Saturday, March 26, 2011

Norm Brodsky, The Strokes and David Cross

Never before have these names been pasted together in a headline I'm sure. The Strokes are everywhere these days, on TV, on Radio, on Tour, in Print - with a new album and cool SPIN mag article after a few years of silence. Thing is, their guitarist, Albert, is one of our favorite Catskill Farms' homeowners with a sweet farmhouse and barn on 10 acres actually just across the street from my house.

Oh the stories I could tell.... Like the 48 hours straight inebriated fireworks show with commercial grade fireworks that ended with Lisa and I both embarrassing ourselves by acting like old farts and telling them to cool it. Albert gave me these as consolation I suppose.



Just kidding, anyway we built a 'barn' for him - a fully outfitted, commercial grade sound studio wrapped up in a barn exterior - very cool, for sure, and the Strokes did some mixing and music-making up there for the new album.

And David - I mean, since David bought a Cottage from us a few years back when we were just getting our groove on, his career since (and his mate's Amber's) has totally been busy, with movies, his own written/directed/produced TV show that was just picked up for season 2.

I'm not saying our homes inspire creativity, greatness, popularity and top-of-the-charts positioning - well, actually, maybe I am.

David turned Albert onto us, and Gavin from Vice fame and more as well.

In the past 5 yrs, we've seen our homeowners get married, get promoted, get rich, get popular, get settled in, write a book, create some music, make an album, plant a garden, build a birdhouse and much more. it's cool, for sure. And the big common thread is that these folks don't have to worry about what will next go wrong with their house like people buying older homes. they got a house that works, which is a great start to enjoying this big life decision of country respite.

And Norm Brodsky, well, he is the in-house 'entrepreneur columnist' for Inc. magazine since the mid-90's. I discovered him while perusing the Small Business blogs of the New York Times. Very fresh insights and guidance from a veteran business owner, who kept me coming back to his columns with revelations on methods of decision-making, seeing through the fog of business, and straight-forward advice. Like most good writing, he points out the obvious yet elusive point, what's always been there - it just has gone un-summarized, un-capsulated.

So, literally, Janice my assistant and all-around office warrior printed out every article he ever wrote since 1995 and I read them over the past 3 months. The binder was like 7" thick. It was like 'Continuing Education', since his insights into gross margins, misspent marketing $$, and how competition is good for small business were great lessons that I already knew but didn't. The tidbit I like the best is the story he tells about how he is an angel investor in certain businesses and he will almost never invest in new businesses with fancy newly furnished offices and equipment because he knows - from his experience - that that startup capital will be needed for something else before too long, and it will be gone.

It took us 7 years before we had an office to be proud of. We always had a neat business and the lack of spiffy offices never seemed to scare people away, but boy did I need every single penny to keep it going at times, and thank the lord I didn't spend it on Aeron and Eames chairs, networked computers, efficient phone systems and new trucks like I do now.

Our reception -
more of our reception...

My friend Zach's Harley - I've been tempted on many occasions to claim ownership, but I figure I'm cool enough already.

And our bathroom made up of leftover tiles from 7 years of building cool houses. A little psychedelic, but hey, it's better than being bland.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Spring Fever Baby, Not.

Bryan and Heather pointed out that since I posted my Spring Fever Baby post blog post a week ago, the weather has been terrifically shitty. Touche.

This is how far I fall when Lisa and Lucas leave town. Ben and Jerry's Chubby Hubby, Ms. Debbie's Swiss Roll (i don't even have my maple flavored mini bit frosted mini-wheats represented), just got back from Baker's Tap Room where I chowed 12 wings surrounded by 3 cute country waitresses (also listening to Shelby Lynne 1st one in 1999.)



Now you have to live up here for awhile to appreciate the full meaning of the '3 cute country waitresses'. I mean I'm not from around here, and I don't know if this generalization extends to very rural areas in general, but one does not go around finding '3 cute country waitresses' around every corner up here. I mean, this is the type of place that in the battle of strip joints, one establishment reputes their competitive advantage as 'our girls have teeth'. I've always loved that one for its brutal precision. In a nutshell, the area's natural bounty is not matched by many street corners with '3 cute country waitresses'. Especially here in the middle of NOWHERE, -Eldred NY.

And then on my way home from work, I stopped by to talk to our neighbor Theresa - or Tanta, Tantan, or Terry - depending on when you met. She's 70 something.


She's got a new dog, Scampy, after her dog of 15 yrs passed last fall. Theresa has lived here since the late 80's - quietly until Catskill Farms invaded in 2005. Literally, Crawford road is only 2 miles, exactly, long. And now we have 20 homes on the road and 20 nice cars trolling around. You can't see the house from Crawford, but they are still there, hidden away. Now, Harold and Maude-like, this is Lucas' NBF since day one (did I get that symbol right, - I'm trying to say 'new best friend'). So she went from living in the city, moving up to the middle of nowhere by herself, she doesn't drive, has non-100% right arm, to living in the middle of rock stars, broadway music producers, major comedians, an alternative magazine producer, architects, artificial intelligence researchers, creative directors of Levi's, a doctor, a gay guy, a hr pro and me and lisa and lil' Lucas.

Talk about 'ruining the neighborhood'. But I don't think she's ever been so happy. She has a pond and each yr her brother visits for a few weeks, and he sits by the pond and nets and hits with a bat catfish from the pond. It's a quixotic effort, since they breed like rabbits.


Cottage 35 is really coming together. It's for sale and quite good-looking. The stone we are cladding the chimney with is excellente, and the first time we used it. Our clients are our biggest asset - they are constantly pushing James and me to experiment and keep it fresh, as well as consistently bring fresh ideas to the table. For instance, the stain on the siding below was tried first by Kelly and Gianni of Cottage 33 fame.

Curtis and Mark, finishing up the day.

Renee our stone mason just getting started, with the break in the weather.

A cabin cottage in the woods twist with a play of paint and stain. The house is less than 1000 sq ft.


Below, Big Ass living, dining and kitchen. From a professional construction site manager, I see a few things. I see if the job site is safe and protected, who has been there, what's in the way, and what is left to be done.

For instance, in the picture below (this could be one of those newspaper games), I can pretty much get a pulse of the job - first is the temp inside (hot, cold, propany, windows open, etc...). Note the stand up heater in the middle, off. The sheetrocker left his buckets, the lumber on the ground is probably extra, the hand hewn beams can go back to the ranch (our shop) and are only being damaged by being here. The floor is dirty but well protected with both construction paper and masonite, the kitchen needs to go in, the handrail is incomplete, the electric fixtures, exterior and interior door hardware as well, floor stain, etc... but all in all, a clean, well-protected, safe site.

But a great layout, open and roomy.


and then...

Old hallelujah
sweet jesus
sunny day
beautiful cottage
below (a summer haiku)

4pm, crisp winter day. The sun compliments this house positioning all day long. Sometimes it's that simple - you either get it right or get it wrong.

The Cottage, Cottage 34, lives on 6 acres, on the corner of Wood Oak and Aspen. 2 miles outside of Narrowsburg. It's good.

It's roomy, in a lazy friday early afternoon kind of way.

From the staircase through the fireplace room into the mudroom foyer area.

It's March 24. We are busy, firing efficiently.

This might be an extra ordinary type of kind of year.

From Shelby Lynne's first, 'I am Shelby Lynne', 1999.

Black light blue
Heaven's perfect hue
the ultimate possession
the game you couldn't lose
the voice in the corner
the song you hardly knew
the terrible admission
some tragic lonely tune
slow the Spanish dancer on a stage

Jubilation risin' on the bayou
celebration in the wind
Father Pat gives benediction
cross the Coden bridge again

Crickets spreadin' rumors by the shoreline
with the lonesome lady whine
crab trap full of nothin
I'm high as the tide, all the time


Black light blue
is tearing me in two
a mad revelation
Shakespeare isn't true
the raising of the glasses
the falling into sin
dying in the desert
the loners lonely end
in the shifting sand oasis

Black light Blue

I got your message on the phone
I hung on every single line
you told me what we had was only business
hurt me so bad I had to sit down with the sickness
oh yeah

Your lies won't leave me alone
tore the phone out the wall and it's still ringin'
wreck the room and curtains ain't hangin' baby
guitar ain't playin'

(Hurts) I'm leavin'
(Sad) This time it's for good
You should have treated me
the way you said you would
(Hurts) I'm leavin'
(Sad) And you can't make me stay
I'm tired of hurtin' you
this ain't no good anyway
I'm leavin'

I know it's gonna be hard on ya
once it really hits you that I'm gone
I spent too much time
trying to make things right
when I really knew all along
you'll be O.K. in time baby


That's serious shit - Tom Waits, old school smokey bar ella fitzgerald marvin gaye hot white blond girl type shit.

Shelby Lynne, I Am Shelby Lynne.

Hi, I'm Smitten.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Fever Baby

After a relentless 12 weeks of snow, ice and cold - then two weeks of rain - yesterday was 55 and today is forecasted to be 60. Nothing like a hard winter to appreciate Spring. No old timer or cliche-inclined person is going to be going around saying 'I remember when winters were tough' type of thing. This was a tough winter.

Luckily, I had my new plow-sand truck, and my plow-sand talents.

Shack 2 in the House. This house is 500 sq ft and is looking great. It's also for sale.

We used some stain accents, some fun Ikea accents (remind me to tell you about the story of buying too much at Ikea in Philly, then driving home with hardly enough room for me in the car), and a woodstove.

Stainless steel cabinets, white formica top, black faucet.

Sizable bedroom with lots of light and even a view.

Fun bath with a window in the bathtub, round mirror, red cabinet above the toilet, and a modernish vanity and toilet.


And the big bonus at this house is you have a big basement. Most of our houses have basements, but when you are dealing with this type of small house, the future basement space looms large.

I'm not sure why all my recent photos of Farm 15 have unique lighting, but it always adds a funky twist to this cool house that is done done done. And Norm's cleaning 'er up now that the ground is drying out. When we went to dig the foundation, we found a lot of big cool rocks which we use to define the landscaping. Free of charge of course.

And then I was showing off Marcus and Courtney's house on the hill - this house always looks good in the sunlight.

Then we have a few homes to start in the Spring - and I was out there with the Ken from my electric company and Mike from the electric utility company, laying out and engineering the electric infrastructure.

Matthew and Sarah's 15 acres of glory in the below pic. They are both City lawyers and have two young children.

And then this 12 acre piece, purchased for Cindy and Bruce, will sport the 1 bedroom 1200 sq ft Barn V. Bruce (a lawyer) and Cindy own a company that is near and dear to me - a real estate tax appeal company, that helps companies and individuals appeal and adjust their real estate taxes.

So, outside the town of Narrowsburg, over the last 15 months, we have introduced a plethora of cool (I was going to joke around 'not talking about you Van', but I thought it would only cause me problems of 'misunderstood humor') people. Talented, skilled diverse professionals.

2 structural engineers.
Soho art gallery owner.
NY Times fashion writer.
4 Lawyers, all with varied specialties.
Commercial interior designer.
A 'future planner'.
A Dr. of Chemistry.
(and please I hope there is no offense taken to other 8 homeowners who I don't know what they do - it's probably better, then I can't stereotype and generalize them and use them as cheap pawns in my 'lovey feeley marketing initiatives).

Anyway, it's early, the wife and dog and child and two cats are sleeping, and the sun is shining already and the house is quiet. That's definitely not a bad thing.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Flood, Farm 15 and Cottage 34 Finish

Lots of water around after the rain storm and snow melt off. Above is runoff water fall, typically nice but typically not related to Niagara Falls.

The Delaware River was bloated as well.


Here I am with Norm, and two new future homeowners, Matthew and Sarah. 15 acres and a Cottage. We tramped around in the rain showers in the woods - funny sight, umbrellas in the woods. I'm sure the locals got a big kick out of us.


Cottage 35 is moving right along and it looks sweeeeeet. It's also for sale $285k 2 beds, 1.5 baths, 5+ acres, screened in porch, wood burning fireplace, front covered porch, full basement, a few miles outside of Narrowsburg.



1st floor shot...

2nd floor shot...

Big bedrooms with wood ceilings.

And then Farm 15 down below. Believe it, this is not a black and white photo - just the coloration of that morning.

CR really brought this one home with some great subtle straight-forward design choices.

In the end, trim gets painted black to finish it off.

Just about finished on the inside and had our first final walk thru with the Code Enforcement officer - in the 5 months it took to build this house, the person in that position has changed 3 times, which makes life unpredictable at best.

Here we are at the front door, looking through the dining room into the kitchen -


Great kitchen.

Living room.
Through the french doors into the Study.


Powder room.
Upstairs foyer with wainscotting, big windows and a simple rail.


His and Hers, while standing in the shower.

Guest bath below.

We should be finishing up and seller 'er off by month's end. Shooting for an April 1 closing date. Can you say 'bringin' another one in for a soft landing."?



And then Awesome Cottage 34. I love this design - we've done it at 1275 sq ft, 960 sq ft, and now pushing 1450 sq ft.


You can see the cleaning ladies' arsenal in the fore.

And down below, for the first time on the blog, we present Igor, Town of Tusten Building Inspector. Nice kitchen/dining area with sharp neutral tones.

Most of the extra square footage was gained in the living room and bedrooms.

Rustic post and modern cable rail. Fireplace to the right, and entry and kitchen to the left.


The guest bedroom, with sliding door for Xtra view and light.

Another day, another dollar. Another month, another home sale.