Tuesday, July 19, 2016


What seems like a lifetime ago, I attended a small boarding school in Northern California where my weekends were spent with one of my favorite aunts, aunt Rita, who is one cool chic! She's not your typical aunt; not thrilled when I call her "aunt," she will respond with, "yes, nephew Paul." One day she told me she'd rather be called "Alex" because it seemed more hip than "Rita." She antiqued long before it was cool, she could effortlessly transform Top Ramen into a gourmet meal and today she loves quilting (if you're an HGTV fan, picture Nicole Curtis from "Rehab Addict" and that's the blond version of my aunt). Tedious, depressing weeks at boarding school were made more bearable because I knew I'd be spending the weekends with Rita/Alex. At the time she had purchased a new home and was slowly trying to make it her own by doing things like pickling exposed beams in her master bedroom, wallpapering an entire room (including the ceiling), added moldings to otherwise drab rooms, and other innovative, incredibly edgy, cool designs. To say I absorbed creative talents from her is an understatement. One Friday afternoon she picked me up, avocados in tow for her homemade guacamole, and when we arrived at her house a man was painting a phone booth in her kitchen around an antique phone she found in rural Michigan. When I looked slightly baffled, Rita said; "it's a painting trick called Trompe l'oeil, which means "trick of the eye." The technique tricks the viewer into perceiving a painted detail as a three dimensional object. She thought it would be cool to have what looked like an antique phone booth around this cool piece she found, and dang it, she was right! What could go terribly wrong in some homes looked incredibly amazing in Aunt Rita's kitchen. I often picture those weekends with her, where I'd quietly observe design brilliance at work, as I try to help people today, especially when they're trying to sell their homes. One simple trick I've used many times (and used twice this week) is the simple art of drawing ones eye OUTSIDE. To have a beautiful property is one thing, to get other people to WANT it is another. I often set up little "moments" outside, whether the current owners would actually participate in the experience I'm creating doesn't matter. In our click-to-view world of today, a picture truly is worth a thousand words. The simple art of placing chairs out in a yard pointed SOMEWHERE, creates the illusion of something more interesting in the distance.  My hope is that fantasy lures someone into the reality of owning a new home.  Yesterday a client looked at me like I was a lunatic, as I dragged her teak dining room table out under a tree in the far end of her yard. I came back to her as she stared out onto the horizon and the "moment " I had created. She looked at me and said, "Wow. I want to be THERE!"