Getting Hammered: Debunking the flip

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See those Galbraith and Paul curtains hanging on the Lux Hold Ups Rods custom made in Brooklyn by female artisans – no normal flipper would ever buy those.  The cost a quarter of most flippers total renovation budget.  Don’t you just love them?

As I was preparing for a big real estate summit that’s coming to the city I came across some interesting sessions on social media, streaming, video production and branding for business.  All things that are important to me.  I should say – this is a corporate real estate summit, not a residential one, and it’s for my full time job, not my side hack.  Still, by design, these worlds collide, and I learn so much from my personal ventures that contribute meaningfully to my work, and vice versa, that it seems perfectly simpatico.  This research led to me googling myself, and to the discovery of a blog post for which I was the subject.  Or, as I prefer to think of it… the STAR.

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Farrow and Ball Wallcovering costs a fortune.  It’s really art that I leave behind.  I know not everyone will appreciate it.  I did it for me.

Jon Gorey, the author of House and Hammer, took to debunking my junk in his article and making me look like more of a hasbin than a starlet.  Hum!  Using me as a cautionary tale to all those wannabe flippers out there, he suggested that my efforts (and yours by the way) would have been better spent sitting around on the sofa for the next 10 or 30 years and cashing in at the end, having foregone the hassle, and the hustle associated with my high cost renovations.

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TV may make it seem sexy but it’s hard work.  Even Chip is sweating there.  A lot of sweet goes into it.

I must say that I have an appreciation for his style of writing, his clear understanding of the numbers, the risks associated with real estate ventures, and for his love of homes.  Pay close attention to all that because it’s true!  He says flipping is sexy – not true and that marble and Parisian chandeliers are not what the South End needs, or buyers necessarily want.  That I suppose is simply a matter of opinion.

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I spy a chandelier that still makes me smile.

I like saying “for the record” and “setting the record straight” but the truth is, the truth changes.  My truth at this moment, and as I have recorded it, has always been this…to date that is, I am flipping homes  – for me.  Not for anyone else.  Yes I want to sell them.  Yes I want to make a profit.  Yes I hope to use that profit to get ahead before I retire, but imbedded in those truths is something fundamentally more important that is driving me to renovate these properties.  It’s my love of design and architecture and travel.

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Travel inspiration.

What Jon doesn’t know is that were it not for the sweat, and hives, and the sawdust, I would not have traveled to Paris every other year, a place that is so sublime to me it fills my heart with happiness.  I would not have been to Croatia, Bosnia, Switzerland, Italy, Nantucket, Mexico, and on and on to so many amazing places where people of different cultures open ones mind to both how big, and small, our world is, and art and beauty sit side by side the dirt and grit of our realities.

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Croatia.  Look at that limestone.

Jon doesn’t know that I carefully plan each property based on a design vision that is like none I have done before.  While I certainly learn things along the way, a trick here or there to make the process a bit more easy, or visually more appealing, this is not PS101.  That Parisian chandelier was purchased for me, and boy does it have a good story.  If I were only in this for the money, I would use granite, not marble.  I would paint everything beige, not one of the dozens of refined and/or wild hues that my boyfriend Benjamin Moore has to offer.  I would use Home Depot fixtures, make only cosmetic changes not improvements to the infrastructure (many flippers – though not all – like to keep there money right where they can see it – and that’s not behind the walls).  There are so many things I would do differently if the only thing I was in this for was the bottom line.  Bottom lines are boring.  I never wanted to be a suit.

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Thanks to No. 3 Venice is now part of me.

I’m as pleased as punch that someone wrote about me.  As I said, I think Jon offers some very sound advice.  Being covered in sawdust isn’t for everyone.  You have to love it.  If you are considering making a foray into the adventures of flipping, it’s important to go in with eyes wide open.  Me, I grew up thinking everyone lived like this – you have a choice. Choose wisely.

Santa Baby: All I ever wanted

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The Lucas . Shawmut Ave. Boston

I would take a sable under the tree, that would most definitely please me.  A duplex and checks – I’ll take it with two decks, and with a majority share in Tyvek, because what the heck, I wasn’t born yesterday.  Santa Baby, hurry down the chimney to me.  Eartha Kitt and Henri René sang this timeless classic for the first time in NYC in the summer, ironically, of 1953.  Her timeless crooning in her low sultry voice makes her requests for a platinum mine, a 1954 convertible light blue, and a ring – not on the phone – totally acceptable, and somehow, feasible.

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The Airstream . Globetrotter.  A Glamper.

It got me to thinking about what my own outrageous list might include, and decided I should put it out there – just in case Santa was curious.  After all, I’ve been an awfully good girl.  Santa Baby – slip the deed to a two bedroom condo at the Lucas under my tree.

I’ll take an Areostream for all my “Glamping” adventures.  An Eclipse 550 because commercial airline travel is …. disrespectful!  I’ll take a Goyard Travel Trunk too – in blue, because you simply can’t land on the tarmac with duffle bag in toe.

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Godard Travel Trunks.  Oh la, la.

A yard of diamonds from Tiffany, a bottle of Clive Christiansen “X” perfume, A Pied a Terre on the Left Bank, a driver, and a maid – she need not be live in, but she must do windows.

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Tiffany . Elsa Peretti Yard of Diamonds

Santa Baby, I forgot one little thing – a Renoir with the authentication papers – a girl needs a little extra security to ride those volatile economic times.

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Clive Christenson . “X” .  A heavenly scent and I’ve been an angel all year….

May the magic of the season infect you with a childlike wonder and belief.

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.

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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.

Cliff House . Coastal retreat

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Cliff House . Cape Neddick. Maine

As a Cape Cod girl it’s rare for me to head north to Maine.  It’s beautiful here.  The rugged coastline, waves crashing over the rocks – it’s chaotic, it’s hypnotic, it’s captivating.  Like watching a fish in a bowl, the dancing waves, and sea spray, make me feel calm, unhurried, and it’s clear to anyone that knows me, I am neither.  Rush, rush, rush, but as I sit in the Cliff House’s atrium space overlooking the Atlantic ocean, and watching staff as they prepare for a wedding later today, I feel in no hurry to get back to Boston.

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The Tiller at Cliff House

First opened in 1872, the Cliff House was founded by what can only be described as an enterprising woman – Elsie Jane Weare.  Mother to 7 children, caregiver to her sick husband, Captain Theodore Weare, Elsie decided to purchase 70 acres of waterfront property on Bald Head Cliff, and build the Inn.  How hard could that have been?  Oh by the way she ran it too.  It makes me feel a bit lazy to think of all that she accomplished.  The Resort reports that her brother, Captain Charles Perkins, built the original inn, using wood from his mill in Ogunquit.  Very enterprising indeed.

Room with a view . it’s in the details.

In August of 2016, the Cliff House reopened in its entirely new incarnation.  As a gal in construction I spend a lot of time looking at the details, the intersections between floor and wall, ceiling and soffit, the jigs and jogs that provide interest, but also an opportunity to reveal deficiencies in construction, and poor craftsmanship.  I got down on the floor, looked behind the doors, tested the functionality of the library ladder, the strength of the wrought iron piping that provides the track for the intricate rope screen separating bar from restaurant.  I tried to find fault with the windows and their installation – what is wrong with me?  I could not.  It’s beautifully executed.  The craftsmanship is flawless, and the people here are lovely.

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Gallery at Bald Head Cliff

I am blessed to work for a company – a family – that invests so much in their employees.  This Cliff House retreat was scheduled as a get-away for our Director’s Group.  We could have met at my boss Lisa Wexler’s home.  We do on occasion, and it is lovely there, but she selects locations like this, both as a way to thank us for our hard work, and to take us out of our every day setting.  It does the trick, it makes you feel very present.  So much so, I don’t want to return to my other reality!

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Lisa Wexler . President of Elaine Construction and me.  Cliff House.

Cliff House . 591 Shore Road . Cape Neddick . ME  . 207.361.1000.  To being present.  I recommend you book your visit immediately, and whether you choose to indulge in a fresh cold pressed green juice, or a cleverly crafted cocktail, my guess is you won’t be disappointed.

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Comfort and beauty combine.

Can a rookie house flipper pocket $1 million?

That’s the questions that Jaci Conry of the Boston Globe asked when she interviewed me for her cover story in The Boston Globe Magazine.  On-line today at http://www.bostonglobe.com/lifestyle/real-estate/2016/12/30/can-novice-make-million-flipping-homes/WRmD9u24SEpu6Wj5bHV94O/story.html?s_campaign=8315, out in print tomorrow.  Nice way to close out the year, and open 2017.  Time will tell.

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No. 4 . Underway . David L. Ryan Globe Staff Photographer

It’s funny, and interesting to me, the strong emotions that bubble to the surface when the topic of conversation is house flipping.  One reader reprimanded me for driving up the prices in the South End, making properties unaffordable for the average guy or gal.  To this I can only say “I don’t think I am average at all…I’m special, but why wouldn’t I think that?, I’m me”.  Still, I did start with just $15,000., and the price of real estate in the South End was unaffordable for me when I started, it still is, but someday, I hope it will not be.  When I generate enough sweat and tears, when I have pushed through when I would rather have put on a party dress and heels, when all the dust settles, I hope, that I will be one of those lucky few that really owns a home.

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Falla with Micah Viana of Naysa Builders examining Visual Comfort’s Calais Chandelier meant for the bedroom.  David L. Ryan Globe Staff Photographer.

Until then, I plan to continue to make mistakes, share the error of my ways, take pride in doing something right, and well, and in service to these old buildings.  These grand and historic brownstones.  These beautiful, and sometimes broken representations of our city’s history.  To be a part of that, is to be part of something that is bigger than me.  It’s important.

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No. 1 . Charlestown . a working kitchen in the end.  Photo:  Falla

Yes, I could spend less money on the construction, but I choose not to for several reasons – I love design, and like my inexplicable adoration for architects and interior designers, I have a deep appreciation for beautifully crafted things.  Lighting fixtures, sculptural tables, the weight and feel of a door knob in your hand, these things speak to me.  I am drawn to them.  This Quest allows me to be near people and things that inspire me.  This Quest allowed me to fly to Paris and hunt down that mid-century modern sputnik chandelier in the flee market.

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Mid-Century Madness.  Italian Sputnik via Le Marche aux Puces . Paris.  So beautiful I want to cry.  Photo:  Carly Gillis Photography

It gave to me an amazing trip with my dear friend Tiffany who shares my obsession with travel, and fashion, and home improvement, and design.  Experiences like that keep me warm at night.  The second reason I invest in these buildings has to do with a sense of stewardship for them.  I believe one should always endeavor to leave something or someone, a little better than before they knew you.

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Property No. 2 . Milford Street.  Photo:  Carly Gillis Photography

To the gent that asked:  “Who needs all this renovation aggravation, why not just marry someone that owns a lot of property?”  I can only say….”now why didn’t I think of that?”

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Property No. 3 . Waltham Street . Photo:  Carly Gillis Photography

On this last day of the year, I encourage you all to do it your way, and own it.  Good-bye 2016.  You’ve been a good one.