Thursday, January 31, 2013

Real Estate Dreaming: SOLD and a new place to drool over

In November is posted about this amazing condo for sale at 177 Commonwealth Avenue in Boston. Comm Ave is one of the most venerable addresses in Boston and pretty much anywhere in the country. You can read my post here where I shared many photos as well as how I would love to decorate it if the opportunity arose. It has gorgeous bones - what a treat to work there! Anyway, I just wanted to send a congrats to listing agent Julie Harrison of Gibson Sotheby's who emailed today that it has been sold! Lucky owners!

If the $1.315M selling price wasn't in your budget, Julie has a lovely listing at 97 Mt. Vernon Street on Beacon Hill in Boston that I am personally drooling over. (though I'm not currently in the market, a girl can have her dreams!) This is a two bedroom condo for $649K. The building dates to 1920 but the 748 sq. ft. condo  itself is newly renovated. Let's take a tour:

Charming street location and foyer!

This is a bright and sunny living room. Very nice molding detail on the walls and ceilings. You can see the front door to the unit on right in the hall way - so nice not to have to enter directly into the living room!

I love the symmetry that the molding on the left of the fireplace creates, balancing out the door to the right. I imagine this property is staged for sale, given the consistency of the furnishings throughout. Lovely view out the window to a nice building across the street.

The kitchen is newly remodeled and very much reminds me of a European style kitchen - very small, but packed with a lot of features, including a front loading washing machine and induction cook top. I'm assuming there is a dryer somewhere close by.

I'm thinking this is a tiny second bedroom. Not sure I would have tried to squeeze two chair and a half's in like that. Would make a cute little home office though!

This appears to be the master bedroom with the door situated at the end of the hall. Gorgeous views of the tree lined street. Love that this room is on the corner of the building which allows for windows on two walls - not a common feature in the city.

And a view from the communal (I hope?!?) roof deck. Not a nice day, but great views!

A little addition Google digging brought me to these images of this condo pre-renovation:

First off, the color is hidi, no? The new renovation returned the door to the original closet to the right of the fireplace. I definitely prefer the closet over the open shelves and also the updated marble fireplace surround. The addition of recessed lighting and removable of the overhead fan were good choices! I am noticing that the ceiling moldings appear to be the same but the wall moldings have been simplified in the renovation. I like the original moldings, but the updated ones do come across as more modern.

The kitchen renovation is a huge improvement! I wonder if there was a lot of debate over whether to go with all white appliances vs. stainless steel? In such a tiny space, the all white does blend in much better. But the stainless usually has a more upscale look. 

What an improvement in the master bedroom - even if it's really just a coat of paint and recessed lighting. The updated slim radiator is a huge improvement. I also think I prefer the bed facing the two windows vs. facing a big blank wall. It makes a lot more of the windows this way.

 What a difference the shallow radiator makes! Even just 6 inches will add miles to a tiny space.

And, happily, I found the floor plan of this unit online. Just a perfect little pied-a-terre, non?
Actually, I could happily make this my full time home. It's about the size of my Newburyport Condo and I loved it there. Perfect location in the heart of Beacon Hill, all of Boston at your doorstep. When I lived on Beacon Hill in the 90's (the po' street, trust me!), I didn't truly appreciate all the location had to offer. 

Here's the listing. If you buy it after seeing it here, you MUST hire me to decorate. Or, even if you didn't see it here first, I'm brimming with ideas already!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks! Subscribe to ::Surroundings::

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Passport To Design Bloggers Tour - Great resources on the No. Shore!

I attended a wonderful design bloggers day yesterday courtesy of Boston Magazine's "Passport To Design" program and organized by fellow blogger Yvonne Blacker.  The Passport To Design event is a series of design seminars hosted by these five design industry stores and showrooms on the North Shore here in Massachusetts. The event has been going on for a couple of months, but there are still a couple of great seminars left on the schedule, so check it out.

Circle Furniture in Danvers hosted the first event with coffee and breakfast and a quick showroom tour by their Merchandiser Sean William Donovan. This spacious showroom is on Rte. 1. For those who have never been there, try not to miss the showroom as it took me 18 minutes to circle back since Rte 1 is a divided highway. There is a Costco just before it on the same side, so once you see Costco, pay close attention! I wanted to sink into the tufted green chair and a half - it is fabulous! Also comes in sofa size. The tables are made from reclaimed wood and were beautiful.

Next on the tour was Tile By Design in Danvers. After toasting the day with Mimosas (yes, we design bloggers are a boozy lot) we toured their beautiful tile showroom that was jammed packed with hardscape goodies. My new favorite (see bottom left) is a teak wood mosaic tile that is laid like ceramic moasic tile, in sheets. It does have its own grout compound, but the look is fabulous! But since it's wood, keep it away from fireplaces and stove tops! We were sent on our way with cute, and tasty, little cupcakes. Sweet.

Next, we traveled to Beverly to visit the Designer Bath & Salem Plumbing Supply showroom, where our tour guide Yvonne is marketing director. They were undergoing a showroom renovation, but that didn't dampen our spirits. (pun intended). Who doesn't love a lot of sparkle and shine?!? Okay, question: Would you want a tv embedded in your bath or shower? See top left photo... I admit in my much younger days I used to take hours long baths (yes, fill,hot, cool, drain, refill, hot, cool, do it all over) and sometimes I did drag my little 13" black & white tv in to the bathroom with me. But I'm not sure about having the newsman right inside the shower with me [insert joke here]. Thoughts? We had a lovely lunch of corn chowder and chicken sammies to restore our energy, tasty! And yes, that's me bottom right - why was I grimacing??

Our next stop was the venerable Landry & Arcari's Salem showroom. Okay, I love carpet, love it. But unfortunately, I am allergic to wool. So being in a carpet showroom can be a bit difficult for me -  the things we suffer for our art!. The L&A folks, which is a family run business, are so passionate about their rugs and it's infectious. We also got to visit their workroom where craftsman/woman were busy repairing client's rugs. Really fun to watch. I didn't know this, and I have purchased L&A rugs for clients, that they will buy back rugs from clients. Of course, they must be in good, unstained condition, but it's a great program. They mentioned that they had just bought a rug back from clients who purchased it 20 years ago at an excellent price. While these are not budget items, a good Oriental rug will last for decades and knowing it can be returned for a decent price if you want a change is great. Just as our energies were waning, we were treated to afternoon tea, cookies and salted caramels. Yum. A little shout out to the lovely Katherine Hawkins (bottom right).

Our final stop was to the fabulous Lucia Lighting showroom in Lynn. Owner Lucy Dearborn was the perfect hostess for our final stop. As effervescent as the bubbly she generously poured upon our arrival (did I mention we're a boozy lot?), Lucy gave us a great tour of the showroom. That's her in the middle image below showing us these cute little fun pendant lights that I can't remember much about (I was pooped, I'll admit it!). Also, shout out to fellow blog tour member Kristina Crestin. I'm more partial to crystal and sparkles. Love, love the Studio Bel Vetro blow glass lighting (bottom). The colors and patterns are amazing.

Thanks for taking the tour with me. Check out the Passport to Design events still going on!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks! Subscribe to ::Surroundings::

Monday, January 21, 2013

It's an #OlioHop : Home Staging Concepting using Olioboard

I am participating in this month's #Oliohop presented by Olioboard. Olioboard, if you're unfamiliar, is a website which allows users to create either 2D or 3D "mood" or "inspiration" boards for fun and profit. It's fun to play around with spaces and move furniture around with the click of the mouse and it's a great tool in the designer's tool box for fleshing out design ideas. I wrote an in-depth article on Olioboard on Williams-Sonoma Designer Marketplace last year which you can read here.

Meanwhile, the folks at Olioboard host many contests and various fun outreach programs to engage new and existing users and the #Oliohop is one of their more popular events. Each month, ten design bloggers are invited to create a space using Olioboard based on a specific theme. This month's theme is home staging.
We were asked to create a 2D or 3D inspiration board depicting the before and after of a home staging project. Unlike interior design or decorating, home staging is done for the specific purpose of marketing a home for sale. As with any marketing plan, the seller must know who their most likely buyer will be and how to package their product (in this case a house) to speak to the needs and desires of their target buyer. For this project, I decided to depict a space in a home that is being sold by a builder or developer. In other words, a new (or newly rehabbed) house that is empty. One of the goals of home staging is to help potential buyers "see" how they might live in a space. Most people cannot easily envision floor plans, scale and size or colors and so how the room is staged is meant to show the space in its best light, how functional the space can be and still be broadly appealing. If I were hired to design this space for a homeowner, I would likely be adding built-ins to reduce the awkward height of the knee walls.  As a staging project, it's all about creating a comfortable feeling space that makes potential buyers feel "at home". Using Olioboard, I created such a space and exported the image to a JPG file.

I regularly create similar inspiration boards for clients, so I simply incorporated my Olioboard onto my regular board form and highlight the major design elements for the client. This board can be printed or emailed as a PDF with live links to product pages.

To join the large and ever-growing Olioboard community, you can follow them on Facebook, Twitter and access their video tutorials on their YouTube channel.

And, now it's time for the "hop" part of the #Oliohop. Check out my fellow design blogger's boards and see what they are up to:

Lisa Mende Design: Blog * Olioboard 
Frances Newman - As You Like It Redesign: Blog * Olioboard
Stephanie Weeks - Interior Design HQ: Blog * Olioboard 
 Marilyn Russell - Design Magnifique: Blog * Olioboard 
 Lynda Quintero-Davids, NYCLQ Focal Point: Blog * Olioboard
Ronique Gibson - Stagetecture: Blog
Kristie Barnett - The Decorologist: Blog * Olioboard
Roslyn Ashford - Ra ReDoes Rooms: Blog * Olioboard
Williams-Sonoma Design Marketplace: Blog * Olioboard
Linda Merrill - Decorative Surroundings: Blog * Olioboard

If you would like my help on your design or Home Staging project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks! Subscribe to ::Surroundings::

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New England Design Style, by (Old) England Designers

I have a Google Alert set up for the keywords "New England Design Style" and a piece came in this week about a model home in England that had been decorated in a New England style. Said the article:

A new showhome inspired by the calming colours and serene simplicity of the New England coastline has been created by expert interior designers at Taylor Wimpey’s sought-after The Pinnacle development of new homes in Stoke.
Radiating style, the fabulous four-bedroom ‘Clifford’ show property in Stoke encapsulates the classic design of the colonial-era Georgian properties that populate the harbour towns and coastal communities of the north-eastern states of the USA.
By combining clean lines, sky blues and shades of white with textured wallpapers, linens and understated wooden furnishings, Taylor Wimpey’s experienced interior designers have brought the distinctive feel of the American seaside to this wonderful collection of new homes for sale in Stoke. (source)
 I was, of course, immediately curious as to how our New England style would be interpreted by our colleagues across the pond, as they say. I am also interested in their concept of using a New England theme to market these new family homes, which I'm assuming are townhouses, or semi-attached homes, as there are so few windows.  This home is in Staffordshire, which is pretty much as dead center in England as one can get.

 So, how did they do?

You know, I think they did a pretty decent job. Of course, it's important to keep in mind that this is a show house/model home, so they are missing some of what I consider the most important elements of  New England design style, notably the use of antiques and vintage furniture, eclecticism in decorative elements, books, etc. I wrote an article here with more detail on New England Design style. Model homes are of course a little spartan, very planned with everything placed perfectly so.

Let's compare and contrast, shall we?

The Living Room:

The Clifford show property in Staffordshire, England.

One of the most popular of coastal themed designs from the movie "Something's Gotta Give" (of course) which features the color palette of blues, creams, whites and sands that the write up above mentions.  But the elements of the home are more eclectic with mixes of darker furnishings among all the white.  Designer Beth Rubino.

Above and below (photo above by Michael J. Lee, below by me) Living Room from the 2012 Boston Magazine Design Home.  Design by Vani Sayeed. While not the traditional blues and whites of a coastal theme, the room did feature the collected nature of a classic New England design.

The Kitchen/Dining Area:

The Clifford property in Staffordshire features a  decent sized eat-in kitchen, which doubles as the dining room. I think the single biggest change that could have been made in the English property to New England it up would have been to install dark stained floors to contrast with the cabinetry and decorations.

This is the iconic kitchen from "Something's Gotta Give", photo courtesy Architectural Digest, set decoration by Beth Rubino.

The images above (photos by Michael J. Lee) was a client project I did last year. The garden style attached home is not dissimilar to the Staffordshire property in concept (though a bit larger, I believe). Again, the darker floors against white cabinetry, some painted cabinetry and beadboard moldings were applied to add interest and "patina" to the space.

The Master Bedroom:

The Master bedroom of the English Clifford property was a bit spartan (and I don't love the nearly pink color), but it was striking how closely it resembled the Boston Magazine Design Home master bedroom.
The master bedroom in the Boston Magazine 2012 Dream Home (designed by Vani Sayeed) photo by Linda Merrill.

And this image by Michael J. Lee, taken during daylight hours contrasts to mine that was taken in the evening. (not to mention he's a pro and I am not!)

This is a project of mine (photo by Michael J. Lee) that showcases some wonderful antique and vintage pieces and a soft color palette.

The Boys Bedroom:

From the Staffordshire property, the boys bedroom was a study in a masculine palette. Love the photo mural on the wall. I think a nice area rug under the bed would have really pulled everything together.

I was immediately struck by how similar the Staffordshire boys bedroom was to the Boston Magazine Design Home boys bedroom (design by Vani Sayeed, Photo by Michael J. Lee).

As I said above, all in all, I think they did a pretty decent job capturing a New England coastal aesthetic without becoming kitschy with too many boats and seagulls. It's a bit bland, but then staging model homes is a tricky business. You want it to be appealing to a wide range of people, you want it to feel warm without being too personal, and you don't want people to think that they can only do one thing with a property.

For more information on the Clifford Project in Staffordshire, England, go here and here.

Meanwhile, for me, my week has really heated up! New projects are popping up and my list is a mile long - so off I go!

If you would like my help on your design project, I would love to chat with you! Please email me. Thanks! Subscribe to ::Surroundings::