A visit to NYC hardly feels complete without a romp through Bergdorf’s. I love it’s location next to the Park Plaza Hotel because it always makes me think of Eloise the storybook written by Kay Thompson and Illustrated by Hillary Knight. Thompson was said to have fashioned Eloise after her childhood imaginary friend and alter ego. She lived large on the top floor of the hotel with her Nanny, her Pug named Weenie, and her turtle – Skipperdee. She wasn’t allowed to leave the hotel, but were she, I feel certain she would have absolutely adored Bergdorf.
Being on a budget as I am at the moment, we had to make haste through the main floors bag section, and head directly to the elevators and go all the way up to the 7th floor to dine at BG. My affection for the restaurant’s design hasn’t waned an iota since I first knocked eyes with it. Kelly Wearstler’s design is fantastic – if you admire a good molding, you’ll not want to miss her modern twist on an old classic. It’s diamonds galore.
While rushing to nab a seat in the pre-fashion week bustle I was stopped in my tracks. A preppy palette of paintings lined the corridor showcasing over 300 works of art from Chairish sponsored artists. Chairish for those not in the know is an on-ling furniture and objects d’art company similar to 1st Dibs without needing to be an heiress to shop it. You’ll still need to strategize and save because what they have on offer are not tag sale finds. I was thrilled to see them pop down from their cloud to pop-up at Berdorf – their very first foray into the physical world and wow did they make their presence known.
On view until April, if you’ve ever wondered what all the fuss is about, come and find out. Be prepared to leave with something you “chairish”.
“On-line dating apps have ruined dating and the opportunity for it to develop over time into something meaningful”. Violet – not her real name, said. She stood at the elevator bank, her rich milk chocolate complexion glowed with the dewiness of youth, her dark almond eyes framed in lush black lashes, her lips, which moved incessantly, were coated in a glistening peach hue. She held court to a sea of affirmative female shaking heads. They wanted more. They wanted validation that it was the app – not them. They wanted the belief that having more was not better. They wanted it to be eradiated. They wanted to be seen. They wanted engagement that required the social norms of proper introductions, greetings, and good-byes. When those good-byes were of the forever sort, they wanted them to come with the dignity of a face to face conversation, a thoughtful explanation, even a trite missive would do. When relationships end, there may be a lot to say about it, but it can be said simply- “I have enjoyed our time together, but as difficult as it is to part ways, I think that out there somewhere, a better fit exists for you and for me”.
“Ghosting” as the terminology goes for stopping all communication, is not ok. It is a digital sword that wounds the recipient. It’s your name forgotten by someone you’ve met several times, it’s the conversation with another who looks over your shoulder to ensure they aren’t missing a better opportunity for conversation with someone more influential, interesting, fashionable, or who all knows what else. It’s poor manners. In the end a fundamental part of our humanness, is the desire to be acknowledged, to be known.
All the talk of “ghosting” of not feeling seen, not being recognized for one’s worth got me thinking about my Louis Ghost chairs. Designed by Philippe Starck and manufactured by Kartell, these lucite chairs landed on the scene in 2002, which is a relatively short time to have reached iconic status, but reached it they have, and their visibility has a whole lot to do with our ability to see through them.
Designed in the image of Louis XVI’s Gout Grec Chair, it is the epitome of restraint. The irony being that XVI’s Neo-Classical style which followed XV’s was in it’s own right austere in comparison to that of Rocco, which was in fashion during his Grandfather’s reign. While historically interesting, it is not what makes this modern version innovative. The polycarbonate plastic is poured into a mold and out pops the chair in a single piece – astounding. It can be stacked six high for easy storage, it can handle a 300 pound person, and for plastic is incredibly comfortable.
It’s a small space wonder as its translucency allows you to see through it. It is both there and not there. It’s a modern day illusionist giving the appearance of space where little exists. I received my first Louis as a Christmas gift when I was still living in the North End of Boston. I coveted that chair, and it was out of my financial reach. $300. has now turned into $540. Ouch – icon status has it’s price tag. When I purchased my very first condo I got a second Louis, and then two Victoria’s – the Ghosts armless version, to accompany my small glass topped dining table. A veritable disappearing act allowing you to see beyond them, through the long flowing latticed curtains and out onto my private, ballast stone paved way, and into the great wide world beyond.
They have stayed with me, when I have gifted, sold, or left on the street so many other pieces of furniture that no longer fit into the style or the space of my next or new place. Louis and I have gotten very comfortable with one another, and while I am not opposed to comfort, a little excitement never hurt a relationship. It got me thinking about a change – the kind that doesn’t require me disposing of too much more of my income, and will allow me to see them in a whole new way. Dare I? I am considering having an oval medallion upholstered piece created to adorn the back of the chair, maybe a seat cushion too. Wherever did this idea come from? Divine inspiration, the muse? I dreamt of it last night – it seems fitting that it should come from some invisible force. Our quiet creativity is a wellspring if only we will listen.
My sister just returned from a jaunt through the coast of California. An inauspicious time to visit with flash floods, mud slides, and wild fires, but Jo-Jo won’t let a little weather get in the way of a good time. While there, she had a raucous time chasing a band of chickens that got unceremoniously chucked from a slow moving vehicle into the park. No longer being of egg baring value to the owners they were deemed redundant.
Jo-Jo has a soft spot for strays coupled with a commitment problem. For the purpose of this discussion we won’t get into what happened with Pi Pi, and Squiggles – two neighborhood cats that did not belong to her but boarded on occasion. Never at a loss for names, the chickens, which were captured and taken home – only in San Francisco and China Town will city dwellers attempt to keep chickens – they were immediately named and made to feel welcome. Rougie, Bougie, and Rosa, Avian Flu free or not, are likely never being relocated by the local Animal Rescue league. Once named, it’s hard to say good-bye.
All this got me thinking about naming my own, not so new place. A first, all the others have been given a number. I am the Holly Golightly of the real estate world. Pour slobs, 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5, they didn’t deserve a name. We weren’t meant to be together and so naturally, I couldn’t give them something so permanent, but this one, number six….I feel as if she needs a name. We may not be destined to be together forever, but we are likely to spend more than two years in each others company, and it feel wrong to keep calling her Six. George Costanza might disagree but I’ve made up my mind, at least a far as a proper name is concerned.
I want it to be important and yet have the ability to be casual. I don’t have my own children but I’ve always liked the idea of naming them after flowers. Flowers represent all that is wonderful in design, color, texture, composition. There natural beauty is alluring and they are at once carefree and complex. I feel certain that this name will finally allow the design to blossom into something extraordinary. Lilia Verily, known to her closest friends as Lily V is going to combine sophistication with a frolicking sense of sunny possibility. Not a socialite but a gal with social sensibilities that will make all feel welcome. I can’t wait for her coming out.
I can hear my mother shouting up the stairs, or as I walk out the door, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”. As someone that is charged with helping teams prepare for interviews, first impressions are among the very first things discussed. You have 2 minutes tops, with shrinking attention spans due to our digital universe it’s likely we have even less than that. After all a gold fish can hold their attention, gazing through their liquid oasis their world view warped by the curve of their glass bowl, for nine seconds. We humans clock in at 8. I love a happy goldfish, a prize for landing the ping pong ball atop a narrow rimmed jar, but this stat has me puckering my lips simulating a fish in the hopes that I can gain that second back. I’ll work on my attention span, but I can’t rely on others to be as shocked by this data as I am.
Which is why I feel perplexed about what to do with my own entry. If a person is subject to initial impressions which get imprinted on them for life, one can only imagine what happens when they enter your home. My current condo doesn’t offer much in terms of opportunity to surprise and delight. When you open the door – which is white in keeping with other units in the building, you are greeted by a wall that contains two other doors. It’s no house of mirrors. One is a coat closet, the other houses the washer and dryer. I am happy for both, but you can see the limitations that I am forced to contend with as it relates to this entry
Narrow with no where to go, I may not even get eight seconds. A splash of paint it’ll have to be. Doors, ceiling, casings and base all in the same hue? With small apartments and open concepts you have to delineate terminations. The base continues in a singular expanse from entry/hall to living room before flowing into the kitchen and meeting back up where it all began – in the entry. I love the look of a base in the same hue, but in high gloss, or a slightly darker pigment, still shining like a polished sports car preparing for a parade, but turning a corner and changing ones colors might not feel right in this situation. Safer to leave the base white, which begs the question should the casings remain white too.
I didn’t get into this game to play it safe, which leads me wanting to treat those doors as if they were side by side walls and adorn them with complimentary pieces of art. We humans crave symmetry so if I wanted to play it a tiny bit safe, in this smallest of spaces, with only a moment to make my mark on your psyche, I would find two pieces that offered balance. A door after all is a grand frame. I plan on capturing your attention with it, by giving life to my inanimate entry.
Life is a switchboard. A cacophony of conversation on the brink of happening. Hush the clucking and control the chatter, I tell myself even though I am drawn to it. Fold into the silence, swim in the abyss. Float on my back, buoyed by the dense salinity of the ocean where you are both separate and a part. A meditation that is as familiar to me as breathing. I long for the wisdom of water in these winter months when the year has yet to unfold and new beginnings are plump with possibility. Pluck we must, choose or have it selected for us, or worse yet, have it shrivel, sag, and curl in on itself, the life force and vitality disappearing from whence it came.
Too high-brow? I like to test out different writing styles. It’s a new year, and new year’s feel heavy with a responsibility to decide. Your word, your resolutions, goals, deadlines, commitments, convictions. Finally, you promise yourself, you are going to face your fears, throw caution to the wind – dive out of that plane into the sky and discover that you can fly, if only for a moment.
That’s a lot to tackle in the dark days of winter, which is why I haven’t selected the word, picked the direction, determined what the rest of my life will look like. Ralph Waldo wants me to “Write it on my heart that every day is the best day of the year.” It seems appropriate since no day of mine can be made bad by writing, and can certainly be made better by writing to you.
I feel sure that starting with something simple will get my momentum moving and so I have decided to tackle Design Trends and predictions. Some that I believe originated with me, but one can never be certain of that. Let’s just say I picked them up along the way, and I hope that you take from them a little inspiration for which to pepper you palace.
2023 and the MOODY HUE
I think of moody hues as being muddy. A little dinge thrown in to give the color personality, complexity, interest. You know, like a person with a past. I have been playing with my own moody hues for the last six months, which contributed to my momentary feeling of superiority, but I know I ripped the idea off of someone – probably Kelly Wearstler – I remain obsessed.
The scallop – not to be confused with the wave – is definitive. Half moon after half moon placed side by side rather than a tug of war rope pumped vigorously to produce a sonic ripple. Being a Cape Cod girl at heart I naturally adore a scallop. The challenge is that it can feel whimsical when what you are in search of is sophistication. Try tempering it with a traditional print or a dark brooding hue. Dare to give a scalloped shade an edge by painting it black. Baby – that’s both unexpected and bold.
Let’s just say you won’t find it on Wayfair. They don’t have what this new trend wants, which is a little more luxury, a little more ornamentation and old world wealth. I just bought a Neoclassical French dolphin based dining table – just saying – I got it before they announced that it was going to be a trend. Don’t like the old world and don’t want to spend a fortune? Hit the yard sales and flea market’s for a traditional piece, and then take it to one of your local furniture refurbishing shops and have them paint an old antique sideboard in a high-gloss hue of your choosing. Neoclassical with an edge. I use Porcelain Patch & Glaze out of Watertown. They are wonderful.
My favorite way this is done is through the use of fabric covered walls with headboards and curtains all in the same pattern. It’s daring, it’s expensive, and it’s cozy. It feels southern and sophisticated, and I am always left scratching my head about who was charged with the responsibility of figuring out how to make the headboard match up exactly with the wallcovering – mathematicians they must be.
There are many more predictions than the few I have chosen specifically for you. Some will peter out quickly and others will prove they can last beyond the calendar year, but I hope this gets you started thinking and exploring. Isn’t design deliciously fun?
Part I: Writing. It is as pervasive a part of my life as sleeping and my morning coffee routine. I’m nearly always doing it. You are probably too. The little notes on the yellow squares stuck to the refrigerator reminding you to buy milk or pick-up the dry cleaning or some such banal domestic necessity. LinkedIn posts, Instagram, though not Facebook or Twitter – if either of those aren’t obvious you can DM me and I’ll explain in agonizing length my reasoning. My name must be penned on countless documents daily, though perhaps that’s an over exaggeration. I could count them if that was something I was inclined to do. I am more a stater of numbers than a counter of them. Then there are the blog posts like this one, and of course the writing, or writing again of that blessed book of mine. I am not cursing it. I do in fact believe that it will give blessed voice to this wealth building issue in the timeliness of times when rights are diminishing instead of getting heavy with possibility.
Writing – my year has been a blur of letters dancing on and off the page, a mosh pit of violent activity when I am begging them to perform a waltz. Such is the life of a writer awaiting the one perfect en pointe, the words dancing in balance. Grace, grit and sophistication forming a paragraph nothing short of reverent, the final footfall the exclamation point that keeps you practicing the art.
Part II: Reading. One cannot expect to be a good writer if one is not a good reader. Some of the most successful writers say so, and while I hadn’t given it much thought before “they” made mention of it, I have mostly enjoyed reading except when I didn’t. That is to say before I wrangled my dyslexic brain into subservience and before I gave up trying to hold my head perfectly still and let my eyes do all the work – before then, and when I was forced albeit unsuccessfully to read about military warfare for my political science coursework – a real snoozer that I never got through and almost prevented me from graduating. Thankfully between, Peter my Super Salad co-working and Foreign Relations Graduate student, and the active duty Army Infantry Officer that also served as a Bartender, pouring me hard cider’s, post shift, at Conran’s while imparting his real war experiences, I graduated. Aside from that I have enjoyed reading for pleasure and edification and I offer these books as some of my favorite of this past year.
Part III: Travel. I pack a suitcase as often as a mother packs lunches for her kids during a school year. Between house flipping, visits to the Cape and jaunts to visit friends or rendez-vous in European destinations, I travel – a lot. The first half of my year kept me closer to home as “home” was more temporary. The Troy had its conveniences which I have grown to appreciate in real time. Among them, parking on the roof of the building. The spot is always there, waiting for me, no matter the time of my return, which is a very nice feature of a place. Second, I could throw out the trash, just three doors down from my unit, whenever I wanted. I did not have to wait for a designated day or two to dispose of it. I love throwing things away so this feature of high-rise living is lovely. The Butterfly App which granted access to the package room offered its own series of delights that I will miss, but I’m a mover on’er and having secured my next condo – No. 6 if you are keeping track, I left the Troy behind for a third floor walk-up on Shawmut Ave, and though I have been too busy to do a thing to the place, in truth it didn’t need much doing. Of course that won’t stop me, I’m hardwired for change.
In June I flew to France to visit friends and film a documentary – well I didn’t film it, I was the talent, though I am not sure how much talent was required to eat and drink in the home that Julia Child built with her husband Paul built in Chateauneuf – Grasse but I can assure you I enjoyed it even if it was a bit painful to watch it play out on the tv screen. Twice I ferried to my favorite island for sun, sea and shopping. I ate my way through Charleston and walked my way across Amsterdam and London. I washed my clothes between visits but they largely lived in my suitcases which never got put away.
I think for the first quarter of 2023 I will stay put, plant a seed in my new place and see if I can grow a fragile root. As a writer, I feel like I absolutely have to pick a word for the year, but one word seems so limiting. I’m considering the mundane – there is beauty in a simple word like Pond or Frog, why couldn’t one of those be my word? Any who, this is good-bye to twenty-two. It was a very good year for me, and I hope it was for you too.
If it’s going to be frightful, at the very least I could make an attempt to transform the interior into something delightful. Like an old barn that is made magically special with a singular string of fairy lights, or maybe two, my yet to be started apartment, could certainly benefit from a sprig of holly and some evergreen. I can’t let the Instagram holiday decorating denizens defeat me before I even pull out my tree stand.
You know it isn’t real right? Like the wild wonky mirrors inside the circus tent that turn you into a thistle thin reed blowing in the tall grass or a plump peach of a pretty little girl that prefers playing with Barbie’s to riding her bike, it’s make believe. Try anyway. Perfection is overrated, and nobody worth their salt ever let a camera filter get in the way of a fun afternoon.
Insta is aspirational, inspirational, infuriatingly fake perfection that I am going to attempt to copy. Armed with handfuls of Command Hooks, spools of twine and thin green wire. I’m not afraid to pull out the hot glue gun and the duct tape too if it comes to that, nor should you be afraid. If you were a paid influencer with a slue of Martha Steward minions – the likes of which hailed from her eponymous Mag, that would be one thing. The creation of an entire town cut out of gingerbread and piped with icing, sprinkled with crystalized sugar and presented in under an hour, commercials included, would be de rigueur. Me, I would leave my kitchen looking like a flour bomb went off, a dilapidated house held together by string, a few tall candy canes shoring it up, and a large glass of wine in hand. My consolation prize for the effort.
While I suspect my merry making might have a similar outcome it feels worth the effort. I’ll turn on the tv to White Christmas, I really adore that leopard pill box hat and poof that Vera Ellen dons for her arrival in Vermont, and create my own original decorations. Just as I might not be able to create the much adored designs I’ll find on-line or hung from the chimney’s of every retail store from Madison Avenue to Bond, they will not likely be able to replicate mine. It only seems fair. Now for the merry-making.
The phone was pressed to my ear, its battery life letting itself be known in the hot thudding pulse that radiated through the cartilage and the soft tissue cage designed to capture sound, but today most notably was holding my fear and shame. How could I have embarked on such a big journey, such an adult undertaking, advanced in my years and yet still entirely unprepared. How had I had not known this thing. My face started to burn, waves of frustration rippling through my chest, tears pricking the fleshy corners of my eyes. I pinched my nose hard.
“Are you listening to me Sarah, asked?” “This kind of thing happens all the time.”
“Was I supposed to know that?” I asked angrily, though the anger was at myself, not this smart, efficient no-nonsense woman. My attorney.
“Of course not”, she replied. “You don’t know until you know.” “You might have gone two or three transactions before stumbling across a Certificate D, as you bought and sold, and searched and renovated.” “I didn’t even start to see this until as recently as last year and I do dozens of transactions every month.”
“ohhhh” I replied feeling just a little bit better than I had when the conversation started.
I didn’t know when I was confronted with the uncomfortable reality that my fire escapes had not passed inspection and would require an expensive overhaul. I was aware that condominiums were all about communal living. That we owned the air inside our space, but not much more, and that decisions regarding repairs required the collective approval of the other owners within the building. Laws are laws. I understood that, but over the years I would be confronted again and again with some sort of a nuance, a new regulation, a new certificate, a difficult party that held a disproportionately large percentage of the building’s ownership and thus could swing a vote in one direction or another.
These blind spots exist everywhere, but then I turn a corner, have something explained to me by one of my team of experts, or a friend that wants to help, and it becomes crystal clear. I’ll never round that corner again and be surprised by what awaits. There will be other corners of course, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get in your car and start driving. The lessons that we learn in real time are the stickiest.
In this weekend of Thanksgiving I am so grateful to all the brokers, builders, designers, vendors, agents and lawyers that have taught me some aspect of homeownership. Schoolhouse Rock used to espouse the belief that “knowledge is power”, and while I don’t disagree with that, I think knowledge is freedom. Every bit of wisdom I am able to tuck away gives me a little more agency in this world. My map becomes full of stop signs, and routes, crossroads and bridges to new worlds. Don’t let a little thing like not knowing something stand it the way of your path forward. One step at a time. I am happy to help and so are countless others. I am grateful for that.
I’m not looking for a formula. I’m searching for fantastical. I want magic, I want to surprise myself when all is said and done, but these days I am doing a lot more saying than doing. Sometimes you just have to start. I thought the purchase of the table was a good start, and I suppose it was, but since it hasn’t arrived yet, to bath me in the historical glow of ballroom dances and prearranged romances, country homes and noble tombs, it isn’t inspiring me. I may only be able to capture the smallest of snapshots from the fantasy. My table being of modest size it would have become friendly with, dare I say, hundreds of other fabulous furnishings in a single castle’s room. Still it would have been admired by the curious discerning sort that would certainly have been invited to dinner. In its absence I am forced to focus my attention on that blessed fireplace.
Blyth Collins Interiors
I have decided to keep it. Even if it costs me precious square feet, and it does, and it’ll cost me even more when I am forced to build out on either side of her expanse to make her not appear as expansive as she is. It sounds contradictory, but I can assure you, once I’ve added to the girth by building that cabinetry – say a foot back from the mantle (aka – the entire encased gas box) it will feel a little bit more like it belongs. Perhaps I do it a second time too, another foot – I have it don’t you worry, gradually blending it into the wall, maybe even running shallow storage along its expanse. It’ll cost me, but I consulted the powers that be and they were addiment. “Do not remove that fire place” they said. One even screamed “NO”. People love fire, and they were fired up over the thought of it’s removal, so I stepped back from it. The subject was too heated if you get my drift.
I did receive a single affirmation regarding my decision to lob off the kitchen island’s overhang. When I say lob, I really mean surgically remove it, with the help of a professional stone cutter so that it is a normal sized top. This will help some, providing a three foot runway behind any furnishings designated for the living room area. I’ve spent a good deal of my life shimming by one piece of furniture or another and because I don’t move slowly unless I’ve been recently hospitalized, I bump into things. I bruise terribly, though the furniture seems fine, it would be nice to have some clearance, while still having a place to sit.
I’m going to paint the kitchen cabinets green. I can’t believe I am writing it for the entire world to see. I’ve never painted anything green – never. I feel strangely compelled to do it and so I am, and it will be moody because I plan to paint them in Farrow and Ball. The walls will be in the same color. I might keep the base white, but I might not. Progress. If we aren’t moving forward we’re falling behind, and I hate it when I can’t see the future, don’t you?
It’s a perfect sunny fall day, the last vestiges of October hang in the air ready to be snapped away by the goblins and ghosts that will stroll the streets in search of tricks or treats tomorrow. We New Englanders love to be fooled into believing that this weather will last, if not forever, at least until it’s supposed to snow on the night before Christmas and then never again, unless it’s on the mountain you plan to ski down.
I watch envious of the walkers by that have embraced the day daring to live in the moment. I supposed I am living in mine, but fully embracing it I am not. My head turns again to watch the diners in the street, sipping wine and savoring grilled octopus and fried zucchini discs. My stomach grumbles and my taste buds tingle at the suggestion of the tangy tzatziki mingling with those crispy zucchini chips.
I turn my head away from the diners and back to my space. The pale cream walls resemble a baby’s cheek after a mid-day nap. The slightest flush of heat becomes evident to the eye that gazes at them long enough. It’s been months. Shouldn’t I have resolved this by now? Shouldn’t I know the answer as to the color palette, the furniture layout, what’s going to stay and what’s going to go? Shouldn’t I?
I don’t. For all you readers that believe it just comes naturally, that the ideas pop into my head like the rising bubbles in a glass of champagne, let me disavow you of this notion. It takes practice. A lot of practice. It takes an obsessive dedication to observation. It takes a willingness to perservere when you want to give up and turn it over to someone that you think might know better.
I practice this a lot, but my natural state of practice is eradication of past wrongdoing. What’s right or wrong can’t be relegated to referencing the ten commandments or the even state or federal laws. My righting of what I consider to be wrong might include surgically slicing that gas fireplace from the wall that it was lobbed onto. You might consider this anathema. Yes, you. You’re always going on about how lovely it is to have a fire in the fireplace. To snuggle up next to it with a warm mug of steaming cider and a good book on a cold day, or to trim the tree and admire your handy work by the dim glow of light that it emits accented as it is by the twinkling lights that drape the fragrant branches.
I know it all sounds very romantic, and it is. I love a fireplace with real wood and a man that lugs the logs in from the snowy porch knowing that he halved and quartered them using his muscle and brawn to render them useful when the occasion called, but I need my space. That honking fireplace, slapped on the wall in the very spot that the existing fireplace once stood, stands out in a most oppressive way. 29.5” it announces itself in the room like a mount Vesuvius sized pimple on the otherwise fresh face of your prom date. You can’t do anything but look at it and wonder at the unfortunate timing or choice. It just feels wrong to me, and it takes up physical space in a room that I can hardly afford to have it stolen from, nor the mental space in my mind which on a good day is overcrowded and on a bad day in danger of being condemned.
The big question today is should I consult a psychologist and make peace with what I was given to work with, OR should I consult a surgeon and get cutting. I’d have them carve that malignancy right out, and lob off the overhang of my kitchen island while they were at it. It would gain me three feet in all. That’s not nothing, but would it leave me bereft on those cold winter nights? What would you do?