Kicked to the Curb: out with the old landscaping

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A patio in the middle of the lawn – genius.

I didn’t even think it was possible for landscape design to go out of style but…I could have been wrong about that.  It can certainly fall into disrepair.  One plant takes over, another flounders, a weed sneaks it’s way in,  rocks begin to fall from the carefully erected wall, and poof it blows up into a mess.  This is what I am faced with – a major undertaking, a minor budget, and the need to create something that is fairly self-sufficient.

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Stones help limit upkeep – attractive to me.

I can buy plants, pick and arrange flowers, weed, and water, but none of that means I have a green thumb.  Growing things is not a strength, most of my plants seem to die, so I am a bit worried about the prospect of taking on a home landscaping project.  Not worried enough to not do it though.

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Ground cover is an attractive option.  Spreads like wild fire and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance.  Looks pretty too.

My plan is to combine a series of hardscape areas with plantings.  It will be important to limit the grass in the yard, which would require an irrigation system (out of my budget).  I want to remain true to the indigenous plantings, and those that are iconically New England Coastal.  How to do that without buying loads and loads of plants that look wild and natural will be the challenge.

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Seagrass. floral ground cover, and stone looks organic – looks low-main!

While I encourage sitting with a space, a new home or apartment for a bit of time before embarking on a renovation or major furnishings refresh – all I want to do is rent a back hoe, tare up the yard.  Then I want to bring in mature plants, stones, chairs, and planters.  I want it all done like that time I took the long walk from my house in the North End to the Government Center T-Station.  I crossed a temporary bridge that went over a strip of highway – now the greenway.  I marveled over the effort it took for the crew to erect the foot bridge each morning and rebuild it every evening – in a location roughly 6 feet from where it resided in the morning.  I never found out why they did that, my cynical self said it was to ensure hefty overtime checks, but who knows.  It was however topped, when the DNC came to town, the Mayor called whatever the equivalent of a public Winston Flowers is, and pouf – a beautiful greenway dropped from the truck like magic fairy dust from the wand of a fluttery fairy.  It was beautiful.

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Love this raised bed planter, but it looks complicated.

I know that I shouldn’t want it to just arrive, no effort, no pride, no sense of ownership or accomplishment, and like that magically appearing greenway, a few days later – it was gone.  Every stone I dig up, and put into place, every bush I plant, flower I select, stone I collect on the beach is likely to be special, to be cared for, to have lasting power.

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a happy little bed at the foot of the tree trunk.

Suggestions are welcome.  I’m in unchartered tall grasses here.

Sail Into Summer: Decorator’s Pop Up Sale

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Nautical Accents galore!

Having successfully finished the design of The Manse, and completed the photo shoot last weekend – cue empty feeling.  I find myself with some free time – time, by the way, I have been begging for, and now, I’m not at all sure I want it.  As I write this I can hear my sister saying “don’t you go filling up that blank space with another activity”.  I believe she excluded learning Portuguese, buying any more real estate, or ripping the deck off my boyfriend’s house.  What a buzz kill – I mean concerned sister.

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Pillows:  Custom Designer, nautical and every day:  change up your design with a few easy accents.

When I completed the project, I found that I was surrounded by a number of beautiful pieces that either didn’t end up working in the home – think massing, style, placement, and a number that were just plain wrong, even though in another setting they would be nothing but RIGHT.

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who doesn’t need a little end table to place your cocktail on?

That got me thinking.  Here I am, storing and moving, and shuffling, and loaning, all these carefully curated – hold it – not everything is carefully, thoughtfully curated – some things simply steal my heart and scream “take me with you”, and so I do.  While I have loved these things, used many of them (gently) it is time to find them permanent homes, where they will be loved and cherished, for longer than the shutter speed of the flashy camera, that my brilliant photographer wields.

 

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A little bar, a side table, a book shelf – use your imagination – it’s beautiful.

So, together with my best friend – who has a penchant for collecting (with France being a favorite spot), and an incredibly talented, and dear friend that is an Interior Designer on Cape Cod,  we have mined the depths of our closets, storage units, barns, back offices, and shops and are bringing together an incredibly eclectic, carefully curated (this time it’s true, I promise) collection of furniture, art, pillows, lighting, accents, nautical knick knacks and more, that are bound to delight, and shine light on your interiors.

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Mid-Century Nautical – look at that in-lay detail….summer breeze.

Saturday:  8:30am – 3pm

Sunday:  9am – noon

Cape Cod Fabrics/Helen Baker Design. 94 Rt. 28 West Harwich, MA

We’ll have Rosé – so there’s really no way you shouldn’t be there.  Cash or Venmo.

 

Vaguely Vignette: creating moments that won’t last

As I prepare to have my sister’s home shot on Saturday, I have come to a number of realizations.  First, that which I have come to consider “normal” is anything but.  I have had to explain to my Father at least a half dozen times, why we were hanging paintings, photographs, signs, and the like off center, up high, down low or not at all, letting them lean casually on a piece of furniture as if I was deciding whether or not the wall above would become its permanent home.  The reason of course is…staging.  What gets framed out within the confines of the view finder looks entirely different – dare I say horribly wrong – in real life.

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Proud moment when everything came together.   I painted that console table!

In small spaces, where cameras, and tripods, jigs and jogs in the walls, eaves, and any number of less than perfectly wide-open, square spaces (like say a 1789 home that was renovated – maintaining “most” of its original integrity might have), faking the scene is critical to telling the story.

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Coasting into the shoot as if it was no big thing….

If this feels like an Is this Real or is it Memorex commercial – it sort of is.  For you younger readers, that’s a reference to a cassette tape commercial.  If you are still not with  me – look it up.  I’m thrilled that I have such young readers.  The point is, cameras cannot capture everything, despite what TMZ might lead us to believe.  There is a lot of pulling pieces into a frame, with great effort, making the dress appear as if it has been tossed on the settee, awaiting the cocktail party in just a few hours, the book lying open on the bed, having just been abandoned for a dip in the ocean.  These things are carefully manufactured.

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Flowers in a Jill Rosenwald Vase … cut scene.

I have been filling this home with furnishings and objects for coming on 6 months now.  It wasn’t until the last two weekends that I even attempted to start and set the scene.  ( I only work on this project on the weekends).  Scene setting is an exhausting endeavor.  It requires gathering hundreds of objects, some rare, some cheap but interesting, some vintage, some natural- think shells and drift wood, some art, and some others would never consider art, and pulling it all together.  Is there a secret to it?  A science?  I’m still not sure.  I try and test, remove, and replace, add and subtract, curse and commend, and eventually after a little more nudging, a tiny bit of consideration and consultation, arrive at the vignette.  Alas, the point of the story.  While I cannot show you all I have been up to, I am happy to share this one perfect moment.  Perfect, anyway, from my point of view.

 

Nod to the Nautical: Cape Cod in almost summer.

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View from the Marshside . 28 Bridge Street . East Dennis . 

It takes a long time to warm up here on Old Cape Cod.  There really is no spring, but as we await the arrival of the Easter Bunny the sun is shining, and I continue my quest to outfit my sister’s nest.  Wheee.

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Waving the Lauren Flag – “naught” bad.

Of course with the entire gang here, my plans for getting things accomplished have been turned on end.  I’ll have to work double time in the final weekend to get it all done.  My stomach drops as I think about the unthinkable – that it will never be done in time for the shoot.  It will be what it is, when the 28th rolls around, and God willing it will be enough.

 

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Schumacher.  Old Cape Cod.

I stumbled across a new store on 6A in Brewster, and as its name:  Nautique suggests, its chock a block full of nautical furnishings, fabrics, curiosities, custom signage for your home, and screen doors too.  I spend hours pouring through the fabrics, because while I love nautical, I don’t love being knocked over the head by it.  A nod here and there is enough to remind me of where I am.  I’m no Ralph Lauren after all.  Anyone that can reinvent themselves going from Lipshitz to Lauren, and creating a dynasty, can without argument do nautical to the nines.

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Stove with scallop motif.  Stunning.

How I admire his style.  At Nautique he is well represented among other designers.  This sailboat fabric from Schumacher really pulled at my heartstrings.  It feels like its from the 50’s and even though I said no to the overt, I found myself dreaming of this design as a roman or a wonderful sofa or bed pillow.  The wood stove with the scallop motif was to die for and I am trying to figure out if we can incorporate one into The Manse and at what cost – oh everything can be done if one has money….

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Mark your territory with a custom sign.

 

That Girl: Keeping it from coming undone

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Decisions . Decisions.

My brother-in-law refers to me as “The Girl”.  You know, the help that’s hired to make things happen, the one in the background, who has no name.  That’s me.  I know I am someone that can get things done. I’ve always been a doer, a producer.  Nonetheless I prefer to be thought of more as “That Girl”, rather than “The Girl”.  Marlo Thomas was so quirky and cute and like Mary Tyler Moore, she was making it on her own.  True one lived in NYC and the other in Minneapolis, and I live in Boston, but still….I’m going to make this thing happen on my own.

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Laying it all out helps to pick a balance of high and low.

This thing of course is The Manse, and like the middle of any good TV show it looks more like disaster is about to strike than it’s ready for the flash bulbs to start popping, but I’m confident.  Sort of…Oh I have a million decisions to make still.  Bed sets to buy.  Dining chairs, lounge chairs, desk chairs, occasional, and every day.  I’ve got furniture to paint, miles to go before I sleep.

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“Chair”ish this time because once you’ve bought it, there’s no going back.

If money were no object.  I wonder if I would have no creativity at all.  It’s a possibility.  Not to worry, right now, I am being forced to get seriously creative, because I have spent WAY too much, and here I thought I was doing well.  By that I mean, maintaining a budget that I never wrote down, but had a rough idea in my mind I was willing to spend. No – that ship has sailed, so now my living room looks like a grade school art project.  All the surfaces are covered with cut outs of furniture, lighting, linens, and all the items I need to complete this place before 28 April.

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Struggling with the right mix of coastal and comfortable.

That Girl will pull it together, and she’ll do it in style.  You just keep the faith.

DO IT YOURSELF

Is something I say to others – as in “Do it yourself – I’m up to my eyeballs in my own projects.”  When it comes to doing it myself – well…I can haul things, drag things, move things, lift heavy things – but you are unlikely to come to me,  asking me to whip up a few  curtain panels or a couple of pillows for you, and while I’ve painted a time or two in a pinch, no one is complimenting me on a job artfully executed.

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Found at Bungalow. Chatham. MA for $195.

I’m more of a project manager than a DIY’er, and yet The Manse has forced me to resort to just that.  Attempting to furnish a home from top to bottom is EXPENSIVE.  But that is exactly what I am attempting to do.  The Manse had become The Land of Misfit Toys – in a manner of speaking.  In her rundown state, the bric-a-brac that had collected within her walls was fitting, but now that she’s the proud lady on the block, she’s demanding a whole new wardrobe.  People are coming for tea and she wants to be ready to receive them.

I’m doing my best on behalf of the old lady, but some things are indeed going to receive a light sanding and a coat or two of paint – in a coordinating color of course.  I feel like I’ve been on the hunt all over the northeast for tables of all sorts, side, bed, coffee, dining – for dressers, and bar carts and shelves  – for things that started out as one thing and will end up being something else entirely.

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The Caning feels very Cape Cod.

All this hunting and sleuthing has resulted in my very first DIY project.  Aided by a couple of 50 degree days, I singlehandedly dragged a desk out onto the deck, found one of my Father’s 4 – yes you heard me correctly – 4 sanders, I know not what makes one better than the other, but I am certain their is a reason to have that many.  Maybe they are like shoes?  If that IS the case, than I certainly cannot argue with having four – in fact I might ask – why not more?

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Ta Da!  What do you think?

At any rate.  I sanded and cleaned and painted, and repainted and low and behold, I did it.  I think it looks pretty good, and I hope you do too, because I have a set of $10. bedside tables that need to be done – a real find!  I have an old ice box that I am going to use as a linen closet, and a coffee table that would have been perfectly perfect, if it has only been gray.  It will be when I am done with it.  If you are worry, I would say that it may not be misplaced.  Fingers crossed.

Old in Vogue

Je deteste the home that looks like it arrived off the truck via the front window of West Elm.   No offense West Elm – I love you and own many pieces from your fine store, but please just demand I turn in my paint swatches if I sink so low on the imagination scale that I can’t even mix and match.  The thought gives me the decorator hives.  That looks like a coral or rouge color bouclé – very unattractive.

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Marianne Evennou . So very perfect in that French way.  Cool Retro furnishings and toys, tied together with a fresh coat of red paint.  Ca Marche.

I revere those that can imagine an entirely different use for some piece of furniture, broken piece of pottery, by-gone appliance, TV Case, or trunk. Instead of proclaiming it junk, they bring the funk – making you ask yourself – Why didn’t I think of that?  So simple, so brilliant.   They are the trendsetters.  The design visionaries.  The believers that aren’t afraid to make believe.  As far as I am concerned, all that dreaming results in some pretty wondrous things.

Wallcovering

I love the nautical charts as wall covering…but it’s been done.  Still – done nicely here.  

I’ve been thinking so hard about what I could do that would be A. new, B. inexpensive, C. cool and clever of course.  Because you can do some things that are different all right, and you can do some things that are cheap.  You may even be able to string the first two together, but you are not close to being a design trendsetter unless you are also cool and clever.

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An Artful Ladder.

So I’ve been scouring magazines, and books, blog posts, and open houses to see what I could see, that made me see things in a new way – if you know what I mean.  I don’t want to just be a copy cat – though I content that I never mind when somebody copies me.  I’m pretty good at closet design, but I want to come out of the closet and see if my talents can stand elsewhere.  Only time – and The Manse will tell.  I don’t think my efforts will earn me a letter grade, and I am certain there will be no extra credit that will tip me into the honorable mention category.  It’s going to be pass or fail, and I suspect the failure rate for a bunch of junk that you try to make look cool is pretty hight.

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HGTV Gets creative with a desk turned nightstand.

I’m banking on some high gloss paint, and some beautiful rosewood shelving to turn an old ice chest into a linen closet outside the main bath.  I did’t take the heavy doors with their substantial door latches.  I thought I might hang pretty curtains in their place instead.  If it’s a “fail”, I won’t have invested too much into the piece, and it is just the right size for the nook it needs to snuggle into.

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Ingenius!

So – Paint and new cushions which soften the patina of age, are going to play a big role in the pieces that populate this space.  Here’s to hoping it’s cool.