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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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?
I love the idea of being de-coded by someone. To be truly understood and seen by another should be a basic human right, it’s not, but it is a basic need. I won’t allow myself the luxury of lying on a sofa, or in a comfortable chair, and working through why I think or feel the way I do. I know I have the disease of being busy, too busy, so busy I can barely sit still, which is in part why I like house renovations so much. They are like little babies requiring constant care and attention. They can also try your patience and wear on your last nerve, making you feel as if you are going to go insane.
Here’s where Behavioral Activation Therapy comes in. I can’t believe that I didn’t study psychology because I love it so much. I had been employing this psychotherapy technique on myself without even knowing it. I’m so self-clever sometimes it astounds me, mainly because at turns I can be so clueless, and not in the cute and cool way that Alicia Silverstone was when she starred as Cher in the movie of the same name. I stumbled across the technique when I was renovating my second property, which had me crying a river – the last thing you want to do when your house is already full of water in all the wrong rooms and places.
I found myself digging around in my closets looking for my suitcases and wondering to myself allowed what would be needed in the quiet padded cell of the insane asylum, when I thought, what if I just pretended that this wasn’t happening to me at all. What if, I was just a paid employee to the person that it was happening to, and my job was to figure it out – get the appropriate line-up of contractors, find the best prices and do it quickly. What if, when all of that was done, I got paid for it? What if indeed.
What I discovered is that it works. By removing the person that takes it personally – that would be me, and I suspect you too – from time to time, something amazing happens, you just get it done. It’s just a job. Imagine my surprise when I was listening to No Stupid Questions – the Angela Duckworth and Steven Dubner podcast I am currently obsessed with and Angela, the psychologist, was asked by Steven if pretending you weren’t depressed, by “acting” as if you were an non-depressed person could really work? I bet you can guess what she said. Now go out there and get renovating or taking your first steps toward running a marathon or whatever amazing thing you will do, because you can – unless it’s surgery. Please leave that to the surgeon.
There’s nothing like an aluminum screen door to get you sliding back to the seventies, fingers clasping and unclasping in quick succession as you ask yourself, which is worse? The start to this decade or the seventies. We’ve barely gotten across the threshold, but it has left so very much to be desired. Having lived through the full compliment of that orange and brown, shag carpet, lava lamp, bell bottomed blue, banana seat bike, built-in belt, goucho wearing decade – I can assure you it was anything but complimentary.
As much as I hated those aluminum screen doors with their diamond patterned, pressed inlay, they undoubtedly did their primary job, which was to keep the bugs out, and very importantly to me, let the light in. I ripped a similarly offensive “storm door” off of my current condo, and its facade is far better for it. It’s the equivalent of having lost 20lbs. Who wouldn’t look lighter and feel more attractive? It had to go, but I’ve missed it – obviously not for it’s aesthetic contributions, but for it’s bug catching abilities.
As I took my walk to investigate the open houses, analyze with a critical eye and the dormers on the homes in the Port, I took to noticing how many homes hadn’t forgone the screen door. They put it front and center, they made it an object of desire, the painted in bright colors and in the highest gloss available, also known as lacquer and they adorned it with gold leaf appliques. These wooden screen doors were a triumph. They were a spectacle, they were worth a nod, they were worth further investigation, and dare I say replication.
While some of you might think that it is “strictly coastal”, I think I could have made it work in the city. If only I had more time. If only I had more money. If only, if only, if only….
Clearly I am seeking. I have made no secret of it. This Quest of mine has been neatly packaged and bound, flip after flip anchoring the pages of my story to the tacky binding of my unfinished book. Whether you are rooting for me or against me, indifferent, apathetic, or uninclined, you’re seeking too. We’re seekers. That urgency, the burning need to leave a mark, the charcoaled edged of the embered wood lending credence to our existence. Of our 7 core instincts; anger, fear, panic-grief, maternal care, pleasure/lust, play, and here it is: seeking, it is thought that the last of these instincts should in fact be the first. It is considered the most powerful of them all. Isn’t that delightful, delectable, darned amazing? We want answers, we want higher ground, clarity, clairvoyance or something close to it. Something that makes our us-ness special. Chevy Chase used to open his Saturday Night Live performances with: I’m Chevy Chase, and YOU are not…. I think that sums it up nicely. We are looking for validation, in the way only we can. The way that matters to us most, though admittedly, that too can be foggy at times. Doubt creeps in and rears her gorgon, snake filled main of hair, her monstrous wings propelling her through the air, swinging dangerously close to you, and all your uncertainty. Don’t let her mystical beauty lull you into a false sense of security. Medusa is not your friend, stand your ground, fling barbed questions to pierce and silence the snakes. I think it helps in finding the answers for you, and your personal pilgrimage.
Here I am on the threshold of yet another milestone, technically it is time for me to sell my little one bed, tucked away off the busy city street, behind a gated entry, that opens to a tree filled courtyard, and a front door – your own front door. Who gets to live in the South End for under a million dollars, with their own front door? Well, me, and perhaps you too if you are desirous of that sort of thing. A home that lives like a town house, instead of a condo. Your own private entry, your own mail box, your own wood burning fireplace for cozy fall evenings, and central air for hot late summer days. It’s a magical jewel box of a property, but as the Budda says – everything is impermanent. It is time for me to pass the pleasure onto another. The question is, two years or not, should I be selling during a pandemic?
It’s never been my wish to have a hoard of people on the steps of my home, fists in the air like the floor of the stock exchange at the final bell, begging to buy my property. No, I am more interested in that one person, one couple, that falls madly in love with what I have created, and knows instantly that they have found their mate in this home. I guess the answer that I am looking for from you is yes, it’s possible to find someone like that, even in a pandemic. Am I right or am I wrong. Feel free to weigh in, everyone has an opinion.
I adore being a contradiction in terms. The high fashion, well not skyscraper high, but at least mid-rise high – we’re Boston, not New York City, stiletto wearing gal that works in the construction industry. The diagnosed dyslexic that veraciously devours volume after volume, of whatever I can get my hands on. The singleton that dreams of a house with a white picket fence, but that fence is strictly there for aesthetic purposes, and I own it.
Kate Smith, Ella Fitzgerald, Patti Page and many before, sang about, or as I like to tell it – demanded: “land, lots of land, under starry sky’s above”…”let me be by myself in the evening breeze” …. “let me straddle my old saddle underneath the western sky”. They begged not to be fenced in, just as I beg any gal that will listen to me, to buy real estate. It’s the realest thing you can do, to build financial security, which is why I am so happy for my friend Jenn. She took those reigns, mounted that horse, put in her offer, and she’s off and running.
To this city dwelling gal, the home feels really big, so we’ll need to take the renovation in stages. It has great bones, and looks to be in really excellent shape, but that doesn’t mean that she won’t want to put her own stamp on it, and to begin with, she plans on stamping out the lattice at the front entry. I agree, it feels like it’s having an identity crisis, so I have made a few recommendations for alternative fence options for the porch that feel a little more in keeping with the neighborhood, and its Colorado location.
Once the lattice is gone and is no longer a distraction it would be really nice to have a zippy front door color. I’m back to being in love with a racy red or a violet. I’d avoid orange, though I love that color, I’m afraid with the home’s pale green exterior it will look too much like a pumpkin, and since Jenn has just made it clear, with this offer, that she needs no prince charming to save her, we’ll leave the field mice to convert someone else’s pumpkin into a carriage. She’s taking that horse and plans on jumping the fence.
People – you know, friends, relatives, acquaintances, you, if you know me, ask, tell, or inquire, in a somewhat perplexed, searching for understanding kind of way, why I do what I do. I’m glad for the curiosity. I want you to know why I buy, and sell, pack, move, repeat, live in sawdust, out of suitcases, and a seemingly endless state of chaos. Aside from the somewhat contradictory truth, that I am a control freak, and all that disruption can appear to the casual bystander, as a cataclysmic mayhem, it is designed to bring just the opposite. That’s right, it’s designed to bring me control, in a world that is largely out of my control.
Sure things happen along the way that I hadn’t counted on (also known as things out of my control), but each time I learn something new, file away a truth about real estate, which to my mind, it the realest, most sure investment you can make, and in so doing, I take back a little more of the control, I thought I had lost, but probably never possessed in the first place. Have I confused you yet? Action is agency, and agency is all about exerting power. When I am drowning in self-doubt over how I got myself into one mess or another, I remind myself, that it can be figured out, that I am not the first person to encounter water spraying in through a conduit, into my tiny bedroom, like a fire house let loose on a three alarm inferno. No, if fact, someone else out there has done it, solved it, and lived to tell about it, and when I find that person, or the dozens of others that have had similar experiences, and bow to their infinite wisdom, with desperation and reverence, I am almost always granted the benefit of their experience.
To most people my confession that desperation is what compels me, feels like a comedic line I’ve honed to illicit a laugh. While I am never afraid to employ a little self-deprecation into a tale I am weaving, I can assure you, this is a bold-faced truth. My survival instinct is incredibly strong, it is in fact this desperate need for security that keeps me moving through some of the less comfortable moments of my existence, but there are secondary and even tertiary reasons I do what I do. I’m complex, and am still working on figuring myself out, so you’ll have to forgive me.
Design and travel – I’m not sure in which order I place them, are compelling reasons for my constant motion. All this moving and flipping has afforded me the opportunity to do both, and for that, I would argue, the sawdust in my shoe, and other unmentionable places, is worth it.
On this Sunday, I don’t know when I will be able to travel again, but it has me thinking about one of my favorite European destinations, the South of France, where for me, inspiration abounds. The pace is slower, languid, indulgent, and bright with promise.
The dusty heat rises up off the fields that are littered with purveyors of antiques – cast away by a generation more interested in modern wares, than Louis XIV commodes, and Bergere chairs. Paintings, silver, tile – broken and chipped but in the most beautiful blue hue you can imagine, transport me to a white washed, sun soaked veranda over looking a pool. Can you see it?, the interior rim, edged in this sublime ancient key fret design….drop on in, the water is warm.
I know lots of folks have been talking about what they have missed and what, perhaps surprisingly, they have not, during this pandemic. As Americans, consumerism seems to have been gifted to us as a birthright, encoded in our DNA as surely as our hair color, skin tone, and propensity for language, music or math are. Perhaps gifted isn’t quite the right word. Maybe the word in fact, is cursed. It robs us of our creativity, and creativity, surprises and delights. Why ever would we want to go without it, for the opportunity to use an avocado cutter, that you’ll probably forget you have, or have difficulty finding in your cluttered kitchen drawers when the time comes to use it? I can tell you how to do it with a knife and you’ll be just fine.
That’s what this pandemic has done for me. I’ve discovered that I have been limiting myself to the purchase of food, something that I would not be just fine, if I didn’t have. It’s made me Marie Kondo my decisions in a way I hadn’t before. Oh I always organized the way Marie says one should, before I knew it was a thing to fold, roll, tuck, and line ones drawers with our belongings, in the way Marie says in her soft gentle voice, but as for the part of loving and cherishing them, I don’t think I was really down with that philosophy, and yet I find myself asking, will that sandal really add a new rich texture to my life? Henry David Thoreau said: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” That’s pretty profound. I know I still pick pennies up off the street, understanding that someone exchanged their time for that little piece of copper, but I am not sure that the purchases that I’ve made have been framed out so prosaically as to beg the question – Is that $300. swim suit worth the amount of your one single and precious life you exchanged for it? Now maybe it is, but this pandemic has provided a new perspective for me. I am still going to appreciate beauty. As a write this and look over at the craftsmanship of the window seat that Eastward Companies built, with it’s deliciously thick, Sister Parish fabric covered cushion, and two Farmhouse Pottery grid patterned pillows, I can say that that exchange was worth it to me.
I can live without my avocado cutter. It’s still never been used. Maybe I could sell it on Craig’s List.