Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Question for the Community: "Salt Water New England Aesthetic in a First Apartment"

Photo By Salt Water New England
Question for the Community from a Male Reader:
... I’m graduating soon and moving into a new apartment and the I really want to learn more about how the aesthetic of saltwaternewengland plays into the interior of a home. 

38 comments:

  1. I think you'll find many varied responses on this question. I say go with what you like and what appeals to you. If you like modern, so be it. If you like antiques, that's what you should have. I think comfort, practicality, and items that will wear well over time are good investments and fit in well with Yankee sensibility. Congratulations on your graduation and moving to your new place. I think I can speak for all of us here at SWNE to wish you all the best for a bright future. Just stay sane in a world filed with consumerism and you'll go far.

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  2. There's a section on this in The Official Preppy Handbook

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  3. Buy the best pieces you can afford, and don’t be afraid of some empty spaces when you’re first starting out. It’s fun to collect over time. For antiques, try flea markets and tag sales...affordable, and you will be able to collect some nice pieces. Congrats!

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  4. Advise above is great... buy the best property you can. Remember, location, location, location. This will be a good investment. Regarding decor, less is more and quality is key. All the best as you launch your career. Susan

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  5. After university an old friend invited me to room at his three bedroom, centrally located apartment where he held the lease. I was fortunate to have family furniture, so I didn't have to spend a dime. A room would open up as a bachelor moved on to get married. Another friend would move in to take his place. Each of them had family furniture as well, so the end product was a nicely kitted out pad. In retrospect, it was a pretty amazing place with Diebenkorn, Thomas Sully, Society of Six, and family portraits on the walls. I had people over for drinks or dinner. The social life in the city was amazing, and still relatively cheap then. It, and my 20s, were a magical time. My advice: I wouldn't spend alot on stuff. Get room mates and share the cost. Make sure your bar is well stocked. Chances are high you will move, and carting possessions around is a drag. SAVE your money. Again.... START SAVING early. Invest. Spend what you can on having a blast, but save, save, save. Work hard. It's the people and the experiences that I remember more than the apartment. Best of luck to you.

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  6. Agreed!! Don't rush to fill every space. Take your time. Be selective and be patient. Your tastes will grow with time and maturity and you don't want to be burdened with lots of things you'll want to discard later. (It's astonishing how much "stuff" one can accumulate in just a few years.)

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  7. Relax. Keep all that you like around you. Carefully purchase additional things that "speak" to you. The best decorator of all is being confident. Sometimes it takes awhile until we feel that. We all were there -- be your blazing self.

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  8. Don't buy anything new. Borrow selectively from your Mom and Dad and their parents. They will be complimented that you asked and may give it to you later if not now. Hope you are the oldest and not the youngest.

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  9. Please don't take it the wrong way, but particularly in the context of countless interior pictures on this blog, your question strikes me as odd. Apart from that, I would advise you to develope your own taste and not to copy something. No matter what you buy, make sure that you get the best quality you can afford.

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  10. When I was your age and setting up my first apartment, I went "shopping" in my aunt's basement. Those things and a new couch got me started. Most of those items, including the bed my father was born in, are still in my home. If you are a reader of this column, you know that many of us have "brown" furniture, china, books, and collectibles that we would love to share with someone who would cherish and use them. These pieces with a family story mix beautifully with more modern pieces and fabrics. If nothing else, they will bridge you until you can afford to add special pieces of your own. So ask around. Congratulations on your graduation and best of luck!

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  11. " A room without books is like a body without a soul . "

    - Cicero

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  12. I wouldn’t get too exercised over how your first apartment looks. As I think back, it was never about the furniture or rugs. The friendships and experiences we shared are memories that rank well above what little I remember about the characteristics of the couch.

    Besides, once you meet “the” women, it’s all going to change anyway.

    So, have fun, drink some beer, spill it on the rug (extra points for spilling on the couch), and don’t worry about it.

    Aiken

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  13. One of my early apartments was on Higgins Beach in Scarborough, Maine. Other than a new futon mattress and a kitchen table the previous tenant left behind, it was decorated entirely with yard sale finds, no exceptions. I had a vintage wood lobster trap for a coffee table, old hardcover books I placed in antique wood crates stenciled with New England advertising (I still have the books and crates)and a large bentwood rocker. I also had a framed tacky nautical paint-by-number on the wall because I liked the old frame and didn't take myself too seriously. In my twenties I didn't want to be burdened with too many things since I wasn't yet settled. It was about experiences and a safe, comfy home that was good enough.

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  14. The best bargains are found at secondhand shops and estate sales. Furniture has a very low resale value, and that works to your advantage when you are shopping for used pieces. At estate sales and secondhand stores, you should be able to buy anything less than museum-grade furniture for 10-30% of the its list price.

    Also, I hate to be a snob but the truth is that most people have pretty awful taste in furniture. This, too, will help you save money. The best furniture -- classic pieces made with good craftsmanship -- is often ignored because it's not showy or contemporary. So you'll find a really good selection of classic pieces on the used market. The sellers will be eager to make a deal on those pieces because they sell slowly.

    The best bargains are found at estate sales are in old money neighborhoods with actual...estates. Big old houses are always filled with secondhand furniture. And again, the sellers are eager to make a deal because the estate sales usually only last a day or two and their purpose is to clear out the house so that it can be sold.

    Finally, a lot of people don't like IKEA, but I love it. Ikea furniture is no substitute for classic pieces. But it's made of wood (for the most part), it's a terrific value, and it looks nice. If you need a bookcase, an end table, or an armchair, IKEA is the place to go. Personally, I'd only buy the cheapest pieces that Ikea offers; I once bought one of their more expensive pieces, I think it was around $300 or $400, to decorate a guest room, because I couldn't find a comparable piece elsewhere. The "high end" Ikea furniture was a disappointment. I've heard of people renovating their kitchens with Ikea cabinets and I can't imagine doing that. But if you need a $59 bookcase, it's the place to go.

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    1. IKEA may be good for a recent grad on a limited budget, but it is most definitely not "New England Aesthetic". Go to lots of yard sales and estate sales instead.

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  15. Like the other comments, I recommend taking your time and being selective.

    There have been numerous articles about the fact that your generation isn't interesting in "grandma's silver and brown furniture". If this stuff appeals to you then you are starting out at an ideal times. Whatever your taste now, it will evolve, so roll with it.

    The best above post here is the one about books. I could never live without books. I recommend collecting them most highly.

    Congratulations and best regards.

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    1. Agree with both comments about books. Yes, they are bulky and heavy, especially when moving, but they're classic, especially if you've read them!! I know the new thing is to have a Kindle and everything online, but nothing replaces a good old-fashioned book.

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    2. I'm rather particular when it comes to bookcases. They must have shelves that will not bend or warp under the weight of the books which often happens with those made of particle board, MDF, or too thin of wood. As many have stated, look at garage sales, estate sales, antique stores, etc. HAVE A BLAST with your new place!

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  16. To quote a well known proverb, "Invest in your shoes and your sheets because if you’re not in one, you’re in the other."

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    1. For me it was always "Invest in the things that separate you from the ground: mattress, shoes, and tires"

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  17. I agree with Joe S re: IKEA. We were quoted $12K and $6K for custom book shelves (non-gold-encrusted) before finding perfectly acceptable solid wood ones for a total of $900. Also got a bathroom vanity there for <400 when a comparable one was $3K.

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  18. It is my observation that the “SWNE aesthetic” is about what I identify as “quality living”. So learn quality: fabrics, collectibility (things that increase in value over the years), durability, authenticity. Reading this blog is an excellent resource.
    When it comes to location...look for the amenities that you value that are within your price range (parks, schools, water slide, whatever)...with a little left over for savings. This is called “living below your means”, and is a worthy value that can keep you out of the “poor house”, or Mom and Dad’s basement!
    So what it comes right down to: Discover your values so that you may live authentically. Follow them. Find your version of quality living and enjoy.
    Best Wishes,
    Mrs. Hutchinson

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    1. Excellent comment, Mrs. Hutchison. Agree wholeheartedly.

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  19. If you're in the New England area, and even if you're not, wholeheartedly recommend a trip to Nancy L. Dole, Books & Ephemera in Shelburne Falls, MA:

    http://www.nancydolebooks.com/

    That should get you on your way, and thriftily so.

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  20. There is no one "Salt Water New England Aesthetic". But, more importantly, and I'm sorry to have to say this, but it's not something you can manufacture; it's something that comes out naturally, without thinking. If you consciously try to "decorate" your apartment in a "Salt Water New England Aesthetic" design, it will inevitably end up looking fake and tacky.

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  21. As others have recommended, acquire slowly, acquire what you love. I am guessing that as you progress from one abode to another, you won't be taking everything with you -- but you will be taking those pieces that mean something to you. I have lived internationally, and when it came time to move -- almost everything went, except those pieces that I couldn't see myself without (e.g., the antique Chinese cabinet found in the old Guangzhou French Quarter) and paid heftily to bring it back to the States -- but you love what you love; it has meaning and memories. I am not sure about the SWNE aesthetic -- I think what you own should resonate with you. You will build a collection of functional and/or decorative pieces that will give you joy and happiness where ever you are! Congrats!

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  22. If you're in the Back Bay there will likely be odd angles and stairs, so get a tape measure and make friends with someone with a truck. Borrow basics from your parents and return them as you pick up pieces at estate sales (which also allows for seeing different setups). Check our the mills at Pulaski way in Danvers - way better than anywhere in the city. And never ever take offers of cast-off items from friends; they're getting rid of them for a reason,

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    1. The Pulaski Mills is a treasure! Last year I purchased six dining room chairs and had the seat reupholstered on site. Vintage 1920s and a bit dinged, but hand carved solid wood. If you can't find what you need in a relatives basement or on the side of the road, go used or local.

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  23. The most important thing of all is never to actually be in the apartment. True prep is always somewhere else, such as his/her parent's home on Nantucket, his/her St. Lawrence roomie's cousin's girlfriend's home in Vermont or sailing off St. Croix. To actually be in your apartment is unprep and should be avoided unless it is a Monday, Tuesday or, oh, the humanity, a Wednesday night.

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  24. After nearly 45 years of renting, buying and selling homes my advice would be this: if you don't own the property, don't spend more on living there than you need to be safe and comfortable. IKEA is great for basics like curtains/blinds, bedding, and clean, simple furniture to sleep, eat and lounge on that you can't get for free. But after that outfitting is done, start dreaming about your permanent abode. Once you go house/condo hunting, you'll be inspired by what you like - and identify what you don't like - with regard to neighborhoods, styles, colors and designs. Those are the things that will eventually define you and your own personal 'aesthetic' - which, as all real New Englanders know, isn't about money or what money can buy. For example, after my daughter finished school, she 'decorated' a prominent wall in her first place with her professionally-framed undergraduate and graduate degrees, National Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa certificates surrounded by pictures of friends and relatives, events, travels and souvenirs that had had meaning to her throughout her school years. No other purchase or acquistion could have defined her or her aesthetic more. And invariably lead to interesting, fun conversations with new acquaintances as well as old friends. You can bet no one cared where her furnishings came from!

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  25. After nearly 45 years of renting, buying and selling homes my advice would be this: if you don't own the property, don't spend more on living there than you need to be safe and comfortable. IKEA is great for basics like curtains/blinds, bedding, and clean, simple furniture to sleep, eat and lounge on that you can't get for free. But after that outfitting is done, start dreaming about your permanent abode. Once you go house/condo hunting, you'll be inspired by what you like - and identify what you don't like - with regard to neighborhoods, styles, colors and designs. Those are the things that will eventually define you and your own personal 'aesthetic' - which, as all real New Englanders know, isn't about money or what money can buy.

    By way of example, after my daughter finished school, she 'decorated' a prominent wall in her first place with her professionally-framed undergraduate and graduate degrees, National Honor Society and Phi Beta Kappa certificates, surrounded by pictures of friends and relatives, events, travels and souvenirs that had had meaning to her throughout her school years. No other purchase or acquistion could have defined her or her aesthetic (or the SWNE aesthetic) more. And the wall invariably lead to interesting, fun conversations with new acquaintances as well as old friends. You can bet no one cared where her furnishings came from!

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  26. There are great suggestions above. As it is a first apartment, definitely go with cast off and second hand items. Save the big purchases for your permanent home. New, modern furniture sometimes doesn’t fit through old hallways, stairs and elevators. If you need to refresh your grandmother’s couch (as I did), a fitted slipcover can work wonders. I’m guessing that since you read this blog and are looking for a SWNE aesthetic, you like classic and antique looks. My favorite pieces have come from relatives, auction houses and estate sales. Dark furniture with clean lines has worked well for us and mixes quite well with everything we bring into our house. To lighten up, we have lighter wall colors, white sheets, light curtains, mirrors and aged brass frames on our art. They reflect the light in the room. Don’t forget a few great lamps - old apartments don’t always have overheads and new ones usually have harsh recessed lighting. A low light can change the mood of the room.

    Last bit of advice - spend some time cooking at home. Learn how to make a few great meals and you will be ready for company in your newly decorated apartment. Congrats and have fun!

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    1. Oh, yes! Cooking at home! And have a few friends over for potluck once in awhile. (Just realized my “old school” is showing!) Okay...so have a “come on over” and “bring something”! Lol
      Mrs. Hutchinson

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  27. Don't worry too much about the comments regarding looking like you have tried too hard to achieve something that should come from within. Comments like that are a sure sign of an arriviste who doesn't really understand. We are all born from a womb and finish up as dust. Do whatever makes you happy. Good luck!

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    1. I agree! I found those comments harsh and unnecessary.

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    2. Agreed!

      MaryAnne

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  28. My friend decorates for people who can afford a decorator for their home(s). They want a theme house. My friend buys whatever is necessary to achieve the desired results. When they are tired with the look, everything is thrown out and replaced. I guess it's good for the economy, and it says something about how people relate (or not) to things they can own.

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  29. While there's not a true SWNE aesthetic, I would imagine the closest someone could come to duplicating it would be to get invited to a SWNE's vacation home at the shore and have a look at what's there. While I've never had this happen, I've heard a few stories. The theme seems to be that every piece of furniture has a story of some sort. It's pretty basic, easy to care for. A great deal of it might have once resided in the family's regular home and was moved to the vacation house while it was still good enough and before it had a chance to wear out. Odds are, furniture at the vacation house will stay there for quite awhile. Not necessarily fashionable, but nor is it all that dated. Someone's suggestion to shop the estate sales in the Old Money section of town was a good one. But if you have to work too hard to put a certain look together, it's going to seem contrived.

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