Wednesday, November 30, 2011


One of my tasks today was to tackle this top draw mess of my desk. I mean, if you look closely it's a varied assortment - the standout being the 1700 british pounds that Gavin gave me for a job at his house - I kept refusing it, and then he frickin' showed up at my office and threw it on my desk with some exaggerated claim of how good of a deal I was getting considering the exchange rate, etc.. yawn... It's the end of day, and the drawer still looks like that, so it'll have to be a task for tomorrow (or the next day).

Our main server crashed today so that's always fun. Janice in the office is really sweating it because it was her job to manage the installation of the duel backup system we have in place. I guess it's progress that we have a duel off-site backup system place, when you come to think of it. Actually, the fact that we have a server is progress as well.

Here's Lucas using the handrail to come down some big steep steps with his cute cousin Sarah at Thanksgiving.

And then we headed over to the train museum in Strasburg, Lancaster County, PA. Quite an assortment of old and new trains. Lancaster, where I grew up, is an interesting place where all the yards are well-kept and the people all industrious.

Below is a version of the train snow plow, working hard to keep your tracks clean.

And then when Lucas and I went to Natural History Museum, NYC, we ended up hangin' outside the building for awhile and before you know it, wallah, he's got a friend, leading him around by hand.

Kid's are a funny lot for sure. Dinosaurs, trains, playtime, nap time - it's all one big adventure for sure.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Getting it all wrong.

I know, I've sworn I was going to take it easy and let a few things breeze past me instead of catching everything in my net, but then my friend David puts this house on this website as a 'good deal' and I couldn't help but look into it further since it was dabbling in our new old house style.

I'm not too concerned about co
mpetition these days since what I have learned is our competition always gets something really wrong (like the overall interior and exterior design and details) but it is always interesting to see who is nipping at our heels.

And ending the real estate listing with this doozy -

"...You are so smart- no "old house blues" for you!

Seriously, telling someone they 're so smart in my experience means that you are telling them they are clueless, and I'm just always flabbergasted at the carelessness of the agents and brokers to approach a sale like this. I mean, if they are 'so smart' they don't need to be told that. And if they were so smart, they wouldn't be looking at this sorry excuse for a 'new old house'. I mean, I tried to find some redeeming characteristics that forced a 'nice try' out of me, or 'you almost got it right', or '"A' for effort' or 'nice college try'. But this house doesn't have any of those attributes. it's not really that nice of a try with a lacking kitchen, the 'til death do we part' Navajo white throughout, baseboard heat, the wrong color spindles and a terrible honey glaze floor.

That's without wondering where the dining/living room went, or how bad the bedrooms must be to not even be shown. 1x4 floors, tiny trim at the doors and floors, probably hollow core doors, Home Depot lighting, ranch trim, etc...

Look it, everyone is entitled to their own fallacies, fantasies and day dreams - but to get a house sold you got to understand what a buyer is seeing when they walk in the door of a house - old country charm is not what is apparent here, regardless how many times the agent says it. It's the lake rights across the street.

Hey, I don't mind if someone wants to insult the intelligence of their buyer - it only reinforces our efforts when potential clients stumble onto our website and/or offerings. I can't tell you how many times I have heard the big sigh of relief when clients realize we can actually make this new old house thing work for them.

Anyway, no offense intended - just refreshing to see other 'builders/designers' not getting any closer to hitting the right pitch than they were 5 years ago.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


In the big 'buy local shop at small businesses' push upcoming, we'd like to encourage you all to patronize a fun general store opened by one of our clients, Bryce Boyd. Great taste, great selection and a great place to chew the fat and find out all the local gossip.

So, if you are looking for something unique and regional, shop REGION.

Farm 16 Sold

It's been another year of a lot of sales here at Catskill Farms. By the look of it, every 3 weeks we were at the closing table giving away another little masterpiece to some family to grow into over the years - build treehouses, hike the property, discover the area, cook great meals, have extended family and friends up, play some Monopoly, teach the kids how to fish.

Farm 16, inspired by the low-country Cottage 28, is a winner on all fronts. The 8 acre lake rights piece of land is groovy, the small pine trees shielding the house from any sort of privacy compromise, the green trees and yellow house, yellow sun and blue lake all sort of come together at multiple times during the day to create a little magic.

We added a bedroom on the 2nd floor, and on this particular house, we once again finished off the basement, adding a few rooms and a bath. Like I mentioned the other day, Joe the owner is a construction project manager in the city, so I knew we had to be on our toes to keep this guy happy.

The term 'finished' in construction is used loosely for sure, but our jobs are really super dog dared finished, with barely a stone out of place. It's one of those things we do that makes us who we are - we finish up, clean up and give our clients a good starting point of living large.

A clean interior is so easily marred with unrestraint, but we rarely see it in our homes. Clean, sharp, simple and straight-forward. Classy might be the word I'm looking for - old school 'class' where girls didn't curse and guys pulled out the chairs for their dates. Neither wore jeans.

The salvaged posts on the stairs and the cable rail has become a popular feature in our homes.

Baby gates too -

Like most of homes, when someone likes what we have done previously and have zeroed in on a plan or house, then we can change it around, tweak it, flip it, invert it, mirror it - what have you, to make it work for that specific family or homeowner. couple of shelves never hurt anyone for sure.

A pretty functional and open kitchen, with a sliding barn door hiding the powder room and small coat rack.

I've been overusing my latest one-liner - "Our homes are so finished when we are done even the clock on the microwave and stove is set to the correct time!"

The old 4 light cross buck door never lets me down aesthetically.

The dining room...

And the 3 baths are hot and varied. Good picture of our 4 panel shaker doors, a nice glass shower with a rain shower and a stone floor.

Wainscoting keeps them honest and grounded...

I like the one beadboard wall look. And this is a pretty nice vanity in my opinion. i think Joe and his wife did a great job of keeping the house tuned throughout - it's easy to go off tune from one room to the next, but actually that's not true - it's pretty amazing how tasteful our clients are - although, i guess it's not totally unexpected since I guess half the reason they build with us is because 'we get it'. and we do, for sure.

The bedrooms are fine-sized.

And some serious basement space for when the in-laws from Ireland land for an extended stay.

Well, that was a big year for us again in this Great Recession. Pretty good stuff with the real mystery of how we are keeping it going like we are is anyone's guess. I suppose if you don't get lazy, and you keep close to your customers changing priorities, and you don't get too greedy, - well, then maybe you have half a chance in an economic environment like this one.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Saturday Morning Masterpieces

The other day someone was claiming that I engage in constant self-promotion. I have no idea what they mean :(.

We got some fabulous houses being constructed presently. Farm 18, Barn V, Cottage 37, Farm 17, Farm 16. We are just about ready to get started on Ranch VI and Cottage 38. We got the Big Barn going on. Just a ton of fun stuff in the middle of the great recession (actually, my god, I hope it's not the middle of this recession!).

Farm 18 is for sale, is 1500 sq ft, has 3 beds and 2 baths, has a full walk-out basement, has 8 acres and has lake rights.

Also has this cool little writing shed, bunk-room, guest quarters, what have you.

Barn V, spoken for and looking hot, is moving right along. to see what type of progress we make on a day to day basis, just scroll back a few blog posts and check out the 3 houses that went up over the past 6 weeks, in lots of in-climate weather.

and Farm 16 sells on Tuesday to an Irish guy whose evaluation of our process and product was -
"You know, I hate to say it, but I'm happy!" A man after my own heart - I always express business happiness reluctantly - give it out too easy or quick and your whole process gets fat and lazy.

And Cottage 37 outside of Woodstock NY, which will sell in early January.

And Farm 17 in Saugerties.

You know what they say - it ain't braggin' if you got the goods to back it up (I think someone said that anyway).

Monday, November 14, 2011

Winter Warmup

Interestingly, 2011 was not a year of smallest homes - I would venture we designed built and sold twice as many $375k+. 1500 sq ft+ homes this year as last, resulting in revenue figures 25% higher than 2010, with about the same amount of homes built and sold.

We just started a real winner - 1500 sq ft, 3 bedrooms, 2 baths. Farmhouse 18. It's inspired by Farmhouse 1, without the some of the 'add-on' spaces. A very liveable house and from what I am seeing, should hit the market square in the nose.

That's what makes us a good company - we move with the market - sizes, prices, styles. Our ears stay close to the tracks, and we glide this way and that looking for the sweet spot, - the g spot, if you will.

The walk-out basements are good for everyone and we do it where we can.

The Big Barn outside of Narrowsburg is coming along fantastically. We aren't letting any grass grow under us on this one.

Standing seam metal roof on, Jeld Wen windows installed, and working hard on the 5 bathrooms and assorted 5000 sqft on 17 acres.

With a site meeting this past Friday, we determined the general aesthetic direction of the barnhouse.

It's got a lot of volume, spatially and design-wise.

And the indoor lap pool never hurt anyone. We are installing a big screen tv that will be looping pictures of sea mammals swimming aside in crystal blue ocean water.

And Barn V is really taking off. I go away for the weekend and the damn house is nearly built.

This is going to be good one with lofty space, great windows and a fabulous piece of land.

Funny thing happened today - I really had an adversary who did me pretty wrong by the balls, and instead of engaging in a protracted pissing match, I let them up gently. I think Abe Lincoln said after the Civil War and before his death, while trying to figure out how to bring the Union back together - his first order to his troops was to 'let them up gently, boys, let 'em gently.'

Harder to do than to say, for sure. Especially when a win is near. Easier to push the boot down on the neck a little harder and ask for an unconditional surrender.