That Girl: Keeping it from coming undone

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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.

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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.


“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.


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.

Sail Cloth: Putting together a coastal fabric collection

In my mind’s eye I breeze through the perfectly designed rooms of The Manse in a flowy cotton Ulla Johnson dress,

admiring my careful selections with pride, and a knowing nod to myself, just as I imagined it would look.  In reality…there are dozens of mistakes I will make, returns, concessions, screamed vulgarities, frustration, some tears followed by elation.  If I am making it sound terrible – it’s not.  It’s this very part that keeps me going.  That has me dreaming of different color combinations, fabrics, and patterns – textures and scale.  Like a golfer that swears they will quit, and then hits a perfect shot, I’m in for life.


I’ve already bought, and plan to return a number of items that upon further reflection – will not work.  If this were a Chatham Bars Inn buffet – my eyes would be bigger than my stomach – the repercussions are worse than a stomach ache though, because the beds won’t fit in the rooms!  Ugh.  New plan.  While I think I’ve come up with an alternative approach, it’s a disappointment.

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Cheeky Monkey . Add a little red felt heart on Harwich and we’re in business.

I want to be sure to get the fabrics right so I am laying out several scenarios and asking for input.  Jo-Jo will weigh in here of course.  I was turned onto a fourth generation textile design company out of Sheffield, MA called Tillett Textiles & T4 run by Kathleen Tillett and son Patrick McBride.  This company is hot!  They allow you to choose your pattern and your color way along with about a dozen materials from which you can print it.  If you are in love with their designs, and want a coordinating wallcovering you might consider printing on a lightweight fabric and then having it paper backed before hanging it.  Helen Baker of Helen Baker Interiors Inc. turned me on to them.  She knows the coolest resources!

White and Blue Bedroom:  2nd Floor

Top Left:  Carp Allowed It in Navy – Tillett Textiles (Roman Shades)  Top Right:  Bolero in Indigo – Sister Parish (Window Seat Cushion) Bottom:  Beans and Boys in Red – Tillett Textiles (Pillow for Window Seat).

Sister Parish is a textile and wallcovering brand founded in 2000 to honor the style of and spirit of Sister Parish of the influential Parish-Hadley Interiors firm that famed designers Brian McCarthy and Bunny Williams once called their work home.  I became familiar with them a few years back when I saw a pattern called Serendipity with it’s happy little stars and polka dots – two things bring a smile to my face.  Their patterns are perfect for a coastal haunt.

Pink Bedroom

Left:  Mally Skok . Mewar Pink Orange. (Window Seat Pillow piped in kelly green). Right:  Sister Parish . Clara B . Simply Pink (Window Seat Cushion.

Above:  Similar Wicker Chair – Antique Market Find with Top Left:  Tillett Textiles . Puffy Petals in Forest Green.  Top Right:  Tillett Textiles . Dots of Non in Forest Green piped in pink.

Above Left:  Tillett Textiles . Dots of Non in Forest Green – converted to wallcovering for bedroom closet interior.  Right:  Sister Parish . Clara B – custom upholstered daybed.

Last year, while at the Innovation and Design Center in Boston’s Seaport, I met Mally Skok.  I went to the talk because I had seen a room she designed for a show house and I was struck by the organic patterns and playful motifs.  She has a fascinating story, and is as lovely as her designs.

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Custom Upholstered Day Bed with Trundle by livenUpdesign. Via Etsy.

I love so much of what Serena and Lily produces, but struggled with colorways that would work in this particular application.  If I have to be honest, which I do, because what’s the point of writing all this if I am not honestly sharing my preferences, thoughts, and opinions.  I’m not perfect – nobody is and NObody likes a property that looks too perfect.  It feels inauthentic (probably because nobody lives there) Don’t you forget that.

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Louis J. Solomon . Commode for inside the closet nook.

So S & L is out and I am embracing a mix of designers that you may know, and others who may be new to you.  I do hope you approve.  Comments are sometimes welcome – just kidding – if I couldn’t accept input and alternative suggestions, where would I be?  Please do write.

Copy Carpets: getting it for cheaper

I had a colleague call me to task the other day.  We were talking about shoes I think?  Or it might have been gowns, or furniture or something of monumental importance to me.  Don’t judge me because I have momentarily forgotten which of these things it was – they are all extremely important, and were it not for the shear number of brands, furnishings, materials and projects, which require my attention, I would be able to tell you precisely which one it was.   It will all come back – fear not – and it’s beside the point anyway.  What he wanted to know was the percentage of people that could identify the high end from the low?  Really good question Mark.  I had to admit that it was few and far between.  Why then do I do it?  Well, the answer is I do it sometimes, and sometimes I don’t.  AND I notice.

Left:  Serena and Lily . Metallic Hemp & Suede . 8′ x 10′ $698.  Right:  World Market . Gray Metallic Woven Jute Alden Area Rug . 6′ x 9′ $199.

A mon Avis, the trick is to mix high and low together in one space.  Vintage and new, antique and mid-cent knock-off, art of your own creation with a prized Picaso.  Comb the beach for a shell, rock, or sculptural piece of drift wood.  Find an old sign and spray paint it gold or matte black – it snuggle it in, among other shiny objectives making it a distinguished focal point.

Left:  ABC Carpet . Color Reform . 4’1″ x 6′ $1200.  Right:  West Elm . Caspian Rug Overdyed 6′ x 9′ $899.

I do love finding a good bargain – but it must in fact be good.  It’s so disappointing when you spend money on something that falls apart – in whatever predetermined timeframe I’ve decided the item should last.  So be it, I have a 1950’s concept of how things should be made.  They should last!

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ABC Carpet . Nazarene 4′ x 6’2″ $800.

So carpets.  I’ve found some that I believe are simple lovely replicas of the original – though who arrived there first is always up for debate.  Perhaps it’s more apt to say – the higher cost version – which implies better quality, but isn’t always the case.  I think these are worth the gamble, and if I wasn’t the gambling type I wouldn’t be doing this quest.

Left:  World Market . Beige Adilah Area Rug . 7’10” x 10′  $349.99  Right: . Nourish Moroccan Marrakesh Shag Rug . 9’2″ x 12′ 6″ $314.49


Coastal Design on a “Time” line.


Serena and Lily . Priano Wallcovering $88.00

When the temp drastically drops like the Zipper at the Barnstable County Fair, it’s a bit hard to think about coastal living, but seaside schemes I need to make apart of my waking dreams, or I’ll never make my deadline.  It’s a self imposed one, but there are implications for missing it nonetheless.


Schumacher . Bloom . Emerald and Ore

What are they you ask?  Well – my father will return from Florida sometime between the second week in April and the beginning of May, at which time he will head down to the storage unit, extract his leather recliner, and place it smack dab in the middle of the living room claiming it is a health necessity.


Schumacher . Balloon 

This will obviously ruin my entire scheme.  The only possible scenario that allows me to be ok with this, is if in some brilliant stroke of luck and timing I am able to make all the decisions, procure the perfect mix of vintage, antique, new, and used (by us – but don’t count on a lot of that being allowed into this space), staging it, and having it photographed, all before his return.


Cole and Sons . The Ardmore Collection . Singita

If by some design, wish giving fairy godmother I am granted my hearts desire – to be published in Coastal Living, New England Home, House Beautiful or some new edgy design magazine that is too hip for me to even know about it yet – then I will be totally fine if that chair and a bunch of tchotchkes arrive on the scene – like an uninvited house guest at the height of summer.



Quadrille .China Seas . Jungle Green and White


Why you ask?  How is it possible that I would actually be – ok?  Well, nothing in this world is permanent.  Photographs offer the best possible, fake representation of what you wish your space could look like – could be – all the time, but in reality it’s a fairy tale.  Take an idea or two from those photos, work around that green recliner, tell yourself it is the color of the ocean – and let it go.


Quadrille . Interweave . soft pink on almost white

To be memorialized in one of those mags would feel like a ride on the zipper – scary, thrilling, an amazing to be recognized for what is going to be an all out race to – not only complete – but create something amazing.


Water Ways


Hygge and West’s Mermaid Paper.

I was surprised to learn from my yoga instructor that winter – the season that is – is associated with water and fear.  It’s a time to look inward, and reflect.  I suppose in some cosmic way the Gregorian Calendar (that’s the one we currently follow – which was created by Pope Gregory XIII) with it’s year end, just after the Winter Solstice, and our tradition of goal setting for the new year – is in fact, a time of inward reflection.  Hum.

Little Whales Wallpaper

Pottok . Little Whales Wallpaper.  At last I found it!

I’m a goal setter by nature.  I like the process.  I like to check in and reflect.  I love to see what the year has produced.  I’ve taken to telling people – whoever will listen really – what my goals are because I learned a few years back that in doing that – blabbing it to everyone, you are in fact increasing your chances of getting what you want.  Isn’t that the most amazing thing?  Somewhere in there, surely the psychology of accountability whispers in our ear, encouraging us along on our path.


Marblous Oceany Wallpaper.

Fear can also be a powerful motivator.  No surprise that fear is what set me off on this quest in the first place.  The Quest for the Nest that is.  I find it eye-opening when someone tells me that they find what I am doing “courageous”.  I throw back my head and laugh – a nervous giggle whistling out through parted lips as I prepare to correct them.  It’s FEAR, not courage I want to scream.  Still, as I reflect on this past year, finish construction on No. 4…I have to admit, that I am in fact doing it.  Like water – I am finding my way, sometimes in the face of what seems decidedly unyielding, sometimes salty, and others deliciously enveloping.


Serena and Lily . Seagrass Cloth . Amalfi

E.E. Cummings said:  “For whatever we lose (like a you or a me), it’s always our self we find in the sea.”

I am a Cape Cod girl at heart.  I cannot argue with him there.

In this winter season, embrace the stormy waters, the calm tidal pools, the white caps, and ebbing tide.  There is something to learn and love from them all.

Earning Your Stripes

I’m always pleasantly surprised by the number of people that I talk to that have flipped a home, or are considering it.  While I haven’t run across anyone that does it quite like I do, I suspect if I keep at it long enough, and talk to enough people, I will.  There’s a camaraderie in knowing that others have been through the war.  Have suffered through the frustrations of construction, and want to share their stories of failure and triumph.  It’s comforting to learn that you aren’t the only one to have made a mistake, and to learn about resources or avenues that you hadn’t considered before, from those that have done it.

Left:  Serena and Lily . Striped Fabrice.  Right:  Serena and Lily . Striped Oxford Sheets

We’re all just trying to earn our stripes.  Not to prove something to the world necessarily, but to ourselves.  It’s possible to work hard and win.  That’s one of the most gratifying things one can do.

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Ballard Design . Striped Sectional Bench

I’ll earn those stripes when I am through with this project of mine, and with every property that I complete along the way, I plan to brand it in some small or large way with them.  They are fresh, they are quintessentially french, they are nautical, and opinionated, and all the things I love about the places that have made me .. me.

stripes 1 – painted striped stair

I am reminded of their ability to be time and trendy all at the same time.  Fall fashion is going to go bold with stripes, with tailored designs and stiff cotton shirts – be prepared to be wowed by the simple detailing that turns a work shirt into a work of art.  Since fashion and interiors follow similar trends, in color and pattern, be prepared to see the heavy use of stripes between the glossy pages of your favorite magazines.

stripes 2 design sponge

Finding a way to strike a pose…

For me, the feeling that stripes illicit will always be in style.  While I am never going to feel like I’ve arrive, I’ll happily keep adding stripes to my sleeve as I make my way through life.  Mine as well do it in style.

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Madeline Weinrib Striped Carpet

Bedroom Magic


World Market . Rattan Twin Headboard.  $124.99

The kind that comes from a hot day in the sun, good food, plenty of exercise, crisp cool sheet, and a gentle breeze coming in through the window.  Sleep is often elusive to me.  I live through fits of insomnia chased by adrenalin rushes, and sheer exhaustion.  The rare and special gift that is an uninterrupted nights sleep – is magic.  For those of you, I could sleep anywhere people…just stop reading now.  Move along.  Nothing for you to see here in this post.

Left:  Serena and Lily:  Linden Sheet Set . Palm Green $258. Right:  Serena and Lily . Metallic Pick Switch Quilt $198. (twin)

I just of course – plenty for you to see here, even if I am jealous of your ability to lay your head down at will, close your eyes, turn off your brain, and fade into the nether region between night and day.  You are blessed.


Christopher Farr . Carnival Green – Imagine Custom bedskirts in this cute print.

All this talk of sleep arose from my desire to select the color palette and decor for the bedrooms in the manse.  Since I am primarily there on the weekends, I want the colors to be a bit more vibrant than my year round surroundings.  I love Kelly Green and feel that it’s a nice mix between nautical and nature that works well for Cape Cod.

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Schumacher . Zebra Palm

My picks range from the high-end to the low for the first of the four bedrooms.  From World Market to Schumacher, I was shooting for a cheery space to escape to, read my book and fall asleep to the sound of crickets.