I can tell Spring is really here despite the cold (actually freezing) mornings and the rain. My allergies are on a different level this year.  I do not approve.

It’s Easter weekend.  When I was very young this meant a new Easter outfit.  We’re talking the full enchilada – dress, shoes, gloves, and a HAT!!!  This also meant going to an extra long Easter Sunday service but usually the coffee hour after (Methodists don’t play) was outstanding.

Like many of our other traditions, this one ended once we moved to the suburbs.  I know one reason was because I was getting older and nobody really dressed up for Easter in our suburb after a certain age.

Another reason for the change was cultural.  Our church in Verona was the complete opposite of our church in New York City.  Very few people in our town would wear an Aretha Franklin type hat to church.

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In the mid 70′s my parents’ friends and relatives starting fleeing the economically devastated and crime ridden City.  Everyone was so spread out.  No longer could we walk, take a cab, or just hop on the subway to visit.  Now there were long car rides to Westchester County, Long Island, Bergen County, etc.

Occasionally, we did make it back into the City.  One of my favorite signs of Spring were the tulips on Park Avenue.  Years later, after college and career number one, I finally made it back to my hometown and would walk up Park as soon as the tulips were in bloom.

Recently I’ve become much more nostalgic during the holidays.  I think it’s because I live so far away from my family.  My siblings now have their own traditions with their families and I don’t.

The forecast calls for rain tomorrow.  I will buy some tulips.

Buon weekend e Buona Pasqua!

Photo: New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

I’m always curious about abandoned houses.  I wonder who lived there and what happened to the house.

Renovating an old house, especially one that hasn’t been lived in for a while, is not an easy task.  Last week, two stories about two very different renovations were in the spotlight.

First up, the New York Times  wrote about the controversy surrounding the William Mason House in Thompson, CT.

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Photo: New York Times

Famous interior designer Mario Buatta bought it twenty-two years ago.  The Mason house is a gorgeous example of Gothic Revival architecture and was built in 1845.

At first, people in the small town were excited that a designer like Mr. Buatta bought the home. They believed the home was in good architectural hands.  However, no work has been done in years.  The house has become a horrible eyesore and is falling apart.

Everyone knows historic renovations are tricky and things take time.  However, Buatta’s dismissive attitude has alienated the town.  He has worked on massive mansions four times the size of the Mason house which has thirteen rooms.

The house is located right on the village green.  I understand why the residents are not happy with the snobby and arrogant “Prince of chintz.”

Now for a more uplifting tale:

David Lebovitz linked to Messynessychic’s post about Australians Karina and Craig Waters on his Facebook page.  In 2013 the couple purchased the Chateau de Gudanes, an abandoned 18th century mansion in the Midi-Pyrénées.  The chateau had been on the market for over four years.

While many people dream of taking on a project like this, the reality is that the renovation and upkeep for a place with ninety-four rooms is enormously expensive.

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Those stairs!!  The height of the ceilings!!

Click over to Messynessychic to see additional photos and learn more about the renovation.  I cannot wait to see their progress.

A few weeks ago I went to Anguilla to check in on one of my projects.  The build is going very well.

When I think of the mood for a beach house, the first thing that comes to mind is relaxation.

I’ve been looking at books in my library and pulling images from the internet for inspiration.  The bathrooms don’t have to be from a Caribbean beach house but must have some elements that would work in that environment.

There are many decisions that have to be made. What kind of finishes? What color? If we use tile, what size?

While this is a house in Anguilla, the style will not be British Colonial.  It’s too formal for a beach house.  There will be touches (like a mahogany four-poster bed) of course but mixed with a contemporary spin on Caribbean design.

Below are few spaces that caught my eye:

This bathroom is from a home on the tiny Island of Mustique.  I love the natural feel of it.  We’re already using poured cement for the kitchen counter tops. To use it again in the bathrooms might be too much.

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Photo: Elle Decor

This large en-suite bathroom in a Sicilian villa has a stone sink.  Love the simplicity of the shower stall and the use of wooden stools.  This is a newish boutique hotel.  I must see Rocca delle Tra Contrade in person.  The photos are stunning.

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Photo: Rocca delle Tre Contrade

I’m not a fan of shower caddies.

Our clients for the Tuscany project were very clear that they wanted built-in spaces for shampoo, soap, etc.   If it’s early enough in the build/renovation, I recommend going in this direction.  Just make sure there’s a slight slope, so water doesn’t pool in the space.

A partial wall works for this project.  It never gets cold.

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Photo: Elements Of Style

Getting away from the neutrals for a minute, this bathroom from the La Banane hotel on St. Barths is very bright and colorful.

A fun design like this might be a great idea for one of the smaller bathrooms.  Or the powder room.  In a large space this color and pattern would be not be relaxing to me.

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Photo: Villa La Banane

Brass fixtures are having a moment.  I like them in this bathroom.  I look at all this tile and worry about cleaning the grout.

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Photo: Habitually Chic

I LOVE outdoor showers.  The ones at Cap Juluca in Anguilla are fantastic.

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Photo: Cap Juluca

A more traditional style at Oscar de la Renta’s former home in the Dominican Republic.

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A shower in Marrakesh.  Fantastic built-in bench.

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Photos: Mark D Sikes

I don’t know where this house is but I like the contrast of the stone-tiled floor with the black contemporary trim on the windows and with the lines of the tub.

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Photo: Pinterest

Yesterday the UN, and people all over the world, celebrated International Day of Happiness.

Given all the horrible things happening here on planet Earth, it would be very easy to shrug and think there’s nothing to be happy about.

Sometimes when I’m in a very good mood, I get a little freaked out.  Why am I in a good mood?  I should be cynical, depressed, and anxious.   It’s as if I have no right to be happy.   I meet a lot of expats in Rome.  Many are not happy and are suspicious of those who are.  Being happy is not “keeping it real.”  We end up fueling each others’ fire.

One of my dear friends said I should avoid miserable people.  Why get sucked into their constant negativity and pessimism?   True, we all have bad days, weeks, even months, but as I get older I find I have less patience for people who complain ALL the time but never do anything to change/improve their situation.

I tend to worry a lot, mostly about my future.  How will I pay my bills?  Will my business continue to grow?  Will I ever be fluent in Italian? Why is Drake so popular?   I lie awake at night and dwell on things I have no control over.  This is not healthy and I’m working on it.

When I’m happy it’s not because anything has really changed.  I still have the same bills, worries, and issues.  However, sometimes I do remember that I am extremely fortunate in ways that cannot be measured in dollars or euros.

It won’t be easy but I’m going to try my best to do the opposite of what I normally do, which is to worry and complain.

Another friend proclaimed that this was going to be a great year.  Based on what?  Nothing.  She believes it and therefore is going to do everything in her power to make it so.

I like the why she thinks.

Buon weekend!

(I adore this video.  I have to restrain myself from dancing when I hear this song while jogging.)

The award-winning Fathom Magazine is celebrating Sicily this week.  I’m trilled that I get to join in the festivities.

IMG_4629My article is about Sicily and the solo traveler.

When I booked my trip, I didn’t think it was a big deal that I was traveling alone.   Then once everyone and their mother kept saying, “Wow, you’re going to Sicily by yourself?!”, I started to get nervous.

You can read about my Sicilian adventures HERE.

The entire series is fantastic.  I want to book a trip now.

 

Please forgive my geek out over Stromae (aka Paul Van Haver).

Last week I was in St. Martin to see my family and in Anguilla for work.  All week my sister, brother-in-law, and I, kept hearing this killer French song… in the car, at beach bars, etc.  The first time I heard it I was hooked.  It was so different from anything else out there in pop.

This morning I woke up to an email from my sister saying she Shazamed it but the clip didn’t show up until she returned to DC.

I went to iTunes because I had to buy the single. While I was there I noticed there was another single that was number one. I clicked on it and “discovered” it was  a song I’ve been hearing a lot in Italy lately.  I’ve been trying for weeks to track down it down.

Stromae was born in Belgium to a Belgium mother and a Rwandan father.  You can hear the influences of Euro dance music, African music, Caribbean music, and American hip hop in his work.

I am OBSESSED with his album Racine Carrée.   Obsessed.   It has been a monster hit in Europe, including the non French speaking countries.  I wonder if he will have a hit in the States.  I cannot remember the last French song to do so.  It also reached the top ten in Canada.

I will always associate this song with being in Caribbean.  It’s only March but it’s in the running to be my summer of 2014 jam.  The drums are giving me life.  Seriously.

 

Stromae studied music and film in school.  This video moved me.  His father was killed during the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

 

And the song that is currently a huge hit in Italy.  Stromae showing both sides of a relationship.

Despite studying French for seven years in school, I speak at most ten words.  I looked up the translations to Stromae music.   His lyrics address a variety of issues, most of them pretty heavy.  There is substance to go with the beats.  I get why he has received both critical and commercial success.

I haven’t been this excited about a new (to me) artist since the first time I heard Amy Winehouse.

 

 

How funky are these chairs?

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I am a big fan of Kelly Wearstlers commercial work, yet the Viceroy in Anguilla took me by surprise.

A few years ago I met clients for a drink at the bar.  At first, when I walked in, the décor seemed so “uncaribbean” to me.

Then I walked around.  It IS very Caribbean.  Wearstler’s use of natural materials, her color palette, and the subtle nod to more tradition Caribbean design makes the Viceroy one my favorite hotel spaces.

This hotel is huge and could easily feel very corporate (thinking of a certain hotel on the Dutch side of St. Maarten that ruined one of the best beaches on the island).

Instead it’s unique and jaw dropping gorgeous.

Not a bad place to meet for drinks, especially with a locals’ discount.

I have more meetings this weekend about my Caribbean project.

Feeling very inspired

Buon weekend!

 

 

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