What I Learned from Bobbi Brown

I love makeup.  Like I can spend hours at a beauty counter or even a drugstore just perusing the shelves and finding a million things I never realized that I need right now.  I’m just not so great at the application part, and unfortunately with makeup, that’s kind of all that counts.  I happen to be a gigantic Bobbi Brown admirer and have been ever since the launch of her then-revolutionary lipstick line 25 years ago (I know, I’m dating myself), so when I was offered the chance to go to a makeup lesson with Bobbi Brown herself, I was beside myself with excitement!  Here’s what I learned.

Everyone needs concealer

But not everyone needs to look like you can scrape the makeup off and see it under your fingernails.  The amazing thing about Bobbi is that even while she’s literally giving a makeup lesson, presumably to sell her products, she’s talking about how less is more.  So if you don’t need concealer/foundation all over your face, then don’t buy it.  And just because your best friend may use something she raves about, it doesn’t mean it’s the right shade or even the right formula for you.  Bobbi creates her concealers with more of a yellow undertone, which camouflages things like pesky dark circles and helps brighten you up right where you need it.  And while her brushes are awesome, she uses her fingers, so that totally means we can, too.

No one needs contouring

Just stop.  It doesn’t look natural.  Maybe it looks cool in the professionally photoshopped pictures you see in magazines, but there’s nothing good about seeing the different shades on contour on someone’s face up close and personal.  And there’s nothing more refreshing than hearing Bobbi Brown herself saying that no one is good enough to make it look good!  (I mean, if you ask me, I’d say she’s probably good enough to make it look good, but I’m too happy knowing she doesn’t get why it’s done at all)

Blush is everything

Bobbi is so sweet and sincere when she says she sees the beauty in every woman – I guess you have to in her line of business – but something really resonated with me when she said that blush can make everyone prettier.  So true, right?  I’d been using a bronzing powder instead of blush for almost a year, but after having a bright pop of cream blush applied (with fingers, no less), I haven’t looked back.  It literally makes all the difference in the world, and when it’s on, you can see why.

Your lips should look like your lips

The initial launch of Bobbi’s empire was with a handful of lipsticks designed to actually match people’s lips.  And obviously she hit a nerve somewhere, because today her brand is the number one makeup-artist line founded by a woman, sold in over 60 countries.  So clearly women worldwide see the beauty in Bobbi’s natural beauty philosophy.  She recommends finding a lipstick that matches your lips but is just a shade brighter.

Confidence and comfort are key

You can wear all the makeup you want, but if you don’t feel good about yourself somewhere inside, then you still won’t feel good about yourself all dolled up.  Bobbi says that feeling comfortable in your own skin is most important, and makeup should just be used to enhance.  She laughed as she talked about how when she goes out with her husband, she always does her makeup in the car on the way.  In five minutes.  Now I’d bet that a tiny bit of her confidence comes from the fact that she’s a world-renowned makeup artist, and I don’t think me doing my makeup in the car in five minutes will generate the same results, but the message was clear.  Be Who You Are.  Which, by the way, is also her new campaign.  Naturally.

Jess xo

P.S. My best attempt at a selfie after this master class:

Bobbi Brown selfie

 

Name Changer

wedding bouquet wedding2

So one of the most exciting things about getting married is the idea of changing your name so that you and your new husband are really and truly one unit.  You think about how it sounds, practice writing your new signature and even decide what your monogram will look like.  But one of the not so exciting things about getting married is the idea of having to actually deal with changing your name!  Ugh, knowing you have to search all over the web for zillions of forms, spending hours at state and government offices to process everything – it just seems like such a headache.  Well, I can tell you that I discovered the easiest, best way to do it!  It’s a new company called Maidenchange, and it’s not just life changing, it’s also the best $29-$50 bucks you’ll spend towards your nuptials (depending on which package you buy – I tried the standard package).*

First of all, it’s so easy!  I simply filled out a form online with all the basic info needed.  Not a specific driver’s license form or your passport renewal form – jut an easy, general form on the website.  Boom.  Before I knew it, my package arrived with ALL of the forms I could possibly need ALREADY FILLED OUT, minus my social security number and a few signature lines.  And can I just digress for a quick second to say that getting the package with my new, soon-to-be married name was totally thrilling?!  It was like the highlight of my day.  Oh, and to be clear, I had done all of this before the wedding, so that I’d be ready to start submitting everything asap afterwards.

Ok, back to this awesome service.  I got forms for social security card, driver’s license, passport, car title and registration, voter registration, credit card and Amex forms and even a few copies of the form to use so I can change my name at my bank and for other financial accounts!  Plus, Maidenchange even sent me a checklist to go along with each form identifying what it is, what I still needed to bring or send in along with that form,  and what still needed to be done on that form (such as fill in SS# and sign).  Literally everything I could need and as easy as could be.

maidenchange2

A few things to know, that I hadn’t been totally aware of in advance, which will help manage your own expectations for your name change.  First, it can take several weeks for your state to send you your actual marriage license, which you need for pretty much each form, so don’t expect to be able start mailing in your forms the next day after your wedding.  Your most important changes (driver’s license, passport, social security card) require a certified copy of your marriage license, so a photocopy won’t cut it.  This means you either have to send in the one copy you have (they will all return it to you by mail), or you have to go to your city clerk office and pay for additional certified copies with the raised seal.  Depending on your own personal timeline and patience level, getting it all done can end up taking as little as about 4 weeks from the time you have your marriage license, up to a few months if you keep reusing the one certified copy that you have.  I’m in New York City and had to wait more than a month to get my original marriage certificate, but then I did purchase additional copies in order to expedite my own process.  I am currently the proud holder of a brand new social security card and driver’s license, and am semi-patiently awaiting my new passport.

I would seriously tell anyone and everyone to check out this service, I found it to be totally worth it.  And I’m so excited and proud to show off my new name!

Jess xo

wedding dance2

*I did not pay for this service.

Sunday sales!

Happy Sunday everyone!  I don’t know about you, but big sales always make me smile.  And with what I see, I’m about to break into a happy dance.

First off, I have to say, I think these Lance strappy sandals (my wedding shoes, actually) are THE most gorgeous shoes ever.

I coveted them long before I actually had the courage to buy them, and they are truly like a piece of art.  Well, you’re in luck right now – because Jimmy Choo is currently having a sale and these shoes are now 50% off!   Truth be told, I have my eye on these Hime flats

Diane von Furstenberg is also offering up to 50% off a selection of styles, and this cute pink halter top is now under $100!

DVF halter top

J. Crew has added some new items to its sale of 30-50% off, including this fabulous little blazer, which is now only $100!  Be sure to use the code SHOPEXTRA.

jcrew blazer

Plus, this adorable pink striped t-shirt is now only $25!

jcrew pink striped shirt

And this tank top (which comes in 4 colors) is now just $10!

jcrew tank top

The great weather this time of year might make a lot of you think more about exercise, and you may want to check out the sale at Mark & Graham.  They personalize almost anything, which just makes everything cuter, and they have some really fun and unique gift ideas (even if it’s a gift for yourself)!  Like this yoga mat – who wouldn’t want to motivate with this?  And right now it’s just $39!

Mark& Graham yoga mat

And don’t forget Bloomingdales, which is offering you $25 off for every $100 you spend, with the code PRIVATE – including items already on sale!  Like these super cute tops from Velvet by Graham and Spencer: the pink is just $83 right now, and the blue is marked down to $103, which gets you the extra $25 off!

Enjoy the rest of your weekend, and happy shopping!

 

Jess xo

 

 

Best Drugstore Beauty Buys

Picking up awesome, affordable products that actually work is a beautiful thing.  While I do love some stuff that can’t be found at the local drugstore, there are plenty of great steals that are effective without breaking the bank.  I’ve rounded up my top 6 faves:

drugstore buys

1) Almay Eye makeup Remover Pads: hands down, the best eye makeup remover I’ve used.  I’ve tried lots of more expensive brands, but always come back to this.  You don’t need a cotton ball, it’s gentle enough for sensitive skin, plus it even removes waterproof mascara!

2) L’Oreal Liquid Eyeliner: so I’m not actually a huge fan of liquid eyeliner in general, but I’ve been using this one for YEARS.  Let me explain – usually when I see liquid eyeliner, it looks extremely thick and is a statement I’m not trying to make.  The great thing about this is that it’s kind of like a felt tip marker, so it’s super easy to use.  And it doesn’t come out really dark or thick, so it gives you a beautiful clean line with basically no effort.  Totally worth trying.

3) StriVectin Eye Concentrate For Wrinkles: so many eye creams out there, so little time.  I’ve spend countless hours (and dollars) on a zillion different eye creams and serums to erase the dark circle sand the telltale signs of aging.  Truth is, there’s only so much that can actually be done – if you really want to hide the bad stuff, you just need a great concealer.  But, this eye cream really does help the appearance of fine lines and circles, plus helps keep the skin tight.

4) Essie Nail Polish: not sure how much I really have to add here…it’s in every nail salon across the country, and there’s a good reason for it.  The color range is never-ending, it’s affordable and excellent quality.  Right now, the glitters are my obsession.

5) Big Sexy Hair: ok, full disclosure, whether I use this dry shampoo or not, I don’t think anyone would ever legitimately say that I have big, sexy hair.  However, in the world of dry shampoos, this one is amazing and smells great.  Just give it a sec after spraying it on to let it be absorbed, and then use your fingers to massage it into the roots and near your temples (where mine always gets the greasiest).

6) Listerine Pocket Mist: I will go to the grave saying you can never be beautiful without fresh breath, so this is one of my all-time must-have necessities.  You can use breath strips, mints or gum, but this spray (reminiscent of 80-era Binanca) beats everything else. One or two quick squirts and you’re set!

What are your favorite drugstore beauty buys?

Jess xo

Happy Healthy Chickpea Snack

 

I saw this delicious-looking roasted chickpea recipe by Holley Grainger and just had to try it.  I love chickpeas anytime, anywhere, so it was clear this snack was meant for me.  It’s basically just regular roasted chickpeas, and then flavored one of three ways.  Super simple – even I could do it!

The flavor suggestions on Holly’s site were Buffalo, Garlic Parmesan Rosemary and Chili Lime.  All sound delicious, but I admit I still haven’t made the Buffalo yet – that’s next on my list.

Roasting the chickpeas is so easy, but give yourself about an hour and half to complete this, because the initial roasting process is at least 45 minutes.  All you need is some EVOO and some kosher salt and stick them in the oven.

chickpeas 4

While they’re roasting, you can mix up the ingredients for one of the tasty flavors.  And literally, all you do is mix the few ingredients together and then mix the chickpeas in it when they’re finished roasting.

You can stick them back in for a few minutes to help the toppings stick better, and voila!

chickpeas 3

Garlic Parmesan Rosemary on the left, Chili Lime on the right!

What’s your favorite quick & easy snack recipe?

Jess xo

Amazing Memorial Day Weekend Sales!

 

Memorial Day is finally upon us and there are some absolutely amazing sales that I’m so excited about sharing so that you can get some unbelievable deals!

First of all, check out Gucci!  They’re offering 40% off some of the most fabulous items, including this beautiful Swing small leather tote bag (in several colors, but the fuschia and soft pink are my faves).

This one, the Bree Original GG Tote is also on sale in a few different color options (obviously the pink being my choice), and the best part is the seasonal options are the lowest prices!

Gucci Bree pink

Alice & Olivia is one of my most favorite brands (love the dresses), and it’s definitely worth checking out the huge sale – also up to 40% off!  This gorgeous Electra One-Shoulder dress is only $159 right now!

Alice 1

And this Cay Batwing dress is just $120!

Alice 2

Shopbop is one of my all-time favorite sites and they always have things on sale, but right now there are tons of amazing deals, like:

This gorgeous Splended Lace-Up Tunic is just $57.60 – that’s 60% off!  And both colors are amazing!

This Madewell Whisper Crew tee for only $20!

Shopbop 4

This Gorjana Alphabet Lariat necklace for just $42! (You can’t really tell here, but the little round disc in the middle actually has a letter of your choice on it)

 

Right now, Nordstrom is also having their annual Half Yearly Sale with prices up to 40% off.  I go straight for the shoes on this one, and am loving these Vince Camuto Adalson sandals – only $65.90!

Nordstrom 1

And these super cute Converse Oil Slick-Ox sneakers are only about $50 bucks!

Nordstrom 2

I’m semi-obsessed with Lilly Pulitzer, and right now the Splash into Summer sale is happening, where depending on how much you buy, you get a variety of totally cute freebies!  Right now, I’m aiming for the oversized beach towel set, which comes with a $500 spend.

Some of my other favorite seasonal sales right now include:

Diane von Furstenberg (half my wardrobe is DVF) – 30% off select styles and sale items with code SUMMER30

Calypso St Barths – get an extra 50% off sale styles (and they have some fab accessories)

Levi’s – 30% off sitewide with code MEMDAY

Havaianas – 20% off with code MDAY20 and just $1 flat shipping on standard purchases

SwimSpot (love their selection of bathing suits, brands include Splendid, Ella Moss and Luxe) – get $25 to $150 off based on what you spend with code MEMORIALDAY16

Jimmy Choo – if you’ve been wanting (and waiting) to splurge, the sale is on!

Saks – the designer sale is up to 40% off

Jonathan Adler (fabulous and adorable home decor) – $50 off any purchase of $250, more if you spend more

Hope you all have a fantastic holiday weekend!

Jess xo

 

 

 

 

Finishing My Home Sweet Home

It probably won’t surprise you to hear that major home renovations can cause you to lose your mind.  Like literally go insane.  Kind of a home-decor version of Bridezilla. But (and it’s a big but), if you can actually withstand the time and aggravation involved, you will likely find the process – or at least the finished result – to be one of the most rewarding things you’ve ever done.

As I mentioned in the last blog, my apartment renovation was a gut job, and it took twice as long as expected.  But every single day when I get home and walk inside, I absolutely love where I live.

One of the big decisions many people make is whether or not to hire an interior designer.  I think most people consider whether or not they can afford it.  Well, my personal opinion is unless you are an interior designer, you really can’t afford not to use one.  Why?  Because no matter how good your taste is, there really are things an interior designer can do for you and your home that you just wouldn’t do or think of yourself.  You know when you flip through pages of Architectural Digest or other magazines, you even admire how beautifully the shelves are arranged?   That’s what I’m talking about.  Most of us can pick out a couch and a bed and other big pieces of furniture.  But the placement and proportion, the mix of textures and colors, along with the finishing touches like those shelves, are absolutely worth the investment of an interior designer.

Of course you have to work with someone you respect, whose taste you admire and whose personality meshes with yours, because that’s the only way you will have the kind of relationship you need.  Ideally you want someone that understands what you love and want to accomplish, and whom you can trust to choose things that will achieve that desired result.

I was fortunate enough to be referred to Christian Zavala of Zavala Interiors in NYC, and I literally couldn’t love him more.  He fit everything I was looking for, and I trust him implicitly.  Yes, there may have been a few suggestions he made that I didn’t follow, but it wasn’t very long that we were working together before I began answering his inquiries regarding choices of tables/lighting/tiles/wallpaper with “if you think that’s what we should do, then let’s do it.”  I didn’t necessarily love every single piece individually, but I understood the process and trusted Christian when he assured me that once it was all in, it would all look amazing together.  And he was 100% right.  Here’s a look at the finished product!  Hard to believe this is even the same apartment I bought!

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While I do really love the entire apartment, here are my most favorite parts, and why they wouldn’t have happened if I had tried to go it alone.

Entryway

Apt done entry edited2

This entryway area is everything I wanted, but never would have achieved.  I initially had a different console in this space – a piece that was too large and dark, but one that was good enough.  It was fine.  Not fabulous, but fine.  And I totally would have kept it, had Christian not gently encouraged me to replace it.  This piece from Worlds Away is something I never would have chosen, but it’s beyond perfect.  Contemporary, sleek, sophisticated and works beautifully with my mom’s painting.  Then we added the frame from ZGallerie and the vase from Arteriors in one of the last stages of finishing touches.

Dining area

Apt done dining area edited

The dining area is one of my most favorite spots, which is fortunate since it’s now my office, too.  I knew I wanted a round table, though I wouldn’t have given this one from Safavieh Home a second thought if I’d seen it alone in the store.  But when Christian sent me the link, I nearly died.  It was so gorgeous…and grown-up!  Unlike anything I owned, but absolutely something I would have admired in someone else’s home.  The marble top, the sleek metal trim and the amazing base!  Omg, I had to have it.  We were not far into the process of actually choosing furniture when Christian sent this, and the second I saw it I knew it embodied everything I was hoping the apartment would be.  It was an investment, yet Christian was able to suggest affordable options for chairs, and these were from Wayfair (now available on Amazon)!   I already owned the Jonathan Adler chandelier and the painting, which was by my grandfather.  The vase from Arteriors was another of Christian’s suggestions, and the kind of thing I’ve balked at buying in the past.  It wasn’t until this apartment that I was willing to pay for the little extras that really pull everything together and make such a difference.  And people, that’s what working with an interior designer is all about.

Living room/hallway wallpaper

This wallpaper is everything.  I had been in a friend’s apartment that had grasscloth wallpaper a few years ago and have been obsessing over it ever since.  Hoping that one day I was going to have an opportunity to have it in my own apartment.  So it was one of the first things I told Christian, and it was nonnegotiable.  He was totally on board, which was awesome, but who knew there were so many options and colors to choose from?  Fun fact: one of the bonuses of working with an interior designer that you adore and trust with your life is that they will cull down all of the potential options and show you a select few, rather than you having to spend the rest of your waking days trying to decide between 17,000 shades of gray.  Initially the plan was to wallpaper the living room and my bedroom (in a different shade), but Christian said we should continue the wallpaper throughout the hallways of the apartment, and maybe forego the bedroom.  Totally the right decision.  It is probably the biggest thing that really makes the apartment feel like a home, and I just couldn’t love it more.  Quick note – if you’ve never had grasscloth wallpaper and decide to install it, you must know that the  wallpaper pattern runs horizontally, but it’s still wallpaper, hung the way all wallpaper is hung, so you will see vertical seams between each piece.  I was unaware of this, and when I first went alone to check it out after it was put up, I thought it was done wrong!  Christian assured me his guy had done a fantastic job, and that one the furniture was in I really wouldn’t notice the seams at all.  Of course he was right.  And I am completely obsessed with it. (Also LOVE the ZGallerie frame he suggested for the wall!)

Living room ceiling

The modified coffered ceilings are definitely one of my favorite things, not to mention a genius design of Christian’s to solve one of the biggest problems, no overhead lighting.  My apartment building is postwar, with fairly low ceilings – certainly not high enough to drop them and install lighting.  We discussed at length what we could do in order to bring more light into the space, and specifically how to get it above and not just rely on lamps, which I don’t really care for.  I thought I was brilliant by suggesting a soffit along one wall, until Christian told me that he had just finished sketching a design for modified coffered ceilings to show me.  Amazing!  We did tweak it a bit upon install, by removing two central beams that crossed the entire ceiling, and in the end that actually made it even better.  Then Christian told me we were painting the ceiling gray, which would add interest and dimension with the white beams.  At that point, in my mind, it was practically his apartment too, so of course I said go for it!  And look how fantastic it turned out!

Bedroom

Apt done bedside table

I think most people want their bedroom to be a sort of sanctuary…peaceful, serene and relaxing.  As a semi turbo-charged high strung personality, that’s been a goal of mine for many years.  I was determined to make it so in this apartment, and Christian was more than willing to work around my existing bedroom furniture, which had been purchased a mere year before.  So there was no way I was getting rid of it.  But again, the idea of getting a curated and pulled-together look that can only be achieved with an interior designer is on full display here.  For while I did have a bed, bedside tables and a dresser, that was kind of it.  Christian helped choose the Arteriors bedside lamps and these mirrors from One Kings Lane, which just make the room look amazing.  And it’s funny, because when the mirrors first came and my husband and I pulled them out of the boxes, we thought there had been a mistake.  They were huge!  We didn’t think there was any way they’d fit and we could not even begin to picture what Christian was envisioning.  But of course, when he came to hang them, they fit perfectly!  And the results are yet another example of something I never would have achieved without him.  Couldn’t have visualized it, never would have chosen the pieces but am beyond thrilled with it all!  (And to keep with the peaceful, sanctuary retreat bedroom theme, the white square you see is my diffuser…I use a blend of essential oils for calming and relaxation, and which allow me to sleep like a rock!  More on that in an upcoming blog, but feel free to email me for more info.)

I hope my experience and results inspire you to make whatever changes you’ve been thinking about in your home.  And if it’s more than a minor tweak, hire an interior designer!  You’ll be glad you did!

What are your favorite things in your home?

Jess xo

 

 

Finding My Home Sweet Home

In the 22 years that I’ve lived in NYC, I have lived in 15 apartments.  For real.  No, it’s not that I love the process of moving so much, but for many years my first husband and I bought, renovated and flipped apartments for a nice profit.  That was back when the real estate market was still somewhat “affordable” and long before the economy crashed.  And ever since I got divorced (about 8 years ago), I have wanted nothing more than to own a home of my very own – a place I could love every time I walk in, and a place my kids could feel safe and secure, and also that they would feel is their own.  I was sick of living in rentals with generic walls and floors and kitchens and bathrooms, tired of coming home to rooms filled with a mashup of furniture from various stages of my life.  You know what I’m talking about.

So about 2 years ago, I earnestly began an apartment hunt.  I was fortunate to have a great job as a senior TV producer running a show for a huge network, so I made a nice salary.  I sat down with my brother (my financial advisor) to go over the numbers, and he laid out very clearly what I could spend.  I wanted something in a great location with three bedrooms, a doorman, outdoor space and with a price I could afford.  Note: I happen to have my real estate license, but even so, I can tell you this was no easy feat.  I realized pretty quickly that I was going to have to make some tough choices…did I want to sacrifice location or a doorman?  Did I want more interior space and no outdoor space?  How big was realistically big enough to house myself and two children?  Did I need something brand new or new-ish, or was I willing to undergo (by myself this time) a renovation?

After a few weeks of determined searching, it was pretty clear that  I needed to buy a two bedroom apartment that could be converted into three bedrooms.  That meant at least some renovation.  At that point, I began thinking hard about buying a complete gut job – one that would take a while (and require me to find a temporary rental during the construction – an added expense into my budget), but that would allow me the opportunity to pick out absolutely every single thing, ensuring the outcome of truly loving where I live.

So I bit the bullet, and in a wild leap of faith, went into contract on what was to be my very own apartment.  It was small, but had great potential.  It was also located in a very good location, had a doorman and a huge balcony – big enough for real outdoor furniture.  It  basically fulfilled all of my wants and needs…and of course, it also had some challenges.

The biggest one involved creating the third bedroom.  I was not interested in converting from two to three bedrooms in the standard NYC way, which means cutting off the L-shape of the living room/dining area and making a third bedroom.  I wanted to preserve as much living space as possible, and have all the bedrooms together, so I did the unthinkable.  I chose to cut the master bedroom in half to make two rooms for the kids (windows on two walls made this very feasible), and cut my own room’s (the smaller room) bedroom closet in half to make way for a hallway outside the kids’ rooms.  This enabled both kids to not only have real rooms, but one would not have to walk through the other’s in order to get to the bathroom.

Some of the other challenges included:

  • Because of the overall scope of the work, I needed not only approval from my coop board for all of my plans, but also permits from the NYC Department of Buildings.  I had to pay an expediter to accomplish that in a “timely” manner (3 months).
  • Since I wanted to completely redo the floors, I had to have an asbestos inspector come and investigate the existing floors.  Of course there was asbestos in some areas of the apartment, which I was now responsible for paying to have removed.
  • Because I wanted the new back hallway, and to move the placement of the door to the existing master bathroom so that it could be accessed by said new hallway (as it was going to be the kids’/guest bathroom), I needed added approval from the coop board in the building to expand the bathroom one extra foot (wet-over-dry) to accommodate a new doorway that was big enough for code.
  • Due to drastically reducing the size of my own bedroom closet, where was I going to put my stuff??  I decided to build out the oversized walk-in closet in the living room and use that for shoes, bags, sweaters and some hanging things.  And good thing I did, as I met my now-husband midway through this whole process, and fortunately he sort of has a place for his suits and shirts in this closet.
  • There was no overhead lighting in the apartment, apart from a fixture in the kitchen ceiling and one in the hallway, yet the ceilings were too low to completely drop them and add overhead lighting.  But I love lots of light and don’t like rooms solely lit by lamps.  So we had to come up with a solution, which my interior designer did – a soffit along the wall over my bed in my bedroom, and a genius modified coffered ceiling in the living room.  When I came to see the ceilings once the beams were installed, I was worried I’d made a huge mistake.  I felt like I’d walked into a coffin and the room felt very claustrophobic.  I suggested removing the two center beams, which we did, and it came out amazing.
  • My daughter’s room had no HVAC unit by her window, which meant no heat in her room.  My architect suggested an electric baseboard heater on one wall, which is perfect.
  • As this was going to be my home, I was not interested in having cable wires stapled along the walls, like in most NYC apartments.  I wanted the wires hidden in the walls, like they would be in a house.  This required multiple conversations and negotiations with both my building super and the cable company, to convince them to come before the apartment was completed to install the cables behind the walls.

I’m not gonna lie – it was a very long and laborious process.  I was not just doing a little work.  I was gutting the place.  Knocking down walls, building new walls, expanding the kids’ bathroom by a foot (which is a process known as “wet-over-dry”, and which is a BIG deal in a NY coop), ripping out absolutely everything down to the studs.  At times it was hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But I tried to savor and enjoy the process of picking out all of the finishes.  My interior designer was beyond amazing, with both impeccable taste and a fantastic personality, so he made the process fun.  More on that in the next blog.

So despite a supposed three month job taking twice as long as that, I’m here to tell you that I made it through alive.  And so did my architect and contractor.  Yes there were delays.  Yes I went a bit over budget.  And yes, I would do it again.

Here is a look at the apartment when I first bought it, and what it looked like in the midst of the construction.  The pictures still amaze me, but maybe when you see the final result (in the next blog), you’ll agree that it was worth it.

BEFORE 

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UNDER CONSTRUCTION

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Be sure to come back to see the final results and my 5 most favorite things at home in the next blog – it may inspire you to make the changes you’ve been thinking about!

Have you ever renovated your home?  What was your experience and would you do it again?

Jess xo

 

 

Heaven on Earth

 

Jade Mtn1

I’ve been to heaven on Earth.  It’s called Jade Mountain in St. Lucia, and it is a transcendental experience, as well as truly a sight to behold.

The island of St. Lucia is gorgeous itself: a 27-mile long island nestled between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, with bright blue water and lush foliage around the Piton Mountains.  But staying at Jade Mountain is almost mystical, like none other.  The hotel is built into a rock cliff overlooking the water, and the rooms – or “sanctuaries” have only three walls.  The fourth side of the room is completely open, offering magnificent, dramatic views of the volcanic peaks rising out of the Caribbean.

Each “sanctuary” offers a private infinity pool inside the room, creating an experience unlike anywhere else.  You really have to see it to believe it, so here’s another peek of the inside of a room.  Yep, that’s right.  These are taken from inside the room.

Jade Mtn room 2 Jade Mtn room1

 

The hotel is the ultimate in luxury and privacy.  Only 24 rooms, no phones, no TV’s.  No problem.  Upon arrival, your room concierge gives you a Firefly phone (think vintage-model cell phone) to contact hotel staff, and they are at your beck-and-call throughout your stay.  The hotel’s architectural design is like a labyrinth of walkways and bridges, somewhat reminiscent of certain scenes from “Indiana Jones”.

Jade Mtn labyrinth

It’s true there is only one restaurant at Jade Mountain, but it’s overseen by a James Beard award-winning chef, and the food and the views are both spectacular.  You can also choose to have private dining, or in-room service, but even if you eat at the restaurant each night, the scene, sights and beautiful starry nights prevent it from feeling repetitive.  Full disclosure: the walk to the restaurant is up what seems to be hundreds of stairs, but the final steps across the walkway suspended in the air, and the panoramic views once inside, make it more than worth it.  And for a little something sweet, Jade Mountain houses a chocolate lab, which is the island’s only “bean to bar” chocolate maker.

Jade Mtn. restaurant bridge

Jade Mtn restaurant

If you are, however, someone who needs a bit more variety, there is complimentary shuttle service to the additional restaurants at Jade Mountain’s sister property, further down the mountain, Anse Chastanet.  We didn’t go even once.

Because you’re in St. Lucia, you can take advantage of the local scenic excursions, like a rainforest, sulphur spring and a drive-in volcano(!?).  Or you can indulge in island sport activities, and have access to those offered at Anse Chastanet.  If you want to just relax and take in some sun, the shuttle will drive you down the mountain so you can enjoy the turquoise water and Caribbean beach up close.

Jade Mtn beach

The overall experience at Jade Mountain easily explains why it’s ranked among the World’s Best Hotels and Resorts by Conde Nast’s Travel & Leisure, as Conde Nast Traveler‘s Top Caribbean Resort for the past three years in a row and by American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts as their property with the Most Breathtaking View.

There really isn’t anything not to love about Jade Mountain, but here is one thing to think about (which didn’t actually bother us, but worth mentioning).  Before we went, we heard something about an “open bathroom”.  I wasn’t quite sure what that meant, and even when I kind of figured out what it must mean, I thought I had to be wrong.  Well, I wasn’t.  The bathrooms are an open design right in the room, complete with open shower and small room with toilet and no door.  You read that right.  No bathroom door.  As odd as it sounds, it strangely wasn’t a problem at all.  But I was very glad that I had at least heard about it in advance.  (See what I mean below.  The steps on the right lead into the bathroom, and the wood pole that looks to be inlaid between the blue tile is actually a free-standing pole with a shower nozzle attached.  The toilet is in the back to the right, so you can’t see it in this photo.)

Jade Mt room

From the moment you arrive at Jade Mountain, you truly feel as through you’ve been taken into another world.  The fastidious and attentive staff goes above and beyond to ensure your trip is everything you could imagine.  And even when it rained for part of our trip, just relaxing in this romantic and ethereal environment, inside (but outside) in our room watching the rain, we were transported to someplace magical.  I can’t wait to go back.

Jade Mtn hotel

Have you ever been to Jade Mountain?

For more information, go to jademountain.com.

Jess xo

 

A Real Beauty Tutorial!

MMB WWD 1  MMB WWD 2

If you’re anything like me, you spend hours watching makeup how-to tutorials on YouTube, amazed at the end results and not understanding why you aren’t always magically transformed after following along.  So when I was invited to the launch of the brand new Map My Beauty app, I couldn’t wait to go.

First of all, the founder and CEO, Annabella Daily, is the genius behind Sephora’s “Pocket Contour” class, which uses the same proprietary beauty analysis and makeup-mapping technology.  This allows you to get not just the generic tutorial on how to achieve a specific look, but exactly how and where to apply on your very own face!  Plus, some of the looks themselves are created by makeup wizard Jordan Liberty (you know, the guy with 34 million views on YouTube).

Here’s how it works: after downloading the app, you snap two selfies – one with eyes open and one with eyes closed.  You “draw” exactly where some markers are on your face, like your eyelid crease, just so the software knows exactly what it’s looking at.  

MMB WWD 3

After answering a few questions about your skin and coloring, you’re done.  Now you can freely navigate through the app to find looks you want and the products to achieve them.  And the best part is, it’s using YOUR face to show you how to do it!  It literally can’t get any easier.  

MMB WWD 4

When you first use it, you might not have the particular products being used in your tutorial, so you can obviously practice with what you already own.  But naturally, it shows you the specific products and colors being used, so it’s super easy to click and buy the products for each look.  And in a similar vein to Sephora, the looks aren’t all brand-specific.  You can find looks that use products from all its partner brands, or you can go into the “Beauty Counter” of any brand and find looks from just that product line.

MMB WWD 5

As of now, Map My Beauty has teamed up with four luxury indie makeup brands, each of which offers something innovative and unique in its own way.

  • Katherine Cosmetics are long-lasting (the Everyday Eyeliner is waterproof) and made for the sporty chic woman-on-the-go.
  • The Evelyn Iona line  is all natural, vegan, organic, synthetic and preservative-free – basically good enough to eat!
  • Gallany Cosmetics is all about unique formulas and beautiful textures, and the 76 year-old founder is the legendary mix master behind some of the biggest brands in the business (think Max Factor and Stila, among others).
  • MAKE Beauty offers a wide-ranging palette, that gives you an artistic, impactful pop of color.

The app is free in the iTunes store- the only question is, how soon are you going to download it?

For more info, go to mapmybeauty.com

To download the app, click here

Jess xo