I had a great uncle that was rather famous in literary circles. A Jesuit Priest at Boston College, Father Francis Sweeney was most notably renowned for starting the Humanities Series there, and for corresponding with, and bringing literary masters to BC. Jack Kerouac, Katherine Anne Porter, Robert Penn Warren, and Thomas Merton – the revered Trappist Monk and author of The Seven Storey Mountain, a spiritual tome, were among those Uncle Francis brought to the college, and helped to promote. My mother was photographed along side Robert Frost, and Father Francis, at one of the regular luncheon celebrations, that were part of his normal existence.
Poetry, I would not say, is one of my favorite things, but whether it was the connection to Robert Frost, his ability to tether you to the landscape of a New England town, so much a part of my DNA that when my eyes scan the words, they set my cells tingling with sensory memory. I feel at once calm, and at home.
Nature’s first green is gold, Her hardest hue to hold. Her early leaf’s a flower; But only so an hour. Then leaf subsides to leaf. So Eden sank to grief, So dawn goes down to day. Nothing gold can stay.
Such a beautiful poem – a departure of sorts from my normal posts, but in my defense I was thinking about gold accents and how important bringing the glint of metallics into a space is to our overall enjoyment. That little bit of sparkle that catches your eye. We are calmed by movement, its hypnotizing effects putting us into a temporary trance-like state, like watching the flickering of the flames alight in a fireplace, or the flutter of a curtain in the breeze, metals seem to invite light and reflection, creating curiosity, interest, an enticing invitation to take a closer look.
I’m awfully fond of curiosities in a home. I welcome the questions that come from the objects – a gold guilted sunburst mirror, a nautically inspired hurricane lantern, a recent gift from a dear friend that knew I would adore it, the bee hive knobs that adorn my wardrobes, the brushed bird cage base of my coffee table, which I spotted, to my delight in The Good Fight sitcom, in Diane Lockhart’s living room.
Robert Frost might have been tickled pink to know that green is the new gold this season. Look for it in fashion and home design. Now that you know, I bet you’ll see it everywhere. After all, Nature’s first green is gold.
It’s no secret that I love Benjamin Moore. I talk about him ad nauseum, sure there are other paints on the market with clever names, but are they as dependable as Ben? I think not. I know I am not going to be in this condo forever, maybe just a few months more, who knows. However long it is, it feels like if I have to have that bedroom the way it is now, one foot in and one foot out the door, I might just scream.
I’d like to vigorously enforce my right to change it up. I want to paint the moldings midnight blue or soot or blue note. I want to cover the walls in Phillip Jeffries Indigo Nights, and snuggle a couple of Bungalow 5, Benjamin bedside tables, in navy blue, right up next to the bed, or maybe the Serena and Lily Blake Nightstand in blue. They are both grass cloth covered, but the Bungalow has soft edges and chrome hardware and the Serena and Lily is a Parsons knock-off, hard-edged with a gold pull. They are both so pretty, and having a bedside table would mean that I wouldn’t have to get out of bed when I was done reading my book to turn off the light.
I could get a new year set of sheets. I have my eye on Matouk’s Joplin, it’s blue floral pattern is sophisticated and happy all at the same time.
Dare to, wouldn’t it be, life is but a dream. Heck, if that’s all it is, throw in the Oomph four poster bed while your at it.
For when you can’t or won’t go there. I have found memories of auctions – specifically a single auction house on 6A in Dennis. My mother and her best friend loved that auction house and would go often. I’d tag along reluctantly for the viewings – I never actually went to any of the live auctions, but I loved the green and white painted barn that housed all the treasures and the fact that I got my very own bed in a winning bid that I still have today. I loved it because it was so high up off the ground and had to have a custom mattress made for it. Not quite a full, not quite a queen, somewhere in between the two and perfectly suited to a six year old. I adore it. There were other big purchases, a kitchen table, a set of French china in pale sage and navy. Was it the thrill of the hunt, the adrenaline that surged through my mother’s chest, propelling her hand with the tightly clutched want in the air, was it the deal? I don’t know, and I cannot ask, but it was a summer ritual for many years.
Recently I was asked to investigate auctions and the practicality of utilizing them as a strategy for furnishing a new home. Always up for a challenge, I began to do my research, and what I found was this: FleaPop – out of business, Furnishly – finito, LushPad – liquidated, KRRB – kaput, leaving me to believe that being an auction house is a tough gig to sustain. I did find that Live Auctioneers is still in biz as is Invaluable, and many other local houses that allow you to bid on-line – essentially during a pandemic, and for those that want to source items from far and wide across the globe.
The far and wide does come with consequences. For those of us that have surfed a property or two on sites like Zillow or Redfin, you know that photos can be deceiving. Buying a piece of property or a home, site unseen is not advisable, nor is grabbing a Chippendale sofa from France via auction. The “deal” you thought you were being dealt, comes with shipping fees, buyers premiums – that’s the cut that the auction house gets for getting the goods in the first place and can range between 25 – 30% of the purchase price, and there are no returns. The term “good condition” is relative. The buyer needs to keep all these things in mind when looking for a special piece for their home, establish a budget, factor the additional costs in their not to exceed column, and don’t allow their emotions to get the best of them.
As for my good friend I recommend taking it slow. It doesn’t need to be furnished overnight. As long as you have a bed, a living room sofa, a coffee table, your tv, and a good book – you’ll do surprisingly well for a time. Use the auction website to augment your space with special pieces – again, taking your time to understand what it is you are looking for, what spot in your home it will fill, and what you are willing to pay for it. There is a reason site like One King’s Lane and Ruby Lane charge a lot for the wares – they’ve curated them from a time consuming process. Hunting is fun, but can be expensive. If you’ve got the time – an auction might not only provide an engaging afternoon’s activity, it might just bring home a show-stopping sette or Stickley Armchair or some other fabulous find.
It’s a bit ironic that my very favorite color, the color that makes me smile from ear to ear, and brings cheer to my heart is saddled with an idiom that means the opposite. That’s just wrong. As it turns out I am feeling a little blue. It is the end of the holiday season, which provided such a delightful distraction to the pandemic. What bauble, bell, and holiday whistle doesn’t? As I look longingly at the Christmas Tree that I have put at the bottom of my to do list until now, I feel sad. It really does bring a special glow to my space, and let’s face it, we’re all in for a long winter. The good news is that I wasn’t using my fireplace so that I wouldn’t have to clean it between showings, and now that I am not showing the old gal – she and I can get fired up.
To make extra sure I don’t shed any tears as I dismantle the tree, I went on the hunt for a bundle of blue best ofs to share with you. Since the color blue signifies the sky and sea. It is often associated with depth and stability. It symbolizes trust, loyalty, wisdom, confidence, intelligence, faith, truth, and heaven, according to the color wheel pro, and who wouldn’t believe them?
As a Cape Cod Gal, it is no surprise that this color calms me and makes me want to take a deep cleansing breath. Just thinking of the ocean allows me to conger the brackish salinity of a Wellfleet oyster and set my taste buds a tingling. The vast expanse of blue sky dotted with gauzy clouds that greet you on a summer day, the blue birds darting through the marsh and bogs in spring, the inky darkness of a muscle shell, the proud hull of a sailboat. Who wouldn’t be made happy by seeing that rainbow of blue hues?
Pull them into your home all year long, or start slowly. Maybe a single gingham cocktail napkin in a pale blue. No one has to know, you can keep it in your pocket or underneath your water glass. Just try and see if it doesn’t make you smile. Go on, we’ll get through this winter together.
It’s not often that you hear the word concrete and sexy in the same sentence. Pier Luigi Nervi, a famous Italian Architect did such beautiful form work that it earned him the moniker “Poet in Concrete”. Tadao Ando became famous for his concrete structures, exposing the forms rather than hiding them like a pair of dirty underpants. Nood Co.’s Co-Founder Matt Di Costa wanted that undergarment to be the equivalent of high class lingerie – meant to be shown off, and I think he accomplished here. I could throw out a couple of others famous for their form work, but for centuries it’s done all the hard work of holing up its end of the bargain behind the scenes.
Whether Nood is an acronym for New Object of Desire – I have one of those every few days, or the urban hip slang for “nude” or daring, this sink skirts the line between demure and sultry, with her sleek lines, sinus forms and slue of colorful hues from which to select. 14 off the shelf colors, but if your want to be the Imelda Marcos of the sink world, and are willing to purchase 20 at a pop, there are more than 90 color combinations they can develop to suit your fetish – I mean need.
I love contradictions, incompatibilities, incongruities – they please me. Concrete is expected to be tough, and tough isn’t expected to be pretty, and yet the Nood sinks are delightfully so. They invite you in for a peak at their powder perfect finish. Sleek and durable, petal pink or pale baby blue they are as hard as a daisy at daybreak.
If you are planning on incorporating one or two into your next project – start saving now.
If I simply said that I was ready to put this year behind me, I would be missing an important opportunity to recognize the growth that I have experienced in this last, most interesting of years. I listened to a parable while meditating a few days ago. I’m not a practiced meditator, I’m flawed, my thoughts racing by, raging fire engine red machines snaking their way through the streets of Monaco. My brain is a frenetic place to house a calm guest, but I work at welcoming them anyway. This parable struck me, as they are intended to do, and I thought I would share it with you. – A farmer woke to discover that during the night his horse had run off. His neighbors said to him: “What misfortune to have lost your only horse.” Maybe the farmer replied. A few days later the horse returned, bringing with him three wild stallions. “What good fortune”, remarked the neighbors. “Maybe” replied the farmer. The farmers only son was riding one of the wild stallions and was thrown from the horse, shattering his leg, forever leaving him with a limp. “What bad luck remarked the neighbors..” “Maybe” replied the farmer. Soon after, his country was embroiled in war, and soldiers made their way through his village, identifying all able bodied boys to enlist them in the army. When the soldiers arrived at the farmers home, and saw that his only son walked with a limp, they moved on. “What good fortune” his neighbors proclaimed. “Maybe” replied the farmer.
This little parable got me to thinking about examining the coin more closely. So many of you believe that head’s up is the way to bet. I’ve always gone for the underdog, tails. More than a pretty face, a tail can wag and control a situation, it can distract, entertain, and in the end it has just as good a chance of landing on the “right” side as the other. Which is the point. Heads or tails, we can all even our odds by changing the perspective in which we view the events that happen – remembering that they are not happening “to us” – they are just happening.
The events in my little corner of the universe included my very first joint venture flip. This project like all the others I have done to date was purchased in one year, but will not be sold until the following spring. What good fortune, many have remarked. You found a home in Chatham for under a million dollars, an in town location, a walk to the beach. This little three bedroom Cape has expressed its dissatisfaction with its decades of neglect, again and again. It absorbing cash at the rate of a roll, or two of Hefty paper towels, which I am not begrudging the old gal. She deserves to be cleaned up, put to rights, but I did so want to adorn her in accessories that made her sparkle, and instead, the majority of the budget will be spent behind her walls, under her foundation, a ventilation system that will allow her to breath free and easy, winter or summer, spring or fall, and she’ll have new steps to ensure no one does trip and fall, which we can all agree is very important. I know I do, and felt a little bad that I was asked to do more with less for the portion of the project that is mine to make shine. Then I remembered all I’ve done with paint in the past, and it made me perk up a bit. Cape’s weren’t born into the upper class, attending premiers, and walking the red carpet at The Met Ball. No, she is happiest when she can throw a log on the fire, open her high gloss coral colored front door to the neighbors, serve them a nice bottle of wine that she found at Trader Joe’s – laugh not, the selection is incredible and very affordable. Welcoming, comfortable, cheeky, that’s what she of Apres Sea will be. Maybe it’s just what needed to happen.
And what of my main manse, my little condo on Lawrence Street in Boston’s South End? To say she was in rough shape when I found her in December of 2018 is an understatement. Hidden under her floor boards and behind the walls, was all manner of malfeasance. Like me, she was forced to undergo an operation, no little facelift for this gal. I had to rip her insides out and rebuild her, the best way I knew how, and now she is strong and thriving, but the market for little condos in the South End is not. Bad luck some of you have said, to have had her ready for sale during a pandemic. Too bad you couldn’t have put her on the market in summer, or the previous spring, when we all still believed this would end sooner, rather than later. I agreed, I felt sorry, I worried, I lamented, and then I thought, maybe it wasn’t the worst thing in the world that could have happened. I thought just maybe, there is something that I have yet to have predicted that will come of this. Maybe. We will see. Whatever will be, will be.
My internal monolog is a chatter box. Talk, talk, talk, question, ruminate, debate, playing one side and then the other. My head is like a kindergarten class before naptime. Sometimes I can’t even get a word in edgewise, which probably seems pretty silly since they are all supposed to be my words. The truth is, what other people think, always finds a way, stealthily into the conversation. It’s not that I don’t value others opinions, but when they don’t have any skin in the game, well it’s hard to put too much faith in it.
This latest discussion goes something like this – if this were my house, I’d paint a navy stripe just about a half inch above the baseboard, or dustboard if you are an inventor of trends. My navy would be a shade so dark it would be reminiscent of the ocean, at a depth as deep as the resting place of the Titanic. It would start its journey in the entryway, purposefully and ever so orderly, marching its way up the stairs, feeling its way along the walls in the hallway, jumping over the break in the doors to stick the landing like an Olympic gymnast on the exact spot between door, casing, and wall, before continuing its march around the perimeter, a regimen of soldiers marching in formation at their commanders will. I of course, am the commander in this case, begging the painter not to squiggle outside the lines of my perfect formation, making its way around the quad (the small interior hallway of the second floor), before spilling its way down the staircase to its final star studded finish. If it were my house, that’s what I would do, but it is not.
How many buyers would I offend with my sense of style? I want my line to have punch, but designing the perfect punchline takes finesse, sophistication, mad skills, and when you have them, the pay off is huge. What if I don’t have that? What if the potential buyers think it’s a bad joke? What then? It’s only paint, but can I afford to turn someone off? These are the questions that shout their agreement and then their dissent – please, I am begging all of you to be quiet.
The thing of it is, stairs are often boring, utilitarian, necessary for sure, and much preferred to the ladder, having used a ladder for years to make my way into a loft, but the reality is – they get ignored. I think we can do better in our little Willow Bend property. What if I were to place a single wooden star applique on the center of the fifth riser, what if I put one on every riser? What if I dressed the treads in herringbone and I painted my baseboard stripe despite the protestations to keep it beige, to keep it boring? What if? Would you like it as much as me?
Is it really true that fortune knocks once on every man’s door? What about women? What about A woman – more specifically what about me, and the “we” of the Willow Bend three? There are really four of us in this endeavor, but “we” rhymes with “three”, and all I can think for four, is shut the door, and I certainly don’t want our door to be shut. I want to open the door, and have song birds, and sunshine accompanied by a seersucker slacked, blue blazered, butler carrying a silver tray of cut glass coupes filled with bubbly come bursting forth. I want the guests to hear the pop of the champagne cork as their Gucci clad loafer crunches down on the bleached seashell drive and think – a party? For me? Yes, I believe the front door can say all of that – minus maybe the butler, but wouldn’t he look sweet in that outfit. Would I be going to far if I asked him to wear a blue linen pillbox hat and a coral colored bow tie? He’d have my utmost respect.
I do think a door says a whole lot more than people give it credit for. It’s no wallflower, well maybe there are a few demure dames in the door derby, but a door can, and should be so much more. This is the point we are arguing, not arguing right now. No one really wants to replace the front door – money, oh the money honey, it all adds up so fast, but a few of us, two of us, were secretly hoping that the old gal would get put out to pasture, and as it turns out – horray – she really does need to retire. She stood valiantly for decades, with her cherry red lipsticked smile, greeting passers-by, and she’s tired. Now the question remains, whoever will replace her?
We’ve been interviewing candidates. Some have hundreds of years experience – oh they’ve been around the door business for generations. We lean toward those first. There are side lights to consider, transom windows over the door, paneled, glass lights, mullioned, clear, tripled glazed, and it goes on and on. Every candidate makes a case for why their looks and experience really are the best, and that’s before we even consider adorning with jewels. They probably won’t be wearing Harry Winston to the ball, but I have my fingers crossed that we can get a little fancier than Kay Jewelers – no offense Kay, but not even the throbbing pain from the weight of the Harry Winston wreath diamond earrings would deter me from saying anything but yes, yes, yes please and thank you – a door deserves a little hardware that’s not hard to wear and easy on the eyes.
I do want it to look good in a wreath and I am leaning toward a happy pop of a color for her gown, after all, she lives in Chatham.
I’ve never lived in New York City. I fantasize about being there from time to time, but the time that I long to be there is decades past. I’d love to have lived in NYC in the late 50’s or early 60’s. To have scurried down Madison Avenue amid the AD Men so stylishly depicted John Hamm, as Don Draper and John Slattery, as Roger Sterling of Mad Men fame. I’ll take the clothes the gloved ladies wore with their pill box hats and a different coat for every dress – they had threads – the very definition of in Vogue.
Then there were the offices with the rotary telephones and their mid-century modern furnishings, and their 10am neat scotches and their three martini lunches. How they ever made it to dinner is an exercise in metal calisthenics that has me woozy with wonder.
I liked those offices so much I would have been happy sleeping there, unless of course I lived in Jan’s apartment from Pillow Talk. Jan, also known as Doris Day was an interior designer and she had a dreamy NYC apartment with a pink accent wall, pink kitchen counter tops and a party line. Oh the trouble a party line can get you into. If I had her apartment I would high tail it home to slip into an evening gown and serve Manhattan’s in champagne coupes that I picked up at Bergdorf’s.
The question is, would you want to work in an office that that gave a serious nod to another time? What about one that you could just pop into for a meeting, a strategy session or a toast to a big project win? Would it appeal?
Miraval is all about restrained fanciness. It’s setting in the Berkshires with trees dotting the rolling hills turned mountains for miles – for as far as the eye can see, and sky the beauty of the sky, this sky is the sky that songs are written about. It exists in contrasts. The craftsmanship of the barn and stables is superior, the animals and birds of pray that are housed within them damaged. The one eyed owl Oracle and his friend Homer being whispered back to health by Jen, understand that the price of admission is to stare deep and soulfully into the eyes of the guests, and to commune. Eyes as inky black as the deepest part of the ocean, set in a snow white feathered face feels otherworldly, quiet in the midst of the squawking hawk’s demand for attention. It will come.
The materials, warm reclaimed boards have the softest of landings on the diamond hard surface of the polished concrete floors, stained ochre, a reminder not to jump to conclusions. Even a cold unforgiving surface can change its personality. The luxe velvet chairs the color of an oak leaf, turned in the fall, coupled with the tactile plaid pillow, a nod to the textile factories of the region. The durable charcoal gray thick cushioned wood slat chair, with it’s cross stitch, in a lovely cream, a child’s dream, as you swivel and spin your way into the serious hug of relaxation. The rusted steel column pendants pierced with circular openings of various sizes cast a magical glow. Hard and soft, warm and cold, tough and tender, Miraval understands that to recognize divergence is to bring harmony to the space.
Arguably, Clodagh of the eponymous New York City design firm, had everything to do with the feel of this place, whose very existence is to remind you to feel again, to tune in, to be aware, to taste, to experience, to be present. Remember those birds of pray, they can be nothing but present. They cannot dwell on the past, or worry about the future. Nature is a master class of a teacher.
The food, this dangerous delectable food, will not, can not, keep you from packing on the pounds, despite its healthful nutrients, pulled from the rich soil of the surrounding farms. Carrots like candy, brussel sprouts that taste like none I’ve ever had before. Fish infused with flavors that were not slathered on from a jar, but were plucked from the branches of herbs. I wanted to inhale it all, to miss nothing, how incredibly unzen of me, how contrary to the mindful eating they preach here at the Val.
To walk the grounds in this time of covid is to be transported, there are so few people here that it feels as if I have the place to my own. I wonder if my foot falls in the Jesuit footsteps before mine, or on the same patch of ground that the Cranwell Preparatory School boys galloped upon, or Frederick Law Olmstead strolled as he prepared to impart his landscape architectural stamp on the property? I wonder.
While I did not cover all 380 acres of this property, and only just began to uncover all of its secrets, I’ll share with you this – “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship”. Imagine it’s 1942, and I said it in Humphrey Bogart’s raspy, telltale voice. Oh Casablanca.