Painted Into a Corner

Ever feel like that?  Wondering to yourself how it was possible you didn’t see where this thing was going?  Seven minutes, a floor plan no one can, or will verify, an inadequate video, and a few pictures cribbed from the on-line posting.  That’s what I have to go on by way of making my design decisions.  Oh – it’s ill advised to do it this way.  Mistakes will be made, unnecessary expense paid.  Why wasn’t I born with that patience gene?

Option 1:  An asymmetrical built-in in the living room which would house my enormous television or a decorative plaster wall.

These are questions I often ask myself and clearly I am unwilling to change.  I will be designing it before I have the keys and can sit quietly in the middle of the living room and figure out why the space feels so small when it’s got such great volume.  12 foot ceilings are pretty grand.  Is it the size of the windows, the standard doors which are a little too wide and not quite tall enough, or are there simply not enough squares in my corner?  I’ve lived in spaces far smaller than 708 feet.  In my experience these questions get answered in dramatic aha moments when you are finally given time to be in the new home.

Option 2:  Keep it clean and simple.  Left:  Benjamin Moore – Chantilly Lace (cool)  Right:  Benjamin Moore – Swiss Coffee (warm).

These moments are sustaining.  This gal can’t be expected to only experience the type of aha that comes along with an unforeseen conditions report, followed by a change order, a schedule delay, and if you are me, tears of frustration.  Some of it has to be good, and much of it is.  That’s the news I would like to share today.  Remember, paint is cheap.  If you do find yourself in that corner, as I often have, just sit tight.  Let it dry, walk right over that problem, and start again.  It’s not finding yourself in the corner that presents the challenge.  It’s not exercising the muscle that let’s you find your way out.


Farrow and Ball . Lotus

Option 3:  Paint and select accent wall for the use of this sophisticated wall covering.

You see what I just did there?  Gave myself permission to make lots of mistakes.  It’s Sunday.  Absolution abounds – if you are prone to similar mishaps, just remember, some corners are cozy.

Make Me Blush

Go ahead, make me.  I’ve had a fondness for pink for ages.  Long before this most recent obsession that has everyone from restaurants to upscale homes crushing on this pretty pastel.  I painted my bedroom pink in my second property and loved how it made me feel. The soft complimentary light, the calming effect it has after a dusty day that tried its darnedest to make you into a dull girl.  It brings a little rose to the cheek.  It makes your lips curl up just a bit at the edge.  Men don’t have to admit to liking it, but I know many do.


Sketch . London – 2 of those chairs arriving today in pale cream!

Today, my beyond fabulous painting that I purchased from Blue Print Store in Dallas will arrive here in Boston after its stopover in New Orleans.  Don’t ask, I just request they tell me when to be there to receive it.


Blue Print Store . Dallas . TX – Stephanie Shank Artist



Runway . Right way.

Kid Gloves will be knocking on the door between 2 – 5pm and guess what colors they will be delivering?  Pink, and blue, and mint, and peach, and red, and black, and my steady and enduring lovely…gray.  This painting will be the centerpiece of my next project.  Tink (that’s my sister) told me in no uncertain terms I wasn’t to buy any new furniture for this one…I crossed my fingers when I promised I wouldn’t.  Really, aside from me going broke and having to live with her when I am old and gray, what could she possibly have in which to object?  She is the happy recipient of many of my cast offs.  The Surf Shack has my beautiful apple green lamps from One King’s Lane adorning the matching Bungalow 5 white dressers, and complimenting the organdy tray ceiling accent color and Designer’s Guild striped curtains.  Come to think of it my little Omph slipper chair from Charlestown is in that bedroom too.  I’ve been thinking about re-upholstering my 6 month old day bed from Restoration Hardware and making it a centerpiece of her living room – another project I am working on for her now.  I digress.

Saltie Girl . Back Bay . Boston – @christiano336

Back to the super hot topic of this really warm color.  Pink.  Is it dangerous to paint a living room in this hue.  I’ve been dying to…do just that.  I saw a sweet little property yesterday that I allowed my imagination to go wild with a redesign.  A good sign that I have a fondness for the place.  It’s been well loved over the years (read:  super warn and in need of some TLC).  Until I find a boyfriend, I have plenty to spare, and want to put it to good use.  An offer will go in.


Featured in Domino Mag – back in the day.

Seems like I am doing a lot of finger crossing these days.  If it chooses me, I just may have to engage in a “Blush with Danger”.  Would you do it?  Paint a living room pink?  Would you object if I did?  Please do tell.

The Colors of the Adriatic

The varied colors of the sea are as difficult to recreate in a room as it is for a painter to replicate the movement and shadow, the darkness its depth creates, and the pure lightness of the sun’s rays on the crest of a wave.  Perhaps that’s why I find it so mesmerizing.  Or it could be that it’s the land of the beautiful people.  I mean draw droppingly beautiful.  Young, old, and those closer to my age, they are all fit, tall, and open.  It’s startling, it’s hypnotizing, it’s lovely.

Here in Croatia the sea is crystal clear.  The salt content is so high that algae won’t bother to snuggle into the nocks and cronies of the ocean floor.  Sharks won’t carve a path to this locale, and one can float without much effort at all, baking in the sun like a pancake on a griddle.  Careful now, you will sizzle – it’s that hot, but the water is cool.  So much cooler than the Mediterranean, that if you are like me, you’ll be prone to screech upon entry.  Funny, just a few days later, I’ve acclimated.  I’ve always been highly adaptable, but here it really takes no effort at all.  You just relax into it. boat 6

The textures and colors of Hvar and Croatia in general make for an alluring color palette, a tactile sensation.  Between the deep blue of the sea, more aqua along the coastline, the bleached rocky limestone shore and cliffs, with all their jagged edges, and molten curves, curtesy of the sea’s salty air, and the Bora a fierce wind that kicks up when the cold air of the mountains meets the warm air of the sea, the white stone beaches, the dark green of the scrub pines, the sage of the olive trees, and vineyards (Hvar produces some amazing red wine), the lavender fields, and the pale blue of the sky above – it’s beyond.

The Croatian’s say that it is beauty you get bored of, but it’s this kind of breathless beauty that I would be willing to test their theory on.

boat 8

Neutral Ground: setting the stage for a sale

Most Realtors will tell you that a staged house will sell more quickly, and for a higher price than an unstaged house.  They’ll also likely to tell you to slap on a fresh coat of paint, in a neutral tone.  Now neutral doesn’t necessarily mean white, but it sure isn’t navy blue or crimson.  Pale cream, gray, putty or espressos in their hundreds of variations will do, as long as it’s subtle.


Benjamin Moore Neutral Colors

Why do they make these recommendations, and is there any real reason you should listen?  Well for one thing, no one wants to enter a home that is disorganized, or dirty. Clean it up, put it away, or throw it away.  If your Feng is out of Shui your bank account will pay.  As much as your heart warms over the Dutch Armoire your Aunt Maude left you, it’s oversized hulking expanse blocks the window and all the natural light that might otherwise stream in, and seems to be the only thing in the room.  This leaves little space for imagining yourself sitting in said room, reading a good book, while watching birds dig for worms in the garden.  Finally, if you’ve been in the space a long time, you probably stopped noticing that the kitchen cabinet door won’t stay closed, that only one electrical outlet in the bedroom works, and the pane of glass in your front window has been cracked since that Kentucky Derby Party where one of the horses – I mean house guests tried to persuade California Chrome across the finish line.  Fix it.  Unless your me, you don’t want your poor house to have a black eye (which I would take full advantage of, of course).  If you like money and don’t want to leave any on the table, that’s a pretty good reason to heed this advise.


Cole and Sons . Malabar . New Contemporary

The color issue is a trickier one for me because while I agree wholeheartedly that going neutral is the safe thing to do – safe is so boring.  It’s much more fun to well, you know, have a little fun with color.  So in this instance I will say, “do as I say, not as I do.”  It really is the smart move.  I’d rather I suffer the consequences of my Peacock Feather selection than you.

Single Aint Your Color

I sometimes forget, as a single person, how much negotiation must happen when planning for the design of someone else’s home.  There’s a husband to consult, two small children to consider (no sharp edges, no materials that cannot be cleaned, no delicate lamps that the dogs tail will whack to the ground) hum.  I thought my own internal dialog was noisy – that my love of pale grays, shades of white, and creams required advanced skills in persuasion.  I think it’s evident, these aint gonna be the colors we (my other single minded design friend Tiffany and I) are allowed to use for a young active family, that wants to play, lounge, and generally not have to worry about their every move.

HG Carpet 2

We’ve made some forward progress, and I’ve been asked to “scratch that” and erase this, and tuck our bright color ideas away in a drawer marked – maybe in 12 years.  I giggle to myself because I am sure that there will be several iterations between now and then, but a family room should be supremely comfortable above all other rooms  in the house.  To be comfortable it must suit the personalities of its inhabitants.  I lost sight of that for a moment.  I am so rarely in my own space that some weeks the only rooms I spend time in are the bedroom and the bathroom.  Enough of that honesty – on to what I hope will be a solution.

Last week the decision to purchase one of the Home Goods Rugs was made.  This was a good decision for a number of reasons.  First – the price was unbelievable at $149.  It offers the lightness we were looking for in a dark room, and the Client (that’s our dear friend Melissa) loves it.  These are big wins.  A tiny drawback of this particular carpet, which I point out for your consideration when buying your own, is that the palette is limited.  Its base is cream with a black and gray motif.  This will limit what colors we can introduce into the room.  A rug can be a powerfully unifying element.  The more colors in it, the more you can pull out of it – for solid chairs, for pillows, accent tables – you get the picture.


Trellis curtains – Fabric Kravet – from Charlestown found a new home in Dallas.

I think by selecting a Basketweave Trilby Gray Fabric for the Eton Chair by Ballard Design we’ll allow the neutrals (pale flax sofa, carpet, and chairs) to live in harmony with one another.  I should remind everyone that they must also work with the trellis curtains, which were repurposed from my Charlestown Condo.  Don’t ever let anyone tell you custom curtains are one and done.  We can cut them down, let them out, stitch them together…find a way.  Yes, there is a little work, and creativity involved, but it makes for a better story, oh, and more pride.

Brahms Mount Herringbone Blanket and Jo-Jo Designs Striped Pillows.

We’ll pack a little fruit punch of color here, and there, with varying shades of orange – a favorite shade of the Lee Family.  Maddy can only bark her approval, and Maggie is too young to voice her opinion, but I just know she’ll see it my way.



Color Me Happy

Vivian in Pretty Woman had it right…I would like to be colored happy.  As a look around my living room at my navy blue walls I ask myself, do these make me happy?  Well sort of is the answer.  It got me thinking about what colors do indeed invoke happiness.  pretty-womanI know which colors I gravitate toward, blues, grays, violets, pale pinks – they make me happy because they make me feel calm.  As it turns out the navy blue I chose for the living room being both deeply saturated, and quite dark is energizing and a really good color for a living.  So what of the other colors in the rainbow, and which ones can we credit with straight up joy?

As it turns out joy and happiness are attributed to yellow, but buyer beware long periods of exposure to yellow have also been attributed to loss of temper, and feelings of frustration.  I like a yellow flower but I have always detested yellow living rooms, kitchens, and baby’s room.  Who knew there was a valid reason for my feelings.  Now I have a scientific explanation for them.

yellow kitchen


Red also is credited with happiness.  A popular color for restaurants due to its stimulating nature – think your getting hungry, red could be the culprit.  It also raises blood pressure and heart rate so not necessarily the best choice for rooms for which you spend extended periods of time.

green entry

Green engenders feelings of restfulness, rejuvenation and tranquility.  The likely explanation being its association with nature.  Lord Byron said:  “There is pleasure in the pathless woods, there is rapture in the lonely shore, there is society where none intrudes, by the deep sea, and music in its roar; I love not man the less, but nature more.”  The quote is a deep breath, its an affirmation, it’s sage, and kelly, and forest and mossy and grassy, and green.

geode bedroom

My Perfect Purple:  Ben Moore’s Lavender Ice

Let’s talk purple.  Confident and creative – it’s no surprise it is the color of royalty.  Some argue it is not the right hue for a bedroom, but I have loved mine in its pale lavender ice.  I find it deeply calming and sleep quite well there.

Looking to tap into your creative energy, build enthusiasm, and excitement, orange can help.  Want to guard against feeling sad – limit your use of black in your home, but know too that a little black in every room can be grounding.

BP Cynthia Collins

Cynthia Collins – Blue Print . Dallas

Your neutrals play a role too in the way you feel, light colors contributing to a feeling of airiness and expansiveness while darks create a coziness, and bring sophistication to your space.

HB Graphhic

House Beautiful . Graphic Madness

What’s your happy?  I hope you find it this weekend.  We’re going to get a little sunshine here in Boston and I know that makes me happy!

Pastel Palette

How I miss my white Easter poncho.  I do not however miss wearing my winter coat over the poncho.  Ah, New England.  It’s foiled so many of my fashion plans over the years.  One must be resilient – chin up and find a way to tip toe through the snow in your Mary Jane’s.  Aside from my innate love of fashion, it was the pastels after a long winter of dense darks that captured my imagination. Easter Eggs in all their pretty pale hues mark for me Springtime, new beginnings, and the promise of warmer weather to come.


I was thrown a bit by the fashion and interiors trend toward pale pigments.  After all, didn’t I just go and paint my living room navy blue. Yes I did.  Who can keep up?  It’s like I’m wearing bell bottoms when skinny jeans are in.  How déclassé! At least my bedroom is in fashion.  It’s wearing Lavender Ice by Ben Moore this season, and he’s always in style.

BP Living 1

Blue Print . Dallas Texas

Perhaps its the political climate that’s forced the powers that be, to resort to tones that connote innocence.  Palest pinks seem to lead the pack.  From wall color to furnishings it’s popping up everywhere.  While I did consider calling Ed Tasney my Painter up and having him come back with a few buckets of Bridal Rose (also Ben Moore), I’ve decided to ride this wave out.  If like me, money IS an object, you probably have a carefully crafted PR statement that goes something like this:  “I believe in investing in classic pieces that will stand the test of time, and accent my wardrobe and living room with accessories that are on trend, but can be easily (read – cost effectively) replaced. ”

souffle chair

Kelly Wearstler . Souffle Chair

I’m going to have to either re-write my public statement or become filthy rich.  Since I flip houses and replace furnishings all the time, I’m going to need to have my finger squarely on the pulse of the trend.  Darn it all, I better go find Ed’s number.

Happy Easter all of you pink nosed bunnies out there.




Seeing Spots

Is almost as good as seeing stars.  Who doesn’t love going starry eyed for some mouth watering man.  Design shouldn’t be too buttoned up.

Target - Oh Joy 79 Dotty

Target – Oh Joy $79.00

When I flip through the pages of a magazine, I am both in awe of the beautiful spaces people create, and sometimes made to feel a little sad for them.  They look so serious, beyond perfection, unlivable, unlaughable (as an artist I am taking license here with my made-up word…it just feels right) spaces where silence abounds and no cocktails are permitted. Quelle Domage and no way.  Certainly not a place that I would want to pass the time.

Dots, spots, and polkas bring a little happy, and infuse a little realism.  Perfect doesn’t exist except in photo shoots.  To strive for it is surely to ask to be disappointed.  Whimsy can be hidden on a high shelf of your built-in, begging a guest to discover what other delights you have hidden beneath the surface – many – just as an FYI,  and to bring a smile to their face as pleasant surprise dawns.

Happy can burst forth in the form of a wall covering that demands your attention, pulling a purr from your pretty lips at the perfection of those polka d’s.  It may be scattered about – a dotted umbrella stand, a confetti scattered table, a freckled surface splashed across a porcelain vase.  You’re the boss of you, so you should do what you do, in your own way.  A china frog, a furry barking dog, I digress, and I think you get the point (which is another dot) don’t forget that people and places that have a little kid at heart, are among the most frequented, and desired of acquaintances.


Even dots can be high brow if that’s your preference, as I have shown here.  Kate Spade had practically built an empire on polk dots, showing us all how to have both a perfectly appointed home, and one that just invites a good time.  So dot your i’s and cross your t’s if you must, but don’t hesitate to roll out those spots.

Ostrich Wallpaper

Ostrich Wallpaper

Conjure a Feeling with Color

I love color.  I know I’ve said it before, but I do, I love it.  Color is the great equalizer.  I challenge you to tell me in what other way, you can spend so little and effect such transformation?  With a few cans of paint, a lot of cleaning, prepping, taping, covering, stirring, pouring, brushing, rolling, ok….it’s hard work to paint, but so is working for a living, so buck up, watch a YouTube video on painting prep and bring your imagination to play.  Trust me …. it’s worth it.  See what Hotel La Belle Juliette created with color in their Parisian Suites.  The muse for my current  Chambre a Coucher…that means … bedroom.

La Belle Juliette . Chambre Rose

La Belle Juliette . Chambre Rose

La Belle Juliette . Chambre Bleue

La Belle Juliette . Chambre Bleue

We know and take for granted the meaning of color at least a few times every day.  You know that red means stop, and green means go.  White signifies purity, and purple power.  Marketers have long tapped into the influence of color to get you to eat and eat fast – red, to trust – blue, think IBM, to believe a product is environmentally sound – green.  When we go to a funeral, we know to wear black as a sign of mourning, but how are we using color to create mood in our homes?

Speaking volumes...

Speaking volumes…

I work really hard, as many folks do these days, and I keep long hours, so when I come home I want it to be a place of calm and tranquility.  There are places I visit….sometimes all I need see is the door, and I know, a little sign escapes my lips and I am in heaven.  I had occasion to visit just such a place a few months ago in Dallas….yes, Texas.  I thought it an unlikely place to discover my design soul mate, but it’s irrefutable.  If they told me I could move in tomorrow, I would undoubtedly put the For Sale sign on the door, pack my Kate Spade carry-on, and head to Texas.  A girl cannot question geography when love is involved.  I’ve fallen hard for Blue Print.

Hello!  The Color of Tranquility

Hello! The Color of Tranquility

It’s interesting here that these five woman have chosen the purity of white for their backdrop.  Their color palette comes from the artists they feature – and what artists they are – and the fabrics in which they choose to upholster the furnishings.  It works.  It’s a calm kind of beautiful with pops of energizing vitality.  I’m awaiting my invitation!

The Color of Inspiration

For me it’s gray, or if you are English – grey.  Regardless, it is not yellow or avocado.  These two colors are exceedingly popular in the Boston residential market.  Why? I haven’t the foggiest idea, but plan to change it.  Gray is a neutral so no argument can be made that suggests it is not marketable for a property one plans to flip. Further, I believe there is always a market for great design, and color is an essential element to great design.  I should mention now my love affair with Benjamin Moore.  Oh there are other paints of course, but the value, dependability, and color palette offered by Benny help me BE MORE than I could be alone.  Some of my very favorites for you to consider are listed here:

Boston Home Magazine Summer 2011

Boston Home Magazine Summer 2011

  • mineral ice
  • sidewalk gray
  • gray cloud
  • dior gray
  • bunny gray
  • feather gray

Mineral Ice, featured on the walls of my Charlestown home, the palest of grays, was a calming hue in this tiny 523 sf dwelling.

Benjamin Moore - Gray Cloud

Benjamin Moore – Gray Cloud

The photo to the left showcases my current dining area in Gray Cloud, a slightly darker hue than Mineral Ice.

The Milford Street Kitchen offered a tough challenge.  Aesthetically the granite countertops and glass backsplash, small scale pendant lights, and cherry cabinets weren’t making me happy.  Still my sustainability conscience was whispering in

Milford Street Kitchen

Milford Street Kitchen

my ear not to demolish that which was inherently new and useful.  So I compromised by removing the backsplash, countertops, and pendant lamps, and painting the cabinets a beautiful Dior Gray to compliment the walls of the main living space.

A little pop of color brings a bit of the Mediterranean to the South End.  The powder room door in Peacock Feathers, hints at what is inside, a beautiful Cole & Sons . wallcovering in Alpana in Gold/Aqua.  Inspired….

Powder Room

Powder Room