Co-opting roommates: the co-living fad

Being in the real estate industry, I attend loads of conferences where “tech” and “disrupt” are like contestants in a spelling b, spitting out words as fast as their little minds can organize them, when the appropriate combination of letters are assembled, Silicon Valley comes a knockin’.  Long exposed to the concept of Co-working – Co-living was new-ish to me, and it definitely caught my attention.

I read quite a few articles about this new trend, the majority of which bashed it for not being new at all.  You’ve heard of roommates before, haven’t you?  That’s not a new concept.  You may even have heard of Boarding Houses or single gender hotels of old, places that a single women or man, traveling from far afoot to NYC for the very first time, could go, stay, be with other singles, build friendships, and live in a city that they otherwise knew no one.  Pretty good idea.  So what makes this Co-living thing any different?  Good question.

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I have no issues with millennials.  In fact, as I said in my speech last week when I received my volunteer of the year award, I’ve learned that I really do love them, so much so that I wish I were one of them.  Now, admittedly part of this desire comes from my shear jealously over their youth, but it’s more than that.  They are technically saavy, they are entreprenureal, they are open to ideas, and if I have learned anything along the way, reinvention is critical to survival.  In the olden days that was called “adaptation”.  You see how we just created something new and hip, out of something old and staide?  That’s what Co-living is all about.

My ears perked up because as a flipper, and a non-liquid one at that, I move a lot.  I often need temporary quarters to reside between purchases.  I’ve lived with friends, a situation that might be classified as “roommates”.  I’ve slept on sofa’s at family members homes, I’ve lived in furnished Air B-n-B’s, and short term leased, furnished properties.  If you mooge all of those together – Co-living seems to take shape.  Not so dissimilar to the popular rental “communities” that are popping up all over Boston.  Swimming pools, pool parties, wine tastings, common rooms for working and play, fitness, coffee, concierge services of all kinds.  I’ve written about my experience living at the Ink Block in Boston’s South End.  Were it not for the kindness of friends, away in Europe for 4 months, I would likely be there right now.  It was the easiest living that I have ever experienced.  It is like living in a hotel.  So what does Co-living have that Ink Block doesn’t?  I’m glad you asked.

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Owned by National Development, the Ink Block concept – build a community and they will come, was a home run for Ted Tye and company.  Common, pushes around the edges of this concept by offering furnished apartments, bedrooms within units, with roommates that you don’t know until you arrive.  Sort of like college.  All the amenities that you have come to expect within these “communities” exist.  The “members” have some extra benefits that you don’t find at a traditional leased property – house cleaning.  Yes, you get maid service.  Once a week a light clean, once a month a deep clean.  You can walk into your new home with a tooth brush, a carry-on, and your kindle and make yourself at home.  Every last item you need to live is already there, down to the face cloth and the dust mop.  You can stay for one night, one week, month, year or more.  It’s entirely up to you, and by the way, your fee includes all the bills you might otherwise pay in an apartment.  Brilliant – I would love to stop paying all those pesky bills and reliquish the responsibility to my Commune-leader.  If this is a cult, I want to join it.

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Not this kind of like minded community.  The other kind.

With all of the negatives that were bandied about in the articles I read, I didn’t hear mention of the “gig-economy”.  Growing in popularity, there will come a time when contract employees make up the majority of the workforce.  There are challenges that come along with that – think health care, and oy vey – sexual harrassement laws which archaically only provide recourse for FT employees – but there is tremendous freedom too.  Why not try out six different cities in as many months before you decide where you want to live?  Why not indeed.

San Pancho Retreat

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I often feel like an arrow.  While I am clear on the target I’m intent on hitting, it requires a pulling back, a pause, a refocused effort – a collection, a reflection, a question.   Each time I sell, and prepare to buy again, the arrow quivers just a little less in its trajectory.  This period of retreat is important to me, it keeps me grounded, it allows me to feel what I am doing, and prepares me to return, fortified for battle.

I closed on Halloween, rolled my suitcase and a bag down 8 blocks to my sister’s house and left the following morning for Mexico.  San Pancho is a quiet little town on the West Coast, not far from Puerto Vallarta.  I smile when I think of that city because it reminds me of The Love Boat, Captain Stubing who I actually waited on at Thompson’s Clam Bar in my hometown of Harwich, MA, in the nineties.  I would watch The Love Boat and the Fantasy Island with Mrs. McLaughlin, while I was babysitting on Saturday night’s.  The Love Boat always visited Puerto Vallarta.  If Puerto V is the big city, San Pancho is the outback.  Tucked away in the shadow of Sayulita whose popularity has grown since I visited 10 years ago.  Tucked into a bay, it became famous for its surfing, and art community, and the undeniable hipness of its inhabitants and visitors.  San P is its humble, quiet sister whose beauties and mysteries unfold with the passing days, and her softly spoken “buenos dias”.

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Life here is simple.  You need not guess at a person’s motivation.  It’s beauty is juxtaposed with its grittiness.  The dirt roads, and cobblestones, that are as likely to have a horse and donkey meandering through them as a honking car or motor bike.  Absent are the rules and regulations that we organize our lives and priorities so carefully around in the States.  Construction sites spill out into the street with nary a barricade or warning in site.  It seems to say – “live free or die” without saying it at all, which really is a good lesson, regardless of where you live.  Pride, and family, and preparation, and gratitude are in abundance.  I think of my old yoga coach who would tell me to “try easy”.  I push so hard, so forcefully.  San Pancho allows you to pull back.

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Here I have retreated.  I have risen, and pushed, and pealed back, and exposed all of my flaws and insecurities to a people that will not judge me, because judgement is not part of their lexicon.  I have lived under a GMO Free Zone for just a short time and the elegance, simplicity and vitality of the food has restored me.

I rose early, practiced hard, explored my artistic side, experienced the beauty of Gisella and Calista’s carefully curated hotel – rustic and refined, thoughtfully designed, suitably pancho.  More and more, square foot, by square foot, I gain an appreciation for the artistic talent of others – even when the style is not my own.  Hotel Ciele Rojo is exceptionally well executed, but those words do it an injustice – it’s designed with heart, and you feel the love when you are here.

Visit, and tell them I sent you.

Moving Day

Yesterday I moved.  I did it without fanfare, anxiety, or anticipation.  I just did it.  I made the call to Humboldt Moving and Storage who have steadfastly supported me throughout this quest.  I packed my boxes in-between the dozens of events I’ve had over the last few weeks.  Tossed the clothes, donated the books, re-gifted, re-cycled, re-peated all the things required of someone moving, for the 8th time in 10 years.  It no longer feels special.  It feels mechanical.  Even the hunt, which has always been one of my most favorite activities – seems less exciting.

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It’s a wrap.

Is it the fact that there are so few properties on the market?  Is it the fact that the stocks are being batted around like a ping pong ball being hit by a pale blue Tiffany Paddle (it’s true – they have these – I just saw it advertised for the person who has everything – good golly!  If I was gifted such a thing I’d feel compelled to encase it in a lucite frame and design a room around it.  Suffice it to say, that I am not in danger of having this happen, and you are not in danger of having to witness it.)

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See…there they are in all their Tiffany Blue glory.

So what is dampening my enthusiasm?  Number 5 should feel like a milestone – half way to my quest.  Is it that I am not half way to my financial goal of $1M.  I say this and fail to scowl as I envision Mike Meyers with his pinkie finger poised at the corner of his mouth….one million dollars – as if that were a lot of money.  But it is a lot of money to me, and I imagine to many of you, and that does make me smile.  Am I making more money for the people associated with the process than I am making for myself?  Is the only way to do this, to do it on the cheap.  I rail against that realism, and steadfastly refuse.  I am interested in design.  I want to create beautiful spaces.  I believe that the beauty of them is not skin deep, that proper wiring, sound structure, solid doors, and working plumbing are all beautiful – even though, like a problem child, they are only given any attention when they are acting up.  I know, and work hard to leave what lies below, better than when I found it.  This costs money.  I wouldn’t want to do it any other way.

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Adios pretty pastel kitchen.

This is an important time.  I have four months to find a place or I’ll be forced to rent.  Four months of living out of a suitcase, and by the kindness of friends.  Four months to figure out if a need to move into another that I own, invest in a rental with friends, find a suburban property that I can flip for the cameras.  It’s a lot to consider, and I have never before had to consider so many options without a clear answer.

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Sayonara!

Advise welcome.  Happy Sunday.

Shine on You Crazy Diamond: star worthy finishes

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Lime Wash . Skipping Stone.  Gives that traditional, relaxed feel.

For the love of the craft.  Jamie and Casey Davis –  brothers, and founders of Portola Paints and Glazes have an eye for architecture and for color.  I think it’s cool that their Dad was a high-end builder, their appreciation for craftsmanship and artistry growing from this exposure.  Each taking it in their own direction – one as a fine artist, the other a photographer, before coming together to start Portola.  Even the name is cool, but I would expect nothing less from a company based in Cali.

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They are so right.  Bedroom, Powder Room, Front Entry – if London’s Sketch can do it – I can too.

Undoubtably these California roots fed their knowledge and respect for sustainability.  Their paints, glazes, clays and washes are almost entirely green.  All the acrylics are zero VOC’s though their enamels do contain low levels,  out of necessity – shhh.

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Roman Clay Finish – the combo of dull and shiny is sexy.

They make them here in the good old USA, they hand mix them (quality control at its finest)  and even hand paint the sample decks before mailing them out to you.  From smooth to textured, pearlescent to trowel finished, they marry old world tradition with sustainable tech and innovation.  Paints that take on the appearance of patinated copper and aged iron, to the weathered lime washed wonder of the Mediterranean.

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Note that slightly textured finish – Sandstone…who knew.

They offer up the look of Venetian plaster in the form of their Roman Clay – though buyer be ware – this is trowel or putty knife applied, so the skill of the craftsman WILL make a difference.  The last thing you want is to pay a lot of loot and have it look like porridge.  Oy vey.  This is for a property yet to be known to me, but it remains a happy visitor in my rich fantasy life where at the end of all this flipping I’ve become flush with cash and fame (not likely) and have the money to buy a home the size of at least three of my tiny flips put together.  That Roman Clay will adorn the walls of the entry, and be the wow I’ve been waiting for.

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Lime Washed Moodiness.

Until then, I am intrigued, though admittedly a little nervous about their semi-gloss and sandstone finish paints.  These have a slightly textured surface.  They show the brushstrokes and give the impression of a silk fabric – albeit a slight one.  It interests me still, particularly when I consider how it might look side-by-side with a high gloss.  They carry a hybrid enamel, which I envision on a ceiling, the moldings, base and/or door, and juxtaposed against this slightly textured sandstone wall.  Too much shine, too many hard surfaces, too much perfection is simply uninteresting.  Appreciation grows when juxtaposed.  I’m so clever with my rhyming today, don’t you think?

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HAND Painted.

Two final things that will have me stepping out on my boyfriend Ben (Moore that is, and not my real boyfriend) support and pride in, and for the small business owner, they really do make our world go round, and the luscious names they have assigned to their pretty little palette….El Mirage, Fountain Stone, Blue Moon, Sweet Water, Gypsy Eyes, Sayulita (a place that I’ve been and loved), Magic Potion, Show time and Simmer Down.

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These guys….hero’s of tradition.

I could just drown in those lovely names.  Happy Sunday.

STEELING the SHOW: Hope’s windows and doors

Founded in 1912 in Jamestown, NY, Hope’s windows and doors are synonymous with – well – style.  They are both modern and traditional, East Coast and West, industrial and refined.  Now pulling all these styles off simultaneously is a feat to be sure, but somehow they do it.

First introduced to me as the standard of MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), they fit the industrial bill for the Institute that refers to themselves as “the corporation”, and where technological innovation is housed within concrete and limestone corridors, topped by “The  – famed – Dome” – site of so many clever and newsworthy hacks.  As you stroll through the corridors of this venerable institution, you are rewarded with what seems to be a never ending array of Hope’s Doors and Windows that frame out the corridors, capturing moment after moment of brilliant innovation – the doors themselves standing as an apt example of superior craftsmanship and elegance.  The simplicity of their design, coupled with their sleek lines, make them a fitting compliment for all that is conceived and executed within those walls.

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Sleek and refined, yet traditional.

But then I spied them in a NYC West Village apartment, and later a California cool hacienda, and finally a modern addition to a traditional brownstone in Boston.  Why not, they fit beautifully into all these regions, markets, and architectural styles.

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A touch of industrial in the kitchen.

Three times stronger than aluminum, and sixteen times stronger than wood, hot rolled steal is built to last.  It’s strength can support maximum weights from glass with the leanest profiles, combining beauty and strength.  Naturally they cost more, but they last far longer, and add distinction as they are handcrafted.  For this same reason you must be patient – lead times can be in excess of 5 months, so a commitment is required.  Some day, I will have a nest that is permanent and I will have my Hopes.

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Through the looking glass.

Happy Saturday.

Pretty Pairings: Painted wood meets natural finish

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Wood paneling at the Parister Hotel.

I’m not sure where I first saw it, but if I had to guess I would say it was in some hip hotel.  Hotel design has the luxury of being daring.  Guests like to see something different than what they might put in their own home, and since they won’t be looking at it all the time, they are less likely to grow tired of it.  Which begs the question – is high gloss painted wood, accented with natural wood something that I would grow tired of in my own home.

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The most beautiful detail….nyc.

This, I think, is something I am willing to try.  First of all, I won’t be there for that long, so how sick of it could I possibly get?  Second, as long as the millwork is crafted by a real expert, I am likely to admire it ….. forever.  There is something about the juxtaposition of these two finishes that is appealing to me.

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perfect pairings.

In small spaces you don’t have much opportunity to make statements, and one must be careful that the statement you make isn’t over the top.  This treatment would accomplish that.  I particularly like the paneled wall, though I could see how paneling the ceiling might be cool too.  If you have a fear of putting holes in the wall – this may not be for you.  It can be hard for some to make a puncture wound in what is in essence of piece of artwork in its own right.  If you have a lot of art and want to display it, taking up limited surface area might be a luxury you can’t afford.

See how the eye is drawn to those o

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See how the eye is drawn to the doors.

My favorite compromise is to paint the exterior casings and moldings of a built in, leaving the shelves and interior in the natural wood.  It feels sublimely refined.  So for No. 5, I plan to find a way to incorporate this detail into the mix.

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By bringing the natural stained wood to cap the banister columns and accent the base the stair is made that much more interesting.

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.