Fit to Be Trimmed

If you’ve ever had custom curtains made for your home you have likely come to understand, on a deep and abiding level, the metaphor “You could have knocked me over with a feather”. The cost of that to-die for fabric, the labor associated with nipping, tucking, pleating, pressing and detailing the curtains in a way that only the top 1 percenters (those with the keenest of design eyes) will recognize, is breath-taking. As in you will be robbed of the very oxygen that keeps you alive, and will be required to find alternative means for funding your children’s higher education.

Prone to hyperbole I am, but in this case, I am NOT. It’ll be curtains for your dream vacation or any vacation for a long time to come if you happen to have a home with many windows that need to be clothed. That is if you go the custom route.

Nobody wants to feel, or for that matter, and perhaps more honestly, others to think, that you cheaped out. That’s the worst, and you need not feel that way at all, if only you are willing to do a little leg work. Off the shelf curtains abound. Stay away from cheap synthetics, seek out natural fibers, backed by heavy cotton so they’ll hang from your fenestration like a Fendi gown on a famous actress. Once the gown has been selected, I like the offerings at Restoration Hardware. They are well made, come in an abundance of lengths and shades, and offer the perfect backdrop for the final flourish – the trim. Here’s where you’ll make a splash. Whether baubles or glass beads are your thing, pom-poms, or the clean classic look of a key fret, you’ll find a wild array of offerings to express your individuality that will be anything but standard.

Lose Farther and Faster

I lost three properties in a seven day span. Mary Oliver would be proud of me, the Art of Losing isn’t really hard to do at all, not when you practice as I do. It does require a special quality nonetheless that I call “detached investment”. You can’t get cavalier about what you choose to bid on just because you may not be successful in your quest to obtain it. No, you need to tip toe across a tightrope – not quite a forever property but a property that you are going to spit, polish and shine into something for which you can be proud, not regretful. You can’t fall victim to your competitive instincts to win, if that winning isn’t keeping pace with reality. How much work does it need? How easy will it be to build it? Will permits or variances or condo approvals be required? If you are starting to get a headache, good. It will dissipate nearly as soon as you stop reading this, but if you win that bid for a property in which you overpaid and underestimated what it was going to take to convert it, well you better get accustomed to living with it.

This post is not meant to dissuade you from the hunt, just to keep you from the buyers remorse that some people may be feeling right this second. Three flights up a narrow, uneven staircase, the unit without air conditioning when we are moments away from sleepless nights, damp sheets and the always precarious installation of an in-window unit with its awkward distribution of weight, sharp edges, and need for two people to execute what should be a solo effort. Enough about that. You get the point. You don’t want to be that “guy”.

Continue the hunt does, and it does offer something exciting even if that something isn’t a win. I love the process of imaging how I will design these spaces and get pretty far along in the process between the offer and the verdict before ball up the trace paper and make a three point attempt from outside the paint toward the circular file. It’s not an entire loss, while every property has its quirks which lend themselves to particular furnishings layouts, art placement, lighting schemes and the like, color palettes can travel from property to property with relative ease.

Melinda Headrick . Owner and Principal Designer

I was super excited to learn that Chatham Interiors is coming to Boston, and not just anywhere in the city, but on the very same street that I currently live. Melinda Headrick is both the Owner and Principal Designer. I have frequented her two shops on Main Street in Chatham for years. I consider my style to be a happy cross pollination between Melinda (her first shop) which is all about sophisticated elegance and TA . TA, a younger, hipper, poppier aesthetic for those that have money.

Those striped pillows – available at TA.DA

Melinda is a beautiful designer, and offers an array of options for accessing her talent. Full design services aren’t for everyone as it can be prohibitive for those working with tight budgets. There are virtual consultations and room by room options with the extra added benefit of having them order and track all your purchases for you, ensuring they arrive at your home. Ah the possibilities, keep bidding, keep believing, keep on dreaming.

On Point . AKDO x Jill Rosenwald . Fort Point Collection

A Twist on an old classic. 5 x 5’s shown in Harbor and Salty with an undulating surface that shines.

When it comes to the tried and true lovers of blue, Mark Sikes and Summer on the Coast seem to love these hues the most. As the days get warmer my excitement for the sand, sea, light linens, and fresh cut flowers outpace our New England weather. No worries, as the temperature bounces around like the metal ball in a pin ball machine I’ll be planning my next summer home renovation for a home I don’t yet own, in a place I am not entirely exists, with a fervor that defies all reason. It will be fueled by Jill Rosenwald’s new line of tiles entitled, Fort Point – the name of the section of the city in which her eponymous pottery shop resides, and from whence her inspiration is derived.

In partnership with AKDO, a NYC dealer of luxury tile and stone, Jill created a small but mighty line of tiles that are both an ode to our revolutionary ways, our coastal location, our love of tea and hatred of taxes. I for one often feel that I have a little revolt in me, adore tea, am calmed by the sea and salt water, and hate taxes as much as the next hot blooded American, so would feel a kinship with the tile even if I were blind, which I am not. They are gorgeous.

Sublime elegance in the elongated subway tile. You can never go wrong with this selection.

Five colors, two patterns, two sizes, endless inspiration. Hello Sailor, you had me at navy blue stripes. Is there anything that is more quintessentially nautical than that. Don’t answer, or do, I won’t hear you argue with me. It’s the number one, number one, plus it’s very French, which makes me adore it even more. Brushy and Flora the two patterns are simple yet inspired. The color palette which includes Hello Sailor, Tea Party, Harbor, Salty and Wharf is serene and cheerful. Whether you are rinsing off in a cool shower after a hot, sandy day at the beach or prepping chilled margarita’s and a mint, feta and watermelon salad in your sublimely tiled kitchen, this tile will offer you a safe harbor.

Refined meets easy breezy.

I think I will go in search of a wallcovering to place in a nook inside my imaginary pantry for good measure. Aren’t you just begging for an invitation?

Dream in Color

Carissa of A Bold New Hue

Not everyone can make you wish you could pull off pink hair. Some people just have that flare about them. They ooze creativity, and that creativity won’t stay in its lane. It’s nothing short of fantastic. From the pretty pink painted toe that slips into a leopard velvet flat, mixes high and low, texture and print, color and pattern like a tornado swirling around her petite frame, her style is a centrifugal force pulling you in. Instead of reemerging with a tumbleweed on her head, Carissa looks like she’s ready for tea with the Cheshire Cat in Alice and Wonderland. I am left wondering alright – how does she mix and match the full spectrum of pattern and texture with the colors of the rainbow?

An Interior Designer she is not. Not in the classic sense that is, but classic is so last century. Creativity is all about breaking the rules so why would one let a degree get in the way, I ask you? Knowing that I have loads of followers that are in fact Interior Designers – in the classic sense, and being a lover of education i would never disrespect a degree. I do wonder if you applaud or disdain the untrained. Please do weigh in.

Note the Van Gough Style Painting and the way she pulls the color palette straight from the artwork.

Trained or not, Carissa’s style, while not for everyone, is a master class in the complex layering of hue, color blocking and pattern. I suspect that my next statement will cause some of you to become red-faced and argumentative, but an entire room in a series of whites, off-whites, ecru, and pale cream is safe, formulaic and predictable. It screams lack of self-confidence in either the owner or the designer or both. Of course it works together, its tonal, but I dare you to tell me it wows.

Again see the painting for color inspo. Black is always a welcome and grounding addition to a room. Check out the mix of patterns, leopard is practically a neutral and works well with the curtains. She didn’t miss a texture beat either with the sofa and rug.

Quirkiness is part of her charm and evident in her design aesthetic, the naming of her animals – a cat named Hot Dog, a dog named Waffle and another named Queso. Her irreverent, funny, and educational Instagram posts, and her willingness to share some of the tricks of the fashion and graphic design trades that have helped her excel in the world of interiors.

If maximalist style isn’t your thing you can still test the waters with color.

Reinvention is the catchphrase of the 21st century. I applaud Carissa, want to take one of her design classes, Zoom her into my living room for a strategy session all the way from Dallas, and thank her for pointing out a few color hacks that will have you building your own color confidence. Select a favorite piece of art, a scarf, or something straight out of nature and start playing.

Catastrophic Construction Costs

I feel comfortable admitting to you that I am getting pretty jiggy without my usual renovation fix to carry me through. While I generally do a darned good job hiding from the news, it’s evident that several things are happening that are going to put the kibosh on, if not my hunting efforts, at least the actuality of a purchase and potential renovation. You see, my desire to do it, even if it’s not good for me is so inexplicably compelling that I may need to be held down. I think it’s fitting that I riff on Oliver Hazard Perry’s famous sentiment when I say, “I have met the enemy and it is me”. Hazard indeed.

Timing is everything.

In the News external problem No. 1: interest rates are going up. I did search for a property with a renewed fervor from the start of the year, knowing what The Fed was up to, and hoping that I could get a property under agreement prior to the first rate hike scheduled for sometime in March 2022. I did not succeed. You see I have my own internal problems that are reeking havoc on my ability to buy. I was burned on my last property, not badly, not a third degree burn or anything as serious as that, but enough to be cautious in this heated market. There were two one bedroom properties that I loved, one of them I made an offer on, but many others wanted it more. A whole lot of cash makes its way to our city and it’s not my kind of cash, it’s the kind of cash that doesn’t bother to consider interest rate hikes because they don’t subject themselves to them. Damn you cash buyers – I hope to be you someday!

Peace really is the best answer.

In the News external problem No. 2: war. This is a heartbreaking injustice on so many fronts. Lives lost, upheaval, displacement, nations aligning as the dark curtain of divisiveness is drawn across the globe. This type of unrest does not scream optimistic time to buy. My second problem stems from my age and the volatility of the markets. I’m losing big when by all rights I should be sliding into stabilizing stocks or bonds or whatever will carry me into retirement.

They always say, don’t gamble money you don’t have to lose.

External Problem No. 3: Supply Chain and let’s go ahead and throw in labor resource challenges while we’re at it, and combine it with my own internal issue – I can’t leave even the best of properties alone. I have to have it my way. I have to rip and tear, tweak and squeak it into my own version of perfection and that is going to cost you in this market, I don’t care how patient you are, which I am not at all, it will cost you. What a pickle I’m in. If you’ve got any advise at all, now is the time to give it.

Favor the Flavor of Dolly

The Graduate Hotel . Nashville Main Lobby

“It Costs a Lot of Money to Look This Cheap” or so the neon sign reads in the Dolly Parton 9 – 5 Suite of Nashville’s Graduate Hotel, but it could have been the design ethos for the entire property. I mean this in the most deferential way, because I adore it. It’s an ode to Vanderbilt University – all Graduate Hotels, there are twelve of them nationwide, are located near and inspired by a University, but it’s so much more. Nashville looms large in the design, and if you weren’t educated on country music before you arrived, you will be when you’re ready to leave.

The design is led by the Graduate’s in-house luminary and Chief Creative Officer, Andrew Alford. A man after my own heart, he was told by his first employer that he didn’t have the imagination to be a proper designer. A ‘no’ to Andrew is a challenge that neither he, nor I could refuse, and look where that got him. I’m hoping it will take me to a similarly fabulous place with a pink room, a crystal chandelier, a powder room papered in punchy pattern, where my perfectly polished Swarovski stilettos never hurt and make me appear ten to fifteen pounds thinner than I actually am. Just you watch me, I’ll get there too.

The property is a museum of curiosities that will allow you to keep learning overtime. Hidden gems, layered meaning, moments of surprise and delight are tucked in among the gaudy but gorgeous statement pieces that are there precisely to be noticed. The mega Minnie Pearl art installation that greets you at reception is a loud and enthusiastic southern welcome. The bubble gum pink Dolly Parton sculpture is a showstopper on the rooftop pool just outside the White Limozeen Bar.

Dolly may have one particular suite that is clearly all about her, with a wallcovering that features her face, a shag carpet that is filled with feathers, a king-sized water bed with mirrored ceiling and disco ball to remind you that life should be fun. The Jolene Suite features chintz and pink striped walls offset by a navy sitting room for entertaining.

I’d venture to say that it just might be possible to have the best time you’ve ever had in your life, without ever leaving this hotel, and in Nashville, that’s one tall order to fill. Don’t forget to stop by and belt out a note or two with the mechanical singing pigs.

Something to See Here!

Opps: I almost did it again

Look at that molding. Love!

I have a sickness for which I am neither seeking sympathy or a cure. It possesses me even when I attempt to quiet the insistent voices that inquire, “what would you do”? “Go ahead, you know you want to – buy it and show me – show me – show me – what you would do”? Like any honest to god addict I am spending money that I don’t have, and conjuring ways in which to beg, borrow or steal more to feed the habit.

And that working fireplace.

I am a real estate addict, and I broke the cardinal rule. I attended a broker open house, just to have a look. I know I’m not a broker, but you can’t let little details like that get in the way of your obsession. I knew that the unit didn’t have air conditioning. I’ve been driven from a home before because of this issue. Laugh if you want. I stood dripping in sweat as I served my guests perfectly prepared tuna nicoise, and I wasn’t the only one. They too were mopping their brows and made a quick exit to the cool comfort of their own conditioned homes. I abhor being hot, just as much as being cold. That was the other problem with the unit – it had a heating system that was substantially undersized for the volume of the space. Oh those lovely 11′ tall ceilings with moldings that made me cry they were so beautiful. I rued the day I bought you.

I’m not even put off by a tiny kitchen. I prefer it, and am certain I could spent $70K in this little space alone.

You can understand why I said not again, no, ney, never, but a little look just to satisfy my curiosity couldn’t hurt – it did after all say in the ad that deck rights were penned into the condo docs. I could add a deck, and then introduce an entirely new heating and cooling system. Those baseboard electric heaters would have to go. Expensive and ugly – of course not as expensive as installing a whole new system. Even in these inflationary times the payback on energy consumption might take as long as ten years, and we all know I can’t sit still for that long.

A Room With A View.

The bathroom needed to be gutted, the kitchen needed to be gutted, but she had good bones. She was on the Parlor Level, and was wide. Her purple kitchen was tiny, tucked as it was under the buildings stairs, but had an adorable tray ceiling. Clear the slate, install wood cabinets with a natural rich dark grain and add brass hardware, and a black marble top – yes black. Don’t argue with me it’s going to be gorgeous. Inlay the ceiling with mirrored glass, and a statement fixture, throw in a butterfly sink, and lay the floor in black and white marble tile that will be carried into the hall just off the living room. That flooring would have to go too, when you rip out all that baseboard heat you’ll leave holes all over the place, and its not original. It’s oak. I’ve always wanted a hemlock herringbone floor – this would most certainly be the time to do it. That door that would lead from the bedroom out onto the tiniest deck – new City of Boston requirements for depth wouldn’t even accommodate a hearty American teenage boys full length, but those doors, they would be French, steel, divided light. All the closets in the bedroom would have to go. An unfortunate choice to have made when they were installed the first time. The bath – gut. A glass shower installed in it’s place. Good-bye to the wallcovering from another era altogether.

I am strangely attracted to this bath. It’s happy. It does have a window and baths with windows couldn’t be anything but.

The man who owned the property had lived there for forty years – God rest his sole. It was impeccable, preserved, loved even. His art and mid-century modern furnishings to be admired. I want to believe he was happy there, even if he was hot. Maybe it’s for the best that I not be the one to buy it. I’m a hundred thousand in and I haven’t even signed an offer to purchase. Some days I long to be the buyer that will move right in, leave it exactly as it is, and be blissfully happy. All this desire and desperate want is a pain – even if it is one I cannot imagine living without.

Distinctive Excellence: The making of an icon

My first love. Mies van der Rohe . Barcelona Chair . 1948.

Iconic pieces hold value. Trends do not. I was attempting to explain this to my Brother-in-Law who is embarking on a fairly significant renovation, along with my sister, of their LES apartment. A lifelong resident of Manhattan, Andy has an appreciation for art – fine, film, not food per se, but most definitely the musical arts, and culture. His interest in pop, international, historic/ancient, make him a fairly typical New Yorker, which is to say, very well versed in a whole lot of things, that most people know nothing about. If I am being nice about it I’d say it is likely due to the fact that it doesn’t sit on their doorstep waiting to be consumed as it does in NYC.

Marcel Breuer . Cesca Chair . 1928 tubular steel frame provides flex and comfort.

With all this intellectual sophistication it’s not that he doesn’t know logically that if you purchase a Renoir it is not going to depreciate the moment you walk it out of the Christie’s Auction House – at least I hope that’s the way in which you’d find yourself acquiring it. Of course there are other ways. I prefer to inherit my art, but if I do, I want it to be any one of the most famous impressionists. They knew how to turn a swirl of paint into a pot of gold. I would happily inherit a Mies Van der Rohe, a Saarinen, an Eames, or a Platner right along with that piece of art, but here is where we two differ. I can tell that Andy is skeptical of my assertion that these iconic designer’s furnishings are of real value. “Why not simply get a knock off”? he asks.

Charles Eames . Lounge Chair . 1956. This is the definition of fitting like a glove.

All this got me thinking about what makes something move from a trend, to a classic, to iconic. What made this fashion of a time, fifties design move beyond the three year mark, into classic territory? Design excellence, detailing, simplicity and ingenuity combined. How did they turn a formed piece of fiberglass known for its toughness into a sensuous slide that you could sleep on for hours? The angular tilt of the Barcelona Chair is a piece of sculpture in its own right, its design – like that of a master artist, a showcase of understanding of the human form. The materials, the detailing, assembly and execution are why these pieces are revered, and why they hold their value.

Give me a bouquet of Tulips any day. Eero Saarinen . Tulip Chairs and Iconic Saarinen table. 1957.

I’m all about the high and low, but if you can afford one iconic piece instead of ten from Room & Board, I’d remind myself that I can only sit in one chair at a time, and if I had to choose one, I want it to be the very best.

Making too much into just enough

43 Hiawatha Road . Harwich Port . MA

Running my weekend errands typically includes a round of open houses, whether I’m in the money or feeling closer to the skids, looking costs nothing, and the education one receives is priceless. It’s like the equivalent of getting a masters degree from your public library. And I so love to learn.

FYI . Mice love that Homasote Ceiling. It’s like paper-mache.

While I wish I could attribute my bout of dizziness to the head-swirling prices for which homes are on offer, I cannot, but metaphorically speaking, I’m reeling. I visited a vessel on a “close” to tony little street, who takes its name Hiawatha, from its adjacency Nantucket Sound, and the Iroquois Indian Tribe. “He makes Rivers” gives some mean to the list price of this 3200sf vessel of a home, but doesn’t fully account for its cost. At $1.5M, boasting 7 bedrooms and 3.5 baths, one might get an all together different impression of what is being hocked here, but as my father likes to say: “People loved to be fooled.” It is after all how most of us get into the beautiful messes we get into. The “had I known what I was getting myself into, I never would have done it” laments, are the ones most likely to categorically change you as a person, and who among us couldn’t use an overhaul?

Whoa . This “refresh” is baffling to me.

This property would need just that. I recklessly threw a $600K price tag on the renovation, and that was for something that wouldn’t be at all high-end. What do I know about costs? I’m not an estimator, I having little to nothing to do with supply chain issues unless you count my chase for toilet paper in every megastore and outpost from Boston to Orleans expertise, but I have ears. It’s incredibly difficult to get anything from kitchen appliances to labor for construction and even my tenth grade math class, or was it history? taught me the laws of supply and demand. I’d like to demand a reinstatement of sanity, but I am afraid no one will listen, still the renos to this modest Cape home will cost you.

Love the wall paneling, but don’t think it can be saved.

Constructed in 1948, aside from a somewhat laughable kitchen refresh in the form of a veneer of glass and subway tiles, it appears to be a perfect specimen of a time capsule. Those seven bedrooms wouldn’t fulfill the modern day needs of a walk-in closet. The one en-suite bath in what appeared to be the master bed was so small that one would be advised to disrobe before entering to preserve elbows.

Promise of the Fifties.

The warren of tiny rooms would all need to go, though there will be little the next owner can do about the floor to ceiling heights which will give new meaning to “cozy seaside retreat”. Once you’ve stripped away the interior, installing a state of the art HVAC system will become much easer, but it won’t be cheap, and you’ll lose at least three of your seven bedrooms. You won’t be receiving a refund. The good news is, they have an adorable mudroom, just inside the back door, which is likely the place everyone enters as it’s just off the car port,. If they once had a garage it was converted to an in-law apartment, making it possible to recover some of your renovation expense, if you so choose. That mudroom, don’t touch it, when all is said and done. When the floors gleam and the ocean breeze blows through your new Anderson windows into your spacious and airy living room, remembering where you started your journey might just make the investment worthwhile.

Flagstones are a telltale hint of the times – not this time of course.

Mercury Retrograde: Moving backward

Retrograde be damned. I was on a mission.

Whether you believe in Roman Gods, astronomy or other celestial forces at play, I am going to go out on a limb here and say that you’ve probably experienced a strange and frustrating January. Moving forward has seemed impossible, projects all left incomplete, travel anywhere has been trying with the move “back” to mask mandates. I tried to blame this feeling of distraction, an inability to articulate thoughts, or directives, a total lack of focus, on Covid Brain, but I never did have Covid, or I didn’t as far as I know. This makes pointing the finger at Mercury Retrograde incredibly satisfying, comforting even.

I wanted an explanation and I got it in Mercury. While it’s doing laps around earth, it actually appears to move in reverse, though it actually just a trick of the eye. I suspect it’s the same phenomenon that makes the tires on cars in movies spin in reverse is to blame. Mercury was attributed to trickery and travel so it makes perfect sense, and sense is what I am after.

What I did Saturday morning, at the on-set of a blizzard, did not. I found myself in New Hampshire for a book launch party, just a few short miles from a town I had spent a lot of time in over the years. I wanted to go back and visit it, and I very much wanted to pop into one of my favorite antique stores in Bellows Falls, VT, and I did what you should never do during retrograde, I went.

While I did get caught in the blizzard, stuck on a hill in my tiny mini, I made it to the shop, and back to my destination, with a relatively small amount of drama, so I couldn’t stay in the house that we’d rented to stay in. So my hotel was sold out and I thought I might have to sleep in the business center, which had no door. As long as I had a pillow I thought I would be fine, turns out I got a room at a neighboring hotel.

This beautiful French Antique table would be great in an entry with an enormous flower arrangement. $1006.

I didn’t sign any big contracts – thank goodness someone else put in the winning bid on Chandler Street, it could have been a total disaster – I did see some darn fine furniture, some amazing lamps, the most fanciful fun merry-go-round of a horse in a bowler hat, and my heart filled with nostalgia for a place. That should keep me going until we get out of this mess on the third.