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Friday, October 7, 2011

Cottage 36 Sold (and NY Daily News Article)

You know, being a hard driving guy always keeping the pedal to the metal, I always love to use my son - god bless his heart - as a real decoy as to my soft cuddly other side that if I could I would show more often. it's that 'big softy' aside I hear as I walk out of a room I most enjoy (and actually have never heard - oh well, here's to dreamin'). Lucas turns 3 next week.

Fun article in the NY Daily News today about Catskill Farms.

Daily News Feature

Well, back to work, and that currently means building 9 homes. We have a big closing tomorrow on Cottage 36. The owner wants it to be Cabin 1, but the thought of starting the count over is just too daunting so no matter how many awesome barn beams he had us install, or how much perfectly subtle stained wood members we erected (sorry to use 'members' and 'erected' in the same sentence, to all those immature people), or how much cool salvaged barn wood we used as wainscoting or locally harvested rough cut railings we crafted, I wasn't budging from the Cottage 36 name.

Matthew and Sarah came to us in September 2010 with the following email query -

We are considering a second home in your area, and like your aesthetic and approach. We would probly be interested in something along the lines of the "farmhouse series". We have two young kids and, ideally, would hope for something with extra "bunkrooms" for visitors and their kids.

We will be in the area this weekend. On Sat afternoon, we are going to look at a couple parcels in a lake development. Is there a possibility of meeting and seeing one of your homes, or maybe just more photos, on Sunday am? We will have both kids with us, with short attention span. If not, no worries, we can do another time.

I look forward to hearing from you. "

6 months later, dozens of visits and conversations and studies, we came up with not only a great piece of land - 15 acres big with lake rights - but an awesome home that serves as a model and study of restraint, good taste and unassumingly grand.

The picture above of the mudroom says a lot. Symmetrical bluestone, salvaged wood from an ancient barn as wainscoting, a cool radiator, lots of style in the handrail, perfectly country front door.

Since James in the office and me and Matthew all have some years behind us, we were trying to come up with the best old school out-of-date compliment for the home.


But nothing describes the home better than the super perfect 'Cherry'. That's so good there's a whole generation reading this that doesn't even know this term's historical and cultural significance.

1400 sq ft on the first two floors, and a full, built-out basement ups it to close to 2000.

We started the house in Mid-May amid huge and daunting rains. And here we are, once again, coming in for a very soft landing 4 months later.

Above is the central living space, and below the handmade barn door with a cedar lined closet within. Entrance to the right bedroom suite to the left.

This is not a big house, especially the first two floors but its got such a great design and flow that it sort of unravels as you walk thru. Effectively changing ceiling heights is a great tool in the bag of a good designer. In fact good design is about the unseen or unnoticed - it's a feel, a vote of subconscious confidence, a big fat subliminal thumbs up at the heft of the doors, the feel of the flow, the authenticity of the ambiance.

Screened porch leads to the unscreened leads to the 15 acres of mostly glorious and varied terrain.
15 acres is a lot of land.

Kitchen, dining and living all sort of merge into communal sharing of space, sound and smell.

Fireplaces and porches - both a big deal for us and our and customers.

3 full bathrooms, one each floor. All pretty swanky, laid out well, and nicely appointed.

Since most of our homes come with a basement, finishing them off can be a lot of fun.

To a big space of 700 sq ft, ready to go for bunkrooms, sleepovers, and general rambunctiousness.

Old Lucas on a hike by 10 mile river outside of Narrowsburg, NY.

And here is the center window in Woodstock NY, at the Village Green Coldwell Banker office. The biggest, most voluminous, most creative real estate and marketing company in Ulster County. And that window is reserved for Catskill Farms and our Ulster Cty efforts. It's such a relief to team up with such a forward looking company. I remember in 2003 having a lunch with a group of realtors and proposing some pretty creative arrangements, arrangements which entailed more commitment than showing our houses and talking them up - financial commitments, marketing commitments and facilitation, advertising, etc... They said 'no', and i have gone on to buy and sell $32,000,000 of real estate, all which could have been under their umbrella with a little creative thinking. Luckily, they didn't do it, and I was forced to figure out another way, a new way - which we did and we haven't looked back. it reminds me of that old business story where Bill Gates got Xerox to give away the store cause they didn't know what they had.

Joan at Village Green - she's good. She's a creative thinker. And I think it's the beginning of a beautiful, long-term, mutually beneficial arrangement.

It's a window we've earned, through lots of effort, perseverance, and risk-taking.

And, finally, a nice summary of how our clients find us, and their decision-making journey and subsequent choice to buy. As he mentioned when he wrote it, it's a bit hokey, but hey, hokey works for me.

"We've thought about having a weekend retreat for years, starting when we lived in Manhattan. About six years ago, we moved up to Westchester County and started a family (we have 2 toddlers). Like many NY'rs, we were casually looking, spending long weekends in various locations, etc. We've explored areas like Dutchess County, NY (Rhinebeck, Redhook); Litchfield County, CT (Kent, Cornwall); the Great Barrington MA area (which we really like); and even Bucks County, PA. I also have friends and family with homes on both the north and south forks of Long Island, so we are very familiar with the Hamptons.

All those places are lovely. They have a lot to offer, particularly quaint villages and more and more nice restaurants and shops, etc. I expect we will still visit those areas on occasion. But, we fulfill many of those experiences down in Westchester. It was really only after visiting Sullivan County that we realized what we wanted was not just charm, but also "retreat". The kind of place to which, as NY'rs and suburbanites, we don't realize we can easily reach in a couple hours drive. The kind of feeling that says "I am away from it all and on vacation". We can hop in our car on a Sat afternoon, after any morning kids events, and be well into that groove by dinner time.

Both my wife and I had occasion to visit the region when we were younger; but I rediscovered Sullivan County when a work matter required me to be upstate near Binghamton. After doing the math I realized the simplest way to get there was to drive. So, I spent a day driving up through the Delaware River Basin in the Fall and was struck by the rural beauty of Sullivan County. The economy was in the tank, so it was probably a good time to buy. If this area turned out to have a decent supermarket (which it does), there would be no stopping us. (And of course, now I realize all the goodies that draw folks to farmers markets in NY and Westchester are from up there.)

So, I started with the Web - real estate sites, etc. It wasnt long before I came across Catskill Farms online. Their game plan grabbed me: simple design, natural materials, affordable but high quality, custom, turn-key construction. Their aesthetic was great - one part cute, one part hip, and one part green. And, as importantly, they catered to the Manhattan set. I had no allusions of felling trees myself and building a log home; or being featured on This Old House after saving an old mill from ruin. Having been thru two renovations of our main residence, we needed someone who could deliver on charm, without the inevitable contractor hassles and surprises, and who had a proven track record of meeting/managing the high expectations that folks from in and around NYC bring to the table.

But the real decision came after speaking with Chuck and his team. I wasn't looking to buy a house. I was looking to buy that moment when you turn a corner in your winding gravel driveway, you see a quaint little house in the distance through a lightly wooded landscape, and you feel the stress of everyday life melt away. Chuck gets that. It's what he is selling. A simple weekend retreat takes hard work and a dedicated team to create, but I think he and his team would agree that the physical simplicity of a home can offer the homeowners and their family an emotional simplicity that many hard-working people want and deserve. Plus, his homes are just cool.

The proximity of the areas served by Catskill Farms also provides a necessary balance. The truth is that we, like most folks, can't escape for long before realities of life and work start pulling. It's easy to get back down to Westchester and NYC from Sullivan County (w/o the Hamptons traffic), and CF's homes are fully equipped to get work done whenever that is required. And, even though CF homes sit on several acres and are carefully situated to provide a reasonable level of seclusion, there are still cute towns, cafes and shops, and a sense of community in Sullivan County.

It's also a great area to "get back to nature" for a day or two. Even in Westchester, many family activities surround school, soccer games and country clubs. That is all fine, but access to an area like Sullivan County also provides a nice balance, which is something we want for our kids. On one of our trips up, we were driving along a very scenic stretch of Highway 97, alongside the Delaware River, when a bald eagle swooped down within 25 feet of our car, following us for about 100 yards. That's hard to beat.


  1. Gee, that realtor really missed out on some major commissions.

  2. even though CF homes sit on several acres and are carefully situated to provide a reasonable level of seclusion, there are still cute towns, cafes and shops, and a sense of community in Sullivan County.