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Monday, January 30, 2012

Gifts, The Intrepid, Saugerties, Narrowsburg and Whistler's Mother

lyrics from a song I like currently, 2nd verse -

"For once I didn't say anything stupid--
my lover never once looked bored.
And soldiers come in smeared with lipstick,
like the last day of war.
The band divided up the money,
but the drummer could not stay.
He said he's gonna meet us later,
at The Dream Cafe."

Got some great unexpected gifts over the weekend - happy early birthday and belated Christmas to me!

Here's a handmade, hand-painted teapot fashioned into a typewriter. From England no less. From the clients of the Big Barn. Who's fancy now!?

And then a very nice A. Lincoln portrait from his pre-presidency congressional days. It's now the centerpiece of my Saugerties apartment (which didn't have any heat last night - Lucas and I cuddled up under the blankets with the temps in the mid-40's - don't tell protective services pwease.)

Picture of my office, and the Eames chair, the aeron chair, the River Gallery cow painting, the road bike, polished concrete floors, CB2 red rack, barn light electric barn fan, and shelves of typewriters. The only question with the new teapot typewriter is should it go on the typewriter shelf, or in my kitchen.

Lots of business conducted in this office for sure.

We got a lot of construction going on - helped by the warm weather, hurt by the mud - typically it would be frozen solid by now. Pete Kestler and his drilling rig. Think Paul Bunyan and his ox. Been drilling wells for decades - a hard job, not for the feint of heart, or weak. He also builds his own airplanes and flies them. he's drilled 100 wells for us at least. That's typical of our team - a lot of houses done together, which is why we can start building in faraway places - everyone knows what to do, and how to do it, so our management can be of the 'light touch' variety, not the minute to minute micro-management necessary of yesteryear.

Cottage 39 going up outside of Barryville NY. It's unspoken for and should be preeettttty sweeetttt.

Here's Barn VI with siding up and the metal roof. It's a very well-designed home. it's under contract.

and Ranch VI coming along nicely on Lake Ridge Road. It's under contract as well.

And the Big Barn coming along - with the white plank super high ceilings.

A weekend trip to the Intrepid...

with Lucas and his First Mate...

I had them convinced that the photo below was of the spy plane above, but spy planes don't show up on cameras...

Lucas is taking swimming lessons now at the local resort/spa, Woodloch Pines.

and at the Saugerties apartment, kick ass upstairs bathroom...

since we on a busy quasi-urban street, he likes to wake up early and look out the window at the school buses and other assorted trucks that go by 2 stories down...

and this picture doesn't have anything to do with anything, but I bought it anyways.

Just downloaded a Bob Dylan cover album from a lot of well-known singers - 78 songs, pretty radical interpretations with 1/2 of the proceeds going to Amnesty International no less! Don't think I will be listening to it too often. I hate when I do that - like when my first itunes download exercise was downloading every Prince tune known to man and then never listening to most again...

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Cottage 38 in Contract (or, Same Old Song and Dance)

I caught Clark and Andrew (the handsome guys in the center) snooping around Cottage 38 in Stone Ridge a few weeks ago and instead of calling the cops, I sold them the house.

Just kidding - they had actually signed up a few weeks prior. Interestingly, this was a brand new process for me, Mr Control Freak. Not only did I not directly sell them this house, it was sold through the tried and true Ulster Cty MLS system - with our team listing it, and another team bringing a client to the house. Clark and Andrew were already familiar with our work, had been looking for a house for a while, and knew the area they wanted to be in - more or less primed to buy a perfect not-so-little cottage on 3 acres with a stream, stone wall, interesting topography and a great little dead end road.

It's a real testament to our management abilities that we are able to build in far flung areas like Stone Ridge and Woodstock and Bearsville and Saugerties. I waited for years to get started in these areas since I figured we would need to be pretty good to get spread out. It's one thing to look good when you are building close to home (also not super easy) it's quite another to look good halfway across the state.

So far, so good. Different building departments, highway departments, electric companies, etc... It's a big job getting to know all the idiosyncrasies of all the parties involved, and building the credibility in the eyes of the authorities, which makes things go better.

It wasn't long ago that this was a newly purchased piece of raw land...

then the foundation...

Then the frame...

Then the sheathing...

then the tyvec, fascia, corners, ice and water shield on the roof, windows, etc...

then we got our framing inspection which we passed with flying colors, and now the security guys, the heating guys, the electricians are working away.

Oh right, forgot to mention we installed the 350 of underground electric, and the siding starts tomorrow.

Ye ha Cowboy. you'd never know we have 8 other houses going at the same time.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

More Extrapolation on Aragon's Idea

Think if you owned a restaurant but you could only put tables on half the floor space, the other half was required to remain open. Of course it makes the prospects of success much less, but also is a bit intrusive.

Or if you rented office space, but then you were told you could only use half of it. Maybe Luiz was offended or concerned about the noise, the traffic, or even the parking on a busy day, with deliveries and everything.

Or if you bought 100 acres to hunt on, but then Luiz thought at least 50 should be hunt free, so fauna, animals and vegetation could grow unimpeded.

Or you bought a nice big king sized bed, but were only allowed to use the half.

Or you had an art gallery, but could only hang pictures and paintings on half the walls.

Or maybe you renovated Barryville Square, - Maybe half the stores should remain vacant so it didn't look so cluttered with cars.

You get the picture. Flexibility is key in business success, since it's so damn hard to succeed to begin with. Take away half that flexibility and you reduce your chance for success by more than half.

Luiz should know this - or if he didn't, he could look around or even speak to some real life people to see if what he is advocating has any chance of success.

Or maybe that's the whole devious point -by making something economically impossible, you halt all development, homebuilding and progress. Good for open space, very bad for a lot of small businesses and people trying to earn a living.

But hey, what's a few lost livelihoods in the quest for 'keeping things pretty'.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Farm 17 Sold (one martini in)

Like clockwork, exactly as promised, a few weeks AHEAD of schedule we delivered Farm 17 to Catherine and David. A fascinating conclusion to a very validating journey we took with them. Although conclusion is not nearly accurate since for the most part this is only the middle-age of our relationship with these folks - the home build is finished but the breaking in period and small tweaks are just beginning - it's a glorious realization when you realize your aspirations have been reached. I spent years trying to achieve a level of perfect - arranging the team, rearranging the team, firing, hiring - then one day we had it - we had a team and process that satisfied me and my clients - both very discerning hard to please parties.

This is how it all started last spring sometime - innocently enough. By the way, I'm listening to Madeline Peyroux, a great bluesy singer I like a lot. She's doing a Tom Waits cover, called "The heart of Saturday Night".

"We've been looking for a second home in the Phoenicia/Woodstock area (Ulster County). It's beautiful there, but most of the properties need a lot of work. I've been intrigued by the "new old" concept, and would like to explore Sullivan County and Catskill Farms. "


Intrigued she was and through a thorough process of research and investigation, they feel in love with John's Farm 12 design. It's a simple shaker home with sexy lines and slight overhangs. It's always so extraordinary to me that the deal starts with such a simple start, and is shepherded (is that right?) and guided and counseled through a hundred of confidence inspiring or detracting interactions and explanations. What can I say? We are pros, we believe what we sell - the most dangerous type of salesmen known to history, the true believer. And that tis us.

Basically, people trust us - with very little concrete evidence- to help them transform and transition their lives. It's exhilarating, when we have time to reflect on it. And it happens all the time.

Brand new house with lines and personality like a 1920's flapper, or Confederate bride, or Boston debutante. Little porch over the back door for comfort, screened in porch so no summer party to be interrupted by the elements and insects.

It's the stern verticalness and straight-lines that are really appealing to me with this back elevation. Something about it, unarticulated presently, is a bit like magic to me. It's pure and straight and simple and right on.

Big red goose lamps with the red doors are hot, hot, hot.

The screened porch, with stained ceiling and porch fan - c'mon, seriously, this isn't what perfect is made of? Simple, functional, well-designed, livable.

Inside, the first time I walked in I couldn't quite figure out what was so striking, but it came to me slowly.

The floor color was subtly unlike anything we had used before, and that is enough to define any house's personality.

It's classic, classical, but then you looked around and their was something cool and fresh to contemplate. Be 8' high double back doors, the super wide staircase, the cool not quite reddish floor, the interesting lighting throughout. It's like putting a stamp on the house without losing 3 years of your life trying to do so. Catskill Farms make you look good.

Not to digress, but one of the more frustrating aspects of growing this business, and growing it in the middle of nowhere, is who we have to rely on to get things done. I used to complain about the locals and their 'spite their noses right off their face' routine, like a bad John Prine/Iris Dement song - but it actually turned out that those people were ok and not far off (or far out), but the real surprise was the recent permanent ex-pat transplants with their funny ideas, self-righteous motivations, and secure conviction of their correctness. As someone who has watched the world turn for a few years up here, it's always surprising that those who I thought would be helpful are actually detrimental the area's growth. It's like once you move into the area full-time, you become affected by the bermuda triangle of rural stubborness, close-mindedness and 'urge to improve' all you see.

Seriously, who isn't turned on by our duel barn door set up with black wrought iron hinges and cross buck door design?

A blank slate twas this kitchen until James and Catherine collaborated on a beauty.

4 panel shaker doors, radiators, wide plank floors... Just more of the same genius collaboration. I say it all the time - we are so good at what we do not just because we are a talented team, but also because we are fortunate enough to work with amazingly talented clients, who bring fresh, creative affordable ideas to each project.

This home has 2.5 baths. This is the master bathroom.

Couple funky bedrooms and color schemes. This color below got a lot of self doubt from the owners once it was up, but I like it. It's different, but not obnoxiously so.

Here's the big guest bath, with a vanity with a good story behind.

Nice strong blue in one of the guest bedroom.

Peeking out from the master bathroom into the master bedroom. That's Brian trying to hide from wide angle lens - fat chance. Or as the Navy Seals like to say, 'you can run, but you'll just die tired."

1st floor powder room, lording over the front yard.

Congratulations Ringo and David and Catherine. It really was our privilege to build you Farm 17 .