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.

Punch List: All that still needs doing

I think a punch list is aptly named. I would venture to guess that those who use it in popular construction parlance, don’t actually know its origin. Derived from the process of recording all those miscellaneous items that are yet to be complete, but ironically are not considered part of substantial completion, because I assume you, and all the governing agencies in your city or town – deem the property safe to live, and/or work in.

Fairly modern day punch. A little confusing, a lot messy.

The recording of the list doesn’t explain the punch. Now don’t go guessing, it’s not because you feel like punching your contractor out after a job should have been completed weeks, or ouch, months earlier than it was, no it’s that decidedly satisfying process (if you are actually the contractor) of punching a small hole in the page next to the item, once said egregious oversight was corrected. Thus the punch list was born.

A more organized accounting of what went undone. Think – where did all the electrical switch plates disappear to? Why doesn’t the disposal work? and didn’t I just have the place painted??

This is the process that I am in, which will run in conjunction with another construction term known as – DAY 2. Day 2 work makes less sense to me, though perhaps is more satisfying, save the additional expense associated with it. This is all the work that you decided you needed, but didn’t include in the original scope of work, or that once in place you decided you hated, and were forced to question what you were thinking, and now simply can’t live with yourself if you don’t make it right. That work.

The only photo I am willing to show. This is Day 2…actually, the second day that I had my personal belongings there. One always feels better once a piece of art has been hung, don’t you think?

Now I realize that all my readers are perfect, which might really bug a lesser person, but makes me very proud. You can ignore Day 2, but even a perfect person is going to be subjected to punch list, because that’s simply out of your control. As a straight haired brunette who is often wrong, but seldom in doubt at the time of the decision-making, Day 2 is a regular part of my existence.

The good news is, despite my trigger happy decision making mechanism, I do learn from my mistakes. This my friends is called progress. So this past weekend, I progressed from the couch to my own bed, in the home that I have owned for 134 days. Now that might not seem like a long construction period to you, but I beg you to imagine for even a moment, what your life might look like without your own bed, or your seasonal wardrobe – now remember, it gets super cold here in the winter, and then it turns around and gets super hot. What will you choose to carry with you? Oh bother, it’s all a lot to deal with, and if you misplace your mascara during the whole darn process you just might break down and cry. If there is a silver lining in it all, your face won’t be streaked in black.

Cheers to No. 5. I’m halfway through with you.

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.

Getting Hammered: Debunking the flip

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See those Galbraith and Paul curtains hanging on the Lux Hold Ups Rods custom made in Brooklyn by female artisans – no normal flipper would ever buy those.  The cost a quarter of most flippers total renovation budget.  Don’t you just love them?

As I was preparing for a big real estate summit that’s coming to the city I came across some interesting sessions on social media, streaming, video production and branding for business.  All things that are important to me.  I should say – this is a corporate real estate summit, not a residential one, and it’s for my full time job, not my side hack.  Still, by design, these worlds collide, and I learn so much from my personal ventures that contribute meaningfully to my work, and vice versa, that it seems perfectly simpatico.  This research led to me googling myself, and to the discovery of a blog post for which I was the subject.  Or, as I prefer to think of it… the STAR.

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Farrow and Ball Wallcovering costs a fortune.  It’s really art that I leave behind.  I know not everyone will appreciate it.  I did it for me.

Jon Gorey, the author of House and Hammer, took to debunking my junk in his article and making me look like more of a hasbin than a starlet.  Hum!  Using me as a cautionary tale to all those wannabe flippers out there, he suggested that my efforts (and yours by the way) would have been better spent sitting around on the sofa for the next 10 or 30 years and cashing in at the end, having foregone the hassle, and the hustle associated with my high cost renovations.

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TV may make it seem sexy but it’s hard work.  Even Chip is sweating there.  A lot of sweet goes into it.

I must say that I have an appreciation for his style of writing, his clear understanding of the numbers, the risks associated with real estate ventures, and for his love of homes.  Pay close attention to all that because it’s true!  He says flipping is sexy – not true and that marble and Parisian chandeliers are not what the South End needs, or buyers necessarily want.  That I suppose is simply a matter of opinion.

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I spy a chandelier that still makes me smile.

I like saying “for the record” and “setting the record straight” but the truth is, the truth changes.  My truth at this moment, and as I have recorded it, has always been this…to date that is, I am flipping homes  – for me.  Not for anyone else.  Yes I want to sell them.  Yes I want to make a profit.  Yes I hope to use that profit to get ahead before I retire, but imbedded in those truths is something fundamentally more important that is driving me to renovate these properties.  It’s my love of design and architecture and travel.

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Travel inspiration.

What Jon doesn’t know is that were it not for the sweat, and hives, and the sawdust, I would not have traveled to Paris every other year, a place that is so sublime to me it fills my heart with happiness.  I would not have been to Croatia, Bosnia, Switzerland, Italy, Nantucket, Mexico, and on and on to so many amazing places where people of different cultures open ones mind to both how big, and small, our world is, and art and beauty sit side by side the dirt and grit of our realities.

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Croatia.  Look at that limestone.

Jon doesn’t know that I carefully plan each property based on a design vision that is like none I have done before.  While I certainly learn things along the way, a trick here or there to make the process a bit more easy, or visually more appealing, this is not PS101.  That Parisian chandelier was purchased for me, and boy does it have a good story.  If I were only in this for the money, I would use granite, not marble.  I would paint everything beige, not one of the dozens of refined and/or wild hues that my boyfriend Benjamin Moore has to offer.  I would use Home Depot fixtures, make only cosmetic changes not improvements to the infrastructure (many flippers – though not all – like to keep there money right where they can see it – and that’s not behind the walls).  There are so many things I would do differently if the only thing I was in this for was the bottom line.  Bottom lines are boring.  I never wanted to be a suit.

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Thanks to No. 3 Venice is now part of me.

I’m as pleased as punch that someone wrote about me.  As I said, I think Jon offers some very sound advice.  Being covered in sawdust isn’t for everyone.  You have to love it.  If you are considering making a foray into the adventures of flipping, it’s important to go in with eyes wide open.  Me, I grew up thinking everyone lived like this – you have a choice. Choose wisely.

Sale-ing Away to a new location

 

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Sun filled living room.  tall ceilings . low floors.  painted in Benjamin Moore’s Sand Dollar.

You might have guessed with all this talk of rental properties that I had something beside a post up my sleeve.  Well I do, this is the first time that I have written about – in the moment that is – a property that I have on the market.  It went on Wednesday night.  This is a particularly stressful time for me.  I question everything – even the things, that to an outsider – are so clearly good things.  For the next two months I’ll be on pins and needles, right up until the moment my Lawyer Sarah tells me the sale has been recorded in Suffolk County Registry of Deeds.  Then I can breath again.  Two months is a long time to hold your breath, trust me, I don’t recommend it.

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Custom Kitchen cabinets with brass hardware and carera countertops and backsplash.

It started out as a one bed, but has been converted to two.  Apartment living is all about proportion.  Large can feel small and small can feel expansive.  As the French say- ca depend.  Layout, ceiling heights, even the angle and the swing of the door can make a huge difference in the livability of a space.  Of course some things are entirely out of your control (like the sale of this condo and the ceiling heights you are given to work with) other things like the geometry class of a door layout which allows the bedroom doors to swing in and miss the queen size beds that lie within, are entirely within your control.  It’s this bit of genius that make the pint size unit (708SF) worth every penny of the asking price.  It’s two real bedrooms, not a bed and a half, not a bedroom for a baby with a crib, not a “bonus space” it’s a bedroom.  It’s also quite a nice feature that I refer to as the “bow of the boat”.  The doors form a point at the end of the hall, from the ceiling at that point hangs a perfect little pendant lighting the way to your state room.  Charmont, if I do say so myself.

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Dining nook with custom table in grasscloth and Farrow and Ball Lotus Wallpaper.

It’s in the Eight Streets, a prized neighborhood within the South End neighborhood for it’s proximity to some of the best restaurants the SE has to offer.  Snuggled between Tremont and Shawmut Avenues, there is only one street within the eight that extends beyond these two streets and acts as a thoroughfare – that’s Waltham – lived there in case you are wondering.  Why would anyone care about this you ask?  Quiet.  It’s a quiet street, across from the park, a street that might make you think your in the suburbs, and that my friends is worth gold.  Some of which I am asking you to part with for the privilege of living here.

Other selling points include the design – why trouble yourself over it when you can just move right in and start entertaining.  Everything is for sale and no one said you couldn’t, or shouldn’t buy a refined living environment, most certainly not me.  Then there is the fact that it’s parlor level, just three steps up into the building.  It’s across the street from the Ringold Park where the sounds of children’s laughter and the gentle splash of water from the fountain make their way with the breeze into your living room.  There’s the shared garden oasis tucked away in the back for bbq’ing, sipping coffee and reading the paper, or a glass of wine by the fire after a long day at work.  City living…this could be you.

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Tucked away behind the building you wouldn’t even know you were in a city.

Come for a visit:  3 Hanson Street, Apt. 1, Boston – Buy and stay for as long as you like.

South End Report

The Stephen Cohen Team, South End Market Specialists put out a pretty great report in the Spring and Fall -the busiest buying markets.  They let you know what to expect, if you’re expecting to buy or sell.  The South End of Boston, while not the most expensive neighborhood in the city, is pricey and it’s good to know what you can get for your money.

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Under Construction in the Eight Street District . South End

JACKIE FALLA . Meet a Southender

Jackie Falla might not have professional experience as a designer, builder, or architect, but she has been in the construction industry for over 20 years. Growing up on the Cape, her serial renovator of a father renovated every home they lived in, so a certain level of disruption in her living environment became comfortable and familiar. She bought her rst home in 2008. After four years and three renovations, Falla sold it and used the money to secure another property. It’s been rinse- and-repeat since then.

Falla documents her progress on a blog, Quest for the Nest, and the culmination of her journey will be a book she’s tentatively calling “My Life in Sawdust: How to Make a Million Dollars in Ten Flips.” To achieve this goal, she relies on her innate sense of design, as well as architect friends and sub-contractors she meets through her work as Director of Client Services at Elaine Construction, a third-generation, family-owned-and-operated, woman-certified construction management company in Newton.

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In search of glamour . South End.

Falla has made her home in almost every Boston neighborhood except
for Beacon Hill, but the South End has always held a special place in her heart. She’s lived in over a dozen different properties along Waltham Street, West Concord Street, Worcester Square, Worcester Street, Pembroke Street, Milford Street, and Hanson Street. “I know there are these beautiful amenity buildings, and I actually lived in Ink Block,” Falla said. “I absolutely loved it, they make living so easy. But in terms of architecture, the South End brownstones are spe- cial. The details, the moldings, the doors, it’s all phenomenally designed. I’m in love with it.”

Her love for the South End’s historic architecture also ties in with her Cape Cod upbringing. Coming from a family of avid sailors, she respects the cleverness of boat design. Every multi- purpose square inch of space is utilized to its full extent, and she nds that city apartments require the same kind of ingenuity. Falla describes her sense of style as “modern glamor.” She fondly recalls an Italian chandelier she bought at a Paris ea market and had rewired and in- stalled at one of the condominiums she ipped. “It was a very dramatic light fixture,” she said.

Falla is currently at the halfway point of her renovation journey, and she’s loving every second of it. “What I’m doing is an important story for me to tell,” Falla said. “It’s hard for single women to build wealth, and part of why I’m ipping houses and working on the book is to make sure young women know they can ensure their own nancial independence and stability.” This doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have fun with her work. From the fact that she lives through the process every time, to the sheer number of details she infuses into her renovations, Falla’s passion for remodeling comes through in every project she takes on.

Is there a South Ender you think should be featured next? Contact our Communications Specialist, Anastasia Yefremova, at anastasia@stevencohenteam.com.

 

As a South Ender, my good friend Nicole Spencer who is a Buyers Agent for the Stephen Cohen Team, asked if I would be interested in being profiled in their market report.  I first moved to the South End in 1993.  It was a different South End then it is today.  Let’s just say I didn’t exactly fall in love with it.

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Pulling it all together . South End.

After that I trotted all over the city.  I lived in the North End, Back Bay, and Charlestown, before making my way back to the South End.  Since then, I have lived in 9 different South End locations, making me a bit of an expert – also known as someone that is insanely driven to achieve their goal of flipping 10 properties to make a million.

Swatch Watch: finding fabric in the City of Lights

Paris Fabric 2

4 bis rue d’Orsel
75018 Paris

The 8th is home to some amazing fabric stores.  Whether it’s upholstery fabric or fashion you’re on the look-out for, start here.  Marche Saint Pierre, Sacre Coupons, and L’Atelier D’origins are just a few of the dozen that sit at the base of Sacre Coeur.  A bustling neighborhood full of tourists and Parisians alike, somehow on my last visit I participated in a food tour that cut right through the heart of this neighborhood, my eyes apparently remained fixed on the chocolates, cheeses, wines, and pastries, because I don’t remember seeing all the pretty prints that share storefront space with the gastronomique delights that I sampled.

My mother must have visited this neighborhood because she arrived home from a trip to Paris with a suitcase full of fabric.  This fabric she carted around for years – literally years!  This was normal for Pat Falla.  She had trouble making decisions.  Perhaps that’s why I make so many of them, with little thought to the sheer number of ill conceived avenues I have pursued as a result.  I guess I believe that forward momentum is more important than perfection. At any rate, the fabric did in fact get used but not by Pat.  My sister Mary Beth found it, had it made into curtains and hung them in one of her homes.  They looked pretty good.

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Nicole folding my beautiful fabric!

I too will be leaving Paris with a suitcase full of fabric.  I really had no intention of buying any, and then there it was – shimmering and winking at me.  I fell for it. It will be right at home in home No. 4.  Now if only one of those French Bergers would fit in my suitcase, I’d have something to drape the fabric on.  A good problem to have.

Paris Fabric 3

2 rue Charles Nodier
75018 Paris

Heureusement Samedi!