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.

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

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.

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.

An Office from an Era Gone by

I’ve never lived in New York City. I fantasize about being there from time to time, but the time that I long to be there is decades past. I’d love to have lived in NYC in the late 50’s or early 60’s. To have scurried down Madison Avenue amid the AD Men so stylishly depicted John Hamm, as Don Draper and John Slattery, as Roger Sterling of Mad Men fame. I’ll take the clothes the gloved ladies wore with their pill box hats and a different coat for every dress – they had threads – the very definition of in Vogue.

Office Inspo.

Then there were the offices with the rotary telephones and their mid-century modern furnishings, and their 10am neat scotches and their three martini lunches. How they ever made it to dinner is an exercise in metal calisthenics that has me woozy with wonder.

Hamming it up for the camera.

I liked those offices so much I would have been happy sleeping there, unless of course I lived in Jan’s apartment from Pillow Talk. Jan, also known as Doris Day was an interior designer and she had a dreamy NYC apartment with a pink accent wall, pink kitchen counter tops and a party line. Oh the trouble a party line can get you into. If I had her apartment I would high tail it home to slip into an evening gown and serve Manhattan’s in champagne coupes that I picked up at Bergdorf’s.

No need to shop at vintage stores – MCM is all the rage today.

The question is, would you want to work in an office that that gave a serious nod to another time? What about one that you could just pop into for a meeting, a strategy session or a toast to a big project win? Would it appeal?

Miraval Berkshires: Land of fairytales

Wyndham Manor at Miraval

Miraval is all about restrained fanciness. It’s setting in the Berkshires with trees dotting the rolling hills turned mountains for miles – for as far as the eye can see, and sky the beauty of the sky, this sky is the sky that songs are written about. It exists in contrasts. The craftsmanship of the barn and stables is superior, the animals and birds of pray that are housed within them damaged. The one eyed owl Oracle and his friend Homer being whispered back to health by Jen, understand that the price of admission is to stare deep and soulfully into the eyes of the guests, and to commune. Eyes as inky black as the deepest part of the ocean, set in a snow white feathered face feels otherworldly, quiet in the midst of the squawking hawk’s demand for attention. It will come.

The materials, warm reclaimed boards have the softest of landings on the diamond hard surface of the polished concrete floors, stained ochre, a reminder not to jump to conclusions. Even a cold unforgiving surface can change its personality. The luxe velvet chairs the color of an oak leaf, turned in the fall, coupled with the tactile plaid pillow, a nod to the textile factories of the region. The durable charcoal gray thick cushioned wood slat chair, with it’s cross stitch, in a lovely cream, a child’s dream, as you swivel and spin your way into the serious hug of relaxation. The rusted steel column pendants pierced with circular openings of various sizes cast a magical glow. Hard and soft, warm and cold, tough and tender, Miraval understands that to recognize divergence is to bring harmony to the space.

Arguably, Clodagh of the eponymous New York City design firm, had everything to do with the feel of this place, whose very existence is to remind you to feel again, to tune in, to be aware, to taste, to experience, to be present. Remember those birds of pray, they can be nothing but present. They cannot dwell on the past, or worry about the future. Nature is a master class of a teacher.

The food, this dangerous delectable food, will not, can not, keep you from packing on the pounds, despite its healthful nutrients, pulled from the rich soil of the surrounding farms. Carrots like candy, brussel sprouts that taste like none I’ve ever had before. Fish infused with flavors that were not slathered on from a jar, but were plucked from the branches of herbs. I wanted to inhale it all, to miss nothing, how incredibly unzen of me, how contrary to the mindful eating they preach here at the Val.

Women’s Lounge in the Spa

To walk the grounds in this time of covid is to be transported, there are so few people here that it feels as if I have the place to my own. I wonder if my foot falls in the Jesuit footsteps before mine, or on the same patch of ground that the Cranwell Preparatory School boys galloped upon, or Frederick Law Olmstead strolled as he prepared to impart his landscape architectural stamp on the property? I wonder.

While I did not cover all 380 acres of this property, and only just began to uncover all of its secrets, I’ll share with you this – “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”. Imagine it’s 1942, and I said it in Humphrey Bogart’s raspy, telltale voice. Oh Casablanca.

I Did it My Way…but what if you couldn’t?

I am flummoxed by my friend’s flip – a beautiful property in Franklin. He is a terribly talented craftsperson, the kind I dream about having on my jobs, and has already transformed the living room, which is an extension of the open concept kitchen, into a showpiece. With its 18 foot ceilings, and grand gas feature fireplace wall, it’s going to be a show stopper.

Here’s where I’ve helped in the past – color. While he continues to learn more and get educated on all the nuances of hue and light, finishes, and the complicated language of warms and colds, and rules, and the understanding that to break them, you have to be really, really good – I have only just learned how to turn on the table saw, and successfully saw a single board. This single girl is woefully behind her friend.

Sticking to what I was asked – paint colors that pair.

The challenge for me is that I want to go into this kitchen and rip out that granite countertop. I hate it. I’ve told Eddie this already. He didn’t install it in the first place, so I don’t think I have hurt his feelings in revealing my nose wrinkling distaste for brown, black and tan, but Eddie is practical and knows that if that granite goes, so too will the backsplash. Remember, the hip bones connected to the thigh bone? You can’t just decide to do one thing without it impacting something else, and those something else’s can really cost you.

Might I make a suggestion.

I want Eddie to use his money on the installation of the 12′ glass wall that will look out onto the home’s glorious 2 acre property with its far from the city forest of a backyard, not on my Vermont Imperial Danby stone countertop. To make it all work I’ll have to do some color gymnastics. It’s possible, but will require a serious warm up and some stretching. Which of these would you choose?

Going for the Gold – if I did it my way 🙂