We Must Use the Tools We Have: doing more with less

Things can be both utilitarian and beautiful. The window seat hides the duct work.

I know lots of folks have been talking about what they have missed and what, perhaps surprisingly, they have not, during this pandemic. As Americans, consumerism seems to have been gifted to us as a birthright, encoded in our DNA as surely as our hair color, skin tone, and propensity for language, music or math are. Perhaps gifted isn’t quite the right word. Maybe the word in fact, is cursed. It robs us of our creativity, and creativity, surprises and delights. Why ever would we want to go without it, for the opportunity to use an avocado cutter, that you’ll probably forget you have, or have difficulty finding in your cluttered kitchen drawers when the time comes to use it? I can tell you how to do it with a knife and you’ll be just fine.

Custom outdoor cushions are super expensive. I did want to make this seat look more nautical and with the help of my good, and incredibly talented Interior Designer friend, Helen Baker of Helen Baker Designs, we used a little painting tape to give us the nautical stripped look we were attempting to capture.

A couple of dishtowels make fine place mats.

That’s what this pandemic has done for me. I’ve discovered that I have been limiting myself to the purchase of food, something that I would not be just fine, if I didn’t have. It’s made me Marie Kondo my decisions in a way I hadn’t before. Oh I always organized the way Marie says one should, before I knew it was a thing to fold, roll, tuck, and line ones drawers with our belongings, in the way Marie says in her soft gentle voice, but as for the part of loving and cherishing them, I don’t think I was really down with that philosophy, and yet I find myself asking, will that sandal really add a new rich texture to my life? Henry David Thoreau said: “The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it.” That’s pretty profound. I know I still pick pennies up off the street, understanding that someone exchanged their time for that little piece of copper, but I am not sure that the purchases that I’ve made have been framed out so prosaically as to beg the question – Is that $300. swim suit worth the amount of your one single and precious life you exchanged for it? Now maybe it is, but this pandemic has provided a new perspective for me. I am still going to appreciate beauty. As a write this and look over at the craftsmanship of the window seat that Eastward Companies built, with it’s deliciously thick, Sister Parish fabric covered cushion, and two Farmhouse Pottery grid patterned pillows, I can say that that exchange was worth it to me.

I can live without my avocado cutter. It’s still never been used. Maybe I could sell it on Craig’s List.

Happy Sunday.

Townies: The Manse gets its make-over

Above: Exterior – White Cedar shingles, Door’s in Nantucket Red. Side deck, Home Goods Garden Stool, Restoration Hardware – Malibu Collection.

Since the 70’s its been a law office, a sometimes summer dwelling, a retreat from other major renovations, a spa, a home to more than a few spiders, and seen its fair share of paint and paper. It waited patiently, frankly with far more patience than I myself possess, for its day in the sun.

I would say all the waiting was worth while. The Manse, finally finished, gained a few inches in height, spread her wings a little to make room for a first floor suite of sorts, and a proper foundation – if you are going to build a nest, you really must have a solid foundation. It’s a miracle the old dame lasted as long as she did, sitting so indignantly on the dirt, but 230 years later, she landed in the pages of the Boston Globe Magazine.

Now owned by my youngest Sister, Jo-Jo put the architecture in the hands of my father, and the interior design in my hands – who else. The results are what I refer to as “cozy coastal”. The article provides details of the space, but just a few photos, so here is a bigger glimpse into the results my biggest project to date.

Resources and Additional Images to follow.

Keeping Time: Customization in the 21st Century

If you knew me, and some of you do, you would know that I am not patient. It’s not a charming or cute quality. Oh I’m sure if I was played by some Hollywood starlet in a movie of my life, they could make you adore me and my foot tapping impatience, but taking a breath and thinking it out has its advantages. I suppose this is a cautionary tale of sorts in that regard.

I can’t be alone in wanting things to happen quickly, and to be customized to my liking. I cannot wait for the day that I can point my digitized magic wand toward an upholstered piece from one of my flips and change the color. You were blue, and now I wish for you to be white, or cream, or pale grey. The possibilities are endless and so is the trouble you could get into. We’re not quite there, but we are getting close.

OKL. Palette . Daphne Slipper Chair . $474.50

It’s pretty exciting to see generations old companies evolve, combining artisanal craftsmanship with technology. If speed to market is part of the new name game, another part is customization. So what else makes up this new world of commerce? Collaborations, you build the furniture, I’ll design the fabric and throw my back into it – or as the case may be, a name. Preferably one that is well known in the design world. Collabs are popping up all over the place. The EveryGirl, Clare Vivier, Peter Som, Joanna Gaines. X marks the collaboration and they are hot.

OKL . Palette . Pillow $64.50

I was pretty excited to see One King’s Lane jump into the X-Game with a new service called Palette. You choose from a selection of furnishings or pillows, pick your fabric, now for the colors – 15 are available, select the scale of the design – small, medium or large, and choose a finish – and a frill or two if the piece warrants it. Ta-da. You have a customized piece that will ship to you from Cloth & Company the name behind the X, from Chicago, in 3 weeks. That’s right. Customized for you and delivered in just 3 weeks.

The Inside X Clare V. Sardines Sette. Photograph copyright dan cutrona

OKL is savvy. You don’t necessarily have to invent everything. Sometimes you just need to pay close attention and connect the dots. Last year I came across a 4th Generation family owned company. It struggled and then reinvented itself. Tillett Textiles and the T4 Color Pad technology that allows you to choose from 180 patterns, 55 colors and 12 grounds – think of the possibilities of fabrics that you can have your custom pattern printed on – I need a mathematician to help me figure out just how many options , but suffice it to say – it’s a lot. Then I came across a company called The Inside. Between their collaborations, and inexpensive upholstered pieces that arrive at your doorstep – you guessed it – in 3 weeks, we are witnessing a response to a demand.

Tillett Textiles. My custom print on the bed! Photography copyright dan cutrona

OKL married the two concepts, and like I said in the beginning…it’s magic.

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.