Bad Ass Boutique . Thompson . Nashville

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Thompson . Nashville – sorry Nash this is a five star hotel.

To be clear, I am generally speaking, a hotel lover.  I like watching people, imagining where they are from, what brought them to this place, and the delicious thought that others are toiling away – while you are not.  I love them so much, I spend a good deal of time in them, in the various neighborhoods in my own home town.  Lap top, mobile, note pad, it’s as good an office as any old place, and I find that the general buzz is a welcome and impressive noise.  So there you have it.  Hotels are my jam.

Tyler and Lauren stand under the lights . Design – Parts and Labor . NYC

But…Thompson Nashville is the jammiest of jams – high tea at the Ritz with crumpets and clotted cream without any of the formality that comes with a British accent.  The Southern twang is served up with a 40 ounce Rosé wrapped in a paper bag.  Don’t laugh, you’ll be pleading for more of this porch pounder before the last live song is sung for the evening.

The prettiest 40 I ever did see.

21st century lighting in mid-century costume.

It goes without saying that a place as hip as Nash, and Thompson would not disappoint with the design.  San Fransisco based Two Roads Hospitality, the owners of the Thompson Brand opened their newest, 12 Story, 224 room, boutique hotel (one of eight) on 20 October 2016, to rave reviews.  Located in the Gulch Neighborhood, named literally for the narrow, steep-sided ravine which marks the course of a fast stream, arcing through the city’s south side.  The Gulch was previously the site of a very active rail road yard, which brought the majority of the supplies to the city, but became defunct after WWII.

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The Marsh Restaurant at Thompson

Now for those that have been paying close attention to me, you know I love edgy design, and I swoon over lighting, and make all manner of bad decisions when this happens.  Darlin’ we’re all human.  When I tell you that Parts and Labor NYC based design firm combines the sweet and salty scrumptiousness that offers up a veritable explosion for your visual senses, I’m really not doing them justice.  Andrew Cohen and Jeremy Levitt offer up “bespoke, bare-knuckled and straight forward approach to high end design”.  I feel lightheaded.  Brass and glass, texture and layers, pops of color and sophistication, mixed with a little industrial to remind you of the origins of its geographic location.  The chug of the train receding into quiet.  It’s gritty and glamorous all at the same time.  This is Thompson.

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Cane Backed Bench inside a bookcase.  Considering my options.

I didn’t peak into the rooms, but understand the mini-bar dispenses vinal records.  So beyond cool I can’t stand it.  Apparently they provide maps that will guide you to neighboring record stores where you can really score.  Who doesn’t like an adventure.  Stop along the way at any of the restaurants or shops that have found their home inside the re-purposed industrial buildings that line the streets, or make your way back to Thompson’s Marsh House Restaurant, or to its roof top bar where the warm breeze blows, and views of the city are tipped in pink at sunset.

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Relaxing Rooftop

Y’all, I’m preparing to book my October visit.  Don’t wait, the hotel stock is so low in this booming city despite their hyper-track pursuit to bring rooms on line – the lines are outpacing supply.  The Thompson is a sip of perfect whisky in a city where you are the star in the song.  I so love being the star…..

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Rooftop Restaurant

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The final word . wood pendants, capped in silver, surrounded by Crystal … please!

Cliff House . Coastal retreat

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Cliff House . Cape Neddick. Maine

As a Cape Cod girl it’s rare for me to head north to Maine.  It’s beautiful here.  The rugged coastline, waves crashing over the rocks – it’s chaotic, it’s hypnotic, it’s captivating.  Like watching a fish in a bowl, the dancing waves, and sea spray, make me feel calm, unhurried, and it’s clear to anyone that knows me, I am neither.  Rush, rush, rush, but as I sit in the Cliff House’s atrium space overlooking the Atlantic ocean, and watching staff as they prepare for a wedding later today, I feel in no hurry to get back to Boston.

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The Tiller at Cliff House

First opened in 1872, the Cliff House was founded by what can only be described as an enterprising woman – Elsie Jane Weare.  Mother to 7 children, caregiver to her sick husband, Captain Theodore Weare, Elsie decided to purchase 70 acres of waterfront property on Bald Head Cliff, and build the Inn.  How hard could that have been?  Oh by the way she ran it too.  It makes me feel a bit lazy to think of all that she accomplished.  The Resort reports that her brother, Captain Charles Perkins, built the original inn, using wood from his mill in Ogunquit.  Very enterprising indeed.

Room with a view . it’s in the details.

In August of 2016, the Cliff House reopened in its entirely new incarnation.  As a gal in construction I spend a lot of time looking at the details, the intersections between floor and wall, ceiling and soffit, the jigs and jogs that provide interest, but also an opportunity to reveal deficiencies in construction, and poor craftsmanship.  I got down on the floor, looked behind the doors, tested the functionality of the library ladder, the strength of the wrought iron piping that provides the track for the intricate rope screen separating bar from restaurant.  I tried to find fault with the windows and their installation – what is wrong with me?  I could not.  It’s beautifully executed.  The craftsmanship is flawless, and the people here are lovely.

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Gallery at Bald Head Cliff

I am blessed to work for a company – a family – that invests so much in their employees.  This Cliff House retreat was scheduled as a get-away for our Director’s Group.  We could have met at my boss Lisa Wexler’s home.  We do on occasion, and it is lovely there, but she selects locations like this, both as a way to thank us for our hard work, and to take us out of our every day setting.  It does the trick, it makes you feel very present.  So much so, I don’t want to return to my other reality!

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Lisa Wexler . President of Elaine Construction and me.  Cliff House.

Cliff House . 591 Shore Road . Cape Neddick . ME  . 207.361.1000.  To being present.  I recommend you book your visit immediately, and whether you choose to indulge in a fresh cold pressed green juice, or a cleverly crafted cocktail, my guess is you won’t be disappointed.

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Comfort and beauty combine.

Can a rookie house flipper pocket $1 million?

That’s the questions that Jaci Conry of the Boston Globe asked when she interviewed me for her cover story in The Boston Globe Magazine.  On-line today at http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/real-estate/2016/12/30/can-novice-make-million-flipping-homes/WRmD9u24SEpu6Wj5bHV94O/story.html?s_campaign=8315, out in print tomorrow.  Nice way to close out the year, and open 2017.  Time will tell.

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No. 4 . Underway . David L. Ryan Globe Staff Photographer

It’s funny, and interesting to me, the strong emotions that bubble to the surface when the topic of conversation is house flipping.  One reader reprimanded me for driving up the prices in the South End, making properties unaffordable for the average guy or gal.  To this I can only say “I don’t think I am average at all…I’m special, but why wouldn’t I think that?, I’m me”.  Still, I did start with just $15,000., and the price of real estate in the South End was unaffordable for me when I started, it still is, but someday, I hope it will not be.  When I generate enough sweat and tears, when I have pushed through when I would rather have put on a party dress and heels, when all the dust settles, I hope, that I will be one of those lucky few that really owns a home.

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Falla with Micah Viana of Naysa Builders examining Visual Comfort’s Calais Chandelier meant for the bedroom.  David L. Ryan Globe Staff Photographer.

Until then, I plan to continue to make mistakes, share the error of my ways, take pride in doing something right, and well, and in service to these old buildings.  These grand and historic brownstones.  These beautiful, and sometimes broken representations of our city’s history.  To be a part of that, is to be part of something that is bigger than me.  It’s important.

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No. 1 . Charlestown . a working kitchen in the end.  Photo:  Falla

Yes, I could spend less money on the construction, but I choose not to for several reasons – I love design, and like my inexplicable adoration for architects and interior designers, I have a deep appreciation for beautifully crafted things.  Lighting fixtures, sculptural tables, the weight and feel of a door knob in your hand, these things speak to me.  I am drawn to them.  This Quest allows me to be near people and things that inspire me.  This Quest allowed me to fly to Paris and hunt down that mid-century modern sputnik chandelier in the flee market.

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Mid-Century Madness.  Italian Sputnik via Le Marche aux Puces . Paris.  So beautiful I want to cry.  Photo:  Carly Gillis Photography

It gave to me an amazing trip with my dear friend Tiffany who shares my obsession with travel, and fashion, and home improvement, and design.  Experiences like that keep me warm at night.  The second reason I invest in these buildings has to do with a sense of stewardship for them.  I believe one should always endeavor to leave something or someone, a little better than before they knew you.

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Property No. 2 . Milford Street.  Photo:  Carly Gillis Photography

To the gent that asked:  “Who needs all this renovation aggravation, why not just marry someone that owns a lot of property?”  I can only say….”now why didn’t I think of that?”

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Property No. 3 . Waltham Street . Photo:  Carly Gillis Photography

On this last day of the year, I encourage you all to do it your way, and own it.  Good-bye 2016.  You’ve been a good one.

The Colors of the Adriatic

The varied colors of the sea are as difficult to recreate in a room as it is for a painter to replicate the movement and shadow, the darkness its depth creates, and the pure lightness of the sun’s rays on the crest of a wave.  Perhaps that’s why I find it so mesmerizing.  Or it could be that it’s the land of the beautiful people.  I mean draw droppingly beautiful.  Young, old, and those closer to my age, they are all fit, tall, and open.  It’s startling, it’s hypnotizing, it’s lovely.

Here in Croatia the sea is crystal clear.  The salt content is so high that algae won’t bother to snuggle into the nocks and cronies of the ocean floor.  Sharks won’t carve a path to this locale, and one can float without much effort at all, baking in the sun like a pancake on a griddle.  Careful now, you will sizzle – it’s that hot, but the water is cool.  So much cooler than the Mediterranean, that if you are like me, you’ll be prone to screech upon entry.  Funny, just a few days later, I’ve acclimated.  I’ve always been highly adaptable, but here it really takes no effort at all.  You just relax into it. boat 6

The textures and colors of Hvar and Croatia in general make for an alluring color palette, a tactile sensation.  Between the deep blue of the sea, more aqua along the coastline, the bleached rocky limestone shore and cliffs, with all their jagged edges, and molten curves, curtesy of the sea’s salty air, and the Bora a fierce wind that kicks up when the cold air of the mountains meets the warm air of the sea, the white stone beaches, the dark green of the scrub pines, the sage of the olive trees, and vineyards (Hvar produces some amazing red wine), the lavender fields, and the pale blue of the sky above – it’s beyond.

The Croatian’s say that it is beauty you get bored of, but it’s this kind of breathless beauty that I would be willing to test their theory on.

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Splendid: It’s in the details

I love to travel.  Oh I’ve had my fair share of inconveniences, delayed planes, missed ferries, lost luggage.  I remember a time fondly, when I was detained in China, passport taken – presumably for safekeeping, though very little was communicated to us – and left for 24 hours in a hotel room.  I had no visa, so no actual right to be there, but had missed my connecting flight to Vietnam.

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Isn’t that coral glorious?

When I did arrive I learned a thing or two about travel.  First, time is perceived in wildly different ways around the world.  Itineraries are loose guidelines and not permitted to get in the way of adventure.  If you were expecting to start your trip in the Northern region of the country and instead you land in Saigon – you’ve been given the gift of seeing things a little differently.  Train only has one track that everyone must share – be kind – be thoughtful – wait your turn. You’re asked to sample the local cuisine and think to yourself…is it a grasshopper, an eel, some indiscernible meat…as long as it didn’t find its way to you via a street vendor – be polite – try it – prepare to be surprised and perhaps also delighted.

Travel is supposed to be at times hugely uncomfortable, a little frightening, and most definitely frustrating.  If we weren’t made to be pushed outside our carefully packaged existence, how would we know for what we’re capable of?  Where would our very best stories come from?

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A built-in that accommodates a chair…love at first sight.

For me, some of my greatest inspirations came from traveling to foreign lands.  Naturally I find my imagination is sparked by architecture and interiors, but comes too from the color of the water.  The South China Sea so vastly different than the Aegean.  The ruffled leaf on a plant, a spikey fruit, the smooth ballast stones that line a dusty Roman Street.

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Table with a view.

In just 10 days, I’ll be off to experience a whole host of inconveniences, gastronomic wonders, cultural disconnects and humane gestures, humidity so thick you can cut it with a knife, the crisp prickly sensation of Dalmatian salt drying on cool skin, and with absolute certainty – architectural splendors.  First Stop Venezia.

Tucked under the eaves never felt so cozy, the simple molding makes the space special.  Rich purple accents, front and center on the headboard, and peaking out from behind the curtain tie the rooms accent color in beautifully.