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?

Making Waves: toss those scallops ashore

Lulu Little

The trend started quietly to build a few summer’s ago. A scallop shaped velvet pillow, backed in linen and available in a host of delicious jewel tones. I bought one, and then another. I’m a sucker for summer, city and seaside. Yes, it’s true the city can incorporate coastal and still feel sophisticated, and the coast can make the most of a sophisticated vibe that keeps it from looking too country. Decisions, decisions, it’s all in the decisions you make, we make, let’s make some together.

It’s time now to fully embrace that beloved little bi-valve, and ride, at least one scalloped edge to shore, because sure shootin’ these sweet little curves are making waves. It’s fitting that I only have eyes for this edge detail, as scallops, most interestingly, have 32 blue/green eyes. They don’t actually see with them, they are used more like a homing mechanism, sensory perception, instinct? I can’t exactly remember what Mr. Hammond, my fifth grade teacher, who taught us all the subjects, including marine biology, had to say about that pretty little mollusk, but I think I’m in the ball park, or the Sound as the case may be. They also swim backwards by opening and closing their shells in rapid succession to escape predators, and you can eat those eyes, just as you would a muscle – aka, the scallop, but nobody entertains that idea – it’s simply not as appetizing as a pillow-y white cloud, puddled in Saffron broth, served aside a linen napkin with that semi-circular edge, stamped and repeated, stamped and repeated, stamped and repeated, in some wonderous shade. I bet you can imagine your Easter table coming together.

It’s everywhere, like a newly discovered vocabulary word, you’ll start seeing that seaworthy rippled edge on everything. Trust me, and please do report back on your findings, you will. There’s the bar cart/side table – not surprisingly Serena and Lily is up on a coastal trend. The lovely lamp shades with their velvet edged detail, and their Liberty of London lined interiors. There are bed linens, and banquets, backsplashes and beautiful vanities. There are patio umbrellas, pretty little planters, and platters for which to serve Sazerac’s in sexy stemmed glasses.

Trove . Avalon Monumental Double Chest . 3050 – pounds.

The whimsey that this detail brings to the staid interior is some kind of wonderful. We could use a little wonderful right now. If you can’t do a loop-di-lo, at least do a half. It’s bound to make you smile.

Rush . Rush Baby: Entrepreneurial carpet innovations

First of all, I adore a women owned business. Second of all, I adore it when friends come together to collaborate, and third of all, no one says third of all, but grabbing the attention of readers is difficult at best, and sometimes you have to annoy them before you please them. Bear with me here, I plan to please.

Designer: Emily Painter | Photographer: Peter Murdock

Friends and travel enthusiasts, Page Mullins and Liz Strong, both interior designers that put their talents to work as stylists and editorial producers for the likes of Coastal Living, Elle Decor, Garden & Gun, Real Simple, Veranda, and for lifestyle brands like Serena & Lily – one of my favorites, and Boll + Branch, came together during the pandemic to start their own venture – Rush House, which I sort of wish was called Rush Home, because the image of a place that you sought out, and designed, with so much care and love, that you want to rush to get there from wherever your day has taken you, is comforting and emits a sunny glow of warmth. It’s not called that though – it’s called Rush House, which is also a lovely name.

Cut the squares free of the rug to customize the size you are looking for….

Rush, rather than referring to hurrying around, which is what I mainly do, refers to the material from which their carpets are produced. Sparked by the artisanal craftsmanship of tiny villages in Mexico, the push pin on the map of their adventure centered on Oaxaca, back in 2015, resulting in the first stitch of an idea that brought together, in neat rows, their love of craftsmanship, design, and finds that they wanted to share with the world. The simplicity of the concept is brilliant.

…or stitch together individual squares to increase the size of your carpet.

One rug, three products, endless possibilities. By offering a simple, affordable 9 x 12 seagrass rug, they keep the business model tight. They have full time professional careers after all. I suspect that you are asking yourself, what is a gal, or guy, to do if they don’t need a carpet that isn’t 9′ x 12′ – get out your scissors, that’s what. Cut the stitching to free the 1′ squares from the captivity of the carpet, and voila – you’ll have the size you desire. Want the opposite? Buy extra squares, and rush thread and needle, to stitch the number of squares required to get you the custom size you desire. I watched the video – it all looks pretty easy, and kind of fun.

Affordable . customizable . DIYable. Joy: one square foot at a time.

Page and Liz, I’m not only jealous of your business model, I’m jealous of your adventures, design aesthetic, and creativity. Thank you for bringing this product to market. I plan on getting to the serious business of buying, and using these beauties in my properties, because you are right, I’d be hard pressed to find an application for which it doesn’t add texture and style. I think that might be true for you too – yes you, the one reading this, that’s who.

Midnight Dream: Redoing the bedroom

Phillip Jeffries . Seaside Linen . Indigo Nights. Only a 12 yard minimum order I type, my words heavy with sarcasm.

It’s no secret that I love Benjamin Moore. I talk about him ad nauseum, sure there are other paints on the market with clever names, but are they as dependable as Ben? I think not. I know I am not going to be in this condo forever, maybe just a few months more, who knows. However long it is, it feels like if I have to have that bedroom the way it is now, one foot in and one foot out the door, I might just scream.

I’d like to vigorously enforce my right to change it up. I want to paint the moldings midnight blue or soot or blue note. I want to cover the walls in Phillip Jeffries Indigo Nights, and snuggle a couple of Bungalow 5, Benjamin bedside tables, in navy blue, right up next to the bed, or maybe the Serena and Lily Blake Nightstand in blue. They are both grass cloth covered, but the Bungalow has soft edges and chrome hardware and the Serena and Lily is a Parsons knock-off, hard-edged with a gold pull. They are both so pretty, and having a bedside table would mean that I wouldn’t have to get out of bed when I was done reading my book to turn off the light.

Matouk . Joplin Sheet Set

I could get a new year set of sheets. I have my eye on Matouk’s Joplin, it’s blue floral pattern is sophisticated and happy all at the same time.

Oomph . Wilson 4 Poster Bed in Hinting Blue.

Dare to, wouldn’t it be, life is but a dream. Heck, if that’s all it is, throw in the Oomph four poster bed while your at it.