Longing for Change: a room that needs a new view

A new point of view that is. Sometimes that moment of clarity doesn’t come until after the hammer hits and the dust clears, and enough space has been made to allow room for the possibility of something else, new, fresh….different. Sometimes the hammer need not touch the surface at all. A little spit, and duct tape, and a new age is ushered in.

Top: Benjamin Moore’s Delaware Putty. Bottom left: Million dollar Red. Bottom Middle: Sunrise. Bottom Right: Bridal Rose.

I visited a room like this last week. One that was grand and stately, that important people, with important ideas, and purpose sat and conjured, and slowly became. This room must have felt like a place of significance back in the day, where thoughts could form a movement, and words become songs or poems that uplifted, or compelled people to take action – even if only in a small way. Some spaces are like that. The awe and reverence one feels in the sanctuary of a church, the high court, the stage of a grand opera house. They are designed to inspire.

What happens then when a century passes, and the velvet on the curtains is threadbare, and the fine paneling has lost its luster, and the furnishings are better suited for a Henry VIII theater production than a modern place of learning?

Well I had an idea, if ideas can be owned, which I am not at all certain they can, because the idea in fact came from some wood carvings, which in turn took their inspiration from Alice in Wonderland, and didn’t Lewis Carroll borrow some of his very own ideas from Alice?

However they came to be, this is how I see the transformation of that space, making it’s way into the 21st century. It’s unapologetic of course, as it should be. Creativity must be expressed and beauty unleashed to beat down the dark side. This is how I see it.

Finding Your Way to Calm

During these in between times I usually feel like an old teddy bear whose seams have given way and whose fluff can be found in small tufts, scattered about all the places I have visited. A pair of sparkly shoes left behind at a friends house, two socks – not of the matching variety, a pair of my nickers, folders full of important documents, and most definitively – pieces of my sanity. If I thought being knocked senseless would make room for some fresh insight, I just might let someone take a whack.

It was this bad attitude that I took with me to the hardware store to get another round of sample paints for the new place. The clock is ticking and my lack of inspiration isn’t helping. So when Susan announced herself as a color specialist that was willing to assist – I did something unprecedented for me…I said “I’d love your help”. And I meant it. And even better – she did help.

Sometimes I get to thinking that I know enough about something to just go it alone, and that under the circumstances, the circumstances being, in case you’ve forgotten, are that all that fluff is falling out of my head – how could I possibly expect to wedge anything new in there and make it stick. Them, those, that.

Bill Nye said: “Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.” It’s both scary and reassuring all at the same time, and Susan knew something I did not. She knew what all the designers were trending toward for the new year. She had a whole file full of greys. Can you imagine. It made me swoon with happiness. She had a tiny little piece of paper that had a diamond cut out of its middle. It was pure white and she ran it across colors to show me how they were reading. She talked about cool and warm, and how the very best designers balance the two in any space. She told me I picked colors that looked expensive and that it was a sure sign that i had gotten it right.

The beauty of a renovation: we can fix that.

Maybe all that fluff has been falling out to make room for Susan’s wisdom. My palette may have looked expensive, but it cost just the same amount it always does, and as I sit looking at the enormous sample sheets that magically appeared from her folder, I feel calm. Just like one of the paint colors we selected together.

Happy Saturday.

72 Hour Challenge: Part II

Top: The Inside Headboard only comes in Queen so we’ll need to have it custom made, but it will look beautiful mounted to the wall in front of this Article Basi Walnut Bed frame.

Undoubtedly the living room is a big deal in any home. That’s where you curl up on the sofa with a good book and a glass of wine, argue about what you are going to watch on TV – Tree House Masters or Hallmark Channel, sometimes I do that – judge away if you must, entertain friends, have long talks, and generally…well…live. As much as I appreciate that the living room can be the heart of the home, I long for my own bedroom when I am between flips. I dream about my bed, I imagine how lonely it is in that freezing cold storage box, and feel a little less than whole.

For me that poor cold bed is my everything in that room. Sure I love my closets, but they have doors, so they are practically different rooms entirely. It’s my perfect Prana Mattress, my feather stuffed pillows, my layers and layers of blankets that create a coziness I sink into. It’s a bit ironic since I suffer from such serious sleep issues. A post for another time.

I want to make sure that the master bed gets the special attention it deserves. The whole room that is, not just the bed. It’s a big room too so making it inviting without stuffing it with furniture, keeping a minimal aesthetic in keeping with the modernist look, is the challenge.

A king size bed will help with the scale of the room, a large low dresser, a bench at the end of the bed for taking your shoes off at the end of a long day – all important elements. Add black out curtains (a non-negotiable), some great bedside tables, and maybe a comfy chair. For me, no TV in the bedroom, but that decision I will leave up to the owner.

Reflections Of….

Is it too late to take a look back at 2018?  I have been so sick, I clear missed the end, and the new beginning.  I hate not saying a proper good-bye.  Despite so many friends and relatives saying sayonara with nothing less than gusto, I had lots for which to be grateful.

Left is Hanson Street Living Room After the Renovation. Right is before.

I like listing the accomplishments and the milestones.  I’m one of those people that adds things onto the list, just so I can cross them off.  You know the kind, don’t you?  Well sometimes I get to adding things to my list at such a dizzying rate I think my head is going to spin clear off, but them I go and get it all done, and there my head is still, so there’s not much of a case for slowing down.

This year I sold a house, bought a house, started a renovation, finished the biggest interiors project I had ever undertaken, built a deck, landscaped a yard, tore down a chimney, and spent an inordinate amount of time at Stonewood Products in Dennis, MA.  If you think sawdust is great you are going to love this place.  I had a “round” milestone birthday, celebrated in Mexico, and then London, visited Seaside Florida a new urbanist development that to me, is perfection, and took a ferry ride to Nantucket with my friends for a week.

Refurbished furniture for The Manse.  A little can of paint will do you.  Right side photo: Dan Cutrona @cutrona

I remembered how much I respect and admire the work of Dorothy Parker – I mean who else could possibly come up with poems as acerbic and sharp-witted as quips like:  “It serves me right for having put all my eggs into one bastard”?  Brilliant.  

I couldn’t resist.  Lawrence Street at time of purchase on the left and now….

I reaffirmed my affection for the color gray and more specifically, Ben Moore’s Mineral Ice.  It’s such a serene and calming gray.  I’m going to paint No. 5 gray too.  And there was so much more; introductions to new and amazing people like Jill Rosenwald a hip pottery maker, and Tillett Textiles – allowing you to select your pattern, and color palette, and finally find the perfect combo to go with your grandmother’s Bergere chair.  Magic.

Yes, 2018 was a pretty good year.  Hope it was for you too.

Pretty Pairings: Painted wood meets natural finish

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Wood paneling at the Parister Hotel.

I’m not sure where I first saw it, but if I had to guess I would say it was in some hip hotel.  Hotel design has the luxury of being daring.  Guests like to see something different than what they might put in their own home, and since they won’t be looking at it all the time, they are less likely to grow tired of it.  Which begs the question – is high gloss painted wood, accented with natural wood something that I would grow tired of in my own home.

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The most beautiful detail….nyc.

This, I think, is something I am willing to try.  First of all, I won’t be there for that long, so how sick of it could I possibly get?  Second, as long as the millwork is crafted by a real expert, I am likely to admire it ….. forever.  There is something about the juxtaposition of these two finishes that is appealing to me.

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perfect pairings.

In small spaces you don’t have much opportunity to make statements, and one must be careful that the statement you make isn’t over the top.  This treatment would accomplish that.  I particularly like the paneled wall, though I could see how paneling the ceiling might be cool too.  If you have a fear of putting holes in the wall – this may not be for you.  It can be hard for some to make a puncture wound in what is in essence of piece of artwork in its own right.  If you have a lot of art and want to display it, taking up limited surface area might be a luxury you can’t afford.

See how the eye is drawn to those o

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See how the eye is drawn to the doors.

My favorite compromise is to paint the exterior casings and moldings of a built in, leaving the shelves and interior in the natural wood.  It feels sublimely refined.  So for No. 5, I plan to find a way to incorporate this detail into the mix.

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By bringing the natural stained wood to cap the banister columns and accent the base the stair is made that much more interesting.

Getting Hammered: Debunking the flip

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See those Galbraith and Paul curtains hanging on the Lux Hold Ups Rods custom made in Brooklyn by female artisans – no normal flipper would ever buy those.  The cost a quarter of most flippers total renovation budget.  Don’t you just love them?

As I was preparing for a big real estate summit that’s coming to the city I came across some interesting sessions on social media, streaming, video production and branding for business.  All things that are important to me.  I should say – this is a corporate real estate summit, not a residential one, and it’s for my full time job, not my side hack.  Still, by design, these worlds collide, and I learn so much from my personal ventures that contribute meaningfully to my work, and vice versa, that it seems perfectly simpatico.  This research led to me googling myself, and to the discovery of a blog post for which I was the subject.  Or, as I prefer to think of it… the STAR.

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Farrow and Ball Wallcovering costs a fortune.  It’s really art that I leave behind.  I know not everyone will appreciate it.  I did it for me.

Jon Gorey, the author of House and Hammer, took to debunking my junk in his article and making me look like more of a hasbin than a starlet.  Hum!  Using me as a cautionary tale to all those wannabe flippers out there, he suggested that my efforts (and yours by the way) would have been better spent sitting around on the sofa for the next 10 or 30 years and cashing in at the end, having foregone the hassle, and the hustle associated with my high cost renovations.

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TV may make it seem sexy but it’s hard work.  Even Chip is sweating there.  A lot of sweet goes into it.

I must say that I have an appreciation for his style of writing, his clear understanding of the numbers, the risks associated with real estate ventures, and for his love of homes.  Pay close attention to all that because it’s true!  He says flipping is sexy – not true and that marble and Parisian chandeliers are not what the South End needs, or buyers necessarily want.  That I suppose is simply a matter of opinion.

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I spy a chandelier that still makes me smile.

I like saying “for the record” and “setting the record straight” but the truth is, the truth changes.  My truth at this moment, and as I have recorded it, has always been this…to date that is, I am flipping homes  – for me.  Not for anyone else.  Yes I want to sell them.  Yes I want to make a profit.  Yes I hope to use that profit to get ahead before I retire, but imbedded in those truths is something fundamentally more important that is driving me to renovate these properties.  It’s my love of design and architecture and travel.

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Travel inspiration.

What Jon doesn’t know is that were it not for the sweat, and hives, and the sawdust, I would not have traveled to Paris every other year, a place that is so sublime to me it fills my heart with happiness.  I would not have been to Croatia, Bosnia, Switzerland, Italy, Nantucket, Mexico, and on and on to so many amazing places where people of different cultures open ones mind to both how big, and small, our world is, and art and beauty sit side by side the dirt and grit of our realities.

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Croatia.  Look at that limestone.

Jon doesn’t know that I carefully plan each property based on a design vision that is like none I have done before.  While I certainly learn things along the way, a trick here or there to make the process a bit more easy, or visually more appealing, this is not PS101.  That Parisian chandelier was purchased for me, and boy does it have a good story.  If I were only in this for the money, I would use granite, not marble.  I would paint everything beige, not one of the dozens of refined and/or wild hues that my boyfriend Benjamin Moore has to offer.  I would use Home Depot fixtures, make only cosmetic changes not improvements to the infrastructure (many flippers – though not all – like to keep there money right where they can see it – and that’s not behind the walls).  There are so many things I would do differently if the only thing I was in this for was the bottom line.  Bottom lines are boring.  I never wanted to be a suit.

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Thanks to No. 3 Venice is now part of me.

I’m as pleased as punch that someone wrote about me.  As I said, I think Jon offers some very sound advice.  Being covered in sawdust isn’t for everyone.  You have to love it.  If you are considering making a foray into the adventures of flipping, it’s important to go in with eyes wide open.  Me, I grew up thinking everyone lived like this – you have a choice. Choose wisely.

Sale-ing Away to a new location

 

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Sun filled living room.  tall ceilings . low floors.  painted in Benjamin Moore’s Sand Dollar.

You might have guessed with all this talk of rental properties that I had something beside a post up my sleeve.  Well I do, this is the first time that I have written about – in the moment that is – a property that I have on the market.  It went on Wednesday night.  This is a particularly stressful time for me.  I question everything – even the things, that to an outsider – are so clearly good things.  For the next two months I’ll be on pins and needles, right up until the moment my Lawyer Sarah tells me the sale has been recorded in Suffolk County Registry of Deeds.  Then I can breath again.  Two months is a long time to hold your breath, trust me, I don’t recommend it.

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Custom Kitchen cabinets with brass hardware and carera countertops and backsplash.

It started out as a one bed, but has been converted to two.  Apartment living is all about proportion.  Large can feel small and small can feel expansive.  As the French say- ca depend.  Layout, ceiling heights, even the angle and the swing of the door can make a huge difference in the livability of a space.  Of course some things are entirely out of your control (like the sale of this condo and the ceiling heights you are given to work with) other things like the geometry class of a door layout which allows the bedroom doors to swing in and miss the queen size beds that lie within, are entirely within your control.  It’s this bit of genius that make the pint size unit (708SF) worth every penny of the asking price.  It’s two real bedrooms, not a bed and a half, not a bedroom for a baby with a crib, not a “bonus space” it’s a bedroom.  It’s also quite a nice feature that I refer to as the “bow of the boat”.  The doors form a point at the end of the hall, from the ceiling at that point hangs a perfect little pendant lighting the way to your state room.  Charmont, if I do say so myself.

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Dining nook with custom table in grasscloth and Farrow and Ball Lotus Wallpaper.

It’s in the Eight Streets, a prized neighborhood within the South End neighborhood for it’s proximity to some of the best restaurants the SE has to offer.  Snuggled between Tremont and Shawmut Avenues, there is only one street within the eight that extends beyond these two streets and acts as a thoroughfare – that’s Waltham – lived there in case you are wondering.  Why would anyone care about this you ask?  Quiet.  It’s a quiet street, across from the park, a street that might make you think your in the suburbs, and that my friends is worth gold.  Some of which I am asking you to part with for the privilege of living here.

Other selling points include the design – why trouble yourself over it when you can just move right in and start entertaining.  Everything is for sale and no one said you couldn’t, or shouldn’t buy a refined living environment, most certainly not me.  Then there is the fact that it’s parlor level, just three steps up into the building.  It’s across the street from the Ringold Park where the sounds of children’s laughter and the gentle splash of water from the fountain make their way with the breeze into your living room.  There’s the shared garden oasis tucked away in the back for bbq’ing, sipping coffee and reading the paper, or a glass of wine by the fire after a long day at work.  City living…this could be you.

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Tucked away behind the building you wouldn’t even know you were in a city.

Come for a visit:  3 Hanson Street, Apt. 1, Boston – Buy and stay for as long as you like.