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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Springtime in the Catskills

This weekend was really a great couple of days of weather. I mean, spring fever type of days where everyone is poking their heads outside and stuff. We went so far as to rake the yard and set up the badminton court - where lots of smack has been talked over the last 9 months of planning. I figure Saturday evening drop by events with martinis and celebrity referees. Like I said last year, I'm looking into lights, a neon scoreboard and a large/high referee chair.

Did I say it's 4:09am? I'm already in the office. Our office is SO busy, that the peace and quiet of the early morning is alluring. By 6:50, the day begins, and continues unabated with people stopping by, phones ringings, deliveries, questions, coordination and 100 other things that keep this place in a state of controlled chaos.

Even though I just turned forty the other month, I'm not a big 'work around the house guy', although that does seem a prerequisite to owning a house. So, when Lisa and I broke out the rakes the other day to clean up the yard, that was a pretty novel event. She gave me a real broken down metal rake, and since I don't rake much I didn't realize how crappy it really was until I borrowed her rake. I mean - let's compare - my rake was metal, with broken and bent teeth, about 1.5 feet in width. Her rake was like 4' across, made out of some cutting edge fiberglass, and raked half the yard in one swoop. The rake literally raked the frickin yard itself.
If you ever want someone to really get a kick out of raking, let them rake for an hour with a shitty rake, then give them a good rake. It's glorious.

Nick our neighbor who bought Cottage 9 sent me this email over the weekend -

"hi chuck! was out writing on my deck (hehe, writing on my computer on the deck), and i heard a raptor fly in, and baby raptor sounds. i saw the parent fly down to the lake and up once or twice, and saw a white tail. that'd be coolio if i had a bald eagle nest in my backyard! is that possible?"

I think anything is possible Nick - and even if it isn't, just thinking it is so kind of makes it a reality, at least in your mind, which is all that matters. On an aside, please don't create any artificial intelligent machines that can get away from you (Nick is a big researcher somewhere creating computers who can play Jeopardy).

Here's old Luke - He Loves it outside, just back from 2 weeks in Florida (must be nice) while his Dad was busy working his hands to the bone in order to contribute to that Ivy League college fund.

Here's a picture of our 100+ yr old farmhouse on Crawford Rd, in Eldred (I probably shouldn't give away my address now that I'm in the public eye - I don't need the public trying to find, for sure!)

Anyway, the tall part of the house is the original, and the lower section is what we added on when we had Lucas. He and his toys take up a lot of room. Not even mentioning the dog and his space requirements.

Below, the preparation of the badminton court.

Here's Lisa and Lucas doing some badminton drills while our 71 yr old neighbor rakes the leaves (real nice Lisa!).
And here is a real ambitious project, in the same book of aspirations as the fully integrated media center in our playroom, and the pond. This old stone wall has seen better days and I want to rebuild it stone by stone. Seems like a big project, but I have high hopes of a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenence experience.

Jake needed a bath bigtime, and Lisa did her best. Jake is huge - 75 lbs and still growing.

I live in the country and do country things, and just as a warning to Lucas, the picture below is what can happen to you if you get on Daddy's nerves at the wrong time - tied up to the back of my old soon-to-be-retired dump truck.

Saturday was real social, and after a full day of raking and yard work and visiting with people who drove by our house, we headed over to Benoist's house for some snacks and drinks. I built his house a few years ago - he was one of our first customers. This is a design he brought to us, designed by a friend of his from Italy (or someplace European).

The house sits on 30+ acres and has a little pond and stream.

Benoist makes his living dealing in mid-century french antiques so of course his house is pretty fabulously designed and decorated. Above is the view coming towards the house and below is the view from the rear.

An ingenius idea of how to make use of cut-down pine trees - which are not easy to get rid of. Slice them up and use them as neatly arranged stepping stones around the property.

Benoist in his kitchen.

Lisa and Lucas in the living room. The house consists of 2 bedrooms, two baths and a large living room.

And then off to our new Cottage 22, where Courtney and Bronson are enjoying their first spring upstate, having closed on their house in October 2009. Some good dinner, good drinks, funny conversation and a great way to wrap up a pretty fun and full day.

It's not often that I'm just poking around the house all day on a Saturday, but this day was different, and to be honest, pretty darn nice.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dwell's Rubbish

I love the effort of modular makers and designers have embarked on to make everyone feel stupid who doesn't buy their load of baloney about the brave new world of housing.

This Month's cover "Smarter. Cheaper. Faster" -implying that their side business of making factory built homes and selling them doesn't somehow affect their ability to be unbaised. And last year Builder Magazine thought a modular was the wave of the future, although someone forgot to tell the consumer.

The thing about modular prefab ready made kit homes is that the people behind these grand schemes to condescendingly force the modular into the main stream are missing the boat.

HOMEBUYERS AREN'T STUPID. You can't say it's cheaper when it's not. You can't say it's faster when it's not. You can't say it's Smarter, when it's not. People talk, and I know better than anyone that a pre fab home can't be built any quicker than a stick-built home unless you conveniently neglect about half the tradesmen involved in the process. You can fool some of the people some of the time, etc...

Look, pre fab is cool. I've looked into on several occasions. Pre Fab is compelling. Pre Fab is new. So I got nothing against it- I'm not some old stick-in-the-mud - I just think the Dwells, Versaci the architect and New World Homes have to come up with a better hook than faster, cheaper and smarter.

It's not any of those things and modular will never win market share because some marketing machine says it makes you smarter. That's so 2007.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vlog Cabin

Well, presently I'm reviewing my Standard Talent Agreement sent over by the Scripps Network. Seems they like my perspective, wittiness, good looks and general outlook on things (or they couldn't find anyone else to do the job), so I'm creating a half dozen or so homemade videos for the project as it progresses. Think Anthony Bourdain or Bear Grylls, without the cool name.

Honestly, I didn't even know what a vlog or a flip camera was until a few weeks ago, but now I'm not only blogging, I'm vlogging. And since the DIY blog cabin website gets like 300,000 hits a week, that's some serious exposure. Definitely am going to need to keep my neck hair trimmed and shave a little more often.

Check out the first Blog Cabin 2010 Vlog here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Marketing 101

Lucas Meets Pink Pelicans in Florida

I've been accused on many occasions of having a great marketing mind, and I guess in a way it's true. James and I have a lot of fun coming up with cool angles to demonstrate our creative and construction talents.

Here are some ads that are running for 12 weeks in NY Magazine, and some feedback from people who have discovered us.

"I've been following your homes by internet but by the time I receive an email, most are under contract . Is there a way to avoid this?

Thank you"

"..love your work--been stalking your blog + site for a while now! "

"Saw NY magazine ad.

Spent 3 hours on website and sent link to 100 friends.

Was just about to leave NY, but may have to reconsider."

"these houses are just beautiful! my husband and I would love to have a mini cottage in the catskills

"Hello! We love your homes and are wondering when you might have some for sale...."

and my personal favorite, from a friend of mine.-


You are a genius, my friend.



And the link to the progress at Blog Cabin -

9000 visitors to the website last month - 36,000 page views. Not too shabby for a little business in the middle of NOWHERE.

And an article in our local rag -