Scent of Design: the conjuring of a room through smell

Deep Dive into your senses.

Ah summer, the holidays are right around the corner. At least if that corner is a distant stretch that includes; ideation, procurement, mock-ups, revisions, construction, assembly, printing, packaging, and delivery. Well, after all that, and a few hard to get items, you can see how around the corner it actually is, which necessitates thinking hard about holiday gifts, while simultaneously sitting in a sundress and solving some of the more complex problems that come across my desk.

I know how many creatives read this blog, so you understand that the act of conception can be pretty messy. I’ve typed my way through Ancient Rome and Celtic customs, I’ve investigated pain patches, and foreign language translating devices, taken a dive into mulled wine and spiced cider, warded off evil spirits with Nutmeg, Cinnamon, and Cloves, that I collected along the Spice Road. I’ve kicked around enlightenment – metaphorically speaking, while considering backyard bonfires, lanterns, alabaster lamps, and the eternal flame in the form of a candle.

Coming together . Earthy yet sophisticated.

Not any candle though. We humans are so inventive. This candle won’t kill you with toxic smoke, and won’t burn down in just ten hours, its special combination of soy and coconut somehow lasts as long as my work week. Now if only I could get my package as compact, I’d be a contender, and that package is pretty to boot, but my fascination with this small cylinder has more to do with its name, and description than, the happy glow it is likely to shine.

Blankets and Art Objects are a wonderful way to tie color palettes together.

Otherland’s array of candles have clever names, and brilliantly descriptive stories that take you on a journey that goes far beyond scent. It got me wondering what a room would look like if it was named: Kindling, had the essence of Alaskan Cedar, Smoky Embers, and Incense. If it takes some prodding to wake up your five senses, Otherland’s writers are here to help. This little light will take you on a dirt path to the bonfire, past “fringed suede, stirrup leather, mezcal cocktails, distant fires, desert sand, chopped wood, cowboy hats, weathered boots, horseback rides, wool blankets, glowing embers, and moonlit saloons.

Now if I can’t design a room around that descriptor, I’ll just put away my fabric swatches, and kiss my key frets good-bye.

Coastal to Cosmo: Bringing city sophistication back to an NYC pad

Change, it’s inevitable. Take this pandemic. No one wanted it, and now so many don’t want to let it go, well perhaps not the pandemic itself, but all that change it pushed on us. The washing of the hands, the working from home, the family time, the need for less, the quieting of the frenzied existence. The irony is that we so often want what we can’t have.

It seems fitting that after many years of living with watery blue gray walls, linen shaded glass lamps, white tree stumped side tables, and a pastel blue sectional anchored by an enormous painting – its field of green meeting the sky, revealing not a hint of its place on this earth, that this coastal setting within the confines of its solid cement pre-war walls, will take its leave. Where will it go? I imagine it will find its way back to a place with fewer skyscrapers, less lists, and more leisure time.

After living on the water for nearly a year, my sister is ready to turn her city dwelling into the picture of sophistication, which got me asking what makes a city apartment feel city? It wouldn’t do at all to have the home not feel homey, for it to be stiff and rigid, as if it were shellacked into the glossy pages of Architectural Digest. No, tassels, and Tudor High Boys, tightly tailored seat cushions on uncomfortable chairs wouldn’t do. A man and his dog need a place to rest their head on a comfortable sofa after a long day in a city that doesn’t sleep, and the lady of the house deserves to have that same space look as good as it feels.

Antique Wrought Iron Horse Sculpture and Havenly Boucle Chair . $499.

What epitomizes New York City design style? This is the question that I was asking myself – weigh in if you have ideas of your own. This concept is not yet cemented. It’s not about the money, though money can go along way toward enhancing the look of the space – so often quality and craftsmanship come at a cost, but you can find oodles of talent on that little island. A gal that can turn a dime store purchase into an elegant backdrop for her five floor walk-up, 325sf studio, separating bed from Bohemian living space, turned cocktail lounge, guests huddled around a small coffee table, perched on pillows, candle lit casting a soft happy glow. No, it’s not about the money. It’s about a story – everybody has a story. Sure some tell it too fast. They build no suspension or intrigue. Some get overly verbose, losing you in a cluttered room of their story, before rushing you down the hallway blurting out an unceremonious ending. No, a good story is balanced, and starts when you open that door. Here’s how I think we’ll get it started.

How Bazaar: An Antique Mecca in Stamford

The term Flea Market is actually a French word, and you all know how I adore the French.  Marche aux Puces, technically translates to Outdoor Bazaar, and of course a bazaar is a market in a Middle Eastern country.  In all instances, goods for sale abound.  If the pandemic broke anything, it was my connection to the Parisien Marche aux Puces, which I try to visit at least every three years.  I was there last in 2018 when I bought my Italian Sputnik style chandelier around the last bend, after a long day in the dusty market with my good friend Tiffany.  Three years – that’s right.  It’s time for me to be there again, but Paris isn’t having it.  At least not yet, and the longing is strong.

This weekend my nephew graduated from high school and he’ll be leaving for school in the fall, and my sister is taking the opportunity to give her Lower East Side two bed an overhaul.  I love an overhaul almost as much as I love Paris.  It feeds the soul.  Creation is so satisfying, don’t you think?  Well I do, and Mary Beth does too, so we two skipped on out of the city to Stamford, CT, which is not really a place that I want to be, except for the fact that they have transported a Marche aux Puces style in door palace of an antique center to this center of nowhere, and when I tell you that it’s where it’s at, I am not exaggerating. 

I was in a total state of flow, immersed in a world of furnishings and accents, cement urns and obelisks, a wall of mirrors, a blue and white chinoiserie paradise, a mid-century modern moment, and a Palm Springs paradise.  I so wanted to carry home with me a coral lacquered game table, and a pair of bamboo palm covered occasional chairs that screamed Golden Girls.   There were Zebra covered suitcases – not faux – fabulously real.  There were red leather Chesterfield sofas, and velvet cognac x benches.  There was a sublime mahogany wine cooler lined in lead, that I would have turned into a stunning black and white leather finished marble topped coffee table.  If a statement piece is what you are after – you are likely to find it at The Antique and Artisan Gallery.  If you are looking for a tiny gift, or a set of lamps that will light up your world – shocking, Stanford, CT is going to be the place for you. 

Book a hotel across the street.  Increase your credit card limit.  Rent a U-Haul, and get prepared to be delighted.  You don’t need to leave with everything, but you’ll want to leave with something, and that something is likely to be pretty special.

Going Once, Going Twice: On-Line Auctions

For when you can’t or won’t go there. I have found memories of auctions – specifically a single auction house on 6A in Dennis. My mother and her best friend loved that auction house and would go often. I’d tag along reluctantly for the viewings – I never actually went to any of the live auctions, but I loved the green and white painted barn that housed all the treasures and the fact that I got my very own bed in a winning bid that I still have today. I loved it because it was so high up off the ground and had to have a custom mattress made for it. Not quite a full, not quite a queen, somewhere in between the two and perfectly suited to a six year old. I adore it. There were other big purchases, a kitchen table, a set of French china in pale sage and navy. Was it the thrill of the hunt, the adrenaline that surged through my mother’s chest, propelling her hand with the tightly clutched want in the air, was it the deal? I don’t know, and I cannot ask, but it was a summer ritual for many years.

Skinner Auctioneers . Nautical Dresser . Opening Bid $250.

Recently I was asked to investigate auctions and the practicality of utilizing them as a strategy for furnishing a new home. Always up for a challenge, I began to do my research, and what I found was this: FleaPop – out of business, Furnishly – finito, LushPad – liquidated, KRRB – kaput, leaving me to believe that being an auction house is a tough gig to sustain. I did find that Live Auctioneers is still in biz as is Invaluable, and many other local houses that allow you to bid on-line – essentially during a pandemic, and for those that want to source items from far and wide across the globe.

Invaluable Auctioneers . American Federal Bullseye Mirror . Opening Bid $200.

The far and wide does come with consequences. For those of us that have surfed a property or two on sites like Zillow or Redfin, you know that photos can be deceiving. Buying a piece of property or a home, site unseen is not advisable, nor is grabbing a Chippendale sofa from France via auction. The “deal” you thought you were being dealt, comes with shipping fees, buyers premiums – that’s the cut that the auction house gets for getting the goods in the first place and can range between 25 – 30% of the purchase price, and there are no returns. The term “good condition” is relative. The buyer needs to keep all these things in mind when looking for a special piece for their home, establish a budget, factor the additional costs in their not to exceed column, and don’t allow their emotions to get the best of them.

Live Auctioneers . Danish Modern Arm Chairs . Opening Bid $350. Picture these with a navy ticking fabric in a boat house – dreamy.

As for my good friend I recommend taking it slow. It doesn’t need to be furnished overnight. As long as you have a bed, a living room sofa, a coffee table, your tv, and a good book – you’ll do surprisingly well for a time. Use the auction website to augment your space with special pieces – again, taking your time to understand what it is you are looking for, what spot in your home it will fill, and what you are willing to pay for it. There is a reason site like One King’s Lane and Ruby Lane charge a lot for the wares – they’ve curated them from a time consuming process. Hunting is fun, but can be expensive. If you’ve got the time – an auction might not only provide an engaging afternoon’s activity, it might just bring home a show-stopping sette or Stickley Armchair or some other fabulous find.

Live Auctioneers . French Bed . Twin . Opening Bid $250.

Porch Time

Restoration Hardware . Provence Collection

Is it just a lovely pastime or is it the pandemic that’s pushing us outside to our porches, balconies, decks and/or back yards. I do have a little deck in the city, but the spring, as is so often the case here in New England, was slow to come. It snowed in late April, which is a major offense as far as I am concerned. I wonder how many people realized the absurdity of those cold wet flakes falling from the sky, lost as we were in a time warp that blurs days and nights, weeks and months, up from down. I’ve lost track of the day of the week myself several times, and am guilty of calling May – March. This bloody pandemic is undoing the careful rewiring of my dyslexic brain.

I participated in my first ever curbside shopping expedition yesterday. So happy was I do see clothes lining the racks of a real live beachy boutique in Chatham, that I started hollering out to Ashley, the owner, to rush down to grab the violet colored floral frock, and then the filmy little red number. There were body suits and bathing suits, beach towels and blue tooth boom boxes, my deprived consumer brain was going ballistic. I walked away with one tiny body suit and my sisters – with summer wardrobes.

Above: Ocean State Job Lot: Teak Folding Chair with Arms . $37. Teak Extending Oval Dining Table $349.99

While clothes shopping is a major past time for me – it’s not what I will be doing any time soon, and I suspect that most folks will be watching their finances with a focused eye. If money is going to be spent, I would argue that your outdoor space, where you are likely to be spending endless hours this summer, would be a good place to ditch your duckets.

Illicitly eating your $25. lobster roll from a takeout container, hovering over a table without chairs, or squatting in a patch of sunshine, just isn’t the same leisurely experience it once was, and as bars have been barred, we’ll not be mixing and mingling with anyone that doesn’t share your last name. Finally, well perhaps not finally, but close to finally before I get the the actual point, if your high school senior or college age student decides to take a bi-year before heading off to school, you’ll be able to take that college tuition money and upgrade your outdoor furnishings, because that’s just about what they cost.

PopOColor . Etsy . Outdoor pillows . Studio Bon $62.00

I love that Serena and Lilly Sundial Chair, but does a chair really need to last for 10 days at the bottom of an ocean? Is all that innovation that resulted in a $2k chair – retail to you and me – worth the bragging rights? I posit to you that it does not. Perhaps heading down to Ocean State Job lot and finding a nice set of teak folding chairs and table for $200. will bring as much joy – even if it doesn’t swivel.

PopOColor . Etsy . Schumacher . Citrus $58.

You know and I know that I am a fan of Restoration Hardware and think their outdoor line offerings are amazing, but I openly resent the fact that my outdoor sofa, with my design discount, cost more than my indoor sofa. The injustice of it all sticks in my throat like a lump of dry bread. I still haven’t forgiven them for backing me into the plain cream cushions – their off the shelf option – that still took 6 months to arrive. This is not an exaggeration, and now I look longingly at the cabana strip, and crisp navy piping, and the rainbow colors that abound in their on-line catalog of offerings and wonder….is it Memorex or is it Real?

PopOColor . Etsy . Trina Turk . Persimmon Arches . $61.

If there are no excess reserves of cash lying around for refurbishing the outdoor space, dust off what you’ve got, take the hose to it and consider a few new happy pillows to rest your head on when your relaxing and reading a good book. Safe . Solitary . Serene.

Happy Sunday.

Suzanne Kassler . Daybed by Atelier Vime – Beaucaire.

I wish I could say that this was the last of it, but like a tween – I’m smitten, and there really is no way of telling when I’ll stop crushing so hard on rattan. Maybe some adorable bit of eye candy will come along next week. Maybe it’ll be another month, however long it takes to get it out of my system, be kind to me. You remember what an all consuming heart throb does to you.

Rattan can be ratty, and I’m not opposed to a little tattered and worn, as long as it doesn’t poke me in the butt. I don’t appreciate being jabbed under any circumstance. As long as I won’t be physically accosted by the piece, a significant amount of high-gloss paint can go a long way to making that piece look perfectly at home, in a fancy setting, or on some old weathered porch.

However, it’s the sublime perfection of these latest pieces that have been capturing my imagination. Still very much in the dream stage, the piece that I have my heart set on is so obviously outside my price range – though I can’t tell you what the price is other than to say that its “upon request”, which is just a nice way of saying, forget about it. If you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

Atelier Vime . Beaucaire . Stool – Price upon request

They can go on being that way if they want, but I have found that if you set your mind to it, and the it that you set your mind too is something that you want very, very badly, well then you’ll find a way to get it.

Perigold . Gold Metal Vase with Rattan Trim and Glass Insert . $94.80

Suzanne Kasler, I rue the day I met you. Oh, wait a minute – I never did meet you, did I. I just stalk you on instagram, buy your books, and end up getting hooked on ridiculously expensive finds like Atelier Vime’s Beaucaire Daybed and stool. I think you owe me an apology. You could make it up to me by shipping that little beauty of a stool to my home address.

Happy Saturday.

Ever a Feather to Furnish: the sharing economy expands

As someone that moves constantly….well not exactly constantly, but typically every two years, with bursts of increased activity which can result in interim moves of between five and six locations, so pretty serious moving. The idea of living like a millennial, which is to say – someone that takes their sharing versus owning, very seriously, is appealing. The freedom that goes along with a rental is, well liberating, particularly if that rental can’t be stuffed into one of two suitcases and carried away by ME.

Common . has arrived in Boston. Co-living.

Residential rental furniture seems to be the next wave in the sharing economy. Which should come as no surprise in the wake of the Air BnB and more recent Co-living craze (in case you missed it, this is furnished rental space that you can “let” for a week, a month, a year – in major cities. it’s just arrived in the Boston Area under the management of Common. You get your own room, plus a few amenities like toilet paper, cleaning service, olive oil – you know – the necessities, while you share the common space with others. Service compris). Now these newly minted home furnishing rental cos are targeting a bit of a different market. Think post-grads and young adults that have selected their city, are drowning in college loan debt, and yet, are ready to begin being. If they are anything like me, the beginning, without sounding too ungrateful, can look like a hodge-podge of undesirables and toss-aways, grouped together to make some semblance of a home. I once had a dinner party for two with a corrugated card board box covered in a cloth as a dining table. I kid you not. The indignity of it all.

Well, for those that are ready to get started with a little more style than that, ingenuity has arrived in the form of some pretty cool furniture rental companies. Or, I should say, almost arrived. The affordable ones appear to only serve the cities of NYC, LA, and Seattle – who knew. Boston cannot be far behind, and if Fernish, Feather or Everset don’t take up the challenge, I am certain others will. If I were a betting gal, and I am, I would say West Elm, who has been incredibly entrepreneurial for a big company – would get into this game.

Now I don’t want to ruffle Feather’s feathers, but the furnishings are not high style. No matter, they certainly will serve a market, as they offer a cohesiveness for the inbetweeners that is rather attractive. Rent it on a 3, 4, 6, or 12 month basis with an option to purchase. Throw in a design consultant, free delivery, set-up, and removal, and I am whistling dixie. How ’bout you?

The Everset . The Ellen . 5 piece set $28.00 a month

My final thought here, and perhaps its not an original one, but I dare say, there are others like me out there – well, not exactly like me – I’m rather unique, but like, in the way that they abhor moving, and marvel at the thought of someone taking care of it for them. Further, I would guess that there are others, like me, that have a hankering for change, that want to investigate different styles, and colors and moods. I know from personal experience that this changing of the mind thing is rather pricey, so here’s my thought – One King’s Lane should launch a rental division….look out 2020.

Fernish . The Roxbury . $261. a month

Sweet Dreams: II

Oly Studio . Diego $6700.

Look number two represents a neutral palette in consideration of the violet painted walls – Benjamin Moore’s Lavender Ice is a soft, feminine hue that is both happy and calming, the perfect combination for a peaceful nights sleep.

Serena and Lily . Blake Raffia Wide Dresser . $3998.

Now if you are a germ-a-phobe, which I am not, you might want to consider a bed frame in hard wood or metal. Mites, and lord forbid, mice, love to snuggle into the fabric and fluff of an upholstered bed. Here is one of my very favorite options which satisfy my desire for the royal treatment. A modern take on a canopy in gold. The price tag matches the dream, but what a delicious dream it is.

OKL . Mike Seratt of the Prized Pig . $399.

Paired with a couple of Made Goods nightstands in raffia, and coordinated with Serena and Lily’s Blake Raffia Wide Dresser and you’ve got the makings of a beautiful bedroom.

Happy Sunday my little fairy dust friends. I hope you enjoy this last day of summer.

Sweet Dreams: Bedroom design – hidden sancutuary

I work so much that I rarely spend more than an hour a day in any other room than my bedroom, and those hours, I am unapologetically sleeping. Even when I get home on the earlier side around eight, I like to change out of my binding work clothes, and into some cozzies, and settle into my divinely comfortable bed. Having a good bed is critical to ones happiness. If you wake with aches and pains in the morning, toss out that abhorrent plank and replace it toute suite and hippity hop, with something that makes you purr like a pussy cat when you flutter open those peepers in the morning. It’s a must.

The Inside . Art Deco Bed in Faun $999.

With that basic human right attended to, we can put a little pretty into play. Whether you Feng Shui or sway to a different drummer, black out curtains – formerly of the high-end hotel set, should be considered. Privacy and catching all the winks ones workday will allow is important.

Ballard Designs . Margo Burlwood Chest of Drawers $674.99

Personally, I am happy to sit on the end of my bed to remove my shoes, and I am most definitely not sitting in a chair to read before getting into bed, so any additional seat would only invite clothing to gather when it should rightfully be hung right back up after wearing. I don’t need any temptation, the weekends are too short as it is. If you are very disciplined, you might enjoy a chair or a bench – plenty of lovely options exist and I’ll show you one or two in some subsequent posts, but for this first look, we’ll skip it.

A little whimsy is so right for the bedroom. Etsy Pillows. Left: Pink Bunny Lee Jofa Groundworks Hutch Pillow $40. Middle: Etsy KLine Deco Killi in Pink $55. Right: Etsy KLine Kenile in Rose Pink $55.

The happiest beds have sheets and blankets, comforters and coverlets, feather filled pillows, and poofy lambswool throws. I like this slate to be simple white, but understand when someone selects a nostalgic little rose bud print, or a masculine windowpane striping reminiscent of a man’s dress shirt. Whatever works for you, just be sure you make that bed each morning. Serenity requires discipline.

Serena and Lily . Blake Rafia one-drawer $998.

Happy Saturday.

Ballard Designs . Jones Window Pane Drapery . $139. – $159.

Serena and Lily Launches . Boston

Mary Maguire is a RISD trained artist. Based in Lyme, CT she sells her originals to a number of shops. http://www.marymaguireart.com/

or Chestnut Hill as the case may be. True to its name, and despite the bustling sales associates, and dozens of eager shoppers, the color palette of blues and grays, caramels and creams, and even a forest green, made the store serene. You know the kind of place that makes you realize you’d been holding your breath? When your foot falls on the bleached hardwood floor and you knock eyes with a wall adorned in Mary Maguire nautical watercolors, you know you’ve arrived at someplace special.

Original art abounds throughout the store.

Between Newport and Nantucket, Serena and Lily is likely to fulfill its annual projections for sales, the rich and famous flocking to this formerly catalog only company, to adorn their second, third or fourth homes.

Despite the outrageous decadence of a $60. pillow case, the simple beauty of their offerings draws one in. Some things simply have no look alike, or the look alike can’t really hold a candle to the original. In these instances I think it’s important to save ones pennies, and purchase pieces that are going to bring the most bang for the buck. Believe it or not – a pillow case does bring bang. All of the other sheets can be hidden away, but that pillow case is perched right there on top, in full view, and with all the world to admire. Pair it with a Home Goods sheet set and you’re in the money as the saying goes.

My other picks from the store have to do with my recent obsession with chairs – dining, club, slipper, lounge, diminutive or delightfully large, they have my attention. While it’s true that if you are in the hunt for high-low comparisons in the chair world, you can make a pretty good go of locating a low-priced lookalike that will work brilliantly. I would argue that even someone as obsessed with the details, as I am, could be made reasonably happy with one of these close approximations, BUT when you’ve found a particular hue that makes you beyond happy, that, you may not be able to replicate. The Tucker chair in Fog is my pick, and at just $198. it’s one of the more reasonably priced picks.

Raffia Console Table – on sale now! $848.

If I am selecting for my imaginary coastal home, the Belgian Club in Performance Pinstripe in French Blue is my pick for a living room chair, and the Blake Raffia Console – which btw is on sale for $848. from $1300. The indigo is so nautical and lovely, I can really see my room shaping up, but alas, its Sunday and errands await, bringing me back to reality. If you’re in the mood for a wonderful daydream, drop by – 200 Boylston Street . Chestnut Hill.