Shucks: The lovely ways oysters inspire design

Still Life with Oyster – artist ThEodule Augustin Ribot

The mollusk, nothing sexy about that name, but like a cowboy – all callused hands and brisk nature, there is something decidedly alluring about it, and him. Some love that cowboy, err oyster, while others detest its rugged exterior, and cool, briny, slick interior.    Oysters find themselves at home at a back yard hoe down, and with equal ease sitting atop a silver platter, snow cone domed with chipped ice, en route to a linen table clothed setting, center stage at a five star hotel.  They are a favorite subject for burgeoning artists, their hallmark inky aubergine smudge, on the pale pearly white belly, and its comma, make for interesting subject matter. From East to West, which oyster is the best is subject to battleground fodder.  I am not all for one, and one for all, when it comes to oysters, preferring a local favorite – a Wellfleet, or a Pacific Ocean Kumamoto, its deep dive of a shell reminding me of my Cape Cod roots, the peninsula dotted by Kettle Ponds – those deep divots in the landscape, left by enormous chips of ice from glaciers. They are sweet, and delicate and delicious, a totally different experience from an East Coast oyster, which is briny.

Powder Room Power . a wall of oyster shells is amazing.

Those same Cape Cod roots have provided me with an affection for the oyster. I’ve stomped across so many shelled driveways in my lifetime, I couldn’t possibly report the number. Like most things from my childhood they are larger than life wonderful. They remind me of a more rustic Cod than is commonly seen today. There history harkening back to the settlers, who tossed the shells, which were in abundance in the streets, and on the muddy dirt paths. The perfect padding for a drive. Oyster shells actually breakdown, their calcium make-up are able to withstand hoof beat, trodding feet, or the wheel of the tire – at least if it’s on a flat surface. The shells weren’t meant to withstand gravity, and so aren’t great on a hill. A wonderfully sustainable practice, if a little bit stinky initially, the shells, harvested from restaurants, scream vacation, and simpler times. They are also excellent fertilizer for your flowers.

Where would a conversation on design be without Benjamin Moore?

Designers seem to share, with me, a fascination with the Oyster. There creativity astounds me. The fact that someone boldly wallpapered their powder room in oyster shells, makes me smile from ear to ear, and don’t think I can’t do it. I have an incredibly large mouth. Were the shells placed with grout, or mastic, or glue? Will they snag your chiffon dress, or scrape your knuckle, if you grab for the hand towel too quickl? Who cares. I applaud the ingenuity, the bravado, the saltiness of the move.

There are ornaments, and catch-alls. There are mirrors, and urns. There are orbs, paint colors, and ash trays. Oysters, like their ability to got high or low, seem to span the centuries, finding fresh ways to surprise, and traditional ways to comfort. I love the oyster, but the oyster that I love is never going to produce a pearl. That’s an entirely different type of oyster, but perhaps that’s too much detail. For the purpose of this good story, let’s throw them all in the same bucket. We’ll end with this pearl of wisdom – they are loaded with Zinc which is incredibly good for you, and may have led to the rumors that they can enhance amorous feelings.

How Bazaar: An Antique Mecca in Stamford

The term Flea Market is actually a French word, and you all know how I adore the French.  Marche aux Puces, technically translates to Outdoor Bazaar, and of course a bazaar is a market in a Middle Eastern country.  In all instances, goods for sale abound.  If the pandemic broke anything, it was my connection to the Parisien Marche aux Puces, which I try to visit at least every three years.  I was there last in 2018 when I bought my Italian Sputnik style chandelier around the last bend, after a long day in the dusty market with my good friend Tiffany.  Three years – that’s right.  It’s time for me to be there again, but Paris isn’t having it.  At least not yet, and the longing is strong.

This weekend my nephew graduated from high school and he’ll be leaving for school in the fall, and my sister is taking the opportunity to give her Lower East Side two bed an overhaul.  I love an overhaul almost as much as I love Paris.  It feeds the soul.  Creation is so satisfying, don’t you think?  Well I do, and Mary Beth does too, so we two skipped on out of the city to Stamford, CT, which is not really a place that I want to be, except for the fact that they have transported a Marche aux Puces style in door palace of an antique center to this center of nowhere, and when I tell you that it’s where it’s at, I am not exaggerating. 

I was in a total state of flow, immersed in a world of furnishings and accents, cement urns and obelisks, a wall of mirrors, a blue and white chinoiserie paradise, a mid-century modern moment, and a Palm Springs paradise.  I so wanted to carry home with me a coral lacquered game table, and a pair of bamboo palm covered occasional chairs that screamed Golden Girls.   There were Zebra covered suitcases – not faux – fabulously real.  There were red leather Chesterfield sofas, and velvet cognac x benches.  There was a sublime mahogany wine cooler lined in lead, that I would have turned into a stunning black and white leather finished marble topped coffee table.  If a statement piece is what you are after – you are likely to find it at The Antique and Artisan Gallery.  If you are looking for a tiny gift, or a set of lamps that will light up your world – shocking, Stanford, CT is going to be the place for you. 

Book a hotel across the street.  Increase your credit card limit.  Rent a U-Haul, and get prepared to be delighted.  You don’t need to leave with everything, but you’ll want to leave with something, and that something is likely to be pretty special.

Sikes on Stripes: One designers singular devotion to holding the line

Bold and Blue

I’ve towed the party line, I’ve drawn the line, crossed the line, lined my drawers with poppy paper that only I would see. I’ve outlined a plan, underlined the important parts, and I’ve penned a line of poetry, but of all the lines I loved, and there have been many, it’s a series of parallel lines – you guessed it – lined up neatly, one snuggled tightly next to the other, or spaced a safe distance apart, that I whole heartedly support incorporating into your interior.

My adoration for stripes preceded my awareness of Mark D. and his design brilliance. Maybe I knew him in another life. Do you have to believe in past lives in order to have lived them? A query for another time. Mr. Sikes likes stripes for the same reason I do, they go with everything. If you are afraid of pattern, as so many people are, stripes are your friend. You’ll never find a floral that doesn’t long for the company of a stripe, or an Ikat, or Houndstooth for that matter.

Spot the Stripe on this pillow?

Squiggly, or pinstripe straight they make a happy accompaniment to any style. Their versatility is inspiring. They can be preppy, pretty or prissy. Masculine, mousey or Mediterranean. They can be found in high-end homes and little old beach shacks. I wonder if that would have made Napoleon Bonaparte smile – he who was known to receive important guests into his living room, designed to resemble an Egyptian striped tent, with its walls and ceiling adorned in fabric. Stripes, they don’t discriminate. They provide definition and draw the eye to places that might otherwise go unnoticed.

Feeling anything but neutral about this look.

Don’t hesitate to go straight to the stripe when you are starting your next project. It’ll be pinnable – promise.

Homework? The office is where it’s at

When I finally crossed the threshold from Elementary School to fifth grade, I thought I had arrived. I left a new elementary school to a broken down, historic building that had a list of past lives that was rather long. It served as a town hall, a high school, a community center, and a middle school. When the town grew up, the family had to split to accommodate its growing population. Fifth and sixth graders remained in the battered old building, and Seventh and Eight Graders high tailed it to the high school, only to find out that they’d be housed in trailers and carefully segregated from the bad influence of the older kids. That old dame of a building is still standing, testing out her new life as an Arts and Cultural Center. I liked her. I felt that we were kindred souls, it was the administration that I had a bone to pick with, having discovered that I was expected to do homework, like, for the rest of my life.

Image 4 . Graphics with impact

I hated homework then, and I hate it now. Who wants to work at home I ask you? Home is a sanctuary, home is a place to sink into the sofa, flip on the tv, or your Sonos speaker system, and rock out to whatever makes you happy. The works that are meant for home are house, yard, and repairs or improvements, not paperwork, data analysis, or budget logs. While we weren’t paying attention, they slipped in a series of systems – smart phones, laptops, compact printers, and we all smiled while our sovereignty was sliding from our grasp.

Every Space should have a statement piece like this light fixture.

This weekend I worked on the semi-final push to open our new headquarters – semi-final because I don’t know of a place at home, or at work that is ever really done. As any major project does, this one had a host of helpers make it a reality. There were designers and engineers, project managers, and graphic artists. We investigated live walls and preserved gardens, indoor gathering space and outdoor. We talked amenities, adding workouts to your workday, and showers so you could freshen up after miles of meetings held while speed walking on your tred desk. We brought back food, unveiled a new coffee machine whose bells and whistles rivaled my first car – though I think I will continue to love both them with equal ardor.

For me, there is no argument about going back to the office. I told some of you already, but I love working in the office. I love my monitors, my walls adorned with post-it notes, and strategy boards. I love my quotes and photos, paint swatches and pinned poems, and snippets from my very favorite projects. I love that my fifth wall is the floor and no one tells me not to use it. My most pressing priorities sit in my path and demand my attention until I complete, and put them to rest for the night. I love the people, and the noise that comes with production. I love creating stuff and printing stuff. I love work, and I am so happy to work in a place that values aesthetics as much as function, people more than profits, construction and community. Now how would I ever find all of that in my living room? Well, often the construction part, but the rest I’ll find at Elaine Construction. Hope you’ll come visit me there.

Three Buckets: Why RE is a Good Investment

8 Gorham Road . Harwich Port . $799K

I started working when I was 11 years old. I didn’t do it out of necessity, as you might imagine, I did it because my sister asked me to join her in her chambermaiding efforts, at The Moby Dick Motel, and it seemed as good a way to pass the time as anything else I was up to that summer. I was, of course, paid under the table, by the New York couple that owned the joint. It’s location on Rt. 28 in Harwich was highly visible. Someone must have dropped a time on the them for trafficking in underaged help, because I recall my stint roaming from room to room with my sister was short lived. They moved me into the main building, which served as reception and their home, and that is where I stayed, cleaning for the summer. It was a pretty good gig. I recall spending an inordinate amount of my time cleaning the refrigerator, home to the Andes Mints, which I ate with wild abandon, and no apparent fear of retribution. I have no idea what their real names were. I referred to them as the Ropers – from Three’s Company. They were characters and had a dog to match. The poor little puppy had an issue with incontinence and was forced, I am sure, much to his chagrin, to wear pampers. So started my work life journey.

90 Sweetbriar Drive . Orleans $899.5K

I have no idea how much I made that summer, or what I did with that money. It was a pattern that I would repeat, again and again, as I moved from pot washer, to sandwich maker, breakfast waitress, to top notch server, slinging seaside offerings to sunburned tourists to put myself through school. I can recall a Pioneer Stereo and a Political Science degree by way of my spending, but saving – no. There was no saving, and I certainly didn’t donate money as I do now, but none of it is done strategically with a plan, a goal, a chance that the discipline will result in security, a date on the calendar that signals it’s ok to stop.

96 Skaket Beach Road . Orleans $1.15

My financial education can be encapsulated simply – a single high school course on how to balance a check book, which I remember well, but never employed, a mother that insisted we shop discount so that we could buy more, and more often. Shopping for the Falla girls was a national pastime. That regrettably, has never changed, and so I keep toiling. The one thing I learned and learned well was that real estate was a sound investment, with the added benefit that it tied up my dollars, bound to that houseboat with knots that this seaside gal could not untie. Safe from my indiscriminate spending habits.

Monomoy Coffee . Main Street . Chatham – ready to start your own business? $150K

I found myself thinking about Yara Shahidi the other day. She was recounting, in one of her many talks, the lessons her parent’s imparted. She started making money at a very young age, receiving her first paycheck two years before me. I have no idea how much it was for, but her parents told her that each check would be divided into three buckets: the savings bucket, the giving bucket, and the spending bucket. The brilliance of these buckets has me wanting to buy some. I’d like them to be teak, varnished so they gleamed and accented with a rope handle. You can see I am already heading in the wrong direction with the lesson, unless of course I found the money in my spend bucket, and chose to use those precious dollars for a vessel, oh wait, I think I’d rather spend it on real estate. It’s a currency I can get behind.

In Search of a Pretty Property

Have you ever seen a vine as happy as this one?

I’ve been casually looking around for another property. Casually because my Boston condo has yet to sell – it will though – just a matter of time, and Chatham doesn’t close for a few more weeks. The rate at which properties pass papers these days makes it silly to do anything other than gaze, and gander from a good distance away. The looking is a sort of disease. I’m signed up to so many alert services that some days slogging through the in-box is like moving through quicksand, but when I come across something that shows potential, it stirs the butterflies in my belly.

Set me up in this one.

I got a text this weekend that had my heart stop for dramatic effect before it started to Salsa. It was a tiny little two bed in Chatham, NOT yet on the market, but the owners were ready to say good-bye to it. They called it a tear down – impossible I thought, they know not what they speak of. It’s a non-conforming lot, and the risk you take if you remove a building is that you won’t be able to replace it, let alone put another larger home on the property. Of course their are Zoning Boards of Appeal, where you can plead your case, but it’s a gamble, and I am not willing to put $1.1M on the line for the chance they might be in a good mood the day I ask.

A pillow, a good book, and both my feet up, you’d find me here in the morning.

My heart returned to its steady beat when I learned about the size of the lot. It slowed even further when I visited the property to look it in the eye from the outside, assess the neighborhood and such. She knew it, and I knew it, the company that she kept was not stellar, star-studded, or seaside. A problem if you want to cash in that lottery ticket.

I’ve never wanted to force myself into being a numbers person, but when it matters, I seem to be pretty good at doing the math. This little house had numbers that didn’t work. I have never expected to get something for nothing, but renovating a home is hard. The only easy part of the process is spending too much, taking too long, and underestimating what others will give you for it. No, she wasn’t for me, but I’d take one of these little beauties, whether it was falling down or not. I’d move right in, set up my laptop, and tap away, breaking now and again to gaze out at the sea, and think to myself, how very fortunate I am to just be.

You mustn’t forget the view – even if it is only in your mind’s eye.

If I had a Million Dollars

Falling in love with a rich man is not as easy as falling in love with a poor man, as the old saying suggests. Falling can be hard on the heart, nurturing that love when it tests your patience, doesn’t live up to your expectations, or seems to fail you, can be trying. Staying in the game, when you’d rather throw in the towel, the hardest of all, but to love someone, or something, is to commit, and commitment has its own rewards.

Why all this talk of love? I stumbled across a listing of a house on Main Street in Orleans. As we prepare to say good-bye to our Chatham flip, and I expect to say fair thee well to my Boston condo, which as well all know, was never really mine to keep, like a summer fling that returns to his real life, just before Labor Day, we weren’t destined to be together forever. So I am on the hunt for companionship. I certainly didn’t expect to fall in love, but who ever does.

It’s pale mustard exterior and green clapboard trim had me judging the book by its cover. It wasn’t dressed the way I’d choose. Of course that can be changed, but at a cost, and often a steep one. When I peeked through the side door I could tell this property had soul, and an old one at that. I love old souls. I love the stories they tell, sometimes quickly, sometime revealed to you slowly overtime, as you get to know one another. There were hidden stairs, sloped floors, Dutch doors, and scores of built-in drawers to explore.

The hip bone’s connected to the thigh bone…

Despite the gentle use and clear care that had been languished on the property over the last century and a half, I am afraid everything would have to go – so much of it – almost all of it – how would I keep the character and charm of this beautiful, sprawling, four bedroom, two kitchen, barn, garage, guest suite, city on one side, country on the other side, marvel of a property. Did I mention that his caboose abutted a marsh that overlooked the cove?

Every home should have a guest house with a name as sweet as this.

If I had a million dollars… he’d take every penny of that and want more. He’d leach all my energy, wring from me blood, sweat, and a flood of tears, and when it was all said and done, I’d still love him, possibly more. Sometimes the hardest things give you the most pleasure, create the strongest bond, remind you that there is beauty that emerges from struggle.

A room with a view and a fireplace to keep you warm – not much else is needed.

Sadly our story ended before it had a chance to start. I didn’t have the million, and someone else snatched him up. He’s off the market, and so my search continues, but I sure do hope that whoever got him, loves him the way he deserves to be loved.

Made in the Shade

Selling a house has so much to do with timing, right place and all that. What if your just south of noon, a little left of the pathway to the perfect buyer, and are feeling a little down under? What if your timing is off, the market is off, or say, there is a pandemic that’s got your compass stopping anywhere but your true north? Some might say it’s fate, your destiny, never meant to be, but not me. I’m impatient. Not in the way I expect everything to magically fall into place. Where would the fun be in that? No the impatience in me burns in my belly and rises up in my chest, the urgency I feel has me bursting from my seat, pacing the floor, opening and closing the door, and asking to no one in particular, and anyone in earshot – where are you dear buyer? I’m waiting.

Run . Don’t Walk to the today’s showing. 34 Lawrence St.

I’m not shy about asking for help. I’ve got an excellent agent – more than one – a team actually, and they are all lovely, communicative, and talented. The Stephen Cohen Team penned the perfect prose for my property, placed an enormous sign on the fence announcing “Something Pretty’s Inside”, and posted social media announcements galore to get the word out. They’ve been ready and willing to show it, and have dutifully help open houses, but the people have gone elsewhere. The north shore, the south shore, the Cape, the islands, Costa Rica, Bali, a friend’s back yard in the country. Who all knows where they have made off to, but it is time to come home to the city, to work, to re-enter the human race and they, that one or two lucky someone(s) are not going to want to miss out on this live large in the city property.

I’ve pulled out all the stops. My good friend Christine came to visit, plants in hand, shop girl star management attitude in toe, and we rolled up our sleeves, rearranged furniture, pulled pillows from the closet until we found the perfect combination that would say: I could live here, I’ll take it, tell me the pillows come with the deal. Of course they do, anything for you, I’d say.

There was one more very important thing I thought I must do, and that was to surreptitiously plant a statue of St. Joseph upside down, facing my condo, in the back yard of my building. I had to do it in secret, because I don’t actually have egress rights to the garden below, but I thought the renters wouldn’t mind if they caught me, because I keep it clean. What they thought of me placing my faith in a small plastic figure, I will likely never know. It is fitting that St. Joseph a selfless and devoted carpenter, would be the middle man between me, or you for that matter, and a higher power. I promised St. Joseph that when my property is expeditiously sold, I will dig him up and carry him with me to my next home. He had a calling, and I have my own. I have this idea, that together we will get this jewel box of a condo sold.

Master Mason . Making her mark with art

There is a sea of fabrics out there. Dozens upon dozens of daily patterns are produced, like waves building in the ocean when a Nor’easter is brewing, it would be impossible to see all there is to see, in this sea of cottaintailed fabrics. Daunting to some, exciting to others, nature has a way of pushing a little piece of divine inspiration ashore, gently lapping at your toes, and then persistently petting them until you pay proper attention to the pretty little gift that you’ve been given. Nature – she giveth and she taketh away – the impermanence of it all is exciting.

In just this way, well not quite this way, perhaps metaphorically in this way, I was made aware of a little – big enterprise called Ferrick Mason. A watery blue, fauna leafed fabric presented itself to me, and I wondered how it was possible I’d never know of this companies existence before. I need to open my eyes, I should have known, I could have known, that not only was Alex Mason a textile designer, but a beautiful fine artist, with a whole lot of education. First, the University of Vermont – loads of nature there, then Pratt Art Institute – Brooklyn, then a jaunt to New Zealand before stopping in LA to got to school at the Otis College of Art and Design to study textile design, and then somehow she landed in Kentucky. Kentucky of all places, but these places have a way of finding their legacy living on in wallcoverings, fabric cushioned seats, curtains blowing in the breeze. A branch, a bird, a berried leaf, a shell, a shimmery feather, a shadow of some unknown shape, blurred by the blobs of paint that patterned the papery surface, a layer or two below another.

Alex Mason has talent. Her art, in part is derived from the landscapes of her travels, in part born from a vivid imagination. The mix of the two had me wondering which was which and who was who, like the one and only time I visited Hawaii and discovered purple flowering trees, potatoes, and rainbows, the likes of which had previously been known to me only on the fantastical pages of a Dr. Sues storybook. Their realness took a back seat to their magic.

That’s just the way I feel about Ms. Mason’s art, and her textiles. There’s a happy sophistication to her pieces which are full of symbolism with their circles, dragons, birds, and luminous orbs. The idea of papering a powder room, pantry or parlor in blue dragon’s portending good fortune is rather appealing to me. Don’t even get me started with the canvases covered in cakes, oh my. What a wonderful decadent phase that turned out to be.

Which would you choose? Hanging paper, curtains or a framed original in your home?

Dream a little dream house for me

Pink Railing and All: Designed for a day or two before being returned to the Owners – in its original condition.

I never had one Barbie doll. Not a single one. My sister had one, but I don’t remember which Barbie she was, where she lived (geographically speaking) or what she did for a living. She didn’t do anything, so my interest was low, though I desperately wanted that Malibu Dream House, or the camper. West Coast beach house overlooking the Pacific, with sunken living rooms, pink pool slides, and a closet full of lucite heeled Candy sandles seemed superb to me, and then a road adventure on luxury wheels, that would take me away from my small town existence – yes please, that too. Alas, my mother would have none of it. I can hear her now, “where are you going to put that thing (so disrespectful) it’s just going to junk up this place”. So my dreams of a dream house went unrequited.

Could my house flipping wanderlust be the result, (wait a minute, let’s not sugar coat it, let’s place blame here), the fault, (that’s better) of my dream house deprivation? I dare say it’s possible. The more I flip, the more I dream, and the places, palatial, and so far outside of my planetary orbit, that I could easily imagine the existence was flawless – though I know in my bones that nothing is, the point of a dream house is just that – it’s a magical fantasy. Everybody knows that the pool in a fantasy is self-cleaning, never needs resurfacing, and certainly doesn’t leak into the cinema below. What kind of a dream would that be. “Quel nightmare” as Holy Golightly would say.

California Cool – personal quarters of “It Girl Barbie”

As a marketer, I adore a good PR stunt. The brilliance of a collaboration that draws the eyes of the world – if only for a moment, to look longingly at your cleverness is a thrill. Matel and Airbnb thrilllllled me with their real life Malibu Barbie Dream House rental. One lucky “winner”, two nights, a walk on part in a movie, costumes, make-up artists, hair dresser to the stars and all. Astronaut, Tennis Champion, Yoga Instructor, Corporate Tycoon, Hostess, and/or Race Car Driver, my heart was swooning with the possibilities – I didn’t see an outfit for construction, but I’ve been trying that one on for years. I think I need a good tailor.

A closet that will help you explore who you want to be…

Snatched from the devastating flames of the California forest fires this real life Malibu Dream House isn’t on the beach, but instead set in the hills. The infinity pool will make you feels as if you are on the beach with its breathtaking views. Barbie’s house was a dream because she designed it in her own signature colors – a spectrum of pinks accented by pops of yellow and turquois. Bold and happy, hip and beautiful, Barbie’s minimalist aesthetic is a contradiction terms. Its Cali clean lines and uncomplicated details feel just right for the home. The furnishings are sleek and the space uncluttered, made somewhat easier to accomplish by her purpose programmed rooms. There is a Meditation Terrace, a WFH Office, a Cinema, Craft Room, bed, bath, and beyond fabulous dressing room. The contradiction comes in the form of that signature magenta pink, spotted on the handrail that surrounds the balcony, the waterslide, and the doors that lead out to the deck.

Gaudy, yes. Would I move right in and start a series of career explorations on a new coast, Goodness guys and gals, don’t you know me at all?