Home – LESS: Living out of a suitcase

Left:  88 Waltham St. #3 . South End – note the brick wall – recessed back from the fire place.  A perfect spot for closets.  I’d build them in – encasing the non-working fire place, hiding storage above, and building in bedside table nooks on either side of the head board.  A la , La Belle Julliette Hotel . Paris.

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Gut it and forget it.  It all has to go.  Tub to be replaced with glass shower, Duravit vanity, some beautiful tile.

Living out of a suitcase is nothing new to me.  Between most property flips, I’m stowing away my belongs, and living with whatever I can fit into 2 or 3 suitcases.  That is hard to do.  Even if you travel light as I do, it always seems as if the seasons change and I’m left without a winter coat, or my spring wardrobe.  Ugh.  Thank God for Jo-Jo’s closet where I “shop” until I’m settled into my next home.  Jo-Jo has a closet full of clothes that still have the tags on them.  She allows me to borrow and return.  She’s a big heart with exquisite taste.

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Note this particularly well done closet/beside built-in combo. You charmed me Charmonix.

As I consider how little time I am spending in my home these days – work – work – work – clients, friends, appointments, weekends on the Cape (year round), I think I could do with a lot less than I am currently making do with.  That is to say….space.

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That closet has to go.  This needs to become a dining area.  Small round table that snuggles into a banquet and serves its purpose for meals and work on the computer.  

I’ve looked at couple tiny beauties.  Bid on both, lost both, but the allure of having a 300 – 400SF space, and converting it into a luxury hotel room for the likes of little old me,  well it’s kinda cool.  They don’t come on the market every day, and they have a lot of competition – investors looking for a long-term hold, and a stable return, first time home-owners that want a toe in the market, and can actually afford a shoebox sized home, and people like me.  Living and working in the city, away on weekends – being home less makes this type of property a really great investment for me, and one that , dare I say, I would likely keep.

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This has to go too, obvi.  Don’t think that small means inexpensive.  This small means more expensive than you can imagine – if you are going to do it right.  All top of the line appliances required because you can buy them in petit sizes.

Don’t go getting crazy with protestations about not meeting my long-term goal of 10 properties.  I’ll keep at it, and this will make the process a little less sawdusty.  I think I’ve earned it.  But I’ll need all your positive energy to help me find the next one.  On that most hallowed of days I will close, and turn right around and flee the country to recuperate from the trauma of it all.  Buying and selling can be very stressful.  I’ll need four days of yogic breathing to recover.  They are tossing in art afternoons to kick-start my creativity.  It will be the perfect introduction into living more simply that will simply have to take me over the hurdles that are placed in my way on the hunt for No. 5.

 

Happy Sunday.

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.

Less is More: getting a design underway

Details, details, they can get in the way of one’s creativity – don’t you think?  I love a project where I’m not given too many perimeters.  The type of space, the materials needed, and their purpose is enough.  A general color way direction doesn’t hurt either.  If it isn’t explicitly stated, I’m going gray.  My perfect neutral with its full compliment of emotions, and ability to accommodate any gender, any age, and stage of your life.

Wexler Office Sample Board

We’ve got your blue grays, and your violet, your sage, and your putty, your clean and your smutty.  We’ve got sophisticated, and silly, whimsical and worldly, we have a splash through a tidal pool gray, and a bruised purple gray of the sky as it turns to night.  You  get the picture, I hope, because I am not supposed to be talking about gray at all, this blog is about a corporate office color palette.  It’s true that most of what I selected for the original round, did in fact include gray, but ironically the Client went with a sandy beach of an option.  Who could blame him, the 4th is right around the corner, and if you don’t get a little sand in your shoes now, you blink and miss it.

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Like a writer facing a blank page, some Clients are simply better in the editors role.  Ask them what they want, and they may honestly say – “for it to be done”.  Others stare off into the distance hoping a mirage will appear on the horizon, a perfect glistening representation of their space to be.  I feel that way about math so I understand entirely the sentiment.  When it comes to design however, I like the freedom of creating something well – that I would like.  What’s wrong with that?

I would be thrilled to come to work in this pretty little office space, if it were just a tad closer to my home.  I hope that Lee Wex will have no trouble executing the design he saw fit to pick.

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.

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.

Sail Cloth: Putting together a coastal fabric collection

In my mind’s eye I breeze through the perfectly designed rooms of The Manse in a flowy cotton Ulla Johnson dress,

admiring my careful selections with pride, and a knowing nod to myself, just as I imagined it would look.  In reality…there are dozens of mistakes I will make, returns, concessions, screamed vulgarities, frustration, some tears followed by elation.  If I am making it sound terrible – it’s not.  It’s this very part that keeps me going.  That has me dreaming of different color combinations, fabrics, and patterns – textures and scale.  Like a golfer that swears they will quit, and then hits a perfect shot, I’m in for life.

 

I’ve already bought, and plan to return a number of items that upon further reflection – will not work.  If this were a Chatham Bars Inn buffet – my eyes would be bigger than my stomach – the repercussions are worse than a stomach ache though, because the beds won’t fit in the rooms!  Ugh.  New plan.  While I think I’ve come up with an alternative approach, it’s a disappointment.

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Cheeky Monkey . Add a little red felt heart on Harwich and we’re in business.

I want to be sure to get the fabrics right so I am laying out several scenarios and asking for input.  Jo-Jo will weigh in here of course.  I was turned onto a fourth generation textile design company out of Sheffield, MA called Tillett Textiles & T4 run by Kathleen Tillett and son Patrick McBride.  This company is hot!  They allow you to choose your pattern and your color way along with about a dozen materials from which you can print it.  If you are in love with their designs, and want a coordinating wallcovering you might consider printing on a lightweight fabric and then having it paper backed before hanging it.  Helen Baker of Helen Baker Interiors Inc. turned me on to them.  She knows the coolest resources!

White and Blue Bedroom:  2nd Floor

Top Left:  Carp Allowed It in Navy – Tillett Textiles (Roman Shades)  Top Right:  Bolero in Indigo – Sister Parish (Window Seat Cushion) Bottom:  Beans and Boys in Red – Tillett Textiles (Pillow for Window Seat).

Sister Parish is a textile and wallcovering brand founded in 2000 to honor the style of and spirit of Sister Parish of the influential Parish-Hadley Interiors firm that famed designers Brian McCarthy and Bunny Williams once called their work home.  I became familiar with them a few years back when I saw a pattern called Serendipity with it’s happy little stars and polka dots – two things bring a smile to my face.  Their patterns are perfect for a coastal haunt.

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Left:  Mally Skok . Mewar Pink Orange. (Window Seat Pillow piped in kelly green). Right:  Sister Parish . Clara B . Simply Pink (Window Seat Cushion.

Above:  Similar Wicker Chair – Antique Market Find with Top Left:  Tillett Textiles . Puffy Petals in Forest Green.  Top Right:  Tillett Textiles . Dots of Non in Forest Green piped in pink.

Above Left:  Tillett Textiles . Dots of Non in Forest Green – converted to wallcovering for bedroom closet interior.  Right:  Sister Parish . Clara B – custom upholstered daybed.

Last year, while at the Innovation and Design Center in Boston’s Seaport, I met Mally Skok.  I went to the talk because I had seen a room she designed for a show house and I was struck by the organic patterns and playful motifs.  She has a fascinating story, and is as lovely as her designs.

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Custom Upholstered Day Bed with Trundle by livenUpdesign. Via Etsy.

I love so much of what Serena and Lily produces, but struggled with colorways that would work in this particular application.  If I have to be honest, which I do, because what’s the point of writing all this if I am not honestly sharing my preferences, thoughts, and opinions.  I’m not perfect – nobody is and NObody likes a property that looks too perfect.  It feels inauthentic (probably because nobody lives there) Don’t you forget that.

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Louis J. Solomon . Commode for inside the closet nook.

So S & L is out and I am embracing a mix of designers that you may know, and others who may be new to you.  I do hope you approve.  Comments are sometimes welcome – just kidding – if I couldn’t accept input and alternative suggestions, where would I be?  Please do write.

A Little Mushroom Will Do You….

The things I still don’t know.  I’ve barely scratched the surface.  Today I learned about Mushroom Wood.  I’d never even heard of such a thing before.  I’ve encountered all sorts of woods in my quest.  Oak and Walnut, Pear, and Zebra, Mahogany, and Pine and so many other varieties in-between, but Mushroom Wood – I said with a healthy dose of disbelief, no foot of mine had fallen on any such surface.

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Stone wood Products . Dennis . MA 

As it turns out, I wasn’t entirely right or wrong.  Mushroom would isn’t a specific wood.  It’s actual make-up is either Hemlock and/or Cypress  – both soft woods.  I am not sure where they fall on the Janka scale, but suffice to say, they are somewhat malleable.

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Mushroom Wood . Look at that grain…so pretty.

These woods are used for bedding bins in which mushrooms are grown.  During the growing cycle the enzymes digest and erode the soft wood.  This makes the wood appear as if its the bed of a river, eroded by the running water.  The pattern is unique and beautiful.  The color is a rich caramel.

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Crickets investigating the wood.

It’s particularly amazing because it looks historic.  Next to the hand hune beams it looks authentic.  This is important as we augmented The Manse with some Mushroom wood to provide some visual interest, and continuity.  We are at a point in the design where the details make all the difference.  The space looks clean and quite beautiful, but there is a point in any construction project that you can go to far – a mon avis.  If you aren’t able to maintain a few original components – we were here – then adding them back in, give a space some warmth.  Makes if feel like a home that one could actually live in.  This is the goal – at least for me.

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Bring a little authenticity to your refreshed environment.