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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Cottage 14 Nearly Done & Sold

Sure, I realize it's a bit unlikely, but we are getting ready for another closing in 2 weeks for this beauty of a Cottage - Cottage 14. I met Jeanne and Deb probably a year ago, and then they went away to think about it, and one day I get a call saying they are ready, and now here we are - days away from their new Catskill Farms Cottage.

We used a blue roof, cedar shake accents and cedar clapboard. We still haven't decided on the final color for the siding - any suggestions from the peanut gallery? (I forgot, this is a one-way soapbox.)

This house has a pretty unique layout and the big lofty kitchen/sports bar really has it going. I have to admit, I'm pretty impressed with their choices of lighting, fixtures, colors and stains.

Here's a pic looking down from the bedrooms.

Another one of the Kitchen, stairs leading up the bedrooms and bath.

Big barn door separating main house from mud room and 2nd full bath. In the living room looking out into the mudroom and kitchen. Note the lowboy radiator.

And a bedroom photo highlighting the red chestunt floors and our handmade signature barn doors.
Every country house needs a cool mudroom and this mudroom is downright hot. Barn door, radiator, bluestone floor, great color and a shot into the bath.

And the fireplace, leading out to the back deck.

It's great to be bringing another one home. It's a good one, with uniqueness and modest elegance tatooed all over the place.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last House at Highland Farms

Another one done and sold. I'm not counting, but that's 3 this month. This 2000 sq ft cottage has pretty much everything a modest down-to-earth man could want - 4 bedrooms, 4 acres, lots of windows, 3.5 cool baths, cool details such as the black tile fireplace, the dark stained wide plank floors, white and black color palette, glass rail partition and a finished basement that includes that rubber snap together play foam for the kids, a pimped out office, a movie projection area with surround sound and most importantly and a first for us, a urinal.

The above photo catches the home after our most recent big snowstorm which dumped about 10 inches of snow on us.

Below, this photo captures the big windows, the 20 ft high ceilings, the balcony and the tempered glass railing system posted with some hand-hewn posts.

Here's another from inside the bath.

Looking up to the trees and sky, and looking out onto the beergarten.

Living room with black tile with white grout, and the beginnings of the move in.

Simple and extremely usable kitchen with recessed lighting, shelving, and a 'bar' area for breakfast snacks. White wood cabinets with sparkly black granite. And the caribou horns that need a home somewhere in the house.

Ground floor Bathroom.
Upstairs looking at the closed door of the kids' room.

The double closet in the Office.
And more of the office, with shelves, stain, black paint, blood red carpet.

Up the stairs and a radiator to keep it all warm.

Rolling barn door track, with attached chalkboard door for notes, when speaking is not desired.
Another shot of the caribou horns and farm sink. Gavin has quite the story behind those horns, but I sort of stopped believing the yarn when it segued from 'I found it at the flea market' to 'it was the last of an nearly extinct breed, and I paid top dollar to be on the hunt group charged with extinguishing the genetic line.'
Another old skool radiator made by my good friend Michael in Canada.

And another shot of the rolling chalkboard door looking out into the quarried bluestone mudroom.

And that's it. Merry Christmas. To those about to rock, we here at Catskill Farms salute you.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Snow At Christmas

Here's my main man Juan, who has been building houses with me since 2002. Now, he's a great man, mostly close to my heart since he is a pillar of honesty, hardwork and integrity and understands that those qualities are few and far between up here. Not so much anymore, but we used to work with a large amount of true idiots, and Juan always understood how much abuse I took in order to keep the houses moving. Especially when the economy was overheated over the past few years, this little area had a true scarcity of labor that made every endeavor impossible.

Now, Juan is not so close to my heart in this picture because he left my lights on yesterday and now we had a dead battery.

We had a great snow storm arrive on Friday, starting about mid-morning, and snowing hard all day. Pretty fabulous, and definitely quintessential, it was a spectacular showing of why people love it up here - it's beautiful to be sure.

Here's Cottage 15 all snowed up. Gayle's house.

And Cottage 7, the abode of Pablo and Ana from Argentina.

Senior Citizen, old Lady Storm testing out the powder.

And my modest little farmhouse all decked out with winter's white. And Theresa in the foreground - she's our neighbor and she was bringing me dinner since Lisa and Lucas are out of town.

And Gavin and Emily's house, which we just finished and into which they just moved. Now, in a questionable strategy, the entire family on both sides are coming up tomorrow to break in the house. Their neighbor David, from Cottage 6, is our most productive client in terms of referrals - he's sent 2 other families our way after we finished his house.

And then here's Farm 9 from last winter, if you all remember. Soon after I sold it to them, the owner's husband/boyfriend thought he would start a construction business and starting soliciting my workers who worked on his house. As you can imagine, that was a bit demoralizing, but as Curtis said -'it doesn't take a genius to see that shipwreck on the horizon.' Especially after he planted his garden on top of his septic. That's one way to fertilize your vegetables.
And then they were upset when I refused to send my worker's over there without some sort of understanding. I lacked 'integrity'. Maybe, but that's a definitely debatable conclusion
I think it's one of the deadly seven sins, or the 11th commandment- "Never touch thee another man's workforce'. Besides the impact on my business, most customers are affected in some manner by any labor disruption, through quality or through our quickness, of such actions.
I think if I lack one thing that is detrimental to my business it would be my lack of 'thick skin' - I'm a big sensitive softee. My business acumen is sharp, my honesty, integrity, intentions and efforts are pretty strong, but it's that sensitive artist in me that makes me bristle at being wronged. Actually, I think it's easy enough to understand when I was wearing a few hats stretching anyone's talent to the limits, but now that James, Anouk, Juan and Curtis are kicking it, my efforts can be more focused on matters other than a missing light fixture.
Hats I was wearing when we had no staff (just deborah the bookkeeper and me) - Developer, designer, builder, procurement guy, purchasing agent, construction manager, marketing manager, sales manager, administrative assistant, customer relations, complaint department, strategy department, IT guy and the one I excelled at most - all-round nice guy with faults too slight to mention (oh yeah, that was someone else).
50 homes down over the past 4 years. Now that is saying something.
But not saying as much as the fact I almost purchased "Hip Hop Abs" this morning from a TV ad before I sat down to watch Jeremiah Johnson, commercial free. I mean, who could ask for more - tightening up your 6 pack while learning the latest hip hop moves. I found it very compelling.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Micro Economics - Cottage 9 Sold

Just another ol' fashioned closing - let me put it this way - it went off exactly on time, exactly as we had it planned, and to be honest, really without much stress, panic or hair-pulling on anyone's part.

So, as I mentioned a couple months ago, following this blog would give some micro insight to all the macro analysis all the talking heads are bombarding us with. Worst job market since the 30's (wrong), worst this, worst that. Sure, if you pick apart the stats in certain ways, you can definitely tease out some pretty dire predictions. But you can also tease them out another way which leaves only one conclusion - if you got some cash, now is the best time to buy anything. Things are on sale - from land, to cars, to appliances, to electronics, to mail-order brides. With the distress in the Russian market, a Russian Bride is trading at a 35% discount to last year, a Polish bride discounted further.

Well, so we got another one done. I've been selling homes through a pretty absymal environment for over 2 years now. Increasingly bad news - but we've only had one deal fall apart and that had nothing to do with the economy - that was about good love gone bad.

Perfect Cottage 9 sitting in the woods, surrounded by 600 acres of land. Streams, old rock walls, lake within view, secluded, exposed porch rafter tales, cedar toned roof.

Side shot. Very shapely, if you ask me, with lots of alluring accents. It's all about the details, and the details cost money, and take time, and take a lot of care.

Simple kitchen, with open shelves, great subway tile backsplash, some simple cabinets and views out back.
Long range shot capturing a few Catskill Farms design hallmarks - the wainscotting, the sliding barn door, the wood plank ceilings, the hinged barn door, the wide plank floors, the modern appliances with the traditional design palette.

Some very cool Frank Lloyd Wrightish tile - mid century modern.

Great big light lighting up the foyer and wainscotting wall coverings.

Barn door and radiator. Stained 4 panel doors, stained window trim, stained crown molding.

And another money shot of the kitchen

I mean, I'm a pretty humble fella, but selling homes left and right in this real estate environment - now that's saying something. There are a lot of theories of how we are getting it done, but I like the one that revolves around my winning personality and all-around gentle bedside manner and kind demeaner.
Oh yeah, that was someone else they were talking about.
Oh well, can't win them all - but we are winning most of them these days.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Mid-Century Ranch Series

We're always pushing the envelope here at Catskill Farms and with our new Ranch series we take it to the edge. If anyone can take that tired suburban home of our parents and reinvent it to something stylish, slick and cool, Catskill Farms can.

So here's a sketch - probably won't end up being yellow. 950 sq ft, 2 bedrooms, a full bath, big basement ready to be built out, fireplace, open high ceilings.

5+ acres and real big views into Pennsylvania. Some of the best views around. Pretty private and only 3 minutes from hamlet of Barryville and the Delaware River.

Pretty sweet, if you ask me. James and I are busy designing the details and I expect it to once again enhance the architectural landscape of Sullivan County.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

December Construction, or Same Tune Different Day

Here's Dean'shouse on 6+ acres outside Barryville, NY. The siding guys started last week, and this salvaged-looking 1x8 beveled clapboard siding was a perfect choice for this cottage. Cottage 13, with its metal roof, white trim and cordovan brown siding. This week the siding guys continue, the interior painting gets started, and the stone guys get their groove on.

By the end of the month, I would expect to be staining the floors and scheduling the appliances. And I would be surprised if Dean isn't renting a u-haul sometime in late January to bring all his stuff up.

Here's Albert's house on a clear Sunday early afternoon. He came up today to discuss the interior of the house, the design of the basement, and the interior of the music studio barn.

Pretty nice day on top of the hill.

And here's the Barn/music studio, we are building for him and his band. Up top is the sound room. We used the blown in insulation again so we should have a pretty energy efficient structure with the passive solar orientation, high value insulation, and radiant heat.

Another exterior shot with the sun setting.

And Albert and Agyness in front of the fireplace, framed with two large handhewn beams and James, our Catskill Farms man about town. James handles most everything that comes our way on a daily basis, and combined with Anouk and Deborah, make up our design/administration/accounting/ team.

Two customers and their 2 cute dogs, looking forward to their quiet country life to begin in a few months.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Micro Economics - Cottage 15 Sold

Sure, bombard me with useless macro-economic statistics that prove this point or that point, but all I know is we closed on a house today without any problem - no delay, no bank bullshit, no hiccups - just an old-fashioned straight-forward exchange of keys for cash (or check). A qualified buyer buying a house loaded with value - just the way it's supposd to be.

1 closing down - 4 more to go.
Cottage 15 - 3.5 months to build.
I love this kitchen - classic white cabs, black subway tile with white grout, stainless steel appliances, old school radiator, dutch door. Classic.

We built the first 'new old houses' in Sullivan County back in 2004 and we built 10 new farmhouses in quick succession - then some 'builders' started to try and copy us so we built an arts and crafts and a modern house and a barn house - then when everyone and their mom were designing houses they were going to sell, we shrank our houses, providing the first small scale affordable cottages Sullivan County had ever seen - and we proved that modesty is in vogue, - and that 2 bedrooms are fine. And now we are proving that value always sells, and the smarter our customer is, the better they understand the value proposition we offer.

Go ahead, try it- buy a piece of land, design a house, put the driveway in, put the well and septic in, pay an architect, pay a realtor, build the house, plant the grass. Maybe the reason our houses are still flying off the shelf is because their cost was not determined by inflated bubble pricing - very simply, our prices were created by figuring out how much it costs, and then adding a little on to make it worthwhile. No one drives harder bargains with our subs and suppliers, no one has researched and sourced products where form meets function meets costs, and no one passes those savings onto the client quicker than we do. We love it raising the bar.

Turns out, value is always in vogue as well.