Double Take: Cane Wallpaper that'll make you look twice

Drop – NXLX Wallcovering Cane Webbing Collection

We owe a lot to the Greek’s – in door plumbing, the olympics, philosophy, democracy, modern medicine found its way from the Greek exploration into the same. Where would we be today without any of these amazing inventions and conventions. They were also responsible for painting in the form known most commonly today as Trompe-L’oeil – a word that means to deceive the eye. Who was it that said, “people loved to be fooled”? I cannot remember, but it’s true. I supposed it has to do with the element of surprise – that moment that washes over you when you feel young and curious again.

Sheer genius – you’d think if you got close enough you could see through it.

I felt just this way when I saw NLXL’s new wall covering collection entitled: Cane Webbing Wallcovering which they market alongside a complementary wainscoting covering to be featured below your selection. Having just completed a caning project of my own – I hired a company to build me cane front doors for two amoires that were as plain and off the shelf as they come. This wallcovering is anything but! Tricked I was, and though I have yet to see it in person, it looks so authentic, magically making me believe that it has texture and dimension.

Add dimentionality and texture to your space.

So many of the homes I take on have walls, nooks and jogs that are far from attractive. What an opportunity this cane webbing presents to transform the unimaginatively dull, the old, worn, and lackluster – into something truly special.

Why pay the cost to build it when you can roll it on?

I’m absolutely on the edge of my seat with anticipation for No. 6, and Netherlands based NLXL is going to help me do it. Founded in 2010 this company is clearly making a splash. When your work is featured on 5th Avenue, and embraced by the fashion industry – you’re hot. Like the Greek’s whose inspirations have been around for centuries – caning made its debut in the weaving of baskets in ancient China before finding its way to France and other European destinations. From basket to chair, it revolutionized this simple household object, making lighter, and cheaper to make. Esther Viak and Rick Vintage of NLXL found a way to make it new again, and that friends, is what innovation is all about.

Happy Sunday.

Back Splashes that take the spotlight

Orlando Photography showcases the reflective beauty of mirrored glass back splash.

Nary a home renovation magazine exists that doesn’t place the kitchen at the center of any publication. After all, it is the gathering space for most families, the location that guests and friends convene to catch up on the latest gossip over a glass of wine or a hot cup of tea. There is a warmth to the kitchen – a vibrancy, an electric energy that draws people in. It’s one of my favorite places to design and to be in, despite the reality that I am rarely there to cook for myself. It is made all the more special to me, because when I am there, I am preparing meals for friends.

The wood back splash envelopes this kitchen in cozy – and btw it’s one of the best materials to have underfoot when cooking.

I love tile. Manufacturers are always developing new twists on something that could seem, same old, same old. The colors, textures, gloss and matte, metallic, honed and glazed bring a never ending array of twists and trends from which to select, but it’s an ode to the industrial that’s captured my attention of late.

Hello…if that rolled brass back splash doesn’t grab your attention, what will?

When I worked in a kitchen it was not at all unusual for the back splash to be a simple stainless steel sheet, cut to the appropriate proportions, scarred by the fast working, abrasive steel wool cleaning pads, but at turns both tough and beautiful. A few years ago I spied in a magazine an amazing little kitchen with a rolled brass back splash and I knew instantly that one of my projects would include the same. Having seen Jean-Louis Deniot, a brilliant French Interior Designer – I’m not just saying that because he loves the color grey and I feel we’re kindred spirits because of it, but because he so cleverly uses materials – particularly metals – to make his point – having seen his little Parisian kitchen designed with hammered metal cabinets. It was those cabinets that elevated him to the realm of brilliance in my mind, and reminded me that it’s the unexpected that draws in the eye.

Jean-Louis Deniot – starry night.

Using a mirrored back splash does quite the same thing, but so much more. Its reflective properties expand the proportions of space, a decidedly enormous benefit when you are dealing with tiny galley kitchens, little corner nooks, spaces that demand their size not relegate them to an afterthought.

As we launch off into the vast unknown of this new decade, I plan to make a commitment to the unexpected. Why ever would anyone want to be predictable?

Grand Finale: another decade down

I can feel a little Charlie Brown about the end of the year. Oh bother, another one down. In full disclosure – I wrote the text for this cartoon strip, but it’s all Charles Schultz – with all his brilliant insight into the frailty of the human condition. Must we….really…do an accounting? Yes indeed we must.

live the dream?

This decade I sold my very first house. I bought it in the previous decade, but didn’t sell it until 2013, after three extensive renovations, and out of the wreckage of the worst financial crisis in any living person’s memory. It was hard and gritty, nail biting (if I bit my nails, which I don’t), and many a night’s sleep was lost – well over considering the possible loss of my job, my very first house, and a place to store my beloved shoes. Well, you can’t imagine the stress I was under – or at least I hope you can’t.

Gut renovation – circa 17

The decade followed along with the purchase of four more properties and the sale of three others. I experienced roof leaks, ground water surges, heat that didn’t come close to heating, a door that knocked me on the ass every time I entered or departed, leaving me to believe it wasn’t all that happy that I had taken up residence. Sometimes a building issues its objections louder than its residents, though mostly it’s a close contest. No one loves it when you begin construction. They only want it to end – resulting in the increased value of their own – no personal equity having been contributed to the cause.

I made bet after bet after bet, and traveled with my winnings, berating myself when I lost, and hung my head when others said I should have known. If I am leaving this decade with anything – it’s this thing…the amount we don’t know is enormous, the amount we CANNOT know – incredible. I’m in it for the long game, each property a piece in the overall portfolio. Some will be winners, some will be losers. Some of the winners will be due to my skill and experience while others will be pure luck. Some of the losers, I’ll have done absolutely everything right, with the information available to me, and they still won’t net a win. That too will be luck.

I’m sticking to the plan. I’m going to take the wins and the losses, analyze them with a detached clinical scrutiny, and strive to do better in the next decade.

All and new, custom and blue.

Happy New Year’s Eve.

Ever a Feather to Furnish: the sharing economy expands

As someone that moves constantly….well not exactly constantly, but typically every two years, with bursts of increased activity which can result in interim moves of between five and six locations, so pretty serious moving. The idea of living like a millennial, which is to say – someone that takes their sharing versus owning, very seriously, is appealing. The freedom that goes along with a rental is, well liberating, particularly if that rental can’t be stuffed into one of two suitcases and carried away by ME.

Common . has arrived in Boston. Co-living.

Residential rental furniture seems to be the next wave in the sharing economy. Which should come as no surprise in the wake of the Air BnB and more recent Co-living craze (in case you missed it, this is furnished rental space that you can “let” for a week, a month, a year – in major cities. it’s just arrived in the Boston Area under the management of Common. You get your own room, plus a few amenities like toilet paper, cleaning service, olive oil – you know – the necessities, while you share the common space with others. Service compris). Now these newly minted home furnishing rental cos are targeting a bit of a different market. Think post-grads and young adults that have selected their city, are drowning in college loan debt, and yet, are ready to begin being. If they are anything like me, the beginning, without sounding too ungrateful, can look like a hodge-podge of undesirables and toss-aways, grouped together to make some semblance of a home. I once had a dinner party for two with a corrugated card board box covered in a cloth as a dining table. I kid you not. The indignity of it all.

Well, for those that are ready to get started with a little more style than that, ingenuity has arrived in the form of some pretty cool furniture rental companies. Or, I should say, almost arrived. The affordable ones appear to only serve the cities of NYC, LA, and Seattle – who knew. Boston cannot be far behind, and if Fernish, Feather or Everset don’t take up the challenge, I am certain others will. If I were a betting gal, and I am, I would say West Elm, who has been incredibly entrepreneurial for a big company – would get into this game.

Now I don’t want to ruffle Feather’s feathers, but the furnishings are not high style. No matter, they certainly will serve a market, as they offer a cohesiveness for the inbetweeners that is rather attractive. Rent it on a 3, 4, 6, or 12 month basis with an option to purchase. Throw in a design consultant, free delivery, set-up, and removal, and I am whistling dixie. How ’bout you?

The Everset . The Ellen . 5 piece set $28.00 a month

My final thought here, and perhaps its not an original one, but I dare say, there are others like me out there – well, not exactly like me – I’m rather unique, but like, in the way that they abhor moving, and marvel at the thought of someone taking care of it for them. Further, I would guess that there are others, like me, that have a hankering for change, that want to investigate different styles, and colors and moods. I know from personal experience that this changing of the mind thing is rather pricey, so here’s my thought – One King’s Lane should launch a rental division….look out 2020.

Fernish . The Roxbury . $261. a month

Decisions . Decisions

Down to the wire on your holiday preparations? Or like me, you’ve decorated, but haven’t even purchased present number one. Feel stuck? Paralyzed by the sheer number of decisions that need to be made before the 25th rolls around? Let me add a little more pressure by saying that there are others in your life that work on a different timetable, and if you haven’t missed it already – you will soon.

Holiday chaos….will it matter to my happiness next year?

I arrived at the last appointment with my hair stylist before the holiday with no gift, and I spend more time with Briana every year than I do with my boss or my boyfriend. There were others too that have slipped by to date. I have in my mind some Type A organizational bandit that has all the most important people in their lives – birthdays carefully cataloged with notations about the type of present, the time of purchase, the accurate address, and have scheduled the purchase well in advance. They probably have pre-selected wrapping for the same. Me, I’m more like an old teddy bear running around town, with fluff falling out in small tufts everywhere I go. Granted, they are billowy, pretty little puffs of fluff – pale pink – but still, if I don’t collect them and stuff them back in, there will be nothing left of me when I arrive at the Christmas finish line. Now that won’t do at all.

I had the very distinct fortune to have attended the MA Women’t Conference on Thursday. The largest in the nation, 12,000 women in 12 men convene for what is a day long tournament of inspiration, intellect, and EXTRA-ordinary women. It began 17 year old Amanda Southworth. An iSO Developer and mental health and human rights activist, and went on to feature Yara Shahidi, Tara Westover, Malala Yousafzai, Megan Rapinoe and more. If you don’t know these wildly talented women – begin your exploration now.

One of my very favorite things to talk about…we all have a story,
make it a good one. Yara Shahidi

Today I want to talk about Annie Duke. Annie was a breakout session speaker, a World Champion Poker Player and an expert (cognitive scientist) on the subject of decision making. See where I am going with this? Today, I’m going to give you some of the basic facts about how we make decisions, waste time, and the cost of that approach to us personally and professionally, and in a future post I am going to show, how in the somewhat high stakes game of house flipping it applies – so you can apply it to your own life. While I am not an expert yet – these were my takeaways from her talk:

Over $4M reasons to believe she’s a pretty good decision maker.
  • Average person spends 150 minutes a week deciding what to eat,
  • Average person spends 50 minutes a week deciding what to watch on television (not actually watching – just deciding),
  • Average person spends 90 – 115 minutes deciding what to wear each week.

Annie’s framework is based on the idea that we spend a whole lot of time deciding about things that aren’t going to increase our happiness in the long run. Yes, it might ruin your lunch in the moment, but tomorrow, you’ll get to choose again. In most cases you are troubling over something that you can’t know anyway. Like poker – it’s a bet. You’re betting that the fish will be better than the chicken. When the stakes are low – you’ll have a chance to do it again – just decide, then incorporate the information into future decision making.

Luck + Skill + Life

I like this idea very much. Today, as I launch out with my list of people that I care deeply about, and whom make my life what it is, the pressure to be perfect will be dulled a little. After all, next year, God willing, I will have another whole chance to buy and try again. Annie did make $4.2M during her career, so I’m going to bet she knows a little something about decision making.

Hooked on the Holidays: Decorating without damage

Mybellastoria – instagram beauty!

As you all know, because I’ve carried on about it ad nauseam, I have been working tirelessly to make this little lemon of home into a golden pear. It’s taken some doing, but this week I had my own little Christmas miracle in the form of Bruno Guerriero Construction Inc. Double emojoi hearts, and a huge namaste to this stellar crew. I am mustering all the light that shines in me, and am spraying it out in sparkling bursts of happiness onto YOU Bruno. My home is finally water tight, my wall is finally, well, a proper wall, with paint and everything. Hallelujah!

The Potted Boxwood

It was a whole three homes ago when I last had a Christmas tree and I miss it. The holiday season is one that I typically dread. It’s like the death march for me. Beginning in September with industry award season, it rolls right into Thanksgiving with a host of architectural open houses, and holiday galas that have me flitting around town every night of the week – and I mean every night – like I were Holly Golightly and it was my business to entertain – oh, it is my business. Any who, it can be exhausting, and I find myself just praying I’ll make it to Christmas day and can hide in my cozy bed all day after the presents are opened.

Magnetic Wreath Hooks

Not this year. I love the holidays and want to celebrate and decorate this festive season. I’ll hibernate January through March, but after all the work I did to get this zesty citrus twisted into shape, I sure as heck don’t want to deck it out, only to find holes and stripped paint patches left behind, so I embarked, in typical Falla – la – la – la fashion, on a research expedition on how to avoid just that. I found some simple, but pretty good recommendations that I am happy to share with you.

  • Magnetic Wreath Hooks: great for adhering to metal objects or double them up on the inside and outside of a window to get that clean, floating wreath look,
  • Command Hooks: you can purchase these inexpensive temporary hooks for use indoors or out. I even saw a really smart tip about leaving the tape in place for the following season – as long as its location isn’t somewhere visible to the eye – next year will be made that much easier,
  • Binder Clips: while I’m not suggesting you raid your office supplies, I bet you’ve brought a handful or two of these home over the years and they come in handy when you are attempting to get the light placement on a garland just right,
  • Glue Gun: Every now and then you need to take a little bit of a risk. I for one am not going to be placing anchors in the brick wall exterior on my home, so I’ll glue the lights around my door to the brick using a glue gun. Warning – monitor your own risk level before attempting – painted brick and/or stucco could lift off when you remove that lumpy glump of glue, post holiday. That is what we are attempting to avoid here.
Chronicles of Home

Lots to do to get my place decorated for my holiday cocktail get together Tuesday, so I will sign off. Happy Holiday weekend.

Unhinged: hidden doors

With the holidays suddenly, oh so suddenly upon us, becoming unhinged might seem imminent. As a bit of a control freak, I find that during times like these – that is … massive amounts of disruption to one’s normal schedule…if you take the opportunity to just put a few things in order, it can make a world of difference to your mental health.

left: FritzJergens Pivot Hinge. Right: Soss Hidden Hinge.

Me, I like things to be clean, in their proper place. I know my boss will get a kick out of this when she reads it, because my office is typically a disaster. I’ve got stacks of priority stacks, emergency stacks, stacks that must be attended to before I leave for my next evening outing. I’ve got baubles, bells, lights, and ribbons, quotes, and mementos, inspiration photos and post-its full of ideas. My office is chaotic. Marie Kondo would have a fit – Lisa is kind enough to mostly leave me to it – even if – it – isn’t exactly what she had in mind. It’s a process.

In plain Site – a whole other room behind the bookcase.

So too is one’s home. Part of that process for me, has always been the hiding away of things. They call it a facade for a reason – it’s hiding something, even if that something isn’t a stack of magazines or dirty dishes stowed in the oven until the unexpected guests take their leave. Everyone has something to hide, which is why I love secret doors and compartments. It adds to the air of mystery that surrounds a person. It hints at the layers, their depth, the intrigue. Just when they (all those people in your life) think they have you all figured out, they discover, that that book shelf of yours, is actually hiding a passageway to a secret room.

The French knew – all those years ago. Curved door, curved molding, hidden hinges.

How you go about getting that hidden room, or door that looks like a wall, was initially, a tightly held secret. I knew that it could be done. I’ve seen the Oval Office, well not in person or anything, but on tv, and in movies, and the doors look like they are part of the room – no visible hinges. What a wonderful trick. For my Charlestown place I had to settle for a flush mount door with beveled molding, and visible hinges. Even though I hated conceding to a visible hinge , the door looked pretty good.

Even ship lap gets into the trend.

Today, hiding is made so much easier with pivot hinges. Concrete, tile, wood, whatever your material challenge, there is a hinge that can handle it. Soss can take on doors up to 1100 lbs, they’re pricey but that is a pretty big door. HD has options at a much more affordable price point, and there are many others in-between. Slap a little molding on an inexpensive flush mount door and paint it, and you have a work of hidden art. Add wall covering and you’ll really have them fooled.

Just think, if the holidays get really tough, you’ll have a place to stow away for a few blissful hours – drama free.

Birds of paradise…dare to dream there’s an en suite bath on the other side of that door.

No sleep til BROOKLYN: across the river

I have to admit that in all my travels, which have been extensive, I’d never really spent anytime in Brooklyn. I’d been to lunch there one day, and I couldn’t even tell you which of the bazzillion – that’s a technical term for the many neighborhoods, I visited that day. There are so very many, with names like “Little Poland”, “Fish Hook”, “Pig Town”, “Starette City”, “Cobble Hill” and all manner of creative inventiveness. All with their own distinct character – and quite a few characters to boot.

Dining in the penthouse restaurant inside the Hoxton Hotel in Williamsberg, I overheard a women comment that it felt like central casting had a cattle call for hipsters, and dropped them all off in one square mile. They were indeed, super hip, having refined the best of our 1980’s style, adapting it to be something new and decidedly cooler than anything I wore. I suspect that the selfie was invented here, or at the very least they were making a serious case for ownership.

There’s a quirkiness to the place that makes it very interesting, new mid-rise luxury apartments nestled next to high rises and single family homes clad in outdated asbestos tiles – spooky – and a bonanza of amazing restaurants. They are afraid to be different either. There’s a ski lodge, the Brooklyn Brewery, a sweet little Bakeri (yes, that’s the way you spell it) and so many more yummies. The creativity was palpable, and I adored it.

The Devil is in the Details: A glimpse inside Chicago Athletic Club Hotel

Chicago Athletic Club Hotel . Chicago

A Venetian Gothic gem of a property, modeled after Venice’s – Doge (I’ve been there and I can report, it’s one heck of building), the private club launched itself onto the scene in 1893, in the very midst of the World’s Columbian Exposition – also known as the World’s Fair. The much more modest Chicago Athletic Club was elegant in its own right though. Designed by Chicago Architect Henry Ives Cobb – While he might have made a name for himself in the White City, I would like to point out that Cobbs was born in Brookline, MA, and therefore, I claim some kinship. I wonder too, if of his two preferred styles, Richarsonian Romaneque and Victorian Gothic, Henry Hobson Richardson wasn’t to be richly credited.

I am certain that the private club could fill libraries full of memoirs – outlining the sordid and frightfully interesting tales of the clubs inhabitants, leading up to its closing in 2007.

In AJ Capital and Partners, knight in shining armor fashion, or should we say “light” in shining armor? An ode, to the street lights that dot the tree lined avenues, not only providing the illusion of safety – let us not forget the Devil – but its white clad stucco buildings, making them appear as if they were aglow, once again stepped in to repurpose a landmark, and yowie, did they ever.

The 240 room hotel – open to the public for the very first time, adeptly mixes glamour and grit – pardon my overuse of the word in these past posts. Designed by Hartshorne Plunkard Architects and Roman + Williams, responsible for the breathtaking interiors, this baby has panache. It’s the very type of destination that the bold and beautiful likely clamor to for roof top drinks, to make it official under the White City Ballroom’s, upsidedown cake meringue of a ceiling – stunning, or to fulfill their ballpark bucket list adventure. If you are a fan, Rigley and Fenway are on your list.

I really do believe the devil is in the details. I’m not always focused on every last one of them, but appreciate it when other’s are, and at the Athletic Club Hotel – they sure were. From squash court flooring in the high speed elevators, to pommel horse benches in the guest rooms – you’ll see and feel the history of this storied building, celebrated in its design.

Once Upon a Time: An Adventure in hotels

I love a good story. I love reading one, living one, writing one. It should be no surprise to me that I’ve fallen right into AJ Capital Partners story-telling clutches, and I’m not even attempting to wrestle free. They had me at “counter-culture investors”, or maybe it was “relentless grit and obsessive determination”, or the adventurous journey they promised to take me on.

The Graduate Hotel.

When Chip and Joanna announced that they were making a foray into the hotel business with a Waco, TX location and they were partnering with AJ Capital Partners to do it, inviting me to Google them in their comedic video announcement, wasn’t really necessary. I was so going to check them out anyway, and what do you think I found? If the suspense isn’t yet killing you, it will be. They were the money, and the brains behind The Thompson Hotels, specifically the Nashville location in The Gulch, where I was first introduced to the Rose 45, served up in a brown paper bag – now that is the epitome of grit and sophistication if I ever did see it, and I did, and drank it too.

The Thompson Hotel . Nashville.

No visit to Nashville is complete for me without a stop by the Thompson. I enjoy the lobby, and the curbside restaurant and bar, as much as the rooftop, with it’s panoramic views of the city, and graphic pink tiled floors – the design (interiors created by NYC firm – Parts and Labor Design). It’s a stunner.

From their Graduate Hotel collection, situated strategically in University Towns, and offering a cleverly structured Public/Private Partnership Program called Class, to help institutions finance, develop, and operate a Graduate Hotel on their own campus, eradicating the dreary and dated accommodations so typically offered up on campuses, and elevating them to whole new story and design heights.

May Hosiery . Nashville.

Intent on finding properties that have fallen on hard times, are ripe for development but have been passed over by others for fear of cost, lack of creativity, and/or inability to identify their beneficial supply and demand characteristics – they appreciate the power of a historic building to tell a story, to reinvent itself, to be a major player in the conversation. Consider, May Hosiery, founded in 1908 as a sock factory – which grew out of founder Jacob May’s successful bid to run a sock manufacturing project out of a prison in Nashville. 50 inmates, .50 cents a day made May a rich man before he lost the contract and started his own factory there. May Hosiery Hotel is scheduled to open this year, and if you think the prison workers is the best of the story, hold onto your socks, there’s more – in addition to its title as oldest southern sock company, its distribution of 1M socks a week across the nation in its hayday, the building and the company have a heart. During WWII they provided sanctuary to over 300 Jews fleeing Natzi Germany, in the 60’s and 70’s their socks hitched a ride to the moon on the soles of ALL the Apollo Astronauts, and now is starting it’s next development chapter by housing Apple Music – with a focus on Country – what else, and other makers and innovators like architects, old school barbers and more.

Chicago Athletic Club Hotel . Chicago

Each property polishes the patina off the copper, giving it 21st century shine. The Landmark Chicago Athletic Club Hotel is a kitschy marvel, more on this 240 room hotel tomorrow. The Pontchartrain Hotel is all class and style, sweat and contradictions, music and a menagerie of cultural references, as only a hotel in New Orleans whose clientele included the likes of Frank Sinatra, Rita Hayworth, Truman Capote, President Ford, and Tennessee Williams who is said to have penned, Streetcar Named Desire while in Residence. “What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.” — beautiful, and no wonder, when you can simply look out your window onto St. Charles Streetcar Line for inspo.

Calistoga Ranch . Napa Valley . CA

These stories and more are the foundation of AJ Capital Partners investments. Oh how I wish I could put my meager pennies in with their own.