Make Yourself at Home


They say moving is the third biggest life stressor. Possibly because it requires dismantling so much IKEA furniture. Jokes aside, I’ve moved a lot. And one year ago, I decided to do it again. It was a vulnerable time when I was conflicted about where I wanted to be. I just knew I needed a place where I could chill out and truly feel at home.

Though I was drooling over all the new top-dollar apartments downtown, I took a chance—answering a Craigslist ad from a woman named Noreen, who had turned her historic Mount Washington mansion into a five-unit residence, including a brand-new 1BR that was modern, chic, adorable and…within a few hours…all mine!

Turns out I was the first person to respond to the ad. And while my friend Deb and I went to Starbucks, Noreen interviewed the second: a doctor she said resembled a young George Clooney. “But I just have a feeling about you,” she said. “I pick you.”

Being a bit overwhelmed back then, I’m not sure I fully articulated how much Noreen’s kindness (which went well beyond the lease) meant to me. Ditto for Deb, who immediately started ordering me a food processor, soda maker, cocktail napkins and other single-girl essentials. (Thank you both for giving me a beautiful new start!) Noreen has since sold the property to a kind man named Stan, a retired dentist who takes great care of me. While communal living has its drawbacks—can we all just agree to clean out the lint filters in the laundry room?—it also has moments of epiphany. Like the summer nights when I come home and hear the musician upstairs playing Billie Holiday on his old school record player, or the time I noticed the following note taped to a cute, hippie couple’s front door: “Were you the person you wished to be in the world today?” (My heart melted.)

I hope you’ll be equally inspired by “The Stream Cleaner” (page 82), Irene Smith, who decided to clean up her life after divorce by collecting more than a year’s worth of trash from the Herring Run. It’s amazing what you can learn about yourself while sorting through what the rest of us leave behind. And I have a major crush on Bryan Voltaggio and his adorable brood in “Family Style.” (page 78). If the “Top Chef” celeb can find work/life balance, surely there’s hope for the rest of us, too.

Designer Charlene Petersen shares fab tips for decorating your home in “Country Chic” (page 72). And green thumbs are certain to envy Tanya Jones’ gorgeous garden (page 64). I love how she orders snowdrops from a nursery in Upstate New York with no phone or website. Just send $3 for a catalog. That seems like a detail our “Back Page” columnist (page 126) Chris Corbett will enjoy. Hopefully he’s reading this issue on his infamous front porch with a nice cup of coffee…or 34 Frenchmen.

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