The Costa House: No Going Back

When I started designing the Costa house, my Dad, who is in construction management, gave me the 1, 10, and 100 speech. The idea is that anything you change on the plans is basically costs $1. Once the plans are finalized and construction has started you are looking at about $10 if you change your mind, and once construction is underway and things are ordered/ installed you are looking at $100 if you decide to go a different direction. Of course, these aren't actual numbers but it always helped to have this formula in the back of my mind, even though I sort of discounted it since I am someone who rarely changes my mind when I am designing a space. In fact, I think my greatest strength as a designer is that I have a clear vision for each project that I take on and I rarely deviate once I've created a design scheme in my head.

What I failed to recognize is that the Costa house really is different than any other project that I've ever taken on. This is a build starting from the ground up and it's one that we have been working on for years. Up until this summer, the bulk of our planning has been focused on the structure and it's only in the last few weeks that I've been able to focus on the part that I really know, the finishes. Throughout this entire process I've been convinced that "I wouldn't change a thing" and I had assumed that the finishes that I used for pricing were going to be my final choices. Considering that I have already purchased all the plumbing, furniture, lighting, and soft goods for the home, I really didn't think there was much that I'd want to change. I mean, I had designed the house of my dreams already, what more could I possibly want?

Well, it turns out that there are about 100 little things that I needed to finalize and while doing so I started questioning some of the choices I had made. I picked a lot of those finishes two years ago when I was fairly new as a designer and in the last few years both my taste and experience have evolved so much. A lot of the choices I made now seemed a little too "easy," and I have to wonder if at the time I was just repeating things I had seen and liked (for instance the fish scale tile in the kitchen) or is it just that two years have gone by and some of these elements I chose have become really popular. Through my more mature eye some these decisions seemed boring, and a little to predictable, and it really threw me for a loop. Using my dad's model we were at the $1 stage but in a few weeks time it was about to jump to $100 so I knew I really needed to dig in and make changes to the design of this house so the end result was something I would love and be proud of. 

So, that's what I've been doing these last few weeks. I've tried to write a number of blog posts about the house and other topics but my mind is so consumed with this project, I truly can't focus on anything else. At the end of last week I met with my architect and together we walked through the plans, inch by inch and made so many changes, I thought my head would spin. I've had a few days to sit with them and I'm so incredibly happy that I went with my gut, and spoke up, because now I am confident that this house is going to be everything I ever could have wanted and so much more. I'm at the point of no return and for someone who is incredibly change-adverse, I'm actually happy to say that there is no going back. 

I'd love to do multiple posts detailing all the changes I've made but honestly there are so many, I'm not even sure where I'd begin. (Also, I'm in Costa Rica and have fully adapted to the laid back way of living where even writing an email seems like a daunting task. If you've ever been down here you will know exactly what I mean). Instead I figured that it's better to share with you all what the inside of my brain, and soon to be house, looks like. The images below contain many of the actual pieces that will be in the house along with my final "inspiration" for the finishes.

As you can see the house will be a mix of light wood, cement, tile, decorated with simple pieces and textiles that will bring with them a very global feel. It's not too far off from where I started, but I definitely think the overall aesthetic is lighter than I ever imagined it would be. I'm a girl who loves black and navy so it's interesting that I found my way to a house that is white with hints of baby blue. I feel, with every inch of my being, that I've made the "right" decisions and now I (hopefully) just get to sit back and watch it all come together. Xx

Top image from San Giorgio, Mykonos


This month marks the seventeen year anniversary from the first time my husband and I visited Nosara, and I can unequivocally say that we love this town even more than we ever could have imagined two decades ago. This sleepy, surf-side community has become our home and seeing our actual home going up before our eyes is a feeling that I can barely put into words. Building a life here really does feel "fated" and looking back on the last twenty years of my life I can see that every decision that I have ever made has led me here. People talk about the spell this place can cast on you and man, it's got us good. 

Right now we are almost three weeks into our longest trip yet and I feel so lucky that out family will get to spend another five weeks in our little paradise. When the kids were little a month down here felt like a lifetime, but now I'm pretty sure I could stay here forever. It takes some getting used to the slow place of life (so much guilt when you are doing "nothing" all day) but I'm slowly realizing that part of the beauty of this town is that it forces you to do so. Nothing here is fast or easy, but it's always an adventure and it's one that I hope will only get better when we have some real roots. 

Here are a few pictures from the last few weeks. It seems like every day down here is very much the same, but when it's this good there is no reason to ask for anything more! Xx

We Should All Care

Just when I think this administration can't be more ruthless, our First Lady wears something that is so tone deaf and so purposely chosen, the only possibility for such a cruel error in judgement is that she is trying to distract attention away from human rights crisis of her husband's making. Distract from the fact that right now over 2000+ children have been forcibly removed from their parents and are being shipped and hidden throughout OUR country, all the while being caged like animals.

Many of these innocent children will never be reunited with the only family that they know on this entire planet. OUR president's response? Inprison them as family, indefinitely, for a misdemeanor crime. You know the kind of crime that is on the same level as reckless driving and public drunkenness. This is one of those moments in history where a country loses its moral compass and finds itself the perpetrator of heinous human rights violations. The only difference is that this time WE are the perpetrators. 

I refuse to stay silent. I believe that imagery matters. The First Lady may think that we do not care, but she is wrong. I care and so do most of you. I'm so inspired by the marches that are planned for this weekend and the fact that Trump caved to pressure. I'm not sure if caging families is in any way better than caging children, but this is the kind of fucked up world we are living in right now. America sure feels great, doesn't it? 

I have to believe that there will be a reckoning and that reckoning will come in November. I purchased one of these "November is Coming" hats basically just to show my disgust with our First Lady and I also donated again to ActBlue. It felt good to do so through the site Melania may not care, but I do and I hope you do too. We have to elect people who will stop this madness. Our humanity depends on it. Families belong together. 

Top illustration via Justin Teodoro /Hats and Jackets via Alison Brett

P.S. It's not lost on me that I'm an American immigrant who is currently in a spanish country in Central America. My family is very lucky that this country has laws that will prevent my children from being taken from me and shipped to unknown destinations. It really makes you question which country is actually the "developing" one. 

Costa House Must Have: Climbing Bougainvillea

The Costa house is in full swing, and I can't even begin to explain what it is like to be down here watching our dream come to life in real time. Our builder is about to start on the second floor so I've been able to walk through the space to get a feel for what it will be like when we have the furniture in. So far I have loved every decision that I've made, and I can only hope things continue to go as smoothy as they have these last few months. Either way this house is going to be DONE before March, and I couldn't be more excited. 

It's interesting, when I first conceptualized the design for this home I felt like I was really going out on a limb by embracing the modern aesthetic. In the the few years since, the modern / tropical Mediterranean vibe has really caught on and now there are a few more homes that have recently gone up that have the same feel as ours. My guess is that a lot of people are seeing what is happening in Los Angeles and are bringing those same elements into their builds here. (Glass, lots of plaster, indoor / outdoor living, open floor-plans, etc..) On one hand I'm feeling a little bit happier knowing that our home won't stand out as such an anomaly, but on the other I'm wondering if these modern homes are eventually going to feel like some of those super modern 80's homes do, and we all know how well those have aged. 

I'm feeling lucky that I've had the chance to see some homes that I don't love, but ones that are similar enough to ours because it reinforces some of the decisions that I've made thus far. From the beginning my idea was to create a modern exterior, but to fill it with enough furnishings, tiles and textiles so that it feels lived in and homey. The two should counterintuitive  but now that I've seen what's around I'm even more convinced that this is something that I can pull off. 

Given that I'm confident about the interior, the question now is how to bring that same lived in feel to the exterior. My goal for this house is for it to feel like it could be on an island in Greece, and not as though it would be in the new Miami Vice reboot. The answer to this is, of course, landscaping and you can bet that I've given a lot of thought into what I want to surround the home. Our backyard abuts an 100 acre nature preserve (i.e. a jungle) but I still want to make sure we bring some life up to our property and I've decided that the best way to do this is to COVER the house in climbing Bougainviela. 


Above is the house rendering sans any landscaping (and without tile) and below is what I think it could become. 

You all can see it, right??? Imagine if all of the overhangs had Bougainvillea poring off of them, and the entire front of the house as well. I think the pink is going to look amazing against all of the white and teak, and just like my plan for the interiors, it's going to bring so much softness to an otherwise hard shell. The best part is that Bougainvillea is a low water plant and considering that this area is prone to drought, that is a very good thing. Our street already is chocked full of the flowering plant and I really think that this addition to the facade of our own home is going to make such a difference. 

Last week, I mentioned this to my architect and she LOVES the idea. We are going to try to get the front of the house cleaned up in time to plant as much Bougainvillea as we can before the rainy season comes. This will allow them to be mature for when we move in and then we just sit back and watch them grow. I really can't think of a more beautiful "job" to have! Xx

The Spotify Playlist That Changed The Way I Live

It was right after I wrote this post that I discovered the Spotify playlist that would change the way I live my life. I know it's pretty cliché to consider yourself to be a Francophile, but what can I say, I truly and deeply love all things Parisian. This includes, but is not limited to, Parisian fashion, architecture, history, food and, of course, the music. Ahhhh the music. You know, the sweet melody you hear when you walk to any cafe in Paris that instantly lifts your mood and reminds you that you are, if fact, in one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. 

During the long winter I was craving this kind of mood lift so I started searching playlists that contained "French" and "Cafe" in the title. It didn't take long for me to find French Cafe Lounge and I'm not exaggerating when I say that I haven't listened to anything else since. I write to it, I cook to it, I listen to it when I drive, work and shoot. Without question, my favorite time to listen to it is when the kids are at school or in bed, and I'm essentially alone in my house. I've since got my best friend (and all six of our kids hooked on it) and both of us agree that it changes the way we think, react, and yes, live. 

It's hard to explain what listening to this music does to my state of mind, the most I can say is that it just makes everything better. Similar to a glass of wine, it allows me to be more creative, creates beauty in the everyday minutia, and the best part is that it mentally transports you to a cafe in Paris. On days where life feels like a grind, there really is nothing better! Xx 

Top image via Katie. One

Cheap Old Houses

I grew up in Southern California, and for much of my adult life I had always considered the best houses to be new houses. Sure, I knew there was an argument for "bones" and "character" but when you live in a part of the world where everything is new, and newer, you don't fully appreciate just how beautiful old can be. Well, I can tell you that I have certainly changed my tune now, and my idea of the perfect house is one that is barely standing, and is chocked full of original elements like floors, hardware, and doors. 

I now find myself wandering the streets of Cambridge (virtually and on foot) peeking into old homes and dreaming of how I would update them. This time last year I was obsessed with renovating an old home in my neighborhood but instead I took on a few projects that involved bringing life back to homes that were in need of a little TLC. Right now I'm in the middle of a renovation of a picturesque home in neighboring Weston, and if there was ever an old house with good bones, you can bet this is it. We are updating all the bathrooms (there are 6!) and putting in a new kitchen, but the remainder of the home will stay true to how it was originally built, and I’m loving every second of this renovation. Almost all of the design decisions have been made and the house will be the perfect mix of old and new, and one that is full of charm. This project has become one of those homes that they just don't build anymore, making it truly one of a kind. 

The thing a lot of people don't realize is just how expensive and time consuming it is to rehab an old home (and no, I'm not talking about a renovation in a Fixer Upper kind of way, where you rip everything out and replace the entire house with new and cheaper finishes). Rather, I'm talking about the amount of money and sweat equity that it takes to modernize and restore an old home, essentially bringing it back to its former glory. (This house immediately comes to mind). It can be a true labor of love and over the past few years I'm finding that it's one that I really, really, really love. 

Given how much money is involved in this type of home rehab, for most people buying an old home is simply prohibited by the cost of buying the actual home. I will often see a home in my neighborhood for sale that is truly uninhabitable, only to discover that the purchase price is millions of dollars. In desirable neighborhoods developers are always driving the price of the "land" and while I love the idea of fixing up an old estate, finding one in our neighborhood seems pretty unattainable. 

I was talking about this the other night with a good friend of mine and she told me that I HAD to start following the Instagram account Cheap Old Houses, and immediately I did. For the past two weeks I have spent countless hours scrolling though this feed and pretty much every day I declare, "that's it... I'm moving to Alabama! or Ohio! or South Carolina!" The other day there was even a Frank Lloyd Wright for sale for $175,000 in Chicago. Say WHAT?????? The homes featured on this account have such amazing "bones" and imagining what I would do with these homes has become my new favorite hobby. For those of you who love old houses, this one is for you and I promise I won't be mad at you if you immediately scoop one up and start to renovate one of my new favorite "dream homes." Please just promise you will invite me for a visit! Xx

It's All About The Accessories

I know that I write a lot about the importance of accessories when you are looking to make your space feel "complete" and this project of mine proves this point perfectly.

Last fall, I took on what I lovingly refer to as a "styling job" which basically meant I came in to make a very beautiful house feel more lived in. The family had purchased the home new and tried for a few years to make it feel warmer and more lived in. Frustrated by a lack of knowledge (and progress) they brought me in. Within a few months, and a fair share of accessories, we completed* the project and now the home feels perfectly lived in, and it's just like it has always been that way.

I'm holding on to a few of the other rooms from the project with the hope that they will soon get published (don't you just hate when bloggers do that??) but today I'm able to share with you the transformation of the kitchen! You can see how the addition of some lighting, a runner, roman shades and barstools have completely transformed this room from one that felt a little generic to one that has a unique personality all its own. I know it's easy to get burnt out when you are furnishing your home, but let this post be a little reminder... it really is all about the accessories!  Xx


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*Is a project ever really complete? As a designer you know my answer is always "no!" ;)

After photography by Sabrina Cole Quinn || (@SabrinaColeQuinn on Instagram)


Lately, I've found myself pining pictures of restaurant interiors at such a continuous pace you would think I was in the middle of a restaurant renovation. While that would be an absolute dream (do you hear me universe???) it's the simple stying that I'm drawn to and the combination of mood lighting, paint, tile, upholstery and artwork that I can't stop obsessing over. The design of each these rooms creates such a tangible feeling, I could only hope that my residential projects carry with them the same mood altering elements. Inspiration comes in all kinds of places and right now mine is coming in the form of bistro tables, mosaic tile and dramatic lighting. Xx

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