HOUSES | An Alpine-style 1960s beauty in Mount Kisco

67grandview67 Grandview Drive in Mount Kisco, our new home.

We’ve taken plunge. My long silence here can be attributed to our recent purchase of a home in Mount Kisco. Mrs. F and I have been completely consumed by the improvements we’re making at 67 Grandview Drive.

The house, built in 1963, is an Alpine-style raised ranch. To be honest, it’s not what I thought we’d end up with. I had visions of us in the classic Westchester starter: a pre-1930, three-bedroom, one-and-a-half bath that was either colonial revival or Tudor in style. Mrs. F. is owed the credit for finding this house and having the vision to see it through. What she saw immediately and I see now was a very interesting interpretation of our style: There are houses quite a bit like this in our beloved Lake Placid and we love the 1960s. So there you have it.

Though the place was an aesthetic mess on the inside — the exterior isn’t perfect either; stucco was carried across three sides of the first level but not on the facade — it had, as the cliche goes, good bones. The kitchen cabinets were solid, the floors were fine and the utilities were in good order. The lot is adequate and provides an ample back yard space. The best features, we think, are the collection of evergreens that screen the house from neighbors and provide an Adirondack illusion.

Since taking possession on March 9, we’ve set about correcting the interior deficiencies. Electrical service has been upgraded. Painting and floor restoration are under way. We cleaned up the Scheirich kitchen cabinets and are in the decide-and-purchase phases of ordering new countertops and new appliances. The bathrooms, one sky blue and one mauve, will wait, as will replacements for the aluminum-frame windows.

You can follow our progress at a special Tumblr blog I’ve created to track our improvements.

And here’s a Flickr set with more photos than you’ll ever need to see.

ROOMS | Obama’s Oval Office

The jury in our house is hung: Mrs. F. likes the renovated Oval Office and I don’t. As the Daily News reports — and this is a good thing — much of the renovation draws on materials made in New York.

For views of the renovated Oval, visit the White House Museum.

What’s in:
• Striped wallpaper, which I imagine is designed to echo the beautiful floor installed on Laura Bush’s watch, has arrived. I don’t think the room has been papered since it took its current shape in the West Wing renovation of 1934. The paper was manufactured in Amagansett.

• Curvy couches that echo the Ford, Carter and Reagan ovals are new. Featuring a cotton fabric woven in Pennsylvania, they seem a bit informal to me. At least they were manufactured in New York.

• Leather is also in, replacing the damask upholstery on the two armchairs in front of the fire place.

• An oddly modern coffee table, made in New York of walnut.

• A new rug, one feature I do like, that features quotations from both Roosevelts, Lincoln, Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. The carpet was woven by the Scott Group of Grand Rapids, Mich., which also manufactured the rug used during the Clinton administration.

What’s out:
• Laura Bush’s much-loved sunburst rug

What stayed:
The Resolute Desk
• The Remingtons
• The Washington portrait
Childe Hassam’s “Avenue in the Rain”
• The distinctive sidechairs that have been a part of the room since FDR’s presidency

Here’s my earlier look at the Oval Office’s evolution.

BULLETIN | Own a piece of Sterling Cooper, literally

I’ve just learned that the producers of “Mad Men,” the Emmy Award-winning drama that airs Sundays on AMC, are auctioning off props and costumes from earlier seasons of the show, which is in the fourth week of its fourth campaign.

The auction, being held on eBay, benefits the Lung Cancer Program at City of Hope Hospital in Los Angeles. On offer are a range of props including desk chairs from the Sterling Cooper bullpen, a couch from Roger Sterling’s office, curtains from Bert Cooper’s office and a credenza from Don Draper’s office.

Also available for bidding are dresses worn by Betty Draper, Bobbie Barrett and the incomparable Joan Halloway Harris.

Lots of items are still available for $100. I’m finding the whole thing entertaining as much of furniture at the paper — our current offices were completed in 1973 — is identical to a lot of what’s available in the auction. Still, I might toss a bid in.

Good stuff.

ART | Paintings in the Kennedy Oval Office

KennedyOvalOfficePresident John F. Kennedy, left, confers with McGeorge Bundy while Ken O’Donnell talks with an aide during the 1962 Steel Crisis.

Guierre‘Naval Battle Between the United States & The Macedonian on Oct. 25, 1812′ by Thomas Birch, 1813, which hung in the Oval Office during the Kennedy presidency.

Images of the Oval Office, as it was decorated during the presidency of John F. Kennedy, are etched indelibly on the American mind. The president’s rocking chair, the photo of John F. Kennedy Jr. peering through the opened front panel of the Resolute Desk, the scrimshaw, the Harvard captain’s chair and the plaque that read, “O God, Thy Sea is So Great and My Boat so Small,” are all iconic relics of the abbreviated Kennedy presidency.

Few of those images, however, pay much tribute to the art Kennedy selected to hang in his office. Largely comprised of images that depict important naval battles of early American history, the collection also included two paintings by George Catlin.

CatlinGeorge Catlin’s “Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie.”

In college, I spent part of a summer as a fellow at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., studying American art of the West, in particular the work of Frederic Remington. Among the BBHC’s collection is a good amount of George Catlin’s work, which fascinated then as now.

Catlin, born in Wilkes-Barre, Penn. in 1796, left the law to take up travel writing and painting in the American west after observing an Indian Delegation in Philadelphia. His first trip was with Capt. William Clark in 1830. At least five more followed and when he returned east in 1838, he assembled his paintings in a collection he called his Indian Gallery. The works are iconic and are considered the foundation of a long tradition of Western art that carried forward through Thomas Moran, Alfred Bierstadt, Remington and Charles Spielvogel.

Two of Catlin’s Indian Gallery works were hung in Kennedy’s Oval: “Buffalo Bull, Grazing on the Prairie” painted in 1832-33 and “Buffalo Hunt under the Wolf-skin Mask,” also painted in 1832-33. Both are now in the collection of the Smithsonian.

Other paintings also hanging or on display in the Oval were, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library:

• “The White House Long Ago” – Watercolor of the White House by Jacqueline B. Kennedy (on table and desk) now in Jacqueline Kennedy exhibit in the Museum.
• “Constitution – Guerriere” (Left over mantel) Loaned by the National Gallery
• “Bonhomme Richard” (Center over mantel) Loaned by the National Gallery
• “United States versus the Macedonia” – Loaned to John F. Kennedy by J. Welles Henderson (Philadelphia Lawyer; Chairman of the Philadelphia Maritime Museum) (Right over mantel)
• “Buffalo Bull” – by George Catlin – Loaned by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (next to door)
• “Buffalo Hunt under Wolf Skin Masks” – by George Catlin – Loaned by the Smithsonian Museum of American Art (next to door)

Here’s a gallery:

FIND | Degenerate America serves up terrific kitsch

SnackthingerThese stackable snack dishes are on offer at America Degenerate, an Etsy boutique that deals in the best of midcentury kitsch.

Are you thinking of remaking your place a la Elizabeth Hofstadt Draper? In search of the perfect retro cheese-serving set? Or are you in the market for a boating guide geared for women?

Then grope through the dark caverns of online auction sites no further and turn to America Degenerate, an Etsy boutique run by dear friends Elizabeth Lawrence and Warner Boutin.

The couple, who make their home in Los Angeles, operate America Degenerate as a hobby while they pursue their real passion: documentary filmmaking. Their first effort, “Roll Out Cowboy,” is doing quite well on the film-festival circuit, but that’s for another post. For now, we focus on the shop, which includes such wondeful items as frosted cocktail glasses painted with little sailboats,
and 1980s cheese sets.

I asked Warner and Betty a few questions about their business in a recent e-mail exchange. Here’s the best of it.

Q: What guides your aesthetic?

EL: The trash. Just kidding. But we do live by the philosophy one man’s junk is another man’s treasure. We scour goodwill stores, garage sales, estate sales and occasionally the dumpster. These items have been deemed “trash” or “unwanted” by their past owners. We pick them up and find new homes. I can’t explain the joy I feel when someone writes us an appreciation e-mail about how long they’ve been looking for a ceramic fish plaque. Through America Degenerate, their wish turns into a reality.

Q: And how would you define that aesthetic?

EL: [We deal chiefly] in 1950s-1980s retro kitsch for the home.

Q: Where do you find your inventory?

WB: All around L.A. and the depths of the Valley (commonly referred to region immediately north of Hollywood – San Fernando Valley)

Q: What kind of items do you leave behind?

EL: Clear glass is hard to photograph … anything newer than 1990.

Q: Is it tempting to keep some of this stuff for yourselves? I’m sure you do, but I know that when I go thrifting, I find things I’d have a hard time parting with.

EL: Not to be cheesy, but we live by our store’s aesthetic. Our living room looks like a 1960s den and we love it! The chipped pink dressers were about to be dumped until I salvaged them a couple years ago (family member’s move). We don’t buy anything we wouldn’t keep for ourselves. Does that lead to a cluttered mess? Sure! But there is never a lack of conversation when friends visit. We even sold a crock pot off the dinner table. THAT is mealin’ and dealin’.

Q: Do you have thrifting tips you’d share with fellow miners?

WB: Work within a budget. Set a cap on your weekend good-will thrifting. Otherwise, you’ll fill the apartment to the ceiling with junk; which we’ve nearly done. The idea is to supplement your income, not become a hoarder. It’s a thin line!

EL: Inspect the items carefully before committing to buy. Look for cracks in glassware, sticker marks on leather purse, stains on clothes. And Warner is right: Avoid hoarding.

Q: Future plans for the brand?

EL: Besides used wares, we also make handmade America Degenerate items. In the past, items have included stationery, baby bibs, dog sweaters. The main themes of these items are Warner’s cartoon artwork. In the future, we hope to produce more of these handmade products. Expanding to items such as clothing, zines and animations.

America Degenerate, an Etsy Boutique

ROOMS| Yale dormitories of the late 19th century delight

YaleA student room at Yale’s Lawrance Hall, photographed during the 1880s.

In my Canton days, I was more than a little obsessed with making our accommodations there both comfortable and interesting. We had a huge collection of furniture, flags, banners, prints and even taxidermy on the walls of 33 E. Main St. when Lavin, Leifer, Furnary, Johnny and I were renting the place. We joked at the time that it had the feel of an upscale Bennigan’s. But we loved it all the same.

Clarke, who departed Canton before the advent of 33, still visited us and his memory was apparently jogged when he came across an interactive for “There’s No Place Like Home: Student Rooms at Yale, 1870—1910,” an online exhibit at the Yale Art Gallery.

“Between 1869 and 1894, new dormitories, monumental in scale and lavish in design, were built along the New Haven Green on College Street in the area known today as Old Campus, gradually creating a self-contained quadrangle that quickly became the psychological center of the campus,” a precis for the exhibit states. “Amid this growth, the distinctiveness of Yale College and campus life asserted itself.”

That distinctiveness is evident in five photographs of student rooms taken in the latter half of the 19th Century. These are hardly the humble cells one might imagine. Austerity is nowhere to be found. In its place are beautiful bookcases and desks, heavy formal drapes, framed prints and photographs, taxidermy, musical instruments and sporting accouterments. Though I often find Victorian furnishings to be a bit over the top, I want to spend time in these rooms. They each convey a sense of comfortable, lived-in warmth.

Coupled with the photographs, which come from the Sterling Memorial Library’s Department of Manuscripts and Archives at Yale, are images of pieces from the Yale Art Gallery’s Department of American Decorative Arts. These objects correspond to pieces on view in each photograph.

Remarkable find, Clarke. Thanks for passing it on.

FIND| Rustic charging docks connect nature, gadgets

DockThis cedar charging dock, and others like it, come from Woodtec, an upstate concern that markets its wares on Etsy.

I don’t know about you, but I find the standard, white plastic charging docks for the full range of today’s smart phones and other gadgets just a little bit ugly. Here’s a solution.

Handmade from cedar harvested from an upstate property, these docking stations, built to accommodate either one or two iPods or iPhones, are a welcome change from the mass-produced alternatives. These cedar options are for sale by Woodtec, a boutique on Etsy, a site that’s well worth a little exploration.

In the remote corners of my mind, there exists an A-Frame tucked away on 20 or 30 wooded acres in the Adirondacks, Vermont or New Hampshire. It’s furnished with the bare essentials, heated with a woodstove. My iPod is charging in one of these cedar docks, which sits on a beat up old entable. Terrific.

From $78
Woodtec on Etsy

GREAT HOUSES | Darwin Martin House, a Wrightsian masterpiece

DMHThe Darwin Martin House, designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, is one of Buffalo’s many architectural treasures.

During a recent sojourn in Buffalo, Mrs. F and I did something we should have done ages ago. We visited the Darwin D. Martin House, located just a few blocks from where we were married on Jewett Parkway in the city’s Parkside neighborhood.

Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and built between 1903 and 1905, the Martin house complex includes a carriage house, a conservatory, and two residences: the Martin House and the Barton House. Commissioned by Darwin D. Martin, an executive of the Larkin Soap Company, one of the corporations that made Buffalo an economic force in the early 20th century, the complex is considered one of the most important projects of Wright’s early career. Indeed, the two houses and the restored carriage house, conservatory and covered purgola that connects the conservatory to the Martin House, are shining examples of Wright’s signature Prairie style. Wright referred to the project as his opus and viewed its execution as near-perfect. In contrast to its neighbors — Buffalo is chock full of all manner of late Victorian and early 20th century residential architecture — the Martin complex is remarkable for its low profile, use of brick and distance from the excesses of late 19th century design.

We took a tour of the complex, which is still in the process of being restored. A huge number of leaded-glass windows need to be replaced and much of the interior of the Martin House needs considerable work. The Martin House Restoration Corporation, the not-for-profit organization that operates the property as a museum, needs to raise upward of $9 million to complete the project, which would include significant wood and tile work, restoration of the kitchen and the replacement of countless leaded-glass windows. Complete furnishings are also sought, we were told.

The Martins lived in the main house until a reversal in family fortunes forced them to abandon it in 1937. They were also forced to dispense with Graycliff, their equally remarkable Wright-designed summer residence in Derby, some 20 miles south of Buffalo. The house lingered into disrepair through the middle part of the century, having been divided into apartments. The purgola and conservatory were demolished in the 1960s. The property’s luck turned in 1967, when it was purchased for use as a president’s home by the University at Buffalo. That plan, however, never came to fruition and the home sat vacant until its transfer to the Martin House Restoration Corporation in 1994.

On the whole, I’ve never found Wright’s early work to be all that accessible or even livable. In contrast to the work of Gustav Stickley, the Rochester furniture designer and architect who lead the Arts and Crafts movement in the 1900s and 1910s, Wright’s early stuff seems almost alien. Pictures of the Martins inhabiting the space did help me envision the place, but it’s remarkable how clearly the architect broke with just about every convention. It’s definitely worth seeing and, to me, is one of Buffalo’s more enviable attractions. Get there when you’re next in town.

Darwin D. Martin House
125 Jewett Parkway
Buffalo, New York 14214
info@darwinmartinhouse.org
(716) 856-3858

GREAT HOUSES| Cheery Lodge, an exceptional Lake Placid camp

CheeryCheery Lodge is an iconic East Lake camp currently on offer from Merrill L. Thomas for $8.95 million.

Built around 1910 as a clubhouse for the long-departed Ruisseaumont Club, Cheery Lodge is one of the greatest properties on Lake Placid’s east lake. For the last 50 years, it’s been owned by a leading Lake Placid family and is now on offer from Merrill L. Thomas.

The house, whose best features are a cathedral-ceilinged great room and a sprawling lawn that leads down to the lake, is one of loveliest Adirondack homes I’ve ever visited. Just about five years ago, I took Mrs. F, then Miss H., to a cocktail party for the Adirondack Friends of the Animals at Cheery Lodge. We were bowled over.

And so anyone would be. Sitting on 4.2 acres and boasting 11 bedrooms — seven for family and guests, four for staff— and seven-and-a-half baths, Cheery Lodge offers quite a bit of house.

From the Merill L. Thomas listing:

y. The main level is highlighted by an impressive two story great room with commanding views of the lake, a majestic fireplace and an original Hamner guideboat. The formal dining room accommodates fourteen guests and features water views, whitewashed oak paneling and its own cut-stone fireplace. Magnificent screened and open porches offer summer solace, evening sunsets or the perfect setting for a grand celebration. … The 3-slip enclosed boathouse and 285 feet of shoreline invite unlimited water activities including swimming at the sandy bottom beach, sailing, fishing and motor boating. A private Adirondack lean-to makes a great gathering place for cookouts and overnights.

On top of all of that, the house has a pretty swell history. It was once featured in a Town&Country spread and played host to the King and Queen of Sweden during the 1980 Olympic Winter Games.

Take a look at these additional photos, which highlight the great room and the property’s views of the East Lake:

GREAT HOUSES| Flathead Lake, Montana spread echoes Adirondack camp

Flathead Lake1This Flathead Lake, Mont. camp was built for former Lake Placid residents. Images by David O. Marlow, courtesy Architectural Digest.

If you haven’t already, you must explore the online archives of Architectural Digest. Believing that Cheery Lodge had once been featured in the magazine, I recently did a search for Lake Placid and came up with the stunning Montana compound built by former Placidians Martin and Connie Stone.
Cheery Lodge, it turns out, had been featured in Town and Country.

The Stones’ three-building compound is situated on the shores of Flathead Lake, Montana’s largest at 30 miles long, and was designed with the help of architects Arthur Andersson and designer Mimi London. Inspired by their lovely Lake Placid camp, the property, AD reported in its May issue, embraces its surroundings and the seasons. “The three structures were unified by the way their designs embraced, rather than rejected, the cold, hard fact of Montana’s far-northern climate,” Jeff Turrentine writes. There’s a Lodge, a central building designed for gathering, the Lake House, a master bedroom retreat, and the Tree House, which offers lodging for guests.

Lake House
A sitting room in the property’s Lake House.

For more, read “Montana Compound” and visit an accompanying slideshow.

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