Saturday, January 30, 2010

Cold in the Country


It's cold up here, and January this year feels like 100 yrs long - which I don't really mind since the slower time goes the more we get done.

Here's Cottage 20, selling to Susan before too long. With the grounds all cleaned up, and a cold winter afternoon blowing through, it's looking pretty picture perfect, up there on the ridge above Lucky Lake. My old friend Jack from the TV network was in town for the commencement of filming of this house renovation we are doing together and I took him over to the houses to check them out. He's a design and construction connoisseur, and goes all over the country scouting locations, builders and designers - and he likes our stuff so I like to show it off every time he's around.
Anyway, long story short, I love the back deck on this house - it kind of cantilevers out over the hillside, and is 10 deep or so and I wanted to show Jack the deck and so I go out there and right before he's about ready to follow me out he checks the door handle and it was locked. Now, this deck is way up on a hill, facing the wind, with no staircase down as of yet, with a drop of 10' feet. And it was about 0 degrees - I had a bunch of layers, but Jack the Southerner was in jeans and jacket. Anyway, disaster narrowly averted - Lisa painted a picture over Martinis of Jack and I hugging in the corner, trying to share body heat, waiting to be rescued.
That reminds me of the disaster narrowly averted at Cottage 24, when my new Ford Ranger went high-tailin' it down the mountainside, only to be stopped by a small tree which remarkably stopped the truck cold - with very little damage.

Below is the modern house - Ranch 2 - which is coming along nicely -all 960 sq ft of it. Tony and Laurie really hitting it out of the park, in my opinion.


And Richard's Barn House #2 - with the straw-colored siding, green roof and cavernous interior.


Daniel's 800 sq ft Micro Cottage #3, with its sagey green siding, 2 bedrooms, porch, rear deck and an awesome piece of wunder - land.


The Shaker House, coming along with the roof on, windows in, and the electric and plumbing started. John, Wendy and 3 young uns should be styling on 7+acres, big porches, and lots of easy living just two hours from all the hub-bub.

And last but definitely not least is Cottage 25, the only Cottage we have for sale - remarkably.




Blog posting has been a bit neglected here as of late, but it's not because we have slowed or hit any hurdles we can't readily surmount. It's a lot of construction, a lot original design, and a lot of commitment to building the best homes we can for the money.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Barn House #2


Richard, the gentleman who is the go to guy for all the insurance needs of NYC art galleries contacted us soon after the article in the NY Post profiling the home and studio we built for Albert, up on the hill off of Crawford. Richard signed up early, and waited patiently for us to address the Town land process, and was ready to build as soon as we satisfied all the local rules and regs. What we decided to build was a structure inspired by Albert's studio, which was in turn inspired by a barn just down the road on State Rt 55, between Eldred and Barryville.

Simple, private structure on 3 acres. Once again, we experimented with Cabot siding stains, and once again we were very pleased with the final look.

James and Richard at our site meeting last weekend - you may note James is looking a little light on his feet, which would be logical, since he forgot his tape measure and we ended up measuring everything with a 300' rolled land tape - not exactly a perfect tool for the job - it's like using a Zamboni to clean off your back stoop.

Cool open structure with one lofty bedroom looking down.

So, Barn 2 is looking good, and fits right into it's environment. What we are really realizing is how important house placement is - and we really have a knack for it.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Cottage 23 - Sold (belated post)

Cottage 23 on Catskill Farms closed in late November, 2009, but the house is so magical it seemed to defy good picture snapping, so 3 tries later, I finally have some photos somewhat worthy of the Cottage itself.

Cottage 23 has a neat story behind, from many vantages. First, the land that I chose for it, was the land that Lisa and I planned on building our perfect little homestead - it's directly behind where I live now, part of the land that I put a few cottages on last year. It's great land - big pine trees, gently sloping, little babbling brook, stone walls, seasonal views of a lake, long twisting driveway- everything a man could want. It had some magic and I spent a lot of time studying those 8 acres, figuring out where the house should go, how the drive should come in, etc...

In the end, Lisa and I decided to stay where we were - in the original farmhouse up by the road. We had moved too often to contemplate another move, and we were settling in just fine. And mostly, the house was very affordable to us, which after some of the pickles I got myself in over the last half decade, was worth it's weight in gold.

So, we decide to stay where we are, and the deal to sell the land without a house to one neighbor, then the other neighbor both fell through - and here at Catskill Farms we had remarkably sold out of all the land we have and I needed a good building lot. So, notwithstanding the 'put off ' looks of Theresa my neighbor and Lisa my wife who preferred it forever wild (obviously, they don't pay the bills), I picked a design and started building - so unless someone was willing to lay down in front of the dozers, we were moving - and we only move at one speed - full steam ahead.


Now, the house design that I picked for the land was really a great marraige of house and land - the house was a Pennsylvania farmhouse that I used to stare at while eating breakfast at an old school diner in Damascus, PA. It was a nice piece of simple architecture and after a while it just caught my eye, and held my attention. Kevin the architect then brought it alive with some dynamic sketches and floor plans, and whalah, we got a house.

So we started construction which included a long driveway, clearing a lot of big trees, bringing electric and phone way in from the road. Before you knew it, the house was 'framed', meaning the wood skeleton was defining the structure's shape.

So I get an email from Pedro, that said -

"We are very interested in looking at the Barryville Cottage and Cottage 19. Is Cottage 19 still in construction or is it finished? Are both these properties still for sale? If so we would like to make an appointment to see these. Thank you, Pedro"

So Pedro and David make an appointment to come and look around, but it was too late for Cottage 19 and the Barryville Cottage, having been snapped up by Justen and Jason and Nancy and Richard, respectively.

We show them Dean's masterpiece, and a few others, and then take them back to Cottage 23.


I may not be remembering this exactly right, maybe Pedro came up once alone. But anyway, David and Pedro and I check out Cottage 23 and since it was early on without steps we are climbing the walls and boosting each other around in order to see the 2nd floor. Definitely performing feats of gymnastics meant for younger men.

Well, it didn't take long, and the guys and I made a deal and we were off to the races - designing the house and getting them into the house before the end of November, which was when the home-buyer tax credit expired (subsequently, it was extended). So Pedro is an architect, as well as fantastic soprano I hear, and with his design talents and our construction talents, we were able to meet and exceed any high hopes I had for this piece of land, which I really did like a lot. But like Gib McKean said - "That Petersheim - he has quick affairs with his land - he doesn't marry it."
Big open kitchen, mudroom stone floor area, fireplace and open stairs, duel sink upstairs with great greenish tile looking out over the lake.

And that's before the piano and furniture and other personal accents.


These shutters on a track leave light in to the bedroom/office, which overlooks a lake on a neighboring property.



There you have it. Cottage 23 developed, designed, and delivered. And now late at night, when I'm up by myself getting a glass of water, I can see the porch light far off in the distance, signalling another set of homeowners finding safety and relaxation in one of our well-designed houses that work.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Men At Work

We have a lot of shit going on all the time - a wide ranging display of our versatility and breadth of our experience, as well as the health of our cash flow - since these parts are not like other parts where you can take 30 days to pay a bill- most of our subcontractors submit bills by Tuesday and want paid by Friday. For a construction business, that's no easy task - and fail in that payment task, and the show stops pretty much right away.

Up above in the construction arm - Bluestone Construction - of Catskill Farms, getting the old red rusting-away 1990 Chevy truck ready for the winter. Like most of my staff and subs, this truck is diverse in its talents and responsibilities - plowing, sanding, dump trucking.

Below is a picture of the soy-based spray foam we use to keep our homes amazingly warm and cool at lowest possible cost.

Here's the sheetrock crew at 50's Ranch 2 who can sheetrock one of smaller homes in a day.

And the painting crew at Cottage 24, working their magic around the hand hewn posts, salvaged wood siding and reclaimed wood rails.

The siding crew taking a smoke and snack on a cold winter morning on Lake Ridge Road outside of Narrowsburg, NY.


Curtis going wild at sweet Cottage 20, trimming the windows, doors, closet shelves and the 100 little details that keep everyone happy.



The wood crew installing the wood ceilings at Cottage 24. Obviously these pictures are not sequential since a few photos ago they were being painted.

Here's the heating crew working through a cold rain to get the radiant heat and water lines into the slab of our new 5-bay garage/man-cave before the concrete pour.


And the painters at our offices, on the last possible day of exterior painting until the spring. They turned the dirty brown front into a cool red barn in 8hrs flat.


The foundation at Micro Cottage 3 over on Tuthill Road.


The concrete crew working the concrete, with the pump trucks and concrete trucks supplying them with a steady stream of wet concrete for the 5-bay garage/man-cave.

And then two pictures of people obviously not working.

Lisa and my son caught napping, mid day.
And my Dad, up for a two week visit, not really setting the world on fire either. Looks like he has everything he needs - cane, ball for dog, coffee mug, and lots of blankets.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Burnin' Love

Lisa and I are sitting in the dark on Friday night watching "Elvis on Tour", and at the moment he's singing about hunkin, hunkin burnin love while dressed in white and a red line cape. Lucas is sleepting, the cats are waiting patiently at a newly discovered mouse hole, Jakes asleep in the mud room, and a heavy wind is sinking the temps to below zero.

I'm back in the saddle after the great Floridian vacation, where I hear it's crazy cold now. I mean, I didn't mind the mid to high sixties, but 40's? That would have sucked.

I didn't get any pictures, but there were a few days by the hotel were it was definitely too cold to be out by the pool, but nevertheless, every lounge chair was taken or reserved and many people were out sunning themselves as the cool wind whipped, goose pimples obvious to anyone who looked too closely. After traveling the whole way to Florida, I guess some people just weren't going to be denied their day in the sun - literally.

"that's all right, that's all right momma, any way you do"

Construction continued while I was away and the 3 houses up on Lake Ridge road outside of Narrowsburg are coming along just fine. It's been cold, real cold, since mid-december with the ground hardening up and complicating our plans, but onward we build, construct, raise and complete. We actually got 4 new homes started in December, with nothing more than sheer determination - or as Lisa's special forces trained Dad would say - 'mind over matter, - if you don't mind, it don't matter.' Or one of my favorites, in a testament to the lethalness of the special forces in general - 'you can run, but you'll just die tired.'

Here's Cottage 24, from the front, with a lot of the details starting to be wrapped up. Like I mentioned this house went under contract just before Christmas, which was a nice Christmas gift. It's a great house, fully defined and designed and detailed by me, unobstructed by that crazy collaboration that produces some fine examples of good taste. It was fun. Back in the old days when no one knew us and no one bought our houses, I would design them, build them, decorate them, furnish them and then wait day after day, week after week, month after month until I got them sold. This is a great house.

Elvis is currently picking out random woman from the first row to kiss.

"Love me tender, love me true, you have made my dreams fullfill, oh my darling I love you and I always will."

The show, "Elvis on Tour" is now showing his multiple movie parts with hot perky breasted women of the 60's.

A lot of reclaimed barn siding, v-joint, barn beams and heft stair treads. Hats off to Courtney and Bronson who pioneered this open basement staircase idea. It really works, and like many inspirations, it's genius is it's simplicity.

In the pic below you got the siding, the chalkboard door, the sliding barn door and a bunch of perfect barn lighting made of dull galvanized aluminum.


Big momma black radiator heats the place up.


And as part of the deal we are fixing up the basement. I love the basement build out spaces, they are just super comfortable and versatile.


Cottage 20 is moving right along as well. This 960 sq ft 2 bedroom house is comfortable, well-designed, and just weeks (ok, maybe a month) away from being complete.

That's the floor sanding machine separating the fireplace from the media center.


This is bad picture quality of a kitchen that as it comes together piece by piece is going to be fantastic, unique, elegant to the extreme, and functional.


The new 50's Ranch profile shoot looks good to me. Big overhangs, tony fireplace stone, and a neat bluish green stain.


This house is just entering the painting phase, and the ceilings are stained and the walls painted.


This is now our only house that we have under construction that is not spoken for. Cottage 25 is 1300 sq ft and hotter than Elvis in Hawaii.

"Look away, look away, look away, Dixie Land"


We heat our homes over the winter with these propane fueled gas heaters.


Here's my new red 5-bay garage for my insulation truck, my tractor, my ford, my other ford and my dump/plow truck. It will have heat, electric, cable, an office a basketball net and a few other bells and whistles. Sounds like the perfect man-cave.




It wasn't that long ago I was working out of my home, with deliveries of lights, toilets, and hundreds of other house furnishings filling up our porches, kitchens and basements.

I mean, in retrospect it's plenty romantic getting a business off the ground, with all the sacrifices, mistakes, miscues, glories and defeats - but it's actually a lot nicer having a little consistency of cash flow and lifestyle.

We're caught in a trap

I can't walk out

Because I love you too much baby

Why can't you see

What you're doing to me

When you don't believe a word I say?

We can't go on together

With suspicious minds

And we can't build our dreams

On suspicious minds