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.
It feels appropriate right now to acknowledge all that we have lost during this pandemic. I’m all for positivity. I love being around positive people, it makes me feel amazing. Throw in a little manifestation, an affirmation or two, some being in the moment and you have the makings of a hot fudge sunday with marshmallow, nuts and a cherry on top of the happiness hill, but NOT acknowledging loss can lead to listlessness or worse, and we can’t have that.
A friend, of a friend, had reached out to me over a year ago to talk about reconfiguring her living room. Then life got in the way, as it is want to do, until so much of this life got in her way that she was finding a classroom, a dog, two kids and a husband underfoot. She hadn’t just lost her work-from-home, make my life easier existence, she’d nearly lost her sanity, and can you blame her?
Elizabeth Bishop and Dorothy Parker, both poets, could wring tears from scorched earth in the Sahara with the prose that spilled forth from their pens, on the subject of loss. At turns brash and edgy, and then slow and sorrowful, they saw what it was to be left wanting – a hunger pain begging to be fed. I suspect many of us are feeling this way and I think I have an answer – we must gravitate toward structure during these times to manage the loss.
Kate, in her wisdom, knew this to be true, and I am happy to help show her some ways in which order can be brought to chaos through reordering her living space, relocating her office, so the kiddos don’t think that “seeing” is believing, that Mommy is available for games, consultation, lunch prep, or an attempt to locate the left sock with the locomotives on it – she’s working.
This pandemic has made me a believer, even the most free and easy among us crave structure. Here are my top three tips:
These beauties will be displayed prominently in the space.
Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water. Keep the furniture that speaks to you in some way – most of the time it can be made to work,
Find ways to store, hide, arrange and organize the little things (bins for legos, blocks and art supplies, files for bills, trays for keys, loose change, and remotes, and baskets for bigger items), also, don’t be afraid to hang it on the wall – that guitar would look great in the kids craft area!
Grab your partner or a friend or two, a bottle of wine and start moving that furniture around the room. Break every rule! Put the sofa in front of the window, the media cabinet “floating” between spaces to create barriers between space uses. If you hate it, move it back – no law.
Take a deep breath. This will end, and if it isn’t ending soon enough for you, I find screaming into my pillow helps. Happy Sunday.
It sounds so British, and yet it was founded by two women (if you are paying attention this little formula produces major results – think Soul Cycle, Glossier, The Wing, Chief and many more – they are all founded by female duos), are California girls. I hope Alison Pincus and Susan Feldman will forgive me for calling them girls. I mean it in the best youthful, have sass, and sparkle, and bright ideas mixed with ambition, kind of way. They’ve got chutzpah, and that chutzpah got them to start OKL in 2008 when all the world seemed to be falling apart. There flash sale model morphed, and morphed again, before it was sold to Bed Bath & Beyond – clearly making them look good, and I mean really good, for their ability to make smart decisions.
The purchase of my very first home, coincided with their launch, and I lovely perused page after page of flash site offerings for inspiration. I have to admit that it wasn’t until much later that I purchased anything – I was broke. I had rubbed my two nickles together to make a dime, and hands opening in offering, asked if it was enough for the down payment. I think I can be forgiven, having just gotten into the game.
Now a gamer of sorts, I have traveled to NYC for their first in-house design advice session in their SOHO location on Houston – since relo’d and I got there just in time because they were selling everything in their “see it and touch it” studio, to avoid the hassle of having to move it. I left with an antique desk, two enormous Schumacher pillows, two gorgeous kelly green gourd lamps, and I am sure a few other items I couldn’t live without for No. 3.
Last fall I visited their first real bricks and mortar store – also in SOHO, and walked away with a petite vintage Turkish Oushauk in sage green, gray and lavender – for a steal! It’s in the kitchen of No. 5.
And now – drum roll, they have landed in Boston’s Seaport. One opening party, and a visit with my sister and I have already purchased a number of things that I didn’t need at all, and when I am supposed to be saving. I mean no disrespect to this venerable design store, with its sublime styling style, and its cosmic curation, but I have got to retire some day!
I did just learn that they’ll be launching Hunter’s Alley soon. A little marketplace that I can sell to others like me, that just maybe bought one too many things they didn’t really need, and are looking to free up some space and recapture some cash. I hope it launches soon, it feels like I’m becoming a hoarder and I really have no patience or desire to tunnel my way through my tiny little home.
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.
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.
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.
My fascination with small spaces comes in part from my desire to make a cozy nest. A home should be a sanctuary from the frenetic pace of the outside world. It should offer comfort, and security. Some of my fondest memories of childhood were of being tucked in like sardines in the cabin of our Cat Boat named the Councilor – in reference to my Father’s profession. We’d anchor in the outer harbor at Wychmere for the night, and play crazy eights to the light of a swinging lantern. Cozy.
Walking Paths and front facing homes are trademarks of Pocket Neighborhood communities.
A second contributing factor I have talked more about – small equals achievable perfection. Or so I thought when I began this quest. While I realized that I couldn’t exactly get everything I wanted in my 523sf home, I could turn it into a little jewel box, and I did. I like beautiful things – a lot, and beautiful things are really expensive. Believe me, I can get worked up about the beauty of a Lacanche stove but it was not going to suddenly appear in all its $10K glory in my little Charlestown apartment. Still, it was then, and is now, an aspiration.
From shared space to a plan of graduated privacy, it begins with the porch.
So, combine cozy, with beautiful craftsmanship, and I lean toward the small. While the homes in Pocket Neighborhoods are not exactly tiny, they are also not McMansions. In the urban and suburban jungle, where buildings tower overhead, and homes have not one kitchen, but two or three – yes you heard me right, I have been to Beacon Hill, where there was a kitchen on the first floor, the fifth floor and outdoors – obvi a dumbwaiter would take too long to deliver the cold drinks and the hot burgers to the game room – 13 modestly sized homes, beautifully designed, face forward to the community, where everyone really does know your name, is appealing.
Some are dedicated to over 50 communities, but most embrace the benefits of all ages.
It’s hard not to think of Mr. Rogers singing “Who are the people in your neighborhood”. These people you should meet every day, but with whom eye contact is rarely made. I almost called the police the other day on some guy who claimed to live in my building. I flat out didn’t believe him. He does in fact live here, I’m still not sure how that came to be, and I missed him moving in entirely. It’s not like I live in a building of 500 – there were only four of us until Patrick showed up. This never would have happened in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and by design, it wouldn’t happen in a Pocket Neighborhood either.
Beautifully designed, thoughtfully planned, walkable, welcoming places to be.
Ross Chapin, a Washington State Architect is most commonly credited with the design and creation of these neighborhoods. The key characteristics of which are a cluster – “community” of homes, carefully sited around a common green, in which the community takes part in caring. This shared stewardship is an essential element within the Pocket Neighborhood, as it contributes to the interaction of the inhabitants, enhances the sense of belonging, and security. Children can run free and play as they have many watching over them, and a stranger would be detected immediately.
The signature porch is intentionally large – an extension of the home, an outdoor gathering place.
One of the most attractive elements, to my mind, of these neighborhoods is there walkability. Pathways wrap around, and along homes, which spoon one another. Artfully designed to enhance community while preserving privacy. Public space is central with homes facing the green, porches, wide and inviting overlook this focal point of activity. Low railings and flower boxes begin to express the semi-private nature of this space. Large windows, and active gathering spaces – living rooms and kitchen, can be viewed by passer’s by. The floor plan takes you back further into the home for the most private spaces – not visible from the walking paths lining the green. High windows and skylights ensure that neighbors sited behind the home cannot peer into the sanctuary of ones sleeping place.
Nature and sustainability are other important aspects of a Pocket Neighborhood Community.
To me – this is attractive. I get asked often, which of the homes I owned to date is my favorite. Which do I miss the most? For me this is a tough question, not because I have so many to choose from, but because I fear that other’s will think of me as cold, or disconnected. My answer is none of them. When I began this quest I didn’t even know it had begun, but it had. To steal a phrase from a friend of my – these places were not my forever place – and that makes letting them go …. easy for me. Still, I am immensely proud of what they become.
It’s in the details.
The homes in a Pocket Neighborhood harken back to a simpler time. They remind me of my very favorite island – Nantucket, where the homes are tucked in close to one another in town, and walking and biking are preferred over the motor vehicle. How lovely it would be to get out of your car – which is carefully hidden away to the side or back, not obstructing the sense of community that is prized here – and leave your troubles astern, just like you would when you hop on the boat and watch the mainland disappear from view.
Shhhh….can you hear that? It’s the sound of serenity. The traffic thins, the mountains rise around you, the rivers start to rush, and the people slow down and smile. It’s not a Splenda smile either – all Emily Post etiquette. It’s warm maple syrup, tapped from the tree where the wind whispers a happy tune.
Vermont is a special place. Oh it has it’s troubles like any place, but when it’s you, the smell of firewood burning in the distance, a brisk breeze making your cheeks rosy, the smell of fir pines as you tromp through the woods, they do seem far away.
Eight Days a Week.
On my annual work retreat we tucked away to Woodstock, Vermont, a storybook New England town, to work, and to hear one another, away from the noise of the city. We worked, and it worked. Maybe it is as simple as clean air, clear ideas, renewed spirit? Whatever the reason, I feel lucky and inspired.
Zoe and James have created their very own American dream. Harvested from the land, mined, tooled, and worked by artisans – all here in the states, they have created something sophisticated in its purity, and simplicity. The retail store and the workshop juxtapose mud and beauty. Thoughtful vignettes abound, a wall of pottery, a whitewashed stump turned side table, a linen pillow, apron or napkin, a custom crafted table set with wooden bowls, dried flowers, and decorative clay fired trees. A floor stained in a custom pale gray. I’d move right in – though I am pretty sure that Zoe, James and their two little girls live upstairs and would find my presence unwelcome. Now if I could perfect my pottery making skills, it might be a different story all together. One of the artisans assured me that after making 500 or 600 vases – I’d really get the hang of it. He wasn’t kidding.
It’s not often you swoon over something you can absolutely have, it’s usually things that are, well out of my reach, that make me fall all over myself. That 12 carat diamond ring that I attempt to convince myself I wouldn’t want for fear of being held at gunpoint, or the shear weight of lugging it around (I’d risk both). The yacht that sails around the Caribbean with my own personal chef capable of supporting whatever dietary whim strikes my fancy with delectable meals that make me forget there’s any dietary restriction at all. I could go on and on about the things that make me swoon, but the point of this fainting episode awaits.
Camelback Headboard . Blue Buffalo Gingham. Queen $559.
The Insideis the brainchild of Christiane Lemieux. I didn’t know of her before I stumbled across her site via The Everygirl who I follow on Instagram. Instagram is my primary source for new design information, inspiration, and products – not magazines, not the real life designers that I work with and around everyday – Instagram. Get on it, and start following it.
Clare V. Sardine Settee. $999.
Christiane is a Parsons grad, which on its own is to be revered. She is the founder of Dwell Studio which was sold in 2013 to Wayfair. She is the author of two books: Undecorate and The Finer Things. She is the Founder of Cloth & Company a textiles outfit, and now the Founder and CEO of The Inside, a furniture line – that in her words is: “designed . Created . Made in the USA. With a mix of colors, patterns, textures, and collaborations – Clare V., Peter Som, and now The EveryGirl – this furnishings line, which is produced using 3D models and digital printing, arrives at your doorstep via UPS in 3 weeks. It’s custom made for you, and it’s incredibly inexpensive – think dozens of options for under $1000.
Peter Som . Chinois Bench. $689.
I nearly fell of my sofa and spilled my tea when I saw it. I’ve come across many inexpensive lines that admittedly held my attention – some old favorites (HomeGoods . Target . West Elm), some new to my resource bandwagon – Urban Outfitters, but The Inside deserves not just a look, but the swipe of a credit card.
The Inside . Citrine Cabana Stripe . $299.
Clare’s cheeky designs will bring a smile to your face. Peter’s refined and traditional prints will bring sophistication, and the crisp classic neutrals of The Everygirl collaboration, collectively – they leave you with no excuses. Go ahead. Add it to your cart. After all, you don’t need to cart it home. It will arrive on your doorstep, and your home will thank you.
A final nod to Clare V. because I cannot stand how cute these are. I simply ADORE them. Left: Racer Stripe Monogram (put your initials there) $339. Right: Eyes Settee. $1149.
I would take a sable under the tree, that would most definitely please me. A duplex and checks – I’ll take it with two decks, and with a majority share in Tyvek, because what the heck, I wasn’t born yesterday. Santa Baby, hurry down the chimney to me. Eartha Kitt and Henri René sang this timeless classic for the first time in NYC in the summer, ironically, of 1953. Her timeless crooning in her low sultry voice makes her requests for a platinum mine, a 1954 convertible light blue, and a ring – not on the phone – totally acceptable, and somehow, feasible.
It got me to thinking about what my own outrageous list might include, and decided I should put it out there – just in case Santa was curious. After all, I’ve been an awfully good girl. Santa Baby – slip the deed to a two bedroom condo at the Lucas under my tree.
I’ll take an Areostream for all my “Glamping” adventures. An Eclipse 550 because commercial airline travel is …. disrespectful! I’ll take a Goyard Travel Trunk too – in blue, because you simply can’t land on the tarmac with duffle bag in toe.
Harry Benson (Scottish b. 1929) Berlin Kiss. 40 x 50 – $16,000.
This modest little island – Nantucket – may not have the glamorous storied past of its sister island Martha’s Vineyard with its Presidential visits and star sitings galore, but it sure knows how to flirt. From your first step off the boat or onto the tarmac she draws you into her alluring embrace. The wink and glint of the sun off the water, the salty perfumed air, mingled with the sweet smell of Rosa Ragusa, and so begins the indelible impression she will leave.
Centre Point . 28 Centre Street, Nantucket
Cape Cod may have my heart, but Nantucket has my soul. Wandering the cobblestone streets, narrow, uneven, meandering – you bare witness to the island’s whaling history, to its architectural simplicity, and its secret gardens. The trellised roses, the hydrangea, the daisies, between the fragrant breeze and the swaying of the sea grass – its downright hypnotic.
Starburst Mirror . John Rugge Antiques
Now you all that have been following along for some time now, know that I am a shopper. I am an addict. I have a deep and shamefully, uncontrolled desire to acquire beautiful things. It’s true. I thought in the past that by coming clean I would being a process of recovery — NO! That hasn’t worked. They may need to try shock therapy on me next.
Malachite Lamp. John Rugge Antiques
I have worked to restrain myself, but the baubles and benches, and brass mirrors, the brushed cotton covered slipper chairs, and bent wood mid-century tables – the unending array of beautiful things – ah, they lure me back in, whittle their way into my dreams, and no amount of resisting will work once that happens. It’s destiny. See how deep seated this problem of mine is.
Garden Bench at Bodega – $250.
I am working on it, and have decided that if you all help me by snapping up some of the amazing things I find along the way, I can console myself with the knowledge that your home will be made more special with something I helped you discover.
There’s something about summer that awakens an urge to clean out the garage, de-clutter, and make room for kids returning from college or summer guests. As a habitual thrower awayer, I do not need a special time of year to engage in this activity. I find immense pleasure in ridding myself of things – I suppose it’s a condition that sits entirely on the opposite side of the spectrum to a hoarder. Of course it should be said that I typically replace the items I get rid of with something new.
Charles Eames was one cool cat – look for his stamp on the underside of the chair for authenticity if you find it at a yard sale, snap it up! Similar available on Viyet.
I love a treasure hunt, and am not terribly disappointed when I come up empty handed. I console myself with the knowledge that if I did indeed find an Eames Chair, or a fabulous mid-century modern sideboard I would need to give up something in order to make room for my purchase. Having said that, don’t think for one hot second I would leave either behind, I wouldn’t think you knew me at all if you thought that I would even entertain such an outrageous idea.
Eloise was Rather messy . I am not.
I am no Eloise of the famed Park Plaza Hotel. I don’t think lampshades make good hats, and broken or chipped china cup does not make a good planter – in my opinion. Eloise and I will just have to agree to disagree on this point.
Knoll by Warren Platner Coffee Table. Viyet $800.
Mixing new and old pieces makes a home that much more interesting. I surf sites like Chairish – which, by the way you can find my MOM Sputnik Chandelier posted for sale, and Viyet,and trust me when I tell you they have crush worthy consignment pieces, but they can be pricey. For the committed bargain hunter, many of the pieces can be found at a yard or estate sale. One must simply be prepared to dig through a lot of clutter to find it.