Thursday, December 27, 2012

Snowy Day


I'm sitting at the bookstore in Saugerties NY trying to write and finish up this blog post before they close.  Just arrived at the upstate apartment which I haven't been to in awhile, turned up the heat, then came across the street here to write.

Snowy days up here in the Catskills are not as common as they used to be - not that I've been here forever, but the last few years have been warmer and less snowy than a few that I remember.  It's best illustrated by comparing a snowy winter - when the frequent storms leave 4"-6" storms labeled as just a dusting by February, in contrast with the snowless winters whichs leaves a trail of preemptory terror and hysterics with even a mention of snow.  I like snow.

I like the wintry nights like last nights when it snowed all night long and the windows on the older part of my home were rattling and noisy and the furnace had to keep running.  Back when we had a lot of homes going on in Sullivan County, my good friend and employee Juan and I would travel around in my old dump truck/snowplow truck, from driveway to driveway, plowing them out, shoveling the steps.  Sometimes I'd have my dog Bella along, sometimes we'd stop at the Carriage House for a beer when we nearly done.  Juan moved back to Guatemala, Bella was hit by a car a few yrs later and the Carriage House was long ago replaced on my beer stop joints by Bakers Tap Room.  I've also replaced my old dump truck with a brand new one a few years ago, and that baby is a real treat to plow with - one of those fancy plows with the blade split in two and each section can do all sorts of fancy maneuvers, maneuvers I've heard about but never really mastered.  I was famous for knocking over stone walls, getting stuck, scratching cars, and most annoyingly, getting stuck.

Just yesterday I had to run back to Bakers Tap Room to pick up my gifts, cards and assorted liquors that I had left there after my party last Friday.  For me, the party was a blast - sort of a combination of Jimmy Buffet's Margravitaville, Billy Joel's Big Shot and Joe Walsh's Life's Been Good.  Let's just say I'm glad I own the company because the last thing I remember was being on stage with Jay singing Last Christmas by Wham!, forcing a multiple refrain of the chorus - 

Last Christmas I gave you my heartBut the very next day you gave it away(You gave it away)This year to save me from tearsI'll give it to someone special

Jeanne and Deb, the famous Cottage 14 owners, were saddled up at the bar at Bakers when I got there last night.

The party was a lot of fun and was well-attended by most of our venders.  I don't know, maybe 70 people - sure, maybe I did say if I don't see you there I might not see you next year, but hey, what's the fun in being the Owner if you can't throw your weight around.

I think the folks from Village Green Coldwell Banker up in Woodstock got the 'longest trip' award, but there were a lot of close seconds - Grahamsville, Callicoon, Goshen, Middletown, etc...  I tend to get a little excited about my once a year party, and this year was no exception, where once again a lack of pictures is a testament to the diversions available at the party - this year, memorably, being Wild Turkey and Jameson shots.  Literally my stomach hurt for 3 days and I think I booted on my nice shoes at some point - at least that's what it looked like, I haven't investigated too far into it just yet to offer a final determination.  I do remember being all gushy and complementary and I'd just like to right now take about half of that back so we have something to work towards.

Now that we finished Farm 21/aka Craftsman 2, Farm 19, Cottage 39, and Barn VI, we are busy and focused in on the Glasco Cottage in Woodstock, and Farm 20 in Barryville.  I was over at Farm 20 this morning just after the snowstorm creating an end-of-job game plan.  Looking real good in all the seasons.

So 8" of snow, a late start to the morning, and a quiet week between the Christmas holiday and New Years.  Gotta finish some up and get some new ones started.  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Here we go.

Well, we sell them then we start some more.  Getting a real fast start to the 2013 sales season.

Farm 23 on 10 acres in Stone Ridge.

Cottage 44 on 5+ acres in Saugerties, NY.

Cottage 43 in Livingston Manor, NY on 5+ acres.

Mid-Century Retro Ranch VII in Barryville NY.

And a barn I'm building over at my pad between Barryville and Eldred.

Friday, December 14, 2012

3rd Annual Christmas Party - December 21st

Once a year I have a party for all my vendors, supplies, employees, subcontractors, bankers, insurance agents, lawyers, PR people, local town board members, building inspectors, etc...

Most of our clients and friends aren't up on a Friday at 4 pm, but if you are (that means you Glenn!), stop by on the 21st and say hello - it's our 3rd annual.  The food, drink and entertainment is on me, where I can savor every dollar being drank and ate not just because I get to enjoy them with my friends and co-workers who I see too little, but also as one more dollar not going to Henning's Local.  It's perversely like the gift that keeps giving.

Just kidding, I'm so over that Norwegian Yahoo. Judging by the parking lot last night, they could use a party or two like this.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Art Basel, Miami Beach

Okay, it's a dog's life but someone has to live it. I can definitely see why some coined the phrase Sunny Miami.

Unnamed sunbathers above, Mick Jagger below at a fun hotel which was decorated and designed to look at lot like a British colonial outpost.

Art Basel, Design Miami and dozens of smaller venues and fairs pretty much clarified in my mind any misperception I might have had of myself as a connoisseur and in-depth appreciator of art - of the 1000 pieces I have seen over the last few days, it's the rare piece of art that made any impact, impression or statement on me.  Some of the furniture was cool, but most of it is like a fashion show it seems, where the stuff on display are pure examples of an artistic/design approach that gets simplified as the piece or product gets mass-marketed.  I also think I like photography more than painting, though that's wholly true either.

This is a good down below, one where all the shy husbands of domineering european woman were being staged for photographic in front of.

It did remind me of the civil rights "I am a Man" photos and placards used during the Memphis garbage workers strike just prior to Martin Luther Kings assassination like the one here.

Here is some airplane art I guess, probably commenting on the same pretensions Tom Wolfe's new book about Miami covers.

Lego starfish, plywood chairs and a large ballon entrance into the design place.

Art on the beach.

Airstream Art.

Old school Miami Beach art deco unrenovated building  - not many of these left.

Convention center.

 Audi Race Car.

Lucas shoveling snow.

Road Trip.  He was begging to buy that Santa hat and I said fine, but since you already have one someone, if we buy it you have to wear it 24/7 till Christmas.

These busy weekends always end the same way - with him taking the big dive into snooze land.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Cottage 39 - SOLD

It's funny that the screw job Henning Nordanger of Henning's Local gave me is a gift that keeps giving.  Every time I eat out locally, every martini I enjoy, every party I plan, and every referral I give has the extra bounce of flavor knowing that those serious dollars could be going right into the pocket of Henning's Local - cause I'm loyal, and I'm also a huge supporter of quixotic local startups -nobody gets the challenges better than me.  Sure, it may be a bit perverse, and maybe even a waste of my mental and spiritual time, but we all have character faults and one of mine is repeatedly shown to be my inclination to forgive slowly those who negatively trespass into my business ventures that employ a lot of people, contribute a lot to the community and support a lot of local jobs and businesses.  I'm like a guard dog on the perimeter guarding against thoughtless, moronic acts of selfishness that impact my business and the real people who benefit from it.  I would rank Henning Nordanger's act of pouching my top labor without so much as a warning or a conversation as one of the top acts of dispiriting betrayal I've experienced in my ten years of building homes upstate.  And I think about it a lot.  At the same time, I think it's strengthened my business because his act and the repercussions allowed me to eliminate some of the counter-productive flexibility I'm inclined towards and also forced me to figure out how to incentivize people I don't want to lose so dumbass maneuvers like Henning's are not tempting.

That said - we had had another closing just recently on a really cool house with lots of Catskill Farms significance.  Here is Cottage 39, in Eldred New York, all dressed up and ready to go.

And the lucky young family who now have a new home and lifestyle to complement whatever they have going in the real world.

The reason this design has significance is because it is closely modeled after Cottage 1, our first small home, back in 2007.  In fact, it wasn't just our first small home - it was the region's first well-built small home.  At the height of the McMansion era - where local realtors laughed at the thought of a two bedroom 1300 sq ft home having a place in the marketplace.  "Where will all the guests sleep?!!??," they howled.

Turns out, not everyone buys a couple of extra bedrooms and spends tens of thousands of dollars to accomodate twice a year guests who can easily stay down the street at one of our neat local bed and breakfasts.

Easy to maintain, inexpensive to furnish, low taxes, modest sales price, and general fitting their lifestyle like a great little black dress or that perfect leather glove worn in over years of use.  And the fact that these folks are acclimated to less than over-sized spaces cause they live in the NYC metro area, the well-design, low cost homes were just a perfect additional to the upstate real estate landscape.

We just started Cottage 44.

Here's the living room, with the radiators, Jacobean stained floor, cable rails, salvaged rails and reclaimed stair posts, locally harvested stone, and a wood burning fireplace.

Different angle.  This 1300 sq ft 2 bedroom, 1.5 bath on 5 acres has a security system, wide plank floors, a mudroom, tile baths, awesome kitchen, screened porch, covered front porch, big back deck and a man-shed - and that's just a cursory review of what's under the hood.

The old wood burning fireplace.

Great traditional kitchen with open shelves, farm sink and shaker cabinets.

Dining room with lots of light -

An instant classic photo.  I think our homes really are accentuated over the holidays - even 'warmer' than typical, even more of a 'respite' than normal, even more of a 'victory lap' than typical for our accomplished fast set buyers from NYC area.  Holidays are about Home, and our houses are inarguably Homes.

"What makes your houses so special?"  "Cause they are 'homes', not just houses, that intangible, inarticulatable, subtle emotive feedback our homes give, especially with a wreath on the door and Christmas candles in the windows."

The mudroom area.

Out to the screened porch.

From the mudroom to the kitchen, powder room on the left, painted white wainscotting, radiator.

Going up the stairs.

2nd floor bath.

From the bath to the deck, back yard and man shed.

Bedroom 1.  This Cottage has big bedrooms.

Bedroom 2 with duel double barn doors with strap hinges and black iron hardware.

The man-shed.

The front porch.

Sure, the decorations might be a little heavy on the lower part of the tree...

December 1st.  Gonna be a busy month.  Starting 4 homes, 3 renovations, going to Miami, going to the city, planning the company party, finishing up Glasco Cottage and Farm 20, and a whole host of other things going on including decorating our home for the holidays.