Porch Time

Restoration Hardware . Provence Collection

Is it just a lovely pastime or is it the pandemic that’s pushing us outside to our porches, balconies, decks and/or back yards. I do have a little deck in the city, but the spring, as is so often the case here in New England, was slow to come. It snowed in late April, which is a major offense as far as I am concerned. I wonder how many people realized the absurdity of those cold wet flakes falling from the sky, lost as we were in a time warp that blurs days and nights, weeks and months, up from down. I’ve lost track of the day of the week myself several times, and am guilty of calling May – March. This bloody pandemic is undoing the careful rewiring of my dyslexic brain.

I participated in my first ever curbside shopping expedition yesterday. So happy was I do see clothes lining the racks of a real live beachy boutique in Chatham, that I started hollering out to Ashley, the owner, to rush down to grab the violet colored floral frock, and then the filmy little red number. There were body suits and bathing suits, beach towels and blue tooth boom boxes, my deprived consumer brain was going ballistic. I walked away with one tiny body suit and my sisters – with summer wardrobes.

Above: Ocean State Job Lot: Teak Folding Chair with Arms . $37. Teak Extending Oval Dining Table $349.99

While clothes shopping is a major past time for me – it’s not what I will be doing any time soon, and I suspect that most folks will be watching their finances with a focused eye. If money is going to be spent, I would argue that your outdoor space, where you are likely to be spending endless hours this summer, would be a good place to ditch your duckets.

Illicitly eating your $25. lobster roll from a takeout container, hovering over a table without chairs, or squatting in a patch of sunshine, just isn’t the same leisurely experience it once was, and as bars have been barred, we’ll not be mixing and mingling with anyone that doesn’t share your last name. Finally, well perhaps not finally, but close to finally before I get the the actual point, if your high school senior or college age student decides to take a bi-year before heading off to school, you’ll be able to take that college tuition money and upgrade your outdoor furnishings, because that’s just about what they cost.

PopOColor . Etsy . Outdoor pillows . Studio Bon $62.00

I love that Serena and Lilly Sundial Chair, but does a chair really need to last for 10 days at the bottom of an ocean? Is all that innovation that resulted in a $2k chair – retail to you and me – worth the bragging rights? I posit to you that it does not. Perhaps heading down to Ocean State Job lot and finding a nice set of teak folding chairs and table for $200. will bring as much joy – even if it doesn’t swivel.

PopOColor . Etsy . Schumacher . Citrus $58.

You know and I know that I am a fan of Restoration Hardware and think their outdoor line offerings are amazing, but I openly resent the fact that my outdoor sofa, with my design discount, cost more than my indoor sofa. The injustice of it all sticks in my throat like a lump of dry bread. I still haven’t forgiven them for backing me into the plain cream cushions – their off the shelf option – that still took 6 months to arrive. This is not an exaggeration, and now I look longingly at the cabana strip, and crisp navy piping, and the rainbow colors that abound in their on-line catalog of offerings and wonder….is it Memorex or is it Real?

PopOColor . Etsy . Trina Turk . Persimmon Arches . $61.

If there are no excess reserves of cash lying around for refurbishing the outdoor space, dust off what you’ve got, take the hose to it and consider a few new happy pillows to rest your head on when your relaxing and reading a good book. Safe . Solitary . Serene.

Happy Sunday.

An Appreciation for What is NOT Yours

Celerie Kemble . showcasing her talents for Chairish.

It’s fascinating to me that you can like something so much and still not be able to see yourself in that life. Celerie Kemble’s design aesthetic is that for me. When I look at the pieces in this feature photo for Chairish, I really do adore so many of its elements. The rich blue of the French Bergere chair reminds me of the Adriatic Sea. I could dive right into it, and I can feel its velvety softness under my fingertips. I’m a tactile person. I like to experience my environment through touch, and this chair begs to be touched.

My pink little Bungalow 5 Taboret Stools “Vintage” ūüôā

The chinoiserie planter, the pale blue vases atop gilded French wall shelves, are both precious and foreign to me. They are like the fancy sneakers that the ladies that lunch wear – there is part of me that wants them, and wants that life, but when I dole out the exorbitant amount of money required to assemble that uniform, I find them collecting dust in the closet. Why? Because it’s not really me. While I appreciate it, any act of replication wouldn’t be speaking to my true design self.

A tissue box was as far as I’ve been willing to go with the Chinoiserie, maybe I could do an old ash tray?

I try not to beat myself up about it. I know for certain you’ll never see me trying to purchase a round settee for my living room. I’m not a Southern Belle living in a plantation mansion. My one bedroom apartments typically can accommodate a sofa and a single chair, which is probably why I have grown so fond of stools and benches. They can be tucked in, around, and under other pieces of furniture, provide extra seating when guests come over for cocktails, and allow me to express some of my crazier design whims without feeling too guilty.

A place I’d like to visit, but no place I’d ever call home.

I’ve gone really high end – my Oly Studio, cow hide, zebra striped, ebony saber legged benches. I bought them in my very first apartment, and had to save for at least two months of Sunday’s to cobble the dollars together to make the purchase. I have never regretted it. The vintage – I laugh at this, but I did buy them when I was in that same Charlestown apartment many years ago now, Taboret side tables by Bungalow 5, sadly are no longer in production. These tables, that double as stools, are work horses. I have repainted them several times to match the new decor of one of the flips and they never disappoint. They too required a me to skip a few meals to scrimp and save for them, but have proven to be well worth the initial sacrifice. There are others – the Restoration Hardware metal cross benches that weigh so much I can barely move them around by myself, that I wish I hadn’t purchased, but for the most part, my stools have all served me well.

Oly Studio . Saber Legged Bench. When it comes with a payment plan – you better really love it.

I can say to Celerie – way to go with that wall covering. Some day, I’ll have a place that’s really my own, and I may just find myself adventurous enough to pull the trigger. If I don’t like it, I can always paper over it with something more subtle. Perhaps in the end, it’s the color palette that I find so appealing. Pinks and grays always make me feel happy, and your home should be a happy place. Don’t you think?

The Evolution of a Condo

It’s interesting to watch the ways in which different owners take the baton and run with it. 19 Milford Street, apt. 4, aka Flip #2 is once again on the market. When I bought the property in the late fall of 2013 it looked decidedly like a 1970’s ranch, inside a Phili-Duplex, in the city of Boston, and if I were to get even more granular, the Eight Streets District in the South End. It didn’t feel at all like a city apartment to me, and it felt even less like the glamorous apartment I had left in Charlestown.

I feel deeply connected to this idea of stewardship. I had a $40,000. budget from which to transform the property. That’s not a ton of money. It becomes even less when you consider the fact that it was revealed that the roof leaked, and the Southern Facade of the building was taking on water, and saturating the interior wall. My understanding of water infiltration increases with each unit that I own. While some lessons have been quick and relatively painless, others have been long-lived and ruthless in their pursuit of my financial and mental ruin.

Finding the source of that water at 19 Milford, and getting the building buttoned up was a challenge to say the least, but once – almost done, I was proud of what I had done to make that unit, and that building ready to take on another 50 years. I had redone all the electrical wiring that the previous owners had done – without a permit or a qualified electrician – and done it properly. This is important to the long term viability of a property. These brownstones are old and need love if they are going to be around for another 200 years or so —- and so I invest a significant amount in the infrastructure of the building, even though no one will ever see it.

I was proud of the design, but would have done more if my budget had allowed. In the end the new owner that purchased it was a bachelor and he hired an interior designer to bring a little grit to the girliness that I had so carefully imbued upstairs, downstairs, and throughout. He added back the breakfast bar that I had taken out – I can’t stand a breakfast bar, it makes me crazy. Who sits at it? He swapped out my beloved gray walls for a neutral cream, reworked the fireplace to include a wood surround atop my marble, tossed out my sea urchin chandelier (which was hugely expensive so I pray he didn’t throw it away) and painted my bridal rose bedroom a dark Hale Navyesque color.

I see some other touches that he left alone and while I feel nostalgic for the hard work that I put into the place, I got my price, and he got his roof deck. I guess we’re even.

Al Fresco in the Fall?

I feel it in the air today, though I know in my heart of New England hearts, there will be many more warm days before the snow arrives, the crisp weather of this next season is sure to come. Why then am I recommending you assess your outdoor furniture and consider buying now, right before you’ll be up to your eyeballs in holiday decorations, and gift lists as long as your arm? If you have ever attempted to buy outdoor furniture in March, April, May or gasp – June…you know you’ve already missed the boat. Sure, you’ll be allowed to purchase it. Buy now, and prepare to hold your breath until November. That’s right – November. If Thanksgiving is warm enough, which sometimes it is here in Boston, you could entertain family and friends under your pergola with your new dining table and chairs, and then haul them downstairs for a long winter’s sleep.

If you purchase now, you’ll have the benefit of some pretty amazing sale prices. When an outdoor sofa, which in this region you use for maybe three months if you are lucky, costs about a third more than your indoor sofa, which you use all year long, getting some kind of a break on pricing is a non-negotiable for me.

Options may be a little more limited, but 60% off is 60% off, and after a winter that seemed like it would never end, you really want to be able to pull those furnishings out of storage the very first springlike day that comes along, and get to taking advantage of it.

Above Left: Ballard Design . Color Block Above Right: Ballard Designs . Fringed

These are my picks – buy now or forever hold your peace next spring.

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.

Speaking of Closets…

“Every woman should have four pets in her life. A mink in her closet, a Jaguar in her garage, a tiger in her bed, and a jackass who pays for it all”. –Paris Hilton

From Team 7 Available at Divine Design Center. An Investment, but it would travel with you.

If I had a mink, and a closet, I think I would crawl in, snuggle up with that warmest of fuzzies, close the door, and pretend all that sawdust didn’t exist. I’d think about it tomorrow.

CB2 . Mirrored Glass Wardrobe $899.

At least Paris made me laugh, and I have not been laughing a lot this weekend. I’ve got one tiny, and terribly shallow closet in No. 5. I’ve got holes in the walls, I’ve got subs that won’t show, I’ve got water infiltration and mold, and cold water . I’ve got dust, and ceiling fans, and crooked stairs, and all manner of headache inducing difficulties. My scope has creeped and my schedule has slid, and the dollars are flying.

IKEA . Pax Wardrobe. $399.

I find strange comfort in a closet. It’s not just a quiet place to hide, it’s a chameleon of sorts. It can be perfectly ordered, or hide the disorder from unsuspecting guests. Surprising it can be. Even the most refined among us, can have fun with a closet. A bold interior color or wall covering, a chandelier or pretty pendant, a plush carpet, a petite stool, a bold or daring painting. If it’s your boudoir – you are allowed.

RH . Bezier Armoire $4295.

I’ve built 8 closets in 4 places. Two walk-ins, 6 custom built, 1 California Closet, 1 Cozy Closet. I’m not much for a closet system. I know people like them, and that they are economical, but the last think I want is a stiletto falling through a wire rack on a shelf. How undignified. I once built a closet whose sole purpose it was to house my shoes. Shelf after glorious shelf of shoes. Well, those shoes are all gone and so it that closet, because I left it behind when I sold No. 2.

LuxHoldups . Putting it all out there. $1300.

So now I am faced with a decision, remembering that I am getting long in the tooth, and the construction costs are stacking up on a property that was supposed to be easy breezy – should I buy an amoire instead of building fixed closets that I will be forced to leave behind yet again? There is the question of re-sale value and all of that, but I have to draw the line somewhere, and my somewhere just might be right here. My clothes need stability in their life. This moving from closet to closet is starting to take a tole.

Please advise on your most thoughtful recommendations for closet solutions and happy Sunday evening.

Design Challenge

2 days, 4 rooms, furnishings and accents. ¬†No lighting, no renovations, no wall coverings. I went to Dallas with no plan in place other than to visit my beloved Blue Print Store. ¬†The timing and the demands that I am currently facing are both exciting and challenging, and didn’t allow for the pre-planning that I recommend so strongly when putting down cold hard cash, and working to turn your house into a home.

9 BP

I spy a magnificent pice of art.

It sounds a little dramatic when I write it like that, but our home is a sanctuary of sorts. ¬†Many of us don’t recognize how supportive, restorative, and healing our environment can be, and any environment that can be all that can certainly be the opposite. ¬†Whether it’s “unfinished” or “disorganized” you are contending with, like a constant complainer at the office, it wears on you. ¬†Having the opportunity to help someone create a space that will nurture and make them happy is a pretty awesome gift to receive.

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Bungalow 5 Camille 2 Drawer Side Table . Moss  Gray Tweed

So we started with art. ¬†I’ve decorated 2 of my 4 places with a single piece of art in mind. ¬†One of the paintings came from Blue Print, the other from a local artist with whom I have great respect, and who casts swirls of paint on the canvas like the ocean waves of my youthful upbringing. ¬†Talk about generating joyful feelings. ¬†I loved my Cape Cod upbringing, so it seemed fitting that one of the designs would reference my earlier years. ¬†My friend and I felt the same way. ¬†Art is such a personal thing, and while no price tag can be put on something that elicits strong emotion, the pricer price tags can elicit the same for reasons contrary to our objective. ¬†Still – we launched off with that in mind, and as is often the case with Blue Print, we fell in love with not 1, not 2, but a slew.

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Restoration Hardware Belgian Linen Single Cushion Sofa.  The cleanest look with no messy cushions!

With the clock ticking, we immediately decided on one main piece from which to build the design, and a secondary, and quite different abstract to help pull together the elements of the dining room.

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Ethan Allen Barrymore Dining Table – sale on now through the end of March!

 

Every project requires a budget and we had one – though generous, the task of furnishing two complete bedrooms, a living room, which we only going to allow 2 chairs, a carpet and some drapes to remain, proved daunting. ¬†I’ve made enough mistakes with a sofa to measure twice and cut once, but I’m always a little nervous. ¬†No space is going to accommodate all that you want without some compromises, sacrifices, and cleverness, but dare I say we did good.

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One Kings Lane Seagrass Console Table.

Paintings really help to bring disparate colors into the palette and create interest in a room. ¬†If you know roughly what you like, and you are exhaustive with your search, you can come up with a close approximation, as we did when we realized the bed room set for a young boy wasn’t in the color we hoped for. ¬†Houzz provided a perfect substitute and at a price that was jaw droppingly low.

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Houzz . Coaster Zachary Full Bed. $318.66!!

A long weekend, but an incredibly fun one.  We did good.  Now if we could just find that elusive coffee table.

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Ballard Designs . Linen and Burlap Color Block Pillows from $39.

Happy Sunday.

That Girl: Keeping it from coming undone

Cut 1

Decisions . Decisions.

My brother-in-law refers to me as “The Girl”. ¬†You know, the help that’s hired to make things happen, the one in the background, who has no name. ¬†That’s me. ¬†I know I am someone that can get things done. I’ve always been a doer, a producer. ¬†Nonetheless I prefer to be thought of more as “That Girl”, rather than “The Girl”. ¬†Marlo Thomas was so quirky and cute and like Mary Tyler Moore, she was making it on her own. ¬†True one lived in NYC and the other in Minneapolis, and I live in Boston, but still….I’m going to make this thing happen on my own.

Cut 2

Laying it all out helps to pick a balance of high and low.

This thing of course is The Manse, and like the middle of any good TV show it looks more like disaster is about to strike than it’s ready for the flash bulbs to start popping, but I’m confident. ¬†Sort of…Oh I have a million decisions to make still. ¬†Bed sets to buy. ¬†Dining chairs, lounge chairs, desk chairs, occasional, and every day. ¬†I’ve got furniture to paint, miles to go before I sleep.

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“Chair”ish this time because once you’ve bought it, there’s no going back.

If money were no object. ¬†I wonder if I would have no creativity at all. ¬†It’s a possibility. ¬†Not to worry, right now, I am being forced to get seriously creative, because I have spent WAY too much, and here I thought I was doing well. ¬†By that I mean, maintaining a budget that I never wrote down, but had a rough idea in my mind I was willing to spend. No – that ship has sailed, so now my living room looks like a grade school art project. ¬†All the surfaces are covered with cut outs of furniture, lighting, linens, and all the items I need to complete this place before 28 April.

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Struggling with the right mix of coastal and comfortable.

That Girl will pull it together, and she’ll do it in style. ¬†You just keep the faith.

Raise the Curtain: A short story

Pun intended – on a big mistake.¬† I am not terribly patient and don’t always take the time to ensure the outcome is going to be as intended.¬† Now don’t jump all over me.¬† No one starts out by saying to themselves – this is going to turn out badly, and does it anyway.¬† I honestly believe it’s going to work….but ugh….then it doesn’t.

high tide 2

The way they should look.  Just breaking the floor.

In this case the object of my misguided efforts are my brand new, incredibly expensive curtains.¬† They look like high-tides.¬† They are in fact 9″ shorter than one could reasonably get away with.¬† My preference is a slight puddle – not too messy, but not too formal either.¬† I’m so far from breaking the floor in this instance it would be laughable if the fabric hadn’t cost me $3500. for 4 slim panels, and that was with the designer discount.¬† Quel domage.

high tides

The way they actually look now.  Terrible.

That’s going to leave a mark, or will it.¬† Since I pledged to tell you the truth, in all its ugliness – the truth – I am bound to reveal.¬† What the heck good would that do if I didn’t learn from my mistake and provide you with some sage advise?¬† ¬† So here it is:

  • Install your rods first.
  • Make sure they are at the desired height.
  • Hang the rings that you plan to use on the rod
  • Hooks are attached to the curtain – typically they fall about 1.5″ from the curtain top – but consult your fabricator regarding location and add this to your overall fabric length.
  • Don’t plan to use rings (grommeted curtains can be measured from the rod to the floor.

Restoration Hardware offers a solid guide to selecting the style that’s right for you and then ensuring you measure accordingly for a perfect fit.

Now that we’ve got the getting right part down, let’s talk about those of you that are like me…something went amiss, and you absolutely must fix it.¬† When I hung the first panel I knew immediately what I had done.¬† I laughed, and then started to try and figure out a solution.¬† Now I could have lowered the rods so that the top of the curtain brushed the top of the casing – it still would have been about two inches from the floor.¬† I could also have let down the hem to make up that difference, but I am a huge fan of curtains that extend way above the casing of the window – if ceiling height permits – which in my condo it does – I feel compelled to use it.¬† It creates the illusion of grandness, in what is a pretty small place.¬† Fortunately I was forced to buy a pretty large lot of fabric, and have a surplus.¬† My best friend and design confidant Tiffany came over and together we strategized.¬† The solution:¬† add a foot to 18″, raise the rods to maximize the height, and at the seam add grosgrain ribbon.¬† I think I might add several courses of the ribbon to enhance the effect.¬† I don’t want it to look fussy, but I want it to look intention and hide the error of my ways.

An alternate approach that would resolve this problem are solid panels that are added to the bottom – much more economical.¬† So, back to the fabricator they will go, me with my head hung low.¬† Thanks for allowing me to get it off my chest.¬† Now that I’ve made this horrible mistake, you can happily avoid it.

 

Brass Tacks: The Essentials of Survival

Let’s get right to the point. ¬†For many of us, this was a hard week. ¬†So hard in fact, that I find myself nearly missing the deadline for this post. ¬†The point is, it stung. ¬†Sometimes life draws blood — metaphorically speaking that is. ¬†It might even feel for a time like we won’t survive it all….but we will. ¬†I won’t make light of it as if an ill-conceived decision regarding a sofa can compare. ¬†After all, we can’t return him like I did the Restoration Hardware Sofa that I decided didn’t fit my life view. ¬†So instead I place my faith in a higher power, and turn to something(s) with a sunnier outlook.

philip-jeffries

Phillip Jeffries Wall Covering

oly-studio-nail-head

Oly Studio Bed

Tacks that is, brass ones to be specific.  They are so in fashion  from stools to headboards, tables, and uber chic wall covering Рbrass tacks are a spot of sunshine in any house Рthey might even offer a little optimism in the House of Representatives.  Dare to dream.

rh-stool

Restoration Hardware Stool

The polls are saying they are trending toward a win. ¬†I don’t want to steer you wrong, but there is something that is both classic and contemporary about furnishings adorned with these beautifies. ¬†They add a little edge to something that might otherwise be prissy, and a little glamour to something that might otherwise be a bit dull.

With this pick – you’ll hit the nail on the head.