Home – LESS: Living out of a suitcase

Left:  88 Waltham St. #3 . South End – note the brick wall – recessed back from the fire place.  A perfect spot for closets.  I’d build them in – encasing the non-working fire place, hiding storage above, and building in bedside table nooks on either side of the head board.  A la , La Belle Julliette Hotel . Paris.

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Gut it and forget it.  It all has to go.  Tub to be replaced with glass shower, Duravit vanity, some beautiful tile.

Living out of a suitcase is nothing new to me.  Between most property flips, I’m stowing away my belongs, and living with whatever I can fit into 2 or 3 suitcases.  That is hard to do.  Even if you travel light as I do, it always seems as if the seasons change and I’m left without a winter coat, or my spring wardrobe.  Ugh.  Thank God for Jo-Jo’s closet where I “shop” until I’m settled into my next home.  Jo-Jo has a closet full of clothes that still have the tags on them.  She allows me to borrow and return.  She’s a big heart with exquisite taste.

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Note this particularly well done closet/beside built-in combo. You charmed me Charmonix.

As I consider how little time I am spending in my home these days – work – work – work – clients, friends, appointments, weekends on the Cape (year round), I think I could do with a lot less than I am currently making do with.  That is to say….space.

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That closet has to go.  This needs to become a dining area.  Small round table that snuggles into a banquet and serves its purpose for meals and work on the computer.  

I’ve looked at couple tiny beauties.  Bid on both, lost both, but the allure of having a 300 – 400SF space, and converting it into a luxury hotel room for the likes of little old me,  well it’s kinda cool.  They don’t come on the market every day, and they have a lot of competition – investors looking for a long-term hold, and a stable return, first time home-owners that want a toe in the market, and can actually afford a shoebox sized home, and people like me.  Living and working in the city, away on weekends – being home less makes this type of property a really great investment for me, and one that , dare I say, I would likely keep.

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This has to go too, obvi.  Don’t think that small means inexpensive.  This small means more expensive than you can imagine – if you are going to do it right.  All top of the line appliances required because you can buy them in petit sizes.

Don’t go getting crazy with protestations about not meeting my long-term goal of 10 properties.  I’ll keep at it, and this will make the process a little less sawdusty.  I think I’ve earned it.  But I’ll need all your positive energy to help me find the next one.  On that most hallowed of days I will close, and turn right around and flee the country to recuperate from the trauma of it all.  Buying and selling can be very stressful.  I’ll need four days of yogic breathing to recover.  They are tossing in art afternoons to kick-start my creativity.  It will be the perfect introduction into living more simply that will simply have to take me over the hurdles that are placed in my way on the hunt for No. 5.

 

Happy Sunday.

Back to School: Time to sharpen my pencil

Even though it’s technically still summer the moment Labor Day hits I’m ready for it to be fall.  Fall clothes are my favorite, fall traffic is not.  Hot apple cider, pumpkins and mums, and days that end with a good meal in front of the tv – guilt free- are a welcome balance to the long summer nights dining al fresco under the stars.  It’s also a time to get organized, and if you’re me that doesn’t just mean turning over the closets (which is a favorite pastime because I love throwing away, donating, and gifting things that no longer work for me) but it means it’s time for the second most important real estate market.  The Fall Market.

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56 Gray Street . Apt. #4

On off years, (those years that I am not in the market for a new home), I romp through the  neighborhood kicking leaves, listings in one hand – hot cider in the other, intent on exploring.  There’s something so stimulating about being in the hunt – even if you’re not in a position to buy – spending time exploring homes that are for sale is both educational and entertaining.  From the moment I step across the threshold I begin to assess.  In the city, curb appeal can be deceiving.  Many streets have no garden in front at all and rely on a few potted plants, perched on a step to set the stage.  Streets can be dirty, littered with trash and even…ugh, dog poop.  In these instances you need to rely on the neighborhoods historical ranking.  In the South End, where I live, we have neighborhoods within neighborhoods.  I live in the Eight Streets, which is considered a premier location because Union Park falls within this district.  That street is Paris in Boston with its private park and fountains, it’s lovely.  If you are looking within the Eight Streets you can clean up the streets, pot your own plants, and renovate the interior.  Location, location, location.  You know the drill.

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I’m a little bit quirky, and I apologize in advance for saying this but it’s true – critical.  I open the door (how heavy is it?), peak into the vestibule (is it well lit – bright?), I sniff (don’t laugh, there are few things worse then the smell of cooking cabbage, cat urine or mildew)  I want to smell something fresh and pleasant when I enter the building.  That all happens in the time it takes you to ascend the nine steps.  We are all adept at judging. So this first impression is critical.

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My heart skipped a beat when I saw the listing for 56 Gray Street.  A sweetie of a street in the South End, bordering the Back Bay.  These Federal Style homes were really for the rich and famous’ servants.  At just 350SF, I was all aflutter.  I’ve never lived in a studio, and I certainly haven’t lived in a place that small before, and with my tiny house obsession it appeals.

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Lynn– both the Owner and the Broker, had me at Gray Street.  I didn’t even try to play hard to get.  It was a jewel box (location, location, location).  As a rental it was more Kay Jewelers than Cartier, but the potential was there.  I started frantically designing in my head.  Pour Lynne was worried about the shower curtain rod not staying up in the bath – me…I had that sucker ripped out with the 80’s style 2 x 2 speckled tile, lock stock and barrel.  The next change was hiding the brick wall (sorry all you brick wall lovers, the palette needs smoothing out).  La Belle Julliette was calling and I could see the millwork go up, the closets surround the bed, the tucked away shelving on the side, and my sconce lighting build right in for reading in bed.  Add to that a tiny ( and I mean TINY) kitchen reno with a Smeg fridge and you have a palace for a pauper.

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I handed over my deposit check, scrambled to rub two nickels together to make a dime, and sadly learned that it wasn’t enough.  I do hope that the new owners will have a special place in their heart for that little gem.

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Happy Sunday.

Coup de Foudre: Paris awaits

Even though this French expression suggests the sudden striking of emotion – a thunderbolt of love – I struck anew by its power, every time I visit Paris.  Wednesday I get to sneak away in the night and awake in the warm embrace of the City of Lights.

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Marche aux Puce . Paris

It’s been three years since my last visit.  I’ve been warned by my friends and family NOT to visit Marche aux Puce again.  For those of you that have just started following, this is the flee market at which I purchased the infamous Italian, Mid-Century-Modern, Chandelier.  There were a number of indignities associated with this purchase, not the least of which was the fact that the vendor sent me a chandelier – but not the chandelier that I bought when I was at the market.  It was close, but a little worse for the wear.  I paid a fortune to have it rewired, have my ceiling reinforced, and hung, not once, but three times.  A story for another day.

Paris 1st

I submit here in advance my apologies to all – I will be going to Marche aux, and I make no promises that I won’t return with another monumental light fixture.  What fun would a trip to Paris be without the dream of a magical find at the market?  A trip that I wouldn’t be interested in taking – that’s the kind.

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Frank Gehry designed Foundation Louis Vuitton

I’ll be staying in the 1st – which I haven’t stayed in before.  I’ve stayed in the 3rd, the 6th, 7th and 8th.  I love La Belle Juliette in the 8th Arrondissement, on Rue Cherche Midi, but I like to try new things, and the hot, hip boutique style hotels that have been popping up in the 1st caught my attention.  Hotel Therese is where I will be for my super fast 3 day trip.

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1948 Couture Dior . need I say more?

Here’s what I plan to do because its what I love almost more than anything else…eat, drink, and shop – for clothing and furnishing, fixtures, and materials.  Les Arts Decoratifs has an exhibit, that for me, is a must see.  The House of Dior opened its doors 70 years ago – that’s 1947, I know because my company, Elaine Construction is also celebrating its 70th anniversary.  How cool is that.  Over 300 couture dresses are on display, so it goes without saying – I have purchased the tickets to this exhibit already.

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Grand Coeur . 41 Rue du Temple . Paris

Foundation Louis Vuitton, designed by Frank Gehry is an architectural wonder.  It has been on my list, and this trip I will get to see it in person.  The texture and the light, pattern, and materials are amazing sources of inspiration and awe for me.  I can’t wait to see this building, and by the way, I hear the exhibits aren’t bad either.

I can’t wait to tell you all about it.  Happy Saturday.

Belle of the Ball . A good feeling

La Belle Juliette 1

I’ve been raving about that little boutique beauty, La Belle Juliette, and yet I am not quite finished.  There is something about great design that just feels right.  If you analyze it too much you can always come up with a number of decisions that you wouldn’t have made.  The red laquered chair, the cherubs that have a little too much of that Victorian Age feel for your liking, the hallways that are a little too dark – don’t do it.  There is brilliance in the whole.  The whole person, the whole place, a whole idea.  Everything and everyone has imperfections.  It adds to the intrigue, eradicates sterility, and increases our overall comfort, for we know that we can live up to it, and in a place like that.  When everything is in order, we feel that something is off, a sensation that we are not welcome, that we don’t belong.  Great design makes you feel like you are coming home, even if its to a place that you have never been to before.  A calm washes over you, it delights and surprises, and makes you want to return again and again.  Such was the experience at La Belle Juliette for me.

Belle of the Ball No. 2

Belle of the Ball No. 2

The color selection included a variety of greys, which it is no secret I adore, a series of pastel hues; pink, violet, pale greens, aquas, and tiffany blues, metalic accents, and the interesting decision to include bold red furnishings.  No room that I had access to utilzed less than three or four paint colors in a single space.  Sometimes subtle differences, others not.  Color can be hard to get right, particularly in these dangersous quantities, which is why we see so many interior designers stick to a very neutral palette.  It’s safe, it’s clean, it’s unopinionated.  It’s boring.  There – I said it.  I find it very boring.  To my eye, La Belle mostly got it right.  I know this because I can see in my minds eye the lovely color combinations they visioned, and a warm happiness spreads through me.

Belle of the Ball No. 3

Belle of the Ball No. 3

I realize the appeal won’t be there for everyone.  No worries.  There are thousands of hotels from which to choose in Paris.  I hope that your next visit takes you, and that you experience the same childlike delight, that La Belle J. gave me.  Wherever you find yourself, don’t miss out on a visit to La Spa de La Belle Juliette.  www.spa-belle-juliette.com.  The very best masage I have ever had, with absolutely not a single qualification.  Simply the best.