnishings. My furniture, is forever relegated to the teenage years of trial and experimentation. No sooner does my sofa have one look, that I am looking to give her the next. A new seasonal trend, an influence from a trip across the pond, or through my Instagram feed, or of course a new home, is all the motivation I need, to want– so desperately want, to remake the little beauties.

Wouldn’t I just love to get my hands on these. Chairish $2880. for the pair.

Upholstery is an expensive endeavor, even for those like me, who have found a source, that does it on the relative cheap. Not to be mistaken with cheaply. No, Tho’s work, is a work of art, but still it adds up, and it leaves me wondering, with all my free time, why couldn’t I do that? Before you going slinging your arrows in my direction with all the reasons I couldn’t possibly, shouldn’t even consider doing, I know, or think I do, but I love to learn, and while I don’t have any expectation that I’ll be double welting, button detailing, coil springing, horse hair stuffing, stringing or any other complicated matters associated with the vocation, I would like to know how to measure the yardage that one might require for the object. Start at the beginning I always say.

Not quite ready to go indoors for a live class. Bone up on it first with this book.

The beginning interestingly, can be traced back to the 17th century. Upholsterers were called Upholders, which I think is a pretty amazing title to have and to hold. How about you? It’s so regal. I might even be willing to trade my relative new favorite – Curator of Interpretations in for this new one. The apprentices were relegated to far less noble titles – The Outsider or The Trimmer. I don’t think I want to be either of those, but somewhere you must start, and apparently they made your fringe existence known clearly. Upholders professions were expansive, as it turns out. They were not simply reupholstering furnishings in the homes, castles, or churches, they were managing the entire interior decoration. Often paired with a cabinet maker, they were making history.

I’m not attempting to make history here – at least not as an Upholsterer. I have noted over the years that fabric estimations seem to be off by quite a bit. It must be a cautionary approach – no one wants to be left with too little fabric for the job. That would be disastrous, but too much, ouch. The fabric that I select is expensive. Ridiculously so, if you want to know the truth. I’m left carrying it around with me from home to home, feeling guilty. All those dollars rolled up on a rod, doing me no good at all. I need accuracy. Having calculated my odds, I thought taking a class on upholstery might just be the Spring Semester lesson I need.

Tools of the trade.

One Small Thing: details that delight

Here’s what I love about Kemble Interiors interstitial stair – if it isn’t evident to you already, I can barely breath I adore the rattan wrapped balusters so much. While some may not consider it innovative, I would argue that these did in fact make my life better. I want to run my fingers over its stripped bumpy edge and beg it to tell me why I didn’t think of it first. Brilliant!

One small thing. Sometimes that’s all you get. Sometimes that’s all you need to keep going. One small thing that you love, that makes you smile, that reminds you that there is beauty in even the ugliest of times, situations, or messes. If you are challenged to find it, you usually can. The rough edge of an old beam, it’s splintered edge a reminder that it was hand hune. A word my spellcheck doesn’t even recognize, it not having been manufactured in the modern age, in China, but rather by an actual person, with a chisel, and a commitment to a job well done. That’s worth a curve of one’s lips, up toward the sky, instead of down toward the ground, no?

Here’s what I love in this Kemble Interiors Lobby of The Colonial – so much I’m giddy with excitement. First, those pink scalloped chairs, delicate, velvety and inviting on the inside, exposing their hard shell and texture on the out. Second, Lions, and Tigers, and Bears – oh my, and the fact that there is also a monkey which hints at the mayhem that could ensue, and the pineapple that tells me I am welcome, and more pink. Third, that chandelier’s glass leaves that really are the kind of jungle I like to live in, and finally, the tiny pink striped perimeter of the vaulted ceiling. Subtle, clever, and inviting. Sure the wall is doing everything in its power to grab your attention, but this lobby is going to deliver more to those that are patient, and allow it to unfold overtime.

While it’s true that little can get lost in a sea of super-sized homes, the very fact that it could get found, is delightful. Even if you live in a less than large home, as I do, it’s possibly one of the most intriguing and rewarding experiences to have a guest recognize that some thing small that you chose, added, dotted onto your canvas and then partially obscured, to increase the wonder of its discovery, was in fact, discovered by them. It’s like sharing a secret with a friend that understands you like no other.

Yes, just yes. Collins Interiors is a master with the details. I’ve looked and looked, wondered and hypothesized, but can come to no conclusion, and Collins like to keep their secrets. Is it painted or paper. I know the wallcovering is pasted on, but the vent? How do they do the things they do, and what makes them willing to go the extra ten miles? I bow down to you. It’s nothing short of art.

As I took my weekend ramble through my instagram feed looking for something I would love, I came across so very much. People really are the most amazing amount of talented. Hats off to these wonders for the marvels they produce.

What I love about this Palm Beach Home Style image that feels so very Mark D. Sikes to me? In a sea of blue and white it is grounded by an antique farm trestle table. I love its unapologetic use of blue on blue patterns: note the striped rug, the china the chinoiserie vases, and of course the wallcovering. I love the pop of red on the table and the leafy greens on the mantle that let you know this isn’t their first rodeo.