Historic Nantucket Inn: Up in Flames

Up in flames . 7.9.22 – the fire broke out around 6:45am.

I write about Nantucket at least once a year. I have been visiting the island since I was a very small child. I am aware of the power of a place that you associate with simpler times, when your biggest challenge was how you might convince your mother to buy you a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone with chocolate jimmies, or beg one of the adults in the party to slide you a crisp dollar bill so you could run wild down the docks to the penny candy store and score golden foil wrapped chocolate coins, smarties, reams of paper spotted with rainbow colored candy dots, and a small handful of bit-o-honey. Innocence is an aphrodisiac that paints the town in pastel hues. I know this to be true, and yet, upon polling a number of adults whose experience of the island came much later in life, I can report to you with a ferocious certainty, the Gray Lady is magical.

I have stayed on the southern shore of the island facing the Atlantic, the northern side on Brandt Point, over the harbor in the Boat Basin, in town and Cliff Side and have had the pleasure of staying at the Veranda House on several occasions. Built in 1684, it survived the Great Fire of 1846 which destroyed roughly a third of downtown, engulfing more than 250 buildings in flames and reducing them to rubble. Stick built and loaded with whale oil the fire spread quickly. 338 years, several owners and iterations later the Veranda House is no more.

Back in the Boarding House Days.

My last visit was in December of 2020, nary a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. My two girlfriends and I were the only occupants of the recently renovated eighteen room boutique hotel. We commandeered the reception come living room by the fire each morning and evening of our stay alternately sipping coffee and then wine by the fire. She was a beauty with her three decks that wrapped around the building, allowing you to sit and appreciate the view from her mountaintop location. I hope that her current owners will rebuilt and that the spirit of the Veranda House will live on.

The Soul of a great old dame.

Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc: Tender is the Light

Just like Slim! The shot that sealed the deal for me.

Cut from the ragged rocky coastline of the Cote D’Azur, a Michelangeloian feet of genius, rose the iconic pool and restaurants, and the grand promenade leading to the now famous hotel. It requires more than time to make an icon, though Eden Roc has that on its side having celebrated its 150th anniversary in 2021. A lovely way to exit the pandemic, not its first. It takes more than celebrity, though its had its fair share of those too in Marlene Dietrich, Liz Taylor, Kings and Queens, Politicians, and at least half of the inhabitants of the Cannes Film Festival. Toss into this glorious Mediterranean salad of celebs, Picasso, Porter, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Dorothy Parker, and Jean Cocteau, and further credit them for making it a summer haven, and you have an inkling of what makes this place special – it is aglow with inspiration, with beauty that floods down from the heavens, and on those rare days when a cloud or two dots the sky, the beauty can be found in the rays of sunshine that filter through the gathering raindrop soaked cumulous forms that dapple the blue.

Its natural setting, painstaking elegance, and dedication to leisure, joy, celebration and relaxation make it anything but stuffy. It’s a happy orchestra of bassoons and dancing violins and violas, of laughter and quiet solitude, of sun, salt, and solace. My love of Eden Roc came the first time my eyes knocked with Slim Aarons’ 1976 photograph of the pool overlooking the rugged coastline of the French Riviera. I have yet to stay at the illustrious venue, but have not given up the dream. I did however dine here. My obsession with design makes me bold, and somewhat unforgiving. I return to my five year old self, deaf to my mother’s insistent cries not to touch anything. My outstretched fingers are running across the corrugated wooden panels that line the walls and mimic the movement of the waves on the sea. The alabaster luminaries, custom designed by Atelier Alain Ellouz for the space emit a soft moonlit glow. Every serpentine sofa, every soft cushioned seat where custom designed for the space by Brazilian Interior Designer, Patricia Anastassiadis, who can be credited with the new life that honors the history of the place while giving it a crisp seaside contemporary vibe – that I adore.

From the artwork to the setting, the choice of pin-striped fabrics on walnut backed dining chairs, the orange and blue banquettes, piped in crisp white feel fresh, and playful. It is a wonderland of detail. The fluted exterior of the curved bar in La Rotunda is a wave on a different day. The bar cart adorned with a bunch of grapes begs the question “Why wait”? Anastassiadis’ understanding of place, of nature, of light and of history brings the outdoors in, mingles past, present and future in a honeysuckle/rose bouquet that is intoxicating.

CAN I GET AN AMEN: distillery goes digital

Nestled between the High and Lowlands, Speyside is one of the six whisky distilling regions of Scotland. A place where the tradition of distilling whisky is a religion. It’s in their blood, the spring water that runs through the Town of Rothes cutting across the Glenrothes Distillery property, begging to be baptized and born again. Aged in Sherry casks, patience, dedication, and service to a higher standard of production delivers a fruity, creamier single malt scotch and congregants that worship its purity and perfection.

Illustration by famed New Yorker Artist Maddie Dai

Like any good story, the Glenrothes tale is one of a hero’s journey. James Stuart was a whisky maker with a dream, to build a distillery that did it differently. He teamed with two local businessmen to construct the Town’s second whiskey making plant, but in the summer of 1878 a financial crisis struck Scotland and stopped construction. One might say that divine intervention interceded. Reverend William Sharp was true to his name, understanding that pride and purpose were essential to the strength of any community, and his parishioners needed a place to work – idle hands and all that. He aided in the raising of funds, construction commenced and the rest, as they say, is history.

The buildings of the distillery are architectural wonders, punctuated by a tiny pagoda that reaches toward the heavens.

There is truth in the old adage that history repeats itself, but it is not static. History is being made, crafted and curated every day. To stay small requires specialization. It requires ingenuity, grit, and determination to fight mediocrity, to embrace innovation when it serves to enhance and sustain the guiding principles that are foundational to your reason for being. Will Glenrothes go down in history for hitching their wagon to the digital blockchain in the form of a NFT? Time will tell.

Purchase a bottle of the special release 36 year old single cask whisky, and you’ll receive with it an Non-Fungible Token of the label, designed by Maddie Dai. Dai’s illustration feels reminiscent of the New Yorker Magazine, having illustrated for them since 2017, her designs convey a deep understanding of place and human nature. Where will this illustration live? On your phone if you so choose, or stored safely on the Block Chain known as Solana. Non-fungible doesn’t mean worth nothing, it means it can’t be replaced by something else. In addition to being one of a kind art, it’s dynamic. The illustration will “come to life” when viewed, even changing color, but wait there’s more. Your token will grant you access to special events which will happen in this universe rather than the meta. As our worlds converge sipping this celestial whisky just might be the answer to helping you slide your toe or your mind, into this new world.

Inside the distillery.

Lose Farther and Faster

I lost three properties in a seven day span. Mary Oliver would be proud of me, the Art of Losing isn’t really hard to do at all, not when you practice as I do. It does require a special quality nonetheless that I call “detached investment”. You can’t get cavalier about what you choose to bid on just because you may not be successful in your quest to obtain it. No, you need to tip toe across a tightrope – not quite a forever property but a property that you are going to spit, polish and shine into something for which you can be proud, not regretful. You can’t fall victim to your competitive instincts to win, if that winning isn’t keeping pace with reality. How much work does it need? How easy will it be to build it? Will permits or variances or condo approvals be required? If you are starting to get a headache, good. It will dissipate nearly as soon as you stop reading this, but if you win that bid for a property in which you overpaid and underestimated what it was going to take to convert it, well you better get accustomed to living with it.

This post is not meant to dissuade you from the hunt, just to keep you from the buyers remorse that some people may be feeling right this second. Three flights up a narrow, uneven staircase, the unit without air conditioning when we are moments away from sleepless nights, damp sheets and the always precarious installation of an in-window unit with its awkward distribution of weight, sharp edges, and need for two people to execute what should be a solo effort. Enough about that. You get the point. You don’t want to be that “guy”.

Continue the hunt does, and it does offer something exciting even if that something isn’t a win. I love the process of imaging how I will design these spaces and get pretty far along in the process between the offer and the verdict before ball up the trace paper and make a three point attempt from outside the paint toward the circular file. It’s not an entire loss, while every property has its quirks which lend themselves to particular furnishings layouts, art placement, lighting schemes and the like, color palettes can travel from property to property with relative ease.

Melinda Headrick . Owner and Principal Designer

I was super excited to learn that Chatham Interiors is coming to Boston, and not just anywhere in the city, but on the very same street that I currently live. Melinda Headrick is both the Owner and Principal Designer. I have frequented her two shops on Main Street in Chatham for years. I consider my style to be a happy cross pollination between Melinda (her first shop) which is all about sophisticated elegance and TA . TA, a younger, hipper, poppier aesthetic for those that have money.

Those striped pillows – available at TA.DA

Melinda is a beautiful designer, and offers an array of options for accessing her talent. Full design services aren’t for everyone as it can be prohibitive for those working with tight budgets. There are virtual consultations and room by room options with the extra added benefit of having them order and track all your purchases for you, ensuring they arrive at your home. Ah the possibilities, keep bidding, keep believing, keep on dreaming.

Favor the Flavor of Dolly

The Graduate Hotel . Nashville Main Lobby

“It Costs a Lot of Money to Look This Cheap” or so the neon sign reads in the Dolly Parton 9 – 5 Suite of Nashville’s Graduate Hotel, but it could have been the design ethos for the entire property. I mean this in the most deferential way, because I adore it. It’s an ode to Vanderbilt University – all Graduate Hotels, there are twelve of them nationwide, are located near and inspired by a University, but it’s so much more. Nashville looms large in the design, and if you weren’t educated on country music before you arrived, you will be when you’re ready to leave.

The design is led by the Graduate’s in-house luminary and Chief Creative Officer, Andrew Alford. A man after my own heart, he was told by his first employer that he didn’t have the imagination to be a proper designer. A ‘no’ to Andrew is a challenge that neither he, nor I could refuse, and look where that got him. I’m hoping it will take me to a similarly fabulous place with a pink room, a crystal chandelier, a powder room papered in punchy pattern, where my perfectly polished Swarovski stilettos never hurt and make me appear ten to fifteen pounds thinner than I actually am. Just you watch me, I’ll get there too.

The property is a museum of curiosities that will allow you to keep learning overtime. Hidden gems, layered meaning, moments of surprise and delight are tucked in among the gaudy but gorgeous statement pieces that are there precisely to be noticed. The mega Minnie Pearl art installation that greets you at reception is a loud and enthusiastic southern welcome. The bubble gum pink Dolly Parton sculpture is a showstopper on the rooftop pool just outside the White Limozeen Bar.

Dolly may have one particular suite that is clearly all about her, with a wallcovering that features her face, a shag carpet that is filled with feathers, a king-sized water bed with mirrored ceiling and disco ball to remind you that life should be fun. The Jolene Suite features chintz and pink striped walls offset by a navy sitting room for entertaining.

I’d venture to say that it just might be possible to have the best time you’ve ever had in your life, without ever leaving this hotel, and in Nashville, that’s one tall order to fill. Don’t forget to stop by and belt out a note or two with the mechanical singing pigs.

Something to See Here!

Distinctive Excellence: The making of an icon

My first love. Mies van der Rohe . Barcelona Chair . 1948.

Iconic pieces hold value. Trends do not. I was attempting to explain this to my Brother-in-Law who is embarking on a fairly significant renovation, along with my sister, of their LES apartment. A lifelong resident of Manhattan, Andy has an appreciation for art – fine, film, not food per se, but most definitely the musical arts, and culture. His interest in pop, international, historic/ancient, make him a fairly typical New Yorker, which is to say, very well versed in a whole lot of things, that most people know nothing about. If I am being nice about it I’d say it is likely due to the fact that it doesn’t sit on their doorstep waiting to be consumed as it does in NYC.

Marcel Breuer . Cesca Chair . 1928 tubular steel frame provides flex and comfort.

With all this intellectual sophistication it’s not that he doesn’t know logically that if you purchase a Renoir it is not going to depreciate the moment you walk it out of the Christie’s Auction House – at least I hope that’s the way in which you’d find yourself acquiring it. Of course there are other ways. I prefer to inherit my art, but if I do, I want it to be any one of the most famous impressionists. They knew how to turn a swirl of paint into a pot of gold. I would happily inherit a Mies Van der Rohe, a Saarinen, an Eames, or a Platner right along with that piece of art, but here is where we two differ. I can tell that Andy is skeptical of my assertion that these iconic designer’s furnishings are of real value. “Why not simply get a knock off”? he asks.

Charles Eames . Lounge Chair . 1956. This is the definition of fitting like a glove.

All this got me thinking about what makes something move from a trend, to a classic, to iconic. What made this fashion of a time, fifties design move beyond the three year mark, into classic territory? Design excellence, detailing, simplicity and ingenuity combined. How did they turn a formed piece of fiberglass known for its toughness into a sensuous slide that you could sleep on for hours? The angular tilt of the Barcelona Chair is a piece of sculpture in its own right, its design – like that of a master artist, a showcase of understanding of the human form. The materials, the detailing, assembly and execution are why these pieces are revered, and why they hold their value.

Give me a bouquet of Tulips any day. Eero Saarinen . Tulip Chairs and Iconic Saarinen table. 1957.

I’m all about the high and low, but if you can afford one iconic piece instead of ten from Room & Board, I’d remind myself that I can only sit in one chair at a time, and if I had to choose one, I want it to be the very best.

UNMET Needs, Endless Aspiration and Small Spaces

There is something romantic, intriguing, and comforting about small spaces. They are the warm womb of security that is often missing from the cold expanse of our global existence. They are economy and ingenuity, they are the hostess that makes you feel seen, special, attended to, despite the room full of other guests. They are the double take, and smoke and mirrors of a master illusionist. They are the embodiment of Mies Van Der Rohe’s old addage: “Less is more.” – = +

Amir Khamneipur may be the most inventive small space designer of all time. Check out the mirrored back wall that makes the space seem huge, now, the kitchen island – same thing, it’s not a piece of furniture, it’s an island, and what about the bench seating for dining that doubles as two single beds for his nephews when they come to stay?

Done right, a small space invites you to climb aboard and stay a while. Done poorly, it can leave you in a cold sweat, shallow breaths that never get past your collar bone, oxygen deprivation causing a charcoal smear on the perimeter of your lens of vision. Throw down the sash of that new/old Art Deco Orient Express cabin window and inhale the cool night air. Even a 30sf cabin aboard a train can be made to feel palatial with thoughtful detailing.

Seeing is believing.

I think it started with I Dream of Jeannie’s bedroom in a bottle. What little girl wouldn’t want to climb up that ladder and alight on that plush velvet boudoir of a bed. As my sister would say: “purple promise”. We’ll leave it at that. I was hooked. Then came the Merimeco curtains my mother made for the Curlew, our 54′ Slip Jack Catch, my very own first apartment with its hidden doors, secret compartments, and furniture on invisible wheels, it was part of the fixed cabinetry one moment, and serving up cocktails to the guests in the middle of the living room the next. Surprise and delight, surprise and delight, surprise and delight.

Whether you are building a set on a stage, an apartment on steel wheels, or jetting passengers half way across the globe, it truly doesn’t matter the size of the space in which you do it. It matters how you make “them” feel, and by “them”, I mean YOU.

As I search for a fresh take in this new year. I return to some of my old favorites, find new jaw-dropping inspirations, and offer thanks to my mother, and the universe for never allowing me to get a Barbie Dreamhouse. It is the unmet need that fuels my real estate ambition.

Reflections of: A Real Year of Estates

27 Willow Bend . Chatham . SOLD!

I wonder what crypto currency smells like? I’ve started to dabble in it. An attempt to stay hip, to do what I am imploring my readers to do, to take a little risk. Of course the risk that I am asking them to take is tangible. You can touch it. Observe its lines and massing. Appreciate the ways in which it draws attention or detracts. It has an identity, a distinct style, a personal scent. Crypto is ethereal, celestial, ghostly, many would say that it’s not real at all. I guess that’s where faith come in. I’ve converted some of the “real” dollars I made on this years real estate transactions, into an idea, a concept, a different currency. Who knows if it will pay off, but I’ll always remain true to my first love.

2021 has some bad parts to be sure, but I’m not going to think about them today. The year resulted in some very big firsts on the wealth building front that are worth reflecting on here. First, 27 Willow Bend was transformed from a frumpy old lady into the hip new girl on the block, and I mean fly. Not as in flashy, but as in super sophisticated classy. She shines in all the right places. This first was a JV with my dear friends. While I was only a nominal investor, it presented an opportunity to do something I had never done before, like an actual budget that we followed, a whole house, and yard, and a schedule that we drove instead of being taken for a ride. When I say “we” , I really mean that I observed my talented friends as they made all of this happen. Gratitude and awe at your facility, determination, and heart, Tiffany, Jeanne and Al.

They doubled my little pile of money, which led to my second first. I got a kids seat at the development table for a commercial investment. This is a very big deal. Women are not on the call list for developers in search of investors. In fact, there is so much money out there, held by a few, that developers with a good reputation hardly need to break a sweat to raise the funds for their next venture. Getting in on the action was a result of an enterprising young gals desire to change the investor profile to look a whole lot more like her, or in my case, an older version of her. We share a similar ambition, and desire to help women build wealth. To my dear friends Lauren and Kristin, thank you for connecting me to Jen, for supporting me, and for making the slog silly fun.

My third first was the sale of 34 Lawrence Street. My fifth property – all these numbers, added up to a loss. That’s right. I sold the property for just under what I invested in it. That was definitely the first time that had happened to me, leading many, myself included, to ask, “does she really know what she’s doing”? Who ever can be entirely sure? I’m taking the long view. I might have lost this hand, but I’m still in the game, searching for the next deal, the next lesson, the next home.

Wishing you a new year filled with prosperity and plenty of firsts.

Not Nothin’: Another chapter closed

I’ve been as apathetic about the sale of No. 5 as one might be. I’ve been nervous, even angry about how the negotiations went on passed homes. I’ve conceded, and dug my heals in. I’ve been nasty, and gracious, and expectant. I’ve promised to be better, and do better, and failed, and tried again. Strong emotions all, but not this time. This time I said, buy it, or don’t. Agree to my terms, or not. I want to wash the taint of the pandemic off, but not at any cost. This property, I conceded, I would take a loss on.

Not exactly an exclamation point over the fireplace, but an end.

The loss would be nominal, $2500., but it stung more than I thought it would, or should. I wanted to place that blame on anyone, but on myself, and I certainly owned a part of it, didn’t I? I bought it after all, in all its ugly ducklingness, but that was just the outside. Doesn’t everyone always say the most important thing is what’s on the inside? She was ugly there too, but I didn’t know that when I bought her. She was abused and neglected, and I cared for her, when others had not. I can’t regret doing the right thing by her. I just wish the payoff had been greater.

As I prepared to embark on my next mini-chapter, I toured, and analyzed, new tower complex, after new complex, and went back to a few that I had visited before. What I discovered is that these places in the South End are outrageously expensive. I’d give back the dog shampoo station, the swimming pool, and the on-line match making service for residents, in exchange for $1500. off my rent a month, which got me thinking. I paid $4000. a month in mortgage payments over the course of 35 months. That’s $140,000. That’s not nothin’, and it made me smile, and think a little more kindly of No. 5. It might not have turned out the way I had hoped, but it wasn’t all bad.

The Conclusion of Construction Inclusion Week

Yesterday wrapped the first ever Construction Inclusion Week. An effort to bring more visibility to the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion – or exclusion as the case may be – to the construction industry. It’s not as if people don’t know about the industry. There are cranes everywhere, roads that are being torn up and put back together again, clogging the streets with honking horned cars, and their red faced drivers. We’ve got TV reports of supply chain issues; refrigerators, lumber, chips, clips, and ships, that can’t get their goods delivered to you. People know about the industry, but what “we” – that’s the universal we, that work in the industry – wonder is, do they know that despite all the challenges that it brings, it brings something great too? Do they know that construction, and the art of creation, is something that will never fail you, even if sometimes people, or pandemics do?

Paris . a chandelier in 700 piece harmony

We humans are flawed. We seek the familiar, even if we know that pushing beyond our comfort zone can bring surprising results. Construction Inclusion Week is that gentle bump on the shoulder that says don’t be grumpy, you’ll see, inviting others to the party will make it more fun.

Somethings are worth the effort.

When I first got into the industry all I wanted to do was work for an organization that would provide new challenges to me, and to be surrounded by “those” people that had some of the very best marketing campaigns I had ever seen. “In Springtime our builders thoughts turn from cranes and construction, to wedges and woods” or some clever missive meant to entice clients to join in on the fun of a golf clinic. It never even occurred to me that I might not be welcome, and mostly I am, as the place that I sit within the industry is stereotypically female. Others have not always been though – from the seat in the estimating or procurement division, to the all knowing and seeing role of superintendent in the field, there are places that women and people of color aren’t getting the red carpet treatment, and that needs to change.

As a woman, I am as guilty as the next person, for seeking out people, that are like me, to work with. I’ve had a female lawyer for years. I adore @Sarah Ricciardelli of Ricciardelli & Small, LLC. I’ve worked with a female banker and broker and wallpaper hanger, and even a female electrician. I paid the extra doe to use a union electrician because I wanted to support Samantha, and because hanging that Parisienne/Italian Chandelier that I had shipped back from France in 765 pieces, and needed to have installed in my historic, monumental, plaster rosette ceiling, wasn’t at all up to the challenge of carrying the weight, of its 200 plus pounds, and was going to require someone that had real skills. Sam did, and that enormous sculptural cherry blossom of enlightenment, hung proudly in the middle of that grand dame of a living room for about two months, before I sold the place and moved on.

Construction Inclusion Week was an opportunity for me to think about ways in which I might be more open, “be the change I wanted to see in the world”, do my part to make this industry thrive, and be the example other industries look to as a blueprint. If we can do it here, we can do it anywhere, it’s up to us….New York, or Construction Industry, Construction Industry….ba ba, bada da, ba ba bada da.