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.

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.

Making too much into just enough

43 Hiawatha Road . Harwich Port . MA

Running my weekend errands typically includes a round of open houses, whether I’m in the money or feeling closer to the skids, looking costs nothing, and the education one receives is priceless. It’s like the equivalent of getting a masters degree from your public library. And I so love to learn.

FYI . Mice love that Homasote Ceiling. It’s like paper-mache.

While I wish I could attribute my bout of dizziness to the head-swirling prices for which homes are on offer, I cannot, but metaphorically speaking, I’m reeling. I visited a vessel on a “close” to tony little street, who takes its name Hiawatha, from its adjacency Nantucket Sound, and the Iroquois Indian Tribe. “He makes Rivers” gives some mean to the list price of this 3200sf vessel of a home, but doesn’t fully account for its cost. At $1.5M, boasting 7 bedrooms and 3.5 baths, one might get an all together different impression of what is being hocked here, but as my father likes to say: “People loved to be fooled.” It is after all how most of us get into the beautiful messes we get into. The “had I known what I was getting myself into, I never would have done it” laments, are the ones most likely to categorically change you as a person, and who among us couldn’t use an overhaul?

Whoa . This “refresh” is baffling to me.

This property would need just that. I recklessly threw a $600K price tag on the renovation, and that was for something that wouldn’t be at all high-end. What do I know about costs? I’m not an estimator, I having little to nothing to do with supply chain issues unless you count my chase for toilet paper in every megastore and outpost from Boston to Orleans expertise, but I have ears. It’s incredibly difficult to get anything from kitchen appliances to labor for construction and even my tenth grade math class, or was it history? taught me the laws of supply and demand. I’d like to demand a reinstatement of sanity, but I am afraid no one will listen, still the renos to this modest Cape home will cost you.

Love the wall paneling, but don’t think it can be saved.

Constructed in 1948, aside from a somewhat laughable kitchen refresh in the form of a veneer of glass and subway tiles, it appears to be a perfect specimen of a time capsule. Those seven bedrooms wouldn’t fulfill the modern day needs of a walk-in closet. The one en-suite bath in what appeared to be the master bed was so small that one would be advised to disrobe before entering to preserve elbows.

Promise of the Fifties.

The warren of tiny rooms would all need to go, though there will be little the next owner can do about the floor to ceiling heights which will give new meaning to “cozy seaside retreat”. Once you’ve stripped away the interior, installing a state of the art HVAC system will become much easer, but it won’t be cheap, and you’ll lose at least three of your seven bedrooms. You won’t be receiving a refund. The good news is, they have an adorable mudroom, just inside the back door, which is likely the place everyone enters as it’s just off the car port,. If they once had a garage it was converted to an in-law apartment, making it possible to recover some of your renovation expense, if you so choose. That mudroom, don’t touch it, when all is said and done. When the floors gleam and the ocean breeze blows through your new Anderson windows into your spacious and airy living room, remembering where you started your journey might just make the investment worthwhile.

Flagstones are a telltale hint of the times – not this time of course.

Specificity: The Art of Getting it Right

When I first started in this industry – this industry – design and construction, I sat behind a reception desk, answering calls, furiously filling out Pepto Bismal colored slips, that got carefully torn from the spiral bound note book, and deposited into the circular plastic caddy, for all those important enough to get messages in the first place. I received deliveries – lots and lots of deliveries, and sets of drawings and specifications that would make even the most ardent supporter of the gym, laugh at the facilities ability to prepare you for real life. Drawing sets were hundreds of pages, thousands of symbols, and stank of the acrid aroma of blueprints. The spec book, which completed the pairing – one element useless without the other, was the size of Gideon’s Bible – I do so love the underdog Rocky Racoon – this post bound book was daunting. “Who”, I wondered aloud to myself, “would ever want to read, or write this thing”?

I may not have wanted any part of it, but as I sit looking at my reupholstered chair, and coordinating pillows, I have to ask myself, “Could this experience have benefited from a sketch, with narrative instructions to the upholsterer”? I do wonder how it went so wrong. Maybe my instructions got lost in translation during the six months that preceded their arrival and the delivery of said pieces. We’ve all had it up to our eye-balls with news of supply chain challenges and delays, delays, delays, and I don’t even want to admit the ghastly cost of this imperfect endeavor, which if we are looking to place blame, could so easily fall on the germy shoulders of the pandemic.

Tight. Divided bolster pillows for the bed. Custom, not arts and crafts.

Placing blame, will not change the reality that they replaced my perfectly round edged seat cushion, filled with fluffy down, with a modern foam filled substitute that is squared off at the corners, and hangs, ever so indelicately, over the chairs front edge. A pedestrian mistake. I had it happen once before with a mid-century modern sofa, I had reupholstered. I took all the cushions back, and demanded that they cover the old cushions. ” I never instructed them to be replaced”. I huffed. And what of the edge banding, that was supposed to be navy blue velvet piping? And the pillows – they aren’t even the correct fabric. While they all coordinate, they are a far cry from the vision I had for the bedroom design.

Now who’s wishing they were a spec writer. Next project, sketches, diagrams, arrows, sample boards, narratives, and a signed contract will accompany my deposit. Has this ever happened to you?

How do you Identify: Holiday yes, or no?

The season will adapt to whatever you have at home if you give it a hand.

I identify as a Christmas person. The type that starts playing Christmas songs in July when I am working on concepts for my company’s holiday packages. You have to be in a festive frame of mind, even if the heat is being generated by the sun instead of a crackling wood burning fireplace. Co-workers pass by my office, I spot a raised eyebrow as they lean closer, outstretched hand on the long black pull of my sliding glass door, lips forming words of admonishment. “That’s not Christmas music that you’re playing, is it?” They ask tentatively, and with a note of remonstration in their voice. I reply chirpily “absolutely, and please kindly close the door, so that I don’t disturb Theresa who is putting the pennies, ever so carefully. in all the right columns.” Thank you!

I won’t be shamed into pretending I’m too cool for decorations, packaging that sparkles, jingles, and begs to be touched. I won’t let go of the excitement that I felt as a kid, in the months, weeks, days that led up to that special holiday. I mostly have to be serious, or worried this, anxious that, how will I get it all done, and the done is just followed by more need for doing. No, I refuse. Christmas makes me happy, it makes me nicer. It makes me more creative.

Now I understand that some of you readers will be cringing at the mere mention of the season. That’s ok, I’m not trying to convert the universe into gingerbread baking, cookie making, gift giving, graceful, giddy, gals and guys, but nobody that I am aware of, was ever made unhappy by a little holiday crafting. You don’t even have to use the traditional red and green colors of the Noel. No, you go ahead and use any old color you want, but don’t be stingy with the sparkle. A little glitter never hurt anyone. A string of lights can turn brown and green wildwood into a magical forest. A sprig of holy against your blue and white chinoiserie takes on a whole new attitude.

This past weekend I took to the road, my mini pointed south to New Haven, and my dear, talented, artist of a friend Carol Anne’s studio, and I hot glued my way through dozens of vases, bowls, turines, and planters, stuffing them with Amaryllis and Paper Whites, blanketed them in moss, and bedazzling them to give their owner something to appreciate before the bulb explodes into a stock, and the stock erupts with a bloom, and the bloom arrives at a time when even those most resistant to the holiday season, have to cede to the reality that it has arrived. You mine as well enjoy it. Think what you too could create with a glue gun, some spray paint, a twig, a pinecone, and a couple of old ornaments. Hope you have as much fun as I did.

Who could resist that donkey, let’s not forget Mary road in on one of these little fellas.

Cali Come Cape Cod: dreaming of my next home

A home of my dreams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SCREEN Play: A short history of latticework

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

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

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

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

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

Sunny and Southern . Southern Living

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

Shucks: The lovely ways oysters inspire design

Still Life with Oyster – artist ThEodule Augustin Ribot

The mollusk, nothing sexy about that name, but like a cowboy – all callused hands and brisk nature, there is something decidedly alluring about it, and him. Some love that cowboy, err oyster, while others detest its rugged exterior, and cool, briny, slick interior.    Oysters find themselves at home at a back yard hoe down, and with equal ease sitting atop a silver platter, snow cone domed with chipped ice, en route to a linen table clothed setting, center stage at a five star hotel.  They are a favorite subject for burgeoning artists, their hallmark inky aubergine smudge, on the pale pearly white belly, and its comma, make for interesting subject matter. From East to West, which oyster is the best is subject to battleground fodder.  I am not all for one, and one for all, when it comes to oysters, preferring a local favorite – a Wellfleet, or a Pacific Ocean Kumamoto, its deep dive of a shell reminding me of my Cape Cod roots, the peninsula dotted by Kettle Ponds – those deep divots in the landscape, left by enormous chips of ice from glaciers. They are sweet, and delicate and delicious, a totally different experience from an East Coast oyster, which is briny.

Powder Room Power . a wall of oyster shells is amazing.

Those same Cape Cod roots have provided me with an affection for the oyster. I’ve stomped across so many shelled driveways in my lifetime, I couldn’t possibly report the number. Like most things from my childhood they are larger than life wonderful. They remind me of a more rustic Cod than is commonly seen today. There history harkening back to the settlers, who tossed the shells, which were in abundance in the streets, and on the muddy dirt paths. The perfect padding for a drive. Oyster shells actually breakdown, their calcium make-up are able to withstand hoof beat, trodding feet, or the wheel of the tire – at least if it’s on a flat surface. The shells weren’t meant to withstand gravity, and so aren’t great on a hill. A wonderfully sustainable practice, if a little bit stinky initially, the shells, harvested from restaurants, scream vacation, and simpler times. They are also excellent fertilizer for your flowers.

Where would a conversation on design be without Benjamin Moore?

Designers seem to share, with me, a fascination with the Oyster. There creativity astounds me. The fact that someone boldly wallpapered their powder room in oyster shells, makes me smile from ear to ear, and don’t think I can’t do it. I have an incredibly large mouth. Were the shells placed with grout, or mastic, or glue? Will they snag your chiffon dress, or scrape your knuckle, if you grab for the hand towel too quickl? Who cares. I applaud the ingenuity, the bravado, the saltiness of the move.

There are ornaments, and catch-alls. There are mirrors, and urns. There are orbs, paint colors, and ash trays. Oysters, like their ability to got high or low, seem to span the centuries, finding fresh ways to surprise, and traditional ways to comfort. I love the oyster, but the oyster that I love is never going to produce a pearl. That’s an entirely different type of oyster, but perhaps that’s too much detail. For the purpose of this good story, let’s throw them all in the same bucket. We’ll end with this pearl of wisdom – they are loaded with Zinc which is incredibly good for you, and may have led to the rumors that they can enhance amorous feelings.

In Search of a Pretty Property

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

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

Set me up in this one.

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

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

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

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

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

Dream a little dream house for me

Pink Railing and All: Designed for a day or two before being returned to the Owners – in its original condition.

I never had one Barbie doll. Not a single one. My sister had one, but I don’t remember which Barbie she was, where she lived (geographically speaking) or what she did for a living. She didn’t do anything, so my interest was low, though I desperately wanted that Malibu Dream House, or the camper. West Coast beach house overlooking the Pacific, with sunken living rooms, pink pool slides, and a closet full of lucite heeled Candy sandles seemed superb to me, and then a road adventure on luxury wheels, that would take me away from my small town existence – yes please, that too. Alas, my mother would have none of it. I can hear her now, “where are you going to put that thing (so disrespectful) it’s just going to junk up this place”. So my dreams of a dream house went unrequited.

Could my house flipping wanderlust be the result, (wait a minute, let’s not sugar coat it, let’s place blame here), the fault, (that’s better) of my dream house deprivation? I dare say it’s possible. The more I flip, the more I dream, and the places, palatial, and so far outside of my planetary orbit, that I could easily imagine the existence was flawless – though I know in my bones that nothing is, the point of a dream house is just that – it’s a magical fantasy. Everybody knows that the pool in a fantasy is self-cleaning, never needs resurfacing, and certainly doesn’t leak into the cinema below. What kind of a dream would that be. “Quel nightmare” as Holy Golightly would say.

California Cool – personal quarters of “It Girl Barbie”

As a marketer, I adore a good PR stunt. The brilliance of a collaboration that draws the eyes of the world – if only for a moment, to look longingly at your cleverness is a thrill. Matel and Airbnb thrilllllled me with their real life Malibu Barbie Dream House rental. One lucky “winner”, two nights, a walk on part in a movie, costumes, make-up artists, hair dresser to the stars and all. Astronaut, Tennis Champion, Yoga Instructor, Corporate Tycoon, Hostess, and/or Race Car Driver, my heart was swooning with the possibilities – I didn’t see an outfit for construction, but I’ve been trying that one on for years. I think I need a good tailor.

A closet that will help you explore who you want to be…

Snatched from the devastating flames of the California forest fires this real life Malibu Dream House isn’t on the beach, but instead set in the hills. The infinity pool will make you feels as if you are on the beach with its breathtaking views. Barbie’s house was a dream because she designed it in her own signature colors – a spectrum of pinks accented by pops of yellow and turquois. Bold and happy, hip and beautiful, Barbie’s minimalist aesthetic is a contradiction terms. Its Cali clean lines and uncomplicated details feel just right for the home. The furnishings are sleek and the space uncluttered, made somewhat easier to accomplish by her purpose programmed rooms. There is a Meditation Terrace, a WFH Office, a Cinema, Craft Room, bed, bath, and beyond fabulous dressing room. The contradiction comes in the form of that signature magenta pink, spotted on the handrail that surrounds the balcony, the waterslide, and the doors that lead out to the deck.

Gaudy, yes. Would I move right in and start a series of career explorations on a new coast, Goodness guys and gals, don’t you know me at all?