Once Upon a Time: An Adventure in hotels

I love a good story. I love reading one, living one, writing one. It should be no surprise to me that I’ve fallen right into AJ Capital Partners story-telling clutches, and I’m not even attempting to wrestle free. They had me at “counter-culture investors”, or maybe it was “relentless grit and obsessive determination”, or the adventurous journey they promised to take me on.

The Graduate Hotel.

When Chip and Joanna announced that they were making a foray into the hotel business with a Waco, TX location and they were partnering with AJ Capital Partners to do it, inviting me to Google them in their comedic video announcement, wasn’t really necessary. I was so going to check them out anyway, and what do you think I found? If the suspense isn’t yet killing you, it will be. They were the money, and the brains behind The Thompson Hotels, specifically the Nashville location in The Gulch, where I was first introduced to the Rose 45, served up in a brown paper bag – now that is the epitome of grit and sophistication if I ever did see it, and I did, and drank it too.

The Thompson Hotel . Nashville.

No visit to Nashville is complete for me without a stop by the Thompson. I enjoy the lobby, and the curbside restaurant and bar, as much as the rooftop, with it’s panoramic views of the city, and graphic pink tiled floors – the design (interiors created by NYC firm – Parts and Labor Design). It’s a stunner.

From their Graduate Hotel collection, situated strategically in University Towns, and offering a cleverly structured Public/Private Partnership Program called Class, to help institutions finance, develop, and operate a Graduate Hotel on their own campus, eradicating the dreary and dated accommodations so typically offered up on campuses, and elevating them to whole new story and design heights.

May Hosiery . Nashville.

Intent on finding properties that have fallen on hard times, are ripe for development but have been passed over by others for fear of cost, lack of creativity, and/or inability to identify their beneficial supply and demand characteristics – they appreciate the power of a historic building to tell a story, to reinvent itself, to be a major player in the conversation. Consider, May Hosiery, founded in 1908 as a sock factory – which grew out of founder Jacob May’s successful bid to run a sock manufacturing project out of a prison in Nashville. 50 inmates, .50 cents a day made May a rich man before he lost the contract and started his own factory there. May Hosiery Hotel is scheduled to open this year, and if you think the prison workers is the best of the story, hold onto your socks, there’s more – in addition to its title as oldest southern sock company, its distribution of 1M socks a week across the nation in its hayday, the building and the company have a heart. During WWII they provided sanctuary to over 300 Jews fleeing Natzi Germany, in the 60’s and 70’s their socks hitched a ride to the moon on the soles of ALL the Apollo Astronauts, and now is starting it’s next development chapter by housing Apple Music – with a focus on Country – what else, and other makers and innovators like architects, old school barbers and more.

Chicago Athletic Club Hotel . Chicago

Each property polishes the patina off the copper, giving it 21st century shine. The Landmark Chicago Athletic Club Hotel is a kitschy marvel, more on this 240 room hotel tomorrow. The Pontchartrain Hotel is all class and style, sweat and contradictions, music and a menagerie of cultural references, as only a hotel in New Orleans whose clientele included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Truman Capote, President Ford, and Tennessee Williams who is said to have penned, Streetcar Named Desire while in Residence. “What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.” — beautiful, and no wonder, when you can simply look out your window onto St. Charles Streetcar Line for inspo.

Calistoga Ranch . Napa Valley . CA

These stories and more are the foundation of AJ Capital Partners investments. Oh how I wish I could put my meager pennies in with their own.

Two Faced: What to do when your back is your front

Your front entry that is. I know what I am doing is considered rather unique. Not the flipping part. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry is a flipper these days. No disrespect to Tom, Dick or Harry and most certainly none intended to the Tomasia’s, Dorathea’s and/or Harriet’s that are forging their own path on the road to financial security – I salute you all. The point is, this is about me, the me that can’t seem to do anything normal, or easy, or in a way that I can just blend into the crowd. Sometimes blending is a welcome cloak against the condemnation that follows from the pitfalls of this business of being human – if you know what I mean.

Enough greenery can make anything look better.

When I selected No. 5 I didn’t give much thought to the fact that you enter through the back of the building. Not just because that’s the convenient way to get there, but because it’s the only actual way to get there, unless you want to crawl through the window. The window BTW is the intended exit route if there were a fire. It works, but nobody is worried about what they look like when the are escaping a fire…am I right?

This particular set of row houses (those intended for the servants) are pretty, in their simple, unfussy way. They certainly don’t look like the brownstones of the eight street district, or Beacon Hill, and the back of them – well, it’s the back. They are draped in wires, cables and cords. They are gated or fenced in from the street, but still can be viewed from the same. My gate is a thin barrier at best to the outside world, and yet, I am decidedly subconscious about the way it looks.

When you open the sage green gate (anyone that knows me well, knows that THAT color has to change), and are presented with a small wooden walk way leading to a few steps, a small outdoor deck and my back door. My back door is really a kitchen door. Three rows of divided lights sit atop two long vertical panels. It would be fine for a country home – even better if the top half opened to a grand back yard, and it were the fifties, but this is neither the country or that decade, and as for privacy, don’t think I haven’t noticed the next door neighbors, on floor two, peering down in at me. I’ve got my eyes on you too, and a stun gun, so beware. I also have a new front door sitting in my living room. I’ve always wanted my own front door. Condo living doesn’t really afford you a front door in the traditional, single family home sense of the word, and I have visions of a southern porch, inviting me down the boxwood bordered path on perfect pavers, to my glossy doored destination. If there is any solace in the selection of this soggy bottomed abode, it’s the back door – which of course I am going to turn into my very own front.

Wayfare . Metalic Galvanized Steel Coated Planter.

Due to the fact that a good deal of my entry is “common space”, for those of you that are unfamiliar, it’s like being married and having to negotiate with your partner for approval on purchases. Since the sale of the unit below is under negotiation, I can’t even being to hypnotize him into accepting that there is no other color in the world more perfect than gray. It’s a real drama for me, A. Because I am not married and don’t negotiate getting what I want with anyone, and B. I am totally impatient. So I just began painting. I painted everything that I “owned” and then started to slyly move down the corridor until I was made to stop. Well now it just looks silly, and will have to be painted, and since I never selected that detestable first color, I have no idea what it is. The logical thing to do of course is to continue on with my beautiful Benjamin Moore . Trout Gray.

I have a happy entry mat that says “HELLO” and I purchased some beautiful long, linear and tall black planters in which boxwood’s will be planted to hide the condenser, and the less then happy trellis that sits in front of it. I am going to trim the windows out in black, and hang large beautiful wreaths in them both. The piece de resistence? There is going to be a black and white striped canopy. I haven’t figured out how to do it just yet, but trust me when I tell you, when I am done with it all – my back is going to be the very best front you ever did see.

Happy Saturday.

Southern Challenge: Leap of faith

Today I am filled with gratitude and a healthy dose of awe for the faith that the Walton’s placed in me with their new southern home. It’s one thing to preach about it, and another to put it into practice. I always knew they were special people, but I don’t think I fully appreciated the divergent nature of the design suggestions I was making, from that which they were accustomed, until I had changed everything that is.

Above: Family room before and after. All the surface mounted electrical was removed, the existing built-ins were modified to accommodate the wall mounted tv – which can be hidden away with the addition of the new doors. A additional corner bookshelf cabinet was constructed to the right of the door. All woodwork was painted in Benjamin Moore’s Nickle, walls in Benjamin Moore’s Mineral ice. Quite a transformation.

Above Left: Benjamin Moore’s Mineral Ice. Right: Benjamin Moore’s Nickle.

Dark, rich, brooding color palettes were packed up in boxes and left in New England to be replaced with bright, fresh, clean happy hues with a hint of grapefruit. Just kidding. I love the crazy adjectives that they use to describe wine, and I got a bit carried away.

Above: Office before.

The house was in need of a manicure and a haircut. It was so laden with window dressings and accoutrements (that’s french for a lot of trappings or extras – the fringe had its own accessories), that I was surprised that it could breathe under the weight of it all. It was entirely the wrong feeling for a family that breathes life into its visitors, allows them to see life through a new lens and find their purpose. Speaking from my own personal experience, I can assure you finding your purpose is hard enough without hiding it under all those trimmings and trappings. I love a window treatment as much as the next gal (if I am being honest, probably a little more than the next), but balance and harmony must prevail, and even I believe that being parsimonious nets a more pure result.

Above: Office after – dark wood painted in Benjamin Moore’s White Winged Dove in high gloss. Walls in same – egg shell finish.

I think I would have been really nervous if I had been clued into the doubt that was floating around down there in North Carolina. Ho boy, as Jo-Jo likes to say, I might have been up a night or two over it. You see, I am not really accustomed to working with others to realize their vision. As a flipper, I am in the business of realizing my own. It’s true, sometimes I let myself down when I make mistakes, but I have learned, well, to learn from them, and move on. It’s a weighty responsibility to please others, which brings me back to faith and gratitude.

Jonathan said: “We would never have imagined painting these colors.” “I was skeptical about the color. But SO love it!!! I’m so glad that I did not go brown and browner.” Me too Jonathan, me too. Thank you for the gift you gave to me in your trust.

She Sheds: the place I want to be…shed

Note the Greek Key awning in pale gray and the black and white tiled floor – this is quintessentially French, and I adore it.

The all about me shed. I’ve been feeling nostalgic of late for my very first place in Charlestown. It’s not so much that I miss living there, or even want to be back in that condo, as it is a longing for the feeling of creating something that was unapologetically about me. Everything was new, and fresh, and I didn’t allow pesky things like resale value get in the way of my dreaming.

That’s the thing about projects. They can sometimes take on a life of their own. You can start doubting that what you are doing is going to turn a profit, or move fast enough, or be “liked” by others. When I started on this journey, before I knew that’s what it was, though isn’t life always – a journey that is – before that, my only worry was how I would pay to make my vision a reality. Cat House my kittens tail – that paint job in my Charlestown home was perfection. Perfection I tell you. It certainly did not resemble a house of ill repute and why haven’t I been as bold with the other homes? Was it because they became just a number?

Whatever the reason, it got me longing for a She Shed. That’s right, a place were I could put my creativity back into action. A small jewel box of a hide away. A place that I could sit and write and be surrounded by the sound of chirping birds in summer, snuggled up in blankets in winter, with a heater at my feet. Oh how I hate to be cold.

It would be cloaked in striped curtains, and have an interior awning – in my minds eye it would have a beautiful set of barn doors that opened to reveal both. I would welcome friends to come for cocktails and listen to music and sit and chat when I wasn’t writing.

Studio Shed . Portland Series

It would sit on a little plot of land, or in a back yard, and a perfect set of pavers would lead you down a lavender and daisy flanked path to my pretty little french macaroon of a hide away.

Now finding and creating the She Shed is the easy part. You wouldn’t believe how many companies exist that are in the business of making your dreams come true – as far as She Sheds go. They’ll prefab them, trailer them whole to your destination (they require you to be pad ready – that means you need to have some sort of a foundation for the shed, which depending on the size and the area that you live in, and other features you may decide are essential like plumbing and electricity – you could be required to get a building permit). Other approaches could include the conversion of something you already have in your back yard – that is, if you have a back yard at all, which I don’t.

This one would cost you but oh how pretty she is!

Hum, which really leads me to my bigger problem. While some of these She Sheds can be purchased for less than $2,000., and of course the sky is the limit in terms of what you COULD spend on one, but i saw some pretty nice ones for $48,000. – if you don’t have the land to put it on, that’s going to be your biggest expense. Oh my She Shed longing just rachetted up a few more notches.

Just a tiny bit of thing, it doesn’t need to be big to be just what you need….

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Townies: The Manse gets its make-over

Above: Exterior – White Cedar shingles, Door’s in Nantucket Red. Side deck, Home Goods Garden Stool, Restoration Hardware – Malibu Collection.

Since the 70’s its been a law office, a sometimes summer dwelling, a retreat from other major renovations, a spa, a home to more than a few spiders, and seen its fair share of paint and paper. It waited patiently, frankly with far more patience than I myself possess, for its day in the sun.

I would say all the waiting was worth while. The Manse, finally finished, gained a few inches in height, spread her wings a little to make room for a first floor suite of sorts, and a proper foundation – if you are going to build a nest, you really must have a solid foundation. It’s a miracle the old dame lasted as long as she did, sitting so indignantly on the dirt, but 230 years later, she landed in the pages of the Boston Globe Magazine.

Now owned by my youngest Sister, Jo-Jo put the architecture in the hands of my father, and the interior design in my hands – who else. The results are what I refer to as “cozy coastal”. The article provides details of the space, but just a few photos, so here is a bigger glimpse into the results my biggest project to date.

Resources and Additional Images to follow.

Miss Willmott: Seattle’s hauntingly beautiful restaurant

Welcome to Willmott’s Ghost . Seattle . WA

If Renee Erickson’s Italian Eatery, on full display inside one of Amazon’s four story Sphere’s, located on 6th and Lenora in Seattle’s downtown, has got you wondering why this glass slipper, fairy tale of a restaurant has “ghost” in its name – guess no longer. Miss Ellen Willmott was a Victorian Botanist who must have been a bit presumptuous, as she went around planting the thistle like flower around town, and at the private property of folks she thought would benefit from the beauty. Willmott’s Ghost is indeed a pretty plant, and hearty too, which is welcome in seaside locations where sandy soil, and salt air doesn’t favor the delicate.

When I visited, I hadn’t known that Renee was a renowned Chef. She’s got a little empire of a restaurant group under her fin, and its name Sea Creatures is so stinkin’ cute I can’t stand it.

Pale Pink accented by deep forest green, gold and glass.

She doesn’t just have her fingers in the pots on her stove, she’s also the author of a delightful cook book – entitled A Boat, a whale & a Walrus. Stop – just stop, I adore the title and her playful approach to our serious world.

Available on Amazon – where else?

But wait, you didn’t think she’d be done with a mere half a dozen restaurants, and a single cook book – the world opens and expands to welcome the joyous talents of those that put them out into the world. She is also a restaurant designer, though I couldn’t figure out exactly what the connections are, they have to be familial. Heliotrope Architects – Price Erickson designed the space in collaboration with Renee, who is partners with Jeremy Price and Chad Dale on the restaurant design front. While I adore food, design is passion, and Renee and her team have talent in spades.

Pink is such a happy color and to see it in a restaurant, tiling the walls of the open kitchen – a place that is expected to take the wear and tear, the heat and toil of this fast paced, tough and tumble environment, speaks volumes to me about strength and beauty.

happiness…..

Well done team. Happy Saturday.

Chief: Of One’s Own Destiny

Future, fate, fortune, doom, that hidden power that floats in the ether controlling your every move, your every breath – those ragged and smooth, gasping or shallow – leaving you a little light headed, does it really exist, or can you gently nudge it in one direction or another?

Muddier hues give the space an elevated sophistication.

On the one hand it feels rather reassuring to think that it all doesn’t matter. The worrying, and the striving, the toiling and the task making – if it’s all going to happen as the universe wills it – why not relax? Blessedly I have two hands, and the other one isn’t taking any chances. Just in case, and for all the what ifs – I am in the game, and believe that fortune is made by those that grab it by the pig tails and squeal, and snuffle, get into the mud and sling it out – oink and boink, and decide. That’s right, just decide to put yourself in the path of other like minded survivors – thrivers – the really alivers. Ok, those are really words, but you get the point. It’s for the bold, even if your bold delivered in the form of a new word.

That color looks like Farrow & Balls – Setting Plaster. Pink offset by rusty tones keeps it from feeling too whimsical.

Today though, I prefer to focus on the word “Chief”. Derived from the Latin – where else – it references the highest, most important rank. It denotes power and prominence. For me, I’ve never wanted to be the number one, number one. I’m happy being the number one, number two – not because I don’t have my own ideas, and thoughts about what success looks like, but rather because I blossom in an environment of collaboration, and idea sharing, where together we can share in something that could not have been created as a solo effort. Chief, I bet is a lonely place to be at times.

Every Club has to have a beautiful bar.

I am nonetheless, fascinated by the most recent declaration of female power in the form of a Women’s Club that will soon be arriving on the shores of Boston. Unlike The WingChief is not a co-working space, it’s a club, a club with a very specific purpose, to put high ranking women in the path of like power brokers. It’s a place to convene and share, trade secrets – not of their companies variety, but rather of the people, and places, and resources that got them to where they are today, and hopefully through this magical sourcing and resourcing, will propel them to an entirely new elevation in the future.

Groups of women gather for “Salons” in settings like this.

Founded by, what I can only refer to as two young gals, now that I am sadly struggling with my middle age title. I sometimes reflect on a Harvard Medical School talk I attended where the speaker indicated if we could hang on for another 50 years, he could give us another 100. It happily blew my mind. I plan to live another 50, so it most definitely slides me into the lower quadrant of my existence, and just like that – brilliantly – I have a world of possibility ahead. I digress, which I am wont to do. Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan, formerly of Handy and Casper respectively, were at the VP level of their organizations, and thought to themselves – where’s the support network. How can I break through?

Chief Co-Founders – Childers and Kaplan

Chief is their answer and I have to tell you, it just might be worth striving for the top spot to gain access to this interior. I love the Millennial Pink of The Wing, and a girl doesn’t limit herself to just a single pair of shoes, does she? Why ever would she limit herself to a single interior. Stay tuned for its arrival. Happy Saturday.

Mix of the masculine and mid-century marvelousness.

Setting Plaster

Robert A. M. Stern’s Offices . One Park Avenue . NYC

If you think I am going to provide you with a lesson on how to set plaster – you have another thing coming. While I love a beautifully plastered wall, and believe in the fundamentals of a clean space within which to work, I happily leave the execution of that up to the experts. It’s actually the name of a paint color – a showstopper – a mon avis, but the name leaves a lot to be desired. Farrow and Ball could stand to learn from Essie’s in the naming prowess. There Rallings, Down Pipe, and Stiff Key Blue could go from marbles in the mouth to the amuse bouche (a little happy for your mouth 🙂 ) of a Touch of Sugar, Reign Check, or Tiers of Joy, but that’s neither here nor there. A rose by any other name and all that. I will not be dissuaded from my new found adoration of this hue.

One Park Avenue. NYC is the I’ve arrived of all addresses. Originally designed by York and Sawyer, it is home to Robert A. M. Stern Architects. I announced to the Receptionist, in the most uncouth way, that I needed to be shown to my room, I was moving in. Naturally she looked a bit confused, and was decidedly too polite to point out that the Ritz Carlton was down the street. After clearing up my actual reason for being there, I had a tour of this amazing space. From their lighting collection to their carpeting, hardware, tile, urns, and the recent addition of benches and bike racks for their institutional clients, RAMSA leaves nothing to chance. They are my kind of people, even if they don’t know it.

THE Office.

I joked to my colleague, that you could safely say that you were in the big leagues when you were dealing with folks that laugh at the idea of an 8″ base. This seemed to be to be excessive when I was considering it for my modest condo project two months ago. I would have happily settled for 6″ – ha. RAMSA outfitted their lobby with a base that was conservatively 21″ tall, and let me assure you, not only does it work, but I briefly considered ripping out mine and replacing it, and my paint is barely dry.

Model citizens – getting the scale right.

Ah to be in the vicinity of greatness. As I make my way quickly and efficiently through the city today, making decision after decision to accent my new space, and dare to dream, transform it into something that I like…I am ever hopeful, that some of their magic rubbed off onto me.

Towering Heights.

Reflections Of….

Is it too late to take a look back at 2018?  I have been so sick, I clear missed the end, and the new beginning.  I hate not saying a proper good-bye.  Despite so many friends and relatives saying sayonara with nothing less than gusto, I had lots for which to be grateful.

Left is Hanson Street Living Room After the Renovation. Right is before.

I like listing the accomplishments and the milestones.  I’m one of those people that adds things onto the list, just so I can cross them off.  You know the kind, don’t you?  Well sometimes I get to adding things to my list at such a dizzying rate I think my head is going to spin clear off, but them I go and get it all done, and there my head is still, so there’s not much of a case for slowing down.

This year I sold a house, bought a house, started a renovation, finished the biggest interiors project I had ever undertaken, built a deck, landscaped a yard, tore down a chimney, and spent an inordinate amount of time at Stonewood Products in Dennis, MA.  If you think sawdust is great you are going to love this place.  I had a “round” milestone birthday, celebrated in Mexico, and then London, visited Seaside Florida a new urbanist development that to me, is perfection, and took a ferry ride to Nantucket with my friends for a week.

Refurbished furniture for The Manse.  A little can of paint will do you.  Right side photo: Dan Cutrona @cutrona

I remembered how much I respect and admire the work of Dorothy Parker – I mean who else could possibly come up with poems as acerbic and sharp-witted as quips like:  “It serves me right for having put all my eggs into one bastard”?  Brilliant.  

I couldn’t resist.  Lawrence Street at time of purchase on the left and now….

I reaffirmed my affection for the color gray and more specifically, Ben Moore’s Mineral Ice.  It’s such a serene and calming gray.  I’m going to paint No. 5 gray too.  And there was so much more; introductions to new and amazing people like Jill Rosenwald a hip pottery maker, and Tillett Textiles – allowing you to select your pattern, and color palette, and finally find the perfect combo to go with your grandmother’s Bergere chair.  Magic.

Yes, 2018 was a pretty good year.  Hope it was for you too.

San Pancho Retreat

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I often feel like an arrow.  While I am clear on the target I’m intent on hitting, it requires a pulling back, a pause, a refocused effort – a collection, a reflection, a question.   Each time I sell, and prepare to buy again, the arrow quivers just a little less in its trajectory.  This period of retreat is important to me, it keeps me grounded, it allows me to feel what I am doing, and prepares me to return, fortified for battle.

I closed on Halloween, rolled my suitcase and a bag down 8 blocks to my sister’s house and left the following morning for Mexico.  San Pancho is a quiet little town on the West Coast, not far from Puerto Vallarta.  I smile when I think of that city because it reminds me of The Love Boat, Captain Stubing who I actually waited on at Thompson’s Clam Bar in my hometown of Harwich, MA, in the nineties.  I would watch The Love Boat and the Fantasy Island with Mrs. McLaughlin, while I was babysitting on Saturday night’s.  The Love Boat always visited Puerto Vallarta.  If Puerto V is the big city, San Pancho is the outback.  Tucked away in the shadow of Sayulita whose popularity has grown since I visited 10 years ago.  Tucked into a bay, it became famous for its surfing, and art community, and the undeniable hipness of its inhabitants and visitors.  San P is its humble, quiet sister whose beauties and mysteries unfold with the passing days, and her softly spoken “buenos dias”.

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Life here is simple.  You need not guess at a person’s motivation.  It’s beauty is juxtaposed with its grittiness.  The dirt roads, and cobblestones, that are as likely to have a horse and donkey meandering through them as a honking car or motor bike.  Absent are the rules and regulations that we organize our lives and priorities so carefully around in the States.  Construction sites spill out into the street with nary a barricade or warning in site.  It seems to say – “live free or die” without saying it at all, which really is a good lesson, regardless of where you live.  Pride, and family, and preparation, and gratitude are in abundance.  I think of my old yoga coach who would tell me to “try easy”.  I push so hard, so forcefully.  San Pancho allows you to pull back.

CR 2

Here I have retreated.  I have risen, and pushed, and pealed back, and exposed all of my flaws and insecurities to a people that will not judge me, because judgement is not part of their lexicon.  I have lived under a GMO Free Zone for just a short time and the elegance, simplicity and vitality of the food has restored me.

I rose early, practiced hard, explored my artistic side, experienced the beauty of Gisella and Calista’s carefully curated hotel – rustic and refined, thoughtfully designed, suitably pancho.  More and more, square foot, by square foot, I gain an appreciation for the artistic talent of others – even when the style is not my own.  Hotel Ciele Rojo is exceptionally well executed, but those words do it an injustice – it’s designed with heart, and you feel the love when you are here.

Visit, and tell them I sent you.