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Thursday, April 17, 2014
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Vivian Mandala Deisgn Studio

Corduroy Shop

Susan Silver Antiques

Hudson Antiques Dealers Assocation

Antique Underground

Cupboards and Roses

Peter Fasano


Pergola Home

New York Designer Fabric Outlet

C&K Garden

J. Seitz & Company

The Wandering Eye: A Palm Springs Primer

Our Wandering Eye blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his husband, architect Hermes Mallea, are principals in the Manhattan based design firm M (Group). He signed on with Rural Intelligence early on to document the restoration of their neighbor’s historic manse, but over time his mind and his eye have wandered to topics further afield…as in Palm Springs afield.

Our little home away from home.

Last week we were in Palm Springs for my birthday. The stars aligned and our BFF Barbara gave us her house and we got seats on the once-a-week direct flight.

Our pad is called “Casablanca.” One NYC acquaintance came by for a drink and insinuated the name was jokey.

A good Oscar is a great accessory.

Then he saw the Best Picture Oscar for Casablanca on a bookshelf and suddenly was happily hashtagging #casablanca on Instagram.

The bar for holiday discourse was set pretty low (note spelling).

The house is wonderfully laid out, with all the bedrooms opening directly onto the pool courtyard. It’s decorated with things from her parents’ houses (Billy Haines and Maison Jansen), from her pre M (Group) days (Jay Spectre and Fanny Brice), until we got in there, added M (Group) stuff, and stirred it all up.

So this month, here are a few of our favorite things out in the desert. Rural Intelligence likes me to focus locally, but my eye wanders globally.  And so many people are visiting Palm Springs these days. This blog is my new advice package.

A piece of unsolicited advice: Don’t ask your “knowledgeable” friend — me —  for travel suggestions, then ignore all the ideas and complain later about places I never suggested.

Would you buy a used car from this man?

Do not compound the issue with the (stupid) line, “The concierge at The Parker said blah blahblah…” Listen to a concierge and you get what you deserve. The Parker ain’t the Ritz.


The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Okay, this idea was a winner. Since we had a Palm Springs neophyte, I thought we’d take the tram up to the top of the mountain. Fun tourist thing — we did it many, many moons ago. It’s so close to the house and so novel, what’s not to love? And the views must be spectacular… 8,500 feet up.

The happy crew, $100 lighter (huh?) in our $27 (huh?) pre-departure photo op.

Eleven minutes doesn’t sound like a long time. This is a treat, right? Fun? Well, on that effing tram, 11 minutes becomes an eternity. A mile-and-a-half up, it sways and swerves towards staggering huge granite walls.

OMG. We are gonna die….

And the interior cab revolves as it rises, adding an extra level of disorientation and terror. By minute five our guest was semi-fetal, clutching a pole with his hat pulled down and his eyes closed. I spent my 11 minutes watching him with barely disguised glee. He has now officially been punished for (almost) all past transgressions.

Desert Hills Premium Outlet Mall

Okay, it’s an outlet mall. But it is 20 minutes from our house and it’s a California “premium” outlet mall. Big, clean and easy to navigate. You must follow these simple directions. ALWAYS and ONLY get there by 10:30 a.m. (opens at 9 for holidays and 10 normally) and you will be walking out at noon, against a growing wave of Pacific Rim shoppers. Until noon, you own the place. After noon — horrors…

Yea! A welcome new addition to the outlet lineup. Power walk the circuit.


We are in and out of places fast. Etro, LoroPiana, Tse, Tods, Barney’s (good socks). Drop off those bags in car trunk and continue to St Laurent, Gucci, Brunello Cucinelli, Clarks, J Crew, Bose — on and on.




The Galleria on Palm Canyon

The best shops in a great building. Our friend Jim and his tenants are the smartest things in town. Art, antiques, books, vintage clothes.

Me and my book party window. I was so proud! And they’ve flogged over a 100 copies — my retail heroes.


Here are Hermes and our hostess admiring the STUFF window The Galleria did for a book party. They got the Book Promotion Award.



Bon Vivant

I love this. LOVE. From Bon Vivant.

We always buy something here. That statement in itself should get you in the door. Last trip, I got a fab little bronze Chihuahua ashtray by John Foster. It was so good my hostess guilted me into giving it to her. A year later she relented and gave it back to me for my birthday. Great prices and Patrick and James are nice guys.



Cardenas Grocery Store

Mexican Coke with real sugar…the best.

A recent discovery: A huge Mexican grocery store. I hate food shopping and I love this place. Such nice staff — when I asked for bunuelos the lovely lady ‘splained how it would be very easy to make my own. She was so pretty and sweet I didn’t even laugh.

We now do all our grocery shopping here. There is so much to see (A tortilla factory! The pinata department! The Mexican Village façade in produce!) that I stay out of Hermes’ hair. I become one of those “unattended children” running around. Or I just stand there watching the show, dumbfounded, which is what I got “looks” for last time. El Jefe says he keeps waiting to hear his name over the PA system, calling him to Lost and Found.


Fine and not so fine. But fun

El Mirasol South , aka El Queerasol — very Palm Springs.

  El Mirasol Norte at the Los Arboles Hotel

Tout Palm Springs shows up. They say. We never see anyone. Pretty lame food (sorry! but it is) but it scratches our Mexican food itch. Go to the Norte. Eat outside. (Once our friend Carl was Suzanne Summers’ houseguest. They showed up at El Mirasol South with Merv Griffin, Neil Sedaka, Dianna Ross and Cher. He said that was one stunned restaurant.)

Ace Hotel Coffee Shop

We like this place. Good food, good menu (not too long) and there always seems to be a table. The motel is very snappy — fun, sophisticated design.

We resisted the Ace (trendy and young) then embraced it (trendy and young).


Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

Last Saturday, as we were leaving for the airport and passed Sherman’s, Hermes said, “My only regret this trip was not having German chocolate cake.” As regrets go….

That cake is sick. And not good sick. Just sick. Sweet and huge. We always share a slice. It’s one of his only bad habits.

We’ve seen this gentleman at Sherman’s. Festive or frightening? A fine line.

Before that cake we share the enormous chopped salad. We aren’t the sharing food type, “Are you kidding? It’s mine. Order your own dessert.” But you’re nuts not to share at Sherman’s.

So, some ideas. Pick a place with a good pool and you won’t really want to do much anyway. We have a good time in the Coachella Valley and return East with complete desert burnout,  probably with lower blood pressure, but definitely a bit dumber. Works for me.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 03/24/14 at 10:15 AM • Permalink

The Wandering Eye: Back At The Porch

Our Wandering Eye blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his husband, architect Hermes Mallea, are principals in the Manhattan based design firm M (Group). He signed on with Rural Intelligence early on to document the restoration of their neighbor’s historic manse, but over time his mind and his eye have wandered to topics further afield. Here he returns to the original inspiration for the blog, and picks up on the design trail with an update on the porches.

Hermes and I enjoy our upstate projects – a big old spread in Rhinebeck we renovated from stem to stern, our next-door neighbor’s, and even our own house — not that we do much renovating there.  We have nice contractors, and they have nice sub contractors, and the pricing is tame compared to Manhattan or LA.  So we are enjoying our neighbor’s project as it chugs to completion.

The river façade is almost done — waiting for the “uppers.”

You may remember that I first started writing for Rural Intelligence in 2008, documenting the renovation of the handsome 1860’s Italianate house next door to us, and contributed several blog posts about the porches. For the back story, please check out the ‘history’ of the porch renovation in past blogs. “The Porches: New and Improved” and “The Porches: The Design Phase Heats Up.”

And indeed, the porches are moving along.  Not at the pace I would have chosen… I loves me a Fast Track job.  But everyone else seems pleased so who am I to impose my standards? (Hahahaha!!!  That is so funny!)


The Plan.

The heavy lifting is done.  As you can see from the blueprints, the base is complete and only the upper rows of balustrades are in the works.  There was talk that the uppers were overkill; this talk wasn’t Hermes or me, of course.  Sometimes overkill is good!  We have the added ammo of a vintage photograph of the house with the uppers. (“Look! Proof!!! What more do you people want from me!?”)

Take the Way Back Machine to the 1920s — there were porches and awnings

Seeing the entrances without them makes it pretty obvious they need to be done.  They “raise the tone,” as it were. 

The mahogany should stand up to the tests of time.

That woodwork is beautifully executed.  Mahogany painted a lovely Donald Kaufman Color Collection white.  Although I am spoiled by Don’s custom color work, we often opt for his “off the rack” colors for exterior work — makes touchup or repainting easier than a custom color.

Frankie is our building inspector. Nothing gets past him.

After the upper balustrades get done, the rest of the woodwork, all the way up, will get a fresh coat of paint.  The old beautiful brick with its thin cement lines is wonderful so the white I chose is much softer than the old “dead white;” it’s a warmish white that is sort of recessive. 

This porch is built for the long haul. It will get a beating from the weather and the sun, facing west with nothing much between us and the Catskills to deaden the onslaught.

Washington Irving hit the nail on the head with the bowling analogy. The thunder rolls up the river — it’s wild.

The Hudson Valley weather systems hammer us — it is completely Rip Van Winkle bowling balls as the thunder rolls up the valley.


Hermes designed nifty structural glass panels above the cellar windows.  They allow for some natural light down there. (BTW – “down there” is huge. Super outdoor furniture storage and potting area.  Love it.)

The glass freaks him out.  And not much freaks Frankie out.

The storm windows are being pitched out so the windows can operate fully (they rise up into tall recesses) and we can walk through them. It’s all about opening things up and getting as much light as we can.  Given the size and number of the windows, this isn’t that hard.


Meanwhile, inside the house, the former pantry and breakfast room have been gutted and are being turned into a kitchen and breakfast room.

The future kitchen with great windows and ceiling height.

The kitchens in these old houses were originally in the basements and when this house was renovated in the 1960s the owners installed a prosaic suburban kitchen and, oddly, kept it underground.

His eye level and our eye level are vastly different experiences.

There were a couple of windows and it wasn’t horrible. In fact, Pancho, my late Chihuahua, liked the subterranean location: he could stand outside and be at eye level with the cook, which was key to his plaintive begging.


With three big windows and 14- foot ceilings, we are off to a good start. The photo is the gutted space. It’ll end up with a vestibule with a large coat closet (it is off the front hall, close to the entrance) and a powder room.  And a biggish kitchen and a nice breakfast room that opens onto the dining porch.  They don’t know it yet, but moving from below grade to this aerie will be huge for the family. HUGE.

The rooms will be paneled up to a very high plate rail.  We haven’t come up with the “scheme” yet — stone and paint colors will come soon.  It’ll be very traditional and hopefully very appropriate to the house.

The dining room, next to the breakfast room, is “done.” The windows are triple sash and rise waaaay up.

We aim for the evolutionary look that the houses along our stretch have. Multiple renovations by multiple generations can look like a hodgepodge. Or, as it will with this house, they can have charm and a bit of quirkiness. 

This is, of course, the worst time of the year to take pictures of the exterior of a house. Brutalized grass, messy snow patches, barren trees.  (It is also the best time to house shop. See that potential new house at its worst — the best!).  In the snapshots you can see the new walkways, beds and trees.  Our favorite landscape architects, Kelly, Varnell, Virgona came in the early fall and knocked out the first phase of hardscape and landscape.

The dining porch on the south side of the house will have great light all day.

Happily, there was a treasure trove of big old slabs of bluestone stacked in a barn — so much better than new (although, in a few years, new looks prettyold.).  And we mixed in some gravel; we love a gravel path — the look, the feel and the sound.

So that is the February update.  When you see this place next, it’ll have all its woodwork, all its new paint, and all that plant material will be thriving!

The landscape plan, sadly without color —KVV does pretty colored renderings.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 02/21/14 at 03:52 PM • Permalink

The Dog Blog (Frankie Update)

Baby Frankie, nee Stan

We welcome back our Wandering Eye blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney. He and his husband, architect Hermes Mallea, are principals in the Manhattan based design firm M (Group). Carey signed on with Rural Intelligence four years ago to document the restoration of their neighbor’s historic manse, but over time his mind and his eye have wandered to topics further afield. Carey returns to his blog after recovering from his whirlwind promotional tour for his first book, Stuff: The M(Group) Interactive Guide to Collecting, Decorating with, and Learning about, Wonderful and Unusual Things.


So three years ago I wrote a blog to mourn the death of my Pancho (He Was a Very Good Boy) and to celebrate my Frankie’s adoption process (It’s a Boy!).To start the new year, I thought maybe an update was appropriate.

Update.  Frankie is perfect! OMG. Perfect. What a cute little animal. Fourteeen personable pounds of skin and bone and fabulous hair. No colorist could copy that hair. Overall, he has a sort of Late Period Picasso look. 

Frankie could have been a Picasso muse.  His look is very “Late Period.”

He is sweet and obedient, always looking to me for further instructions.  Now, if only Hermes was capable of learning some of these simple lessons.  That ain’t happening.

I once asked a Parisian antiques dealer his dog’s name. He responded, without an iota of irony and with typical French distain, that his “son’s name” was Didier. Son!? Okaaaaay. Certainly put me in my place — and frankly, my place was a far healthier place to be. I’d be proud if Frankie was the fruit of my loins, but he’s a little dog. I know this. That Pet Parent marketing label used on doggie commercials scares me. Granted, “owner” is harsh, but “pet parent” is cray cray. How about BFF? That works…
  I’ll have a Croque Madame and my son, Didier, will have the Steak Tartare, s’il vous plait?

Anyway, Frankie came to me via the perfectly named Perfect Pet Rescue based in Columbia County. I have yet to meet the people who run this organization but they do great Work with a capital W. They travel south and select dogs from the notorious “kill” shelters in Georgia. They have them vetted and chipped and put in foster care until they bring a rented van load up north. Then the dogs are put in foster care again locally until they are adopted. Such a labor of love by many volunteers.

Our Rural Intelligence editor, Lisa Green, got her Dixie-born Zoey from a similar source. Two years ago, on Christmas Eve, she waited in a very cold Home Depot parking lot waaaay upstate. Finally, a van pulled up, out popped her puppy, and there she stood — a stunned new Pet Parent. 

Zoey Green

The Rural Intelligence four-county area has lots of sources for adopting a pup. The wonderful Columbia Greene Humane Society is in Hudson. Search their “Adoptables” for your own Peanut, Buddy, or Slim.  (FYI, it’s okay to rename them — Frankie was Stan. He likes Frankie better. And he was only Stan for a few weeks.)  Search “animal adoption” by county for your local SPCA.
Maude is in Hudson, looking for love in all the wrong places…

Okay – what is up with all the crazy people getting Service Dog permits for their lap dogs so they can ride on their laps/out of crate on flights?  Even I, who could (sadly) easily convince my shrink to give me such a permit, draw the line. 
Yeah, right… The little heart makes it very ‘official’ looking…

On two recent flights I have been in a row with women with “service” dogs. Granted, the chicks looked plenty nuts without the pup; with a pup should be grounds for involuntary commitment. One kept singing — very audibly — to herself. Mildly worrying. SUPER annoying. I felt for that poor dog.

                Save me!  She’s driving me crazy!!

Finally, since you will need to keep your pooch occupied (read: Very Tired), try out Agility Training at Karen Garelik’s “Doc’s Canine Obedience, Behavior and Agility Center in Red Hook and across the river in Kingston. 

Frankie and I love the Doc. She tried to teach us agility training — at which he excelled and I petered out.  (FYI – the human has to lead the dog… Who knew? Fun = Dog running around track doing tricks. Not Fun = ME struggling around the damn course doing tricks. So we completed our Certificate of Attendance (he thinks he graduated with honors) and that was that. Doc has an outdoor space for summer and an indoor space for winter. No excuses. Hated that too…

Frankie deserved a trophy for his agility.  I was going to buy him one and lie (“Precious, you won! You are so smart!”).  Then I saw them. Woof… I don’t need a ‘trophy’ that looks like a section of colon on a lawn.

Who remembers “Captain Haggerty’s School for Dogs” on the Upper East Side?  LOVED that name… Check out his obit in The New York Times.  Who knew?

The Captain – on the left. Not quite what I expected. Sorta “Silence of the Lambs.” “Precious!!!”

Let’s break away from the canine/feline domestic animal grind and adopt Farm Animals!  OMG. I want a goat and a pig. And a donkey and a peacock!  (Hermes says No, no, no, and definitely no). I’ll bet the Hudson Valley Animal Rescue and Sanctuary can help.

OMG. Please????? I ask for so little in life….




Hermes – he’s the one flailing around - has issues with the Southwood goats.  Our frequent, funny, and voracious trespassers. 

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Posted by Lisa Green on 01/18/14 at 01:30 PM • Permalink

Local Exotica in Hudson

Rural Intelligence ArtsOur Wandering Eye blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his husband, architect Hermes Mallea, are principals in the Manhattan based design firm M (Group). He signed on with Rural Intelligence four years ago to document the restoration of their neighbor’s historic manse, but over time his mind and his eye have wandered to topics further afield. Carey returns to his blog after just having released his first book, “Stuff: The M(Group) Interactive Guide to Collecting, Decorating with, and Learning about, Wonderful and Unusual Things.”  “Stuff” has garnered coverage in The New York Times Magazine,, and Veranda, and is the Book of the Month in the March 2013 House Beautiful.

Chinese white-painted pottery horse and archer, possibly Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 20 CE): Lot 107 from Stair Galleries auction, January 19-20

Hudson, although small, is a truly global city. Since the Mahicans sold the land to the Dutch in exchange for some unknown moolah (leftover tulips bulbs?) the town has been a crossroads for cultures. Today, the antiques dealers and the auction house, Stair Galleries, continue to bring the world to Columbia County.

We had planned an exotic far eastern holiday for New Year’s but trashed that plan in October (“What are we thinking?!?”).  Our buddies are in Laos now and sending photos that torment me…

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Yum!  Fresh frogs on sticks. I’m rethinking my disappointment…

Rural Intelligence BlogsSo last weekend we took a Staycation and ran up to Hudson seeking exotic stuff. We weren’t disappointed. First stop was our new favorite dealer, Michael Davis’ 3FortySeven in one of my all time favorite Warren Street spaces — an old garage. In December, we had a client hike up from town for a shopping afternoon. There was a large (read: Huge) Tibetan cabinet I thought would work in her bedroom. Gilded, painted inside and out, and with enough presence to hold its own in a room with 15’ ceilings. A 19th century Tibetan cupboard, deep enough to allow for hanging clothes. The cabinet passed muster ( Note to client: Uncontained glee (shrieks and “OMG”’s) pretty much precludes beating the price down…. ) and then she turned around and saw this….

The entire façade of a 19th century Rajastani house with stone bases supporting wooden columns and arches with wrought iron railings. Now, most people would maybe ohhh and ahhh — and mutter sotto voce “How fun.”  But only a few brave types would make the leap, with barely a pause, to “What about putting it in the Living Room?” 

“Huh!?” (a linguistic holdover from my Texas roots.)

Rural Intelligence StyleWithin minutes, we were all on board.  Big chunks of turquoise blue and pale green painted Indian façade would be cleverly injected into a Manhattan parlor — with painted Fine French Furniture and red silk carpeting. “Neat but not gaudy” — another Texas-ism…That client is thinking global — and channeling the specter of Doris Duke.

So now we begin to figure out how to get it down, have some new bits made to complete it, and get it into a New York apartment. 
And then we checked out the viewing at Stair Galleries for auction on January 19/20 of 20th century, Asian and Ethnographic Art. The cultures of the world are represented, from ancient Middle Eastern bronze bits (that are actually horse bits) to 20th century American art. There are lots of African pieces, some Oceanic art, Persian antiquities, and ancient Chinese pieces. Some of the things come with some pretty excellent provenances — the dealers noted in the catalog are some of the best (i.e. most expensive) in their fields. Very useful information when deciding on your top bids.

Here are a few other cool lots:

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Lot 409 – A CARVED WOOD AND SHELL MASK from New Guinea

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Lot 419 – A LURISTAN BRONZE Horse bit (Persia)

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This winter, take a mini world tour in Hudson and bring something from your ‘trip’ home. Your 19th-century American farmhouse will thank you. Think global, act local.

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Posted by Scott Baldinger on 01/15/13 at 05:26 AM • Permalink

The Wandering Eye: The Porches Take Off

Our Wandering Eye blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his partner Hermes Mallea, an architect, are principals in the M (Group). Initially, his columns documented the restoration of a historic property on the Hudson River, but (as you can gather from the column’s title) his eye, and mind, strayed to other topics. Now, four years after his initial contributions to Rural Intelligence, he returns to the subject that brought him here in the first place.
Rural Intelligence StyleI first started writing for RI in 2008, documenting the renovation of the handsome 1860’s Italianate house next door to us. All was designed and planned, and all was put on hold for a bit.

Well, the ‘bit’ is over and the restoration of the porches is becoming a reality. Major excavation was knocked out in autumn 2011; a septic system was moved, and huge 100-year-old underground water storage tanks were repaired or eliminated. With the warm, snow-free winter, construction work unexpectedly continued and we even got ahead of our schedule.

The concrete was poured for the foundation and, sadly, after a closer look at Hermes’ drawings, and much gnashing of teeth, the General Contractor then blasted and cut it out and re-poured it. Ouch. Hey, go figure… That’s what those 37 pages of drawings and details are for – to be read and followed. No room for “interpretation” with our work – it is to be done as El Jefe designed. Period.

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The foundation is poured and the decking is up - the Finish Line is in sight. Note: Beware driving heavy machines over a tree’s root system. It packs down the soil and can hurt the tree.



The sub-floor is laid so we can now stand on the elevated platform and take in the views. And we can walk underneath it and imagine it with a potting area and covered storage space with glass floor panels above allowing light.





Rural Intelligence StyleThe all-important mahogany balusters have been designed, re-designed, and finessed. They will be on the porch, line the double staircases, and top the porch roofs. Trust me, it’ll be very glam. (BTW, words like ‘glam’ make clients nervous. “We are afraid of ‘glam’.”  “Don’t be,” I reassure, “I have no doubt you will bring the tone down in no time.”  Happily, I can’t scare this house’s owners – they are resigned to their fate.

Three samples were made and we moved them all over and quickly concluded they were perfect. There’s nothing – literally nothing – like seeing a full-size sample before committing to 500 of them. It is oddly comforting to clients. Us – we KNOW a design is great. Them, they need reassurance.



So please look over the previous post, refresh your memory, and we will continue to chronicle the restoration of this house. Hermes and I are chomping at the bit to see this Hudson River grand dame brought back to her former glory days. —Carey Maloney


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Posted by Bess Hochstein on 08/14/12 at 07:04 AM • Permalink

House Guests Part II: The Saga Continues…

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Call in the experts for serious cleaning.

... and I Still Like the Miscreants.

Primum non nocere. First, do no harm.

My last column for Rural Intelligence, almost a year ago, was on House Guests. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then but the cyle continues.

As a frequent ‘borrower’ of friends’ (certain friends’… ) houses and apartments, my ultimate goal is Do No Harm. Besides the obvious enemy – fire – water should also be given due respect.

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Water is the key to life and I’ll bet we have done a million dollars worth of work in our career restoring rooms post water damage. Add in fire and the number goes to multiple millions.

The goal is to leave the house in better condition than you found it. Leave a decent tip for the maid and your cover is less likely to be blown. A decent present for the absent hosts is also key. I cleverly (and generously, I thought) called in the painters once in Palm Springs to repaint the powder room of one borrowed home as my surprise Bread and Butter gift. Granted, that might have been presumptuous, but I still think glossy black walls and ceiling was a good idea. Our hostess was a bit less convinced, but she has since come around.

So the Miscreant Boys had the house for a weekend with ‘their little friends.’ I get a call from the housekeeper mid-week after their stay: “There sure were a lot of house guests last weekend.”  Hmmmm. Wonder what that means?  “And there is a stain in the sisal I don’t know how to handle.” No problem, I would look at it Friday.

Friday came and I was dragging a huge Moroccan rug (Hermes noticeably absent) from the car into the house. It had been at the restorers after a few years of doing hardship duty as our bar rug. FYI, red wine and unsteady octogenarians do not mix.

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We hosted a charity thingy last fall and their caterers served hot mulled red wine. Trust me, for about 100 reasons, do not serve hot mulled red wine.

So I am dragging this dead weight rug into the hot house, panting, head down, when ‘the stain’ enters my field of vision. About 14” in diameter and DARK. And dead center. Maybe you heard my scream somewhere in northern Dutchess or southern Columbia counties? You might have mistaken it for a horribly injured animal. It was sort of like a hysterical seven-year-old girl’s scream, but louder and more hysterical.

Turns out House Guest Boy spotted a little Frankie accident (3” diameter) and decided to help. He Googled “How do you clean carpet?” and landed on ‘club soda.’ Well, be careful what you Google, because carpet is one thing and sisal is another. A big bottle of club soda later, the spot grew exponentially. It morphed from tiny to huge and from pale to jet black. It would (almost) have been worth the damage to see the panic on House Guest Boy’s face… almost. He said he was close to tears. That made me happy.

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Isn’t this wonderful?  This cute ‘boy band’ is named “Blood Stained Carpet.”

Well – I sort of (not really) wanted to replace that (huge, expensive) rug, anyway.

Once we were headed to a friend’s Paris apartment for a week. She called from California and asked me to check the front hall sisal. The French housekeeper told her the people who’d ‘bought’ the apartment at a benefit auction had stained it and would I see if she needed to replace it.

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I googled “man on carpet” and I got carpet on man.

Indeed, the sisal was ruined, whatever the indeterminate stain was, and I called to tell her. “So what is it?”  Pregnant pause. “Did they say what happened?”  Longer pause. “Well actually…” she said sheepishly…. Turns out the man died there (bummer). Dropped dead at the foot of the stairs. Ewwww. When Hermes scraped me off the ceiling (“He died??!! Damn! And she wondered if she needed to change the sisal???!!”) I bolted to Bon Marche and placed the order.

Which reminds me of another carpet stain…

Our first glamorous job was for a Christie’s decorative arts expert. The place was a jewel box. And as we were backing the painters and cleaners out of the space, all looking perfect, I assumed all was happily done. Silly me. 

I wandered out at 3 p.m., leaving the young, pretty housekeeper, two painters packing up, and an exterminator boy – who had nothing to do with me – in the apartment. When I returned at 5 p.m., the client and Hermes were standing in the front hall looking at a greasy circle in the pale sisal. (That damn sisal is fragile!)

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It was such a pretty apartment. Full of treasure. See Leda and the Swan? And a painting of Hermes.

What could it be? Who did this? I rub it and sniff – not paint remover. Not cleaning fluid. What is it? There was much back and forth: “The painters?” “The housekeeper?” “Oh, that’s the housekeeper’s daughter filling in for her mother. An exterminator? What exterminator??” I describe him: hot Hispanic kid.

“I didn’t have an exterminator. That sounds like her boyfriend.” We looked at that stain and the grim realization hit us all at the same moment. The three of us, shrieking, recoiled from the stain and ran for sinks to wash our hands. Jeez. 

Stark Carpet had that stuff up and out in record time.

Now: back to fire.

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It’s never good when you find this note taped to the front door: “PLEASE read this BEFORE you enter the apartment.”

Years ago, I cleverly booked Hermes’ assistant to house/dog sit while we were in India for five weeks. On Week 4, our office manager, Lynne, went to check on something at my apartment. Riding up in the elevator, the house/dog sitter sheepishly said, “I have to tell you something….” as the elevator door opened and a wave of smoke smell enveloped her. Turns out in Week 1 he had thrown a lit cigarette into the trash under the kitchen sink. Happily, per the Fire Department report (!), the flames made the pipes burst and the water put out the fire. He had spent the next four weeks frantically trying to restore the kitchen and clean up and get rid of the smoke smell – way beyond his capabilities. 

It would have almost been worth it to have seen Lynne’s face. Almost. FYI: six weeks later, no smell! 

I could go on and on… Primum non nocere. 

The all-time best advice book for housekeeping is Home Comforts: The Art and Science of Keeping House. Brilliant and packed with information. —Carey Maloney

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Posted by Samara DiMouro on 07/24/12 at 07:49 AM • Permalink

The Wandering Eye: House Guests

Our blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his partner Hermes Mallea, an architect, are principals in the M (Group).
Okay.  Hermes had (another) good idea..  A blog on House Guests.  Avoiding all the clichés, comparisons to old fish, etc.

All it takes is a few moments searching the Interweb to know we have pay dirt…The images!  The advice!  The incredibly stupid How To lists -  “Entertaining ‘Tempestuous Twenty-Something’s’  (Yeah, right.  See below..)  ‘Super Senior Citizens as Houseguests’ (only if they are continent, rich, and I am in the will). 

We never have house guests in town—our friends are old and established and prefer hotels…  And upstate, infrequently.  But this summer has been more “House Guest-y” than usual…

A Straight Shot from East Texas to West L.A.
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In June I foisted a University of Texas senior onto our willing and generous BFF’s in LA.  For three weeks William the Younger stayed in their swell pool house, and they launched him into TinselTown with the most glam Hollywood internship possible.  The perfect hosts.

And William the Younger was an exemplary guest.  Quiet, invisible (and handsome when visible), played nice with the puppy.  But all was not perfect. Our girlfriend had problems with his laundry habits (“How could he have any clean underwear?”).  Girls…

So I pipe up, “Just send Carmen in and muck him out”. Well – this was construed by BFF as unduly indulging William the Younger.  “He needs to learn how to do it himself—not wait for the maid.” 

Hmm.  No, he doesn’t.  Really.  I know of what I speak… If you wait long enough, in my personal experience, that underwear gets magically clean.  Is that a guy thing?
                                                                                    Carey into Carmen, Now I Can Relate
Rural Intelligence StyleWell, two months later, I have a house guest, and I am washing and drip drying Young Adrian’s shirts… “Carmen”, right,  courtesy of Duane Hanson (whose work freaks me out)

Our friend Young Adrian arrived from Havana to spend two weeks in my Dressing Room before launching on a Grand Tour.  The name is not accidental. From Day One it has been my Dressing room.  Never a guest room - - ever.  A rule. 

But Adrian is an exception to the rule.  He is young, and he’s good looking, a struggling (albeit successful) artist.  He’s worked for us—so I know I can boss him around.  He’s Cuban so the lame AC in my apartment will seem arctic.  .

And it’s the dead of summer – I can take a few days off and go upstate and leave him to it.  I’m not a good roommate – nor do I share well for long..  I can rally for a day or two – but quickly I want all my space for me.

We didn’t have an auspicious start.  Adrian was put up by NYU/Tisch School in a Best Western way downtown for his first week. He came up to me midweek for dinner and a little apartment orientation.  I fed him, we laughed, I bought him Time Out New York for the long ride south, and pointed at the #1 subway.  Sadly, I pointed at the uptown entrance. 

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I hate when this happens.

At midnight in that horrible heat wave when he cleverly realized his (my) mistake, he fled the northbound train at 181st Street (OMG - that is north of the George Washington Bridge!).  His tale of simply crossing to the southbound side was terrifying.  Damn.  I coulda lost him before I even had him… His mother would kill me. 

So after his week in a hotel, he ‘checks in’ to my dressing room, inflates his mattress and figures out the Wifi…

Now what?  We go to the grocery store. (You know it’s not your strength when the foreigner has to ask “Is this ‘food place’ you talk about what we call a ‘grocery store?’ ”). Okay, I don’t shop well for food.  “Carey, what is the difference between a peach and a nectarine?”  (OMG - biology! Or something..Is this a trick question?) “Hair?”

That field trip finished. (“No you can’t have those cookies. Put them back.” —him talking to me.) I ordered Bacon Cheeseburgers Deluxe from E.J’s Luncheonette.  (“They bring them to you? We could have picked them up when we were at the Food Place. Why didn’t we buy something to cook at the Food Place?  It’s cheaper, right?”  Shut up, Adrian.)

                                                                                                        Cuban Heat Dries Cuban Clothes
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So while waiting for the burgers I asked if he had any laundry to do.  Indeed he did so I show him the laundry closet.  The sparkly new washing machine was recognized but when someone looks at a dryer and asks, “What’s that for?” your fate is sealed.  He ain’t touching those machines without a long Spanglish tutorial that I may be incapable of delivering.

I am going to be doing Young Adrian’s effing laundry that night…

We then sorted out the Nespresso machine, the microwave (“Nada metal!”) and NetFlix.  I slowly realized this wasn’t simply Adrian the Provincial Cuban, this was Adrian the Spoiled Cuban.  I am thinking Mami and Abuelita’s baby boy never lifts a domestic finger in La Habana. 

Why is this behavior strangely familiar??  Oh – I know. Because Cuban men are spoiled.  I’m an authority.  I married one.

For example - Hermes has never learned how to put gas in the car.  My pointed barbs are met with a Cuban shrug and a wide smile.  He can’t use the TV remote.  Nada nada nada..  Why bother when he has me? 
                                                                                    Who Else Misses “Full Service?”
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Of course, I quickly realized the power I gained from this set up. Wanna watch Bill Maher?  Beg…
Nice, But It Ain’t Olana
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So we invite Adrian upstate to see the glory of the Hudson Valley.  Bear in mind, this is a first trip out of Cuba and into the USA.  His first time with unlimited internet access.  Endless hot and cold running water. Steaks that don’t require that they be Very Well Done.  Havana is far away. 

We made stops at construction projects on the drive north.  Billionaire #1 in Greenwich (“This house is just for the pool?”) and Billionaire #2 in Katonah (“Dios mio”.)  We cruise up the Taconic with him asking El Jefe in Espanol, “Are we there yet?”  Kids…

As we pass the new modular spec houses on Route 199 he is happily snapping photos (“Beautiful!”).  Finally, Hermes pipes up, “Save the memory space, Adrian.  These aren’t the star attractions”.  We drive through the Chiddingstone gates to our house and his eyebrows arch.  Commie our entrance ain’t…“Explain again how private property works?” I kid you not.

FYI: That subject is fraught with contradictions; way too hard for me…

Hermes had to change clothes and bolt to the Bard pre-Opera dinner. So we pile back in the car and drive through Bard and down River Road to a house named “Okefenokee” (name changed to protect the innocent) to drop him off. Trust me, my eyes got wide when we cruised into that spread.  A million acres of mowed green lawn studded with sculpture. I felt like I was on a Rancho Mirage golf course.  Adrian is silent and, I assume, thinking revolutionary thoughts.

Well, Adrian and I survived.  He left for his Grand Tour well fed, well dressed, and better informed than he was when he arrived—and with a shitload of downloaded music.

As I said, we are infrequent hosts and always to the same few friends.  We play to a small audience. Our target market maybe isn’t your target market..

WiFi: Keep ‘em wired and out of earshot
We can lose them for hours, and they seem happy…

Bicycles; No Helmet But Proper Shoes
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We have a magical little route around Tivoli with no hills and completed in under an hour—works for all fitness levels.  We get the tires pumped up and see them off safely—and damned if more than one doesn’t come home bloody.
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Our friend Joe C lost some ink on the Clermont driveway—which is way steep, stupid.
NetFlix, Apple TV, Direct TV
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...and lots of premium channels—this is more for me than the guests.  They can enjoy the great outdoors and I can chill in the dark bar and watch Tosh.O. on Comedy Central.
Sleeping Aids
Rural Intelligence StyleA well-rested guest is a happy guest.  Prescription drugs in the medicine cabinet always elicit squeals of delight (Note to guests: the wall is thin between those two baths. Very thin.)  Ambien, Ativan, Halcion, Oxycontin.  Push the downers.  Avoid Provigil (Hermes calls it the Divorce Drug) and those post-op pain things that made me not poop.  Clearly label it!  (See how responsible I am?)
                                                      Booze and Smokes
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Keeps ‘em busy at night.  We are teetotalers but since Drunk = Sleepy, we get them drunk. Nowhere to drive.  Frankie’s friend Rocket has “a problem,” we think….
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The crummy basement bedroom (the ‘Chauffeur’s Room’ on the old electrical panel box.. How hot is that?) is full of entertaining paperbacks and out-of-date travel books, edited and fairly well organized. Move upstairs and novels fill one wall of the Guest Room. The Powder Room has a Cecil Beaton (left, a treasure…simply a treasure.) and royal theme going (Princess Anne’s wedding present list is an excellent loo read—).  Reference is in Hermes’ room.  The Bar has good stuff.  Beach Reading is in my room.  Thousands to choose from.  If your guests aren’t engaged by lit’riture—get new guests.
And now maybe a few well-intentioned suggestions for Guests.  We love you but…

                                                                                        The House Present
Rural Intelligence StyleDon’t spend a moment worrying about a gift.  You can shop local.  The best recent Bread and Butter present we got was a Hustler.  I was laughing telling someone, and they got all wide-eyed.  “Where did they find a hustler?”  “The Mobil station, I guess.”  “In Germantown?  A hustler?? On 9G?”  Then I realized they thought I meant a person (which would definitely qualify as an inspired gift) when what we got was the magazine…For you Country Folk… Black leather pants = hustler

And what an eye into contemporary mores that periodical is. Not a word in it—not even captions—and not a hair out of place—what little hair there was.  The “models” were, shall we say, well groomed?  And cheerful.  Damn.  Dazzling smile into the camera over her left shoulder.  Meanwhile, down a bit and over to the right, what that man is doing cannot be comfortable…No Welcome Mat on a Hustler model…  Upshot - Don’t listen to your stick-in-the-mud husband.  Straight Print Porn is a super retro gift that’s always in good taste.  Hint: Give porn with a lottery ticket and a twelve pack of Diet Coke—to make it extra special…

When someone asks what to bring, our standard (joke) response is “A case of red and a case of white.”  Great line, right?  This was a ‘gift’ from a friend.  She got that response when she asked a Business Associate of Her Husband’s what she could bring for a weekend.  Didn’t bode well, right? The story ended when they left silently before dawn on Sunday a.m., coasting down the driveway in neutral.. 

Don’t Mess with the Good Stuff and Don’t Wear Our Clothes…
Rural Intelligence StyleAnd if you do, don’t post it on Facebook.  Busted. This fun Dress Up shot was taken by buds we’d loaned the house to.  The birthday boy is sporting a very fragile African straw mask of great rarity and illustrious provenance. What fun to wear!!  NOT…  When this little pearl surfaced, my post on their wall had them running for the hills - “OMG! Is he mad?!?”

                                                                                  Oh, and Pick Up After Yourself.
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Empty the ashtrays.  Find the errant underwear, which spares the housekeeper leaving me little immodest laundered thongs to mail back.  We had a friend suffering from a cold one weekend. First -don’t come if you’re sick.  Second - when I went into her room after her damp departure, it was strewn with used Kleenex.  A blizzard.  Gross. 

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Worst was the horribly bloody T shirt I found in the bushes.  I am talking knife fight bloody. Truly shocking. Turns out the same crew playing dress up, above, on a different “festive” weekend—had punked a friend and faked an accident with artificial blood (this is funny?!). In the ensuing merriment they neglected to ‘clean up.’  Freaked me out..

Rural Intelligence StyleDamn.  For all their foibles, our friends are fun (and funny) house guests. Oddly, these two continue to be our favorite guests…Perhaps an acquired taste… 

As my mother would say when I’d return to school after a vacation, “Happy to see you come and happy to see you go”.  (Hmmm… Was that hurtful?  Nah…) —Carey Maloney
For the complete archive of past Wandering Eye blogs, click here.

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 08/15/11 at 06:06 AM • Permalink

Picture This: Cuba Circa 1890 - 1960

Our blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his partner Hermes Mallea, an architect, are principals in the M (Group).

Hermes’ mother -  ready for Carnival.  Muy Poiret

So this was fun….

Last week we went to Cuba to “put on a show!”  Very Little Rascals.

Animal prints, plaids, and that great Cuban hair.

Granted - not a musical.  No singing; no dancing… Happily more comedy than drama…  A photography exhibition curated by HM and art directed by me.

Volunteers in the 1898 revolution against Spain.
Of course, we made it about us and called it the Spanish American War…

Hermes’s great grandfather was one of Cuba’s early professional photographers.  Joaquin López de Quintana y Gurri studied photography in Spain and returned to his hometown of Gibara where he established a studio in 1890.

Over the course of forty years his studio documented the Revolution of 1898 and life in a small town in rural Cuba. 

Chea channeling Gloria Swanson as the ‘Esclava de Babilonia’, circa 1920.  Must have been a good party…

His daughter “Chea” (Maria de los Mercedes López de Quintana y Sartorio) and her sister “Cusa” (Caridad yadda de yadda y yadda) followed in his footsteps – their work from the 1940’s and 50’s won awards in Cuba and abroad.

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Ingenio de Baguanos by Chea.

Their work documented a place, a time, and a life that is gone.  The famously lovely (and designated national monument) Gibara, La Villa Blanca, was the constant in their work. 

Gibara, circa 1930

The town, founded in 1817, is very young by Cuban standards.  It was an important Spanish port built as a walled town to protect it from Cuban revolutionaries.  Gibara was prosperous until the railroad was extended, then its fortunes flagged…

Tio, tias, y mama in the garden, circa 1940.

I’ll bet it was a wonderful place to grow up - and lots of L de Q’s did.  Their house, La Casa Sartorio, was a sprawling compound with neighboring lots cobbled together over the years.  A cheerful overgrown hodgepodge that became the town hotel after the ‘Triumph of the Revolution’.

Abuelo Manolo and the crew.

We were watching a Cuban movie on DVD a few years ago and Hermes pipes up, “How weird… That looks like Casa Sartorio?”.  The place was sorta gritty with Havana Club rum and Tu Cola signs – but through the dreck you could see the wacky/wonderful shell grotto the Tias had created in the ‘20’s. 

The garden at Casa Sartorio

Tragically, Hurricane Ike devastated the town and Casa Sartorio went from hostelry to housing displaced families.


Hermes’ exhibition was one of the cultural activities of the 11th annual Festival Internacional de Cine Pobre de Humberto Solas.  An international film festival of ‘poor’ films with budgets under $300,000 – usually well under… The films are low budget, high intellect.

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Count on the Cubans for excellent graphics.

El Proyecto Cultural Cubafoto asked Hermes to put together an exhibition about the family.  Of course he says yes.  He loves this stuff… It’ll be (and was!) fun.  Pero chico, no good deed goes unpunished.

The brothers in their winter coats for school in frigid New York.

He selects maybe 150 images – most are tiny late 19th century/early 20th century.  We have them scanned, tweaked, enhanced.  Then our friend Renee - una santa - at Atelier Renee in Red Hook mounted them on 30+  mattes and laminated them.  Then we pack them up very very carefully and watch as the luggage handlers in Miami toss the case into the melee…

The man in line behind me had four tires…See them?  $2 per pound.

On the other side of the straits of Cuba, Cuban customs was oddly uninterested in the photos and 500 brochures. That was a relief.  Sadly, the scanner, an effing enormous external hard drive, two laptops and an iPad made us one huge and fluttering red flag. 

There’s another fancier terminal – but the Miami charters are sent to this bunker.

Oh, and the gringo tourist we’d ‘picked up’ in the Miami airport ( “I’m from Atlanta. Y’all goin’ to Cuba, too?”) wasn’t helping.  Joshing with the customs guy, “Those two are verrry suspicious.  Hahaha!” 

If looks could kill.

Rural Intelligence Style Any Immigration is fraught with opportunities for something to go wrong, right?  ‘What pocket is my passport in?’  with the umpteenth pat.  We’ve all been there.  Tense…

Well, I rank Havana high on the Tense list…  Not at all scary – but tense.  Well – maybe scary..

Me - I’m not scared.  Hermes uses the “Ransom of Red Chief” analogy…Ha ha.  Real clever.  But El Jefe is definitely un poco ‘alert’. 

One trip he was called out of line by name before he’d shown his passport.  “Hermes Mallea, follow me”.  He said the hair on the back of his neck stood straight up.  I meanwhile was tapping my foot on the other side of the passport divide, wondering where he was and muttering, “If I have to deal with this luggage alone I will kill him”.  He later questioned my priorities…

Anyway.  This trip.  20 minutes of questions and our new best friends from the Film festival appeared with official paperwork and we slinked (slunk) away.

Inside the Museo de Historia Naturales looking out to the Plaza de Armas.

The show was held in the lobby of the Museum of Natural History facing the beautiful Plaza de Armas.  We’re clever - we thought we had everything we could possible need to hang the work.  Everything. 

Not… In the end, none of the myriad hanging gadgets we brought was used. 

All was beautifully hung on Day One and upon our return on Day Two - Exhibition Day – “We’ll just tweak it a little” -  all was strewn on the floor. Havana humidity and a funky whitewashed wall surface conspired to de-activated our adhesives overnight.

The Cuban organizers rallied in true Revolutionary form and found 30 matching frames (trust me – no small feat), repainted an easel, touched up the whitewashed walls (they may be too poor to paint, but they are not too proud to whitewash..  Which is sort of a ‘fickle’ surface, BTW). The things were hung and looked great at 3:45.

Que sera sera….

So at 4 PM on April 5, Luz de Memoria;  La lente y la imagen de la familia López de Quintana 1890-1960 was up and running…

The opening reception had a great crowd – all of our friends showed up plus it was the official opening event for the film festival.  We had planned rum and hors d’oeuvres on the roof ‘mirador’ overlooking Old Havana – but that idea was literally blown away by a storm at 4:30 that can only be described as biblical - trees uprooted and tall buildings evacuated.  Laugh and move on …

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By 4 we were golden.

Anyway – a good time was had by all.  I certainly had fun… 

The photos were a smash – cute children in crazy costumes, what’s not to love?  One lovely lady introduced herself to Hermes and told him his great aunts had been wonderful to her father, a poor boy who later worked for his grandfather.  She walked over to the first picture and broke into sobs…  (Makes me tear up just thinking about it…)

Kudos to Hermes (speaking to the crowd, above).  He worked like un perro and made a wonderful effort to preserve his family’s—and Cuba’s—memories. 

The beach club

And kudos to the Proyecto Cultural Cubafoto and Rufino del Valle for reaching out to us across those straits—physically very near but politically and diplomatically very distant. 

One final point.  The United States initiated an economic embargo on Cuba under President Eisenhower.  His ambassador to Cuba warned that this blockade amounted to “economic warfare”.  So for over 50 years the world’s super power has waged economic war against an island nation of 11 million people.  It’s not about communism (we’re in bed with China and Viet Nam.).  It’s not about human rights (we certainly are in bed with Saudi Arabia and China).  It’s about American politics. 

Annually, since 1992, the United Nations has voted on the embargo.  In 2010, 187 countries supported Cuba and there were 2 votes against – the USA and Israel.  Hmmm - - 187 to 2.  A solid majority…

If the American people took a moment to understand it, we would all be ashamed…

BTW – The exhibition was the sidebar for the trip.  The true purpose was final work on El Jefe’s tome, The Great Houses of Havana; A Century of Cuban Style.  Check out the website and don’t be reluctant to pre-buy for Fall delivery!!!

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Cuban photographer Adrian Fernandez, whose work has shown at Carrie Haddad Photographs, taking one last shot for El Jefe’s book before we race to the airport.  HM had lobbied to see this house for years. We were going to miss that plane (OMG please no!)  before he missed that house….

Sayonara from Gibara —Carey Maloney

For the complete archive of past Wandering Eye blogs, click here.

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 04/19/11 at 06:07 AM • Permalink

Wandering Eye: A Sight for Sore Eyes, Ears, Noses & Throats

Rural Intelligence Style Our blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his partner Hermes Mallea, an architect, are principals in the M (Group).
I don’t know about the rest of you out there, but me, I am interested in SUN and HEAT right now.  It might be bright outside, but it’s cold.  Very “Cool White” florescent…when what we need is Warm Incandescence.

For me, Bright + Hot = Cuba, my current frame of reference after our multiple trips there to work on Hermes’s (damn) book.  Right now, it is pleasantly warm and sunny—peak season!

My ramblings on Cuba tend to become too rambling…on and on, a subject I can/will wax eloquent about at length.  I needed a short and sweet topic without all the socio-political baggage that comes with Cuban subjects.

Swimming Pools!! 

I culled a bunch of nice bright ‘hot’ pictures of Havana’s pools from the thousands of pictures we have.  Not all the pools are in the best working order, but each is pretty great in its own way.

Let the Games Begin!

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“Our” pool is this huge kidney at the Hotel Nacional de Cuba.  It’s a scene in high season.  Lots of old, very white men with caliente Cuban ‘dates.’  In summer, the looooow season, Havana is so hot you can’t even sit by a pool.
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If this pool could tell tales, I shudder to think…
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And why is it only now, via the InterWeb, I discover the Nacional has synchronized swimmers as part of the (lame) floorshow??!!  Damn.
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This 1950’s house in El Country Club (the best neighborhood in town) , is now a Casa Protocolo for diplomatic visitors.  The sculpture spilling water into the pool is by Cuban artist Rita Longa.  Note the great vine covered columns supporting the terrace.  There are wonderful photos of this house in party mode – dinner for the King of Belgium, Christmas fiestas…  The owner collected the palettes of great artists (!).
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This pool is behind my favorite house, now a fabric warehouse.  The loo for the ‘companeras’ was designed by Jansen.  (It’s never Senor or Senora..Always companero and companera—Spanish for Comrade). The steps and the platforms make for my kind of pool – plenty of places to lie or stand and read - and still be submerged. Both sets of stairs are great…This pool and the previous one were designed by the same firm.  Look at the edge details and paving. 
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The Best Pool in Havana, hands down, is this turn of the century Roman pavilion at the residence of the British ambassador.  The addition to the main house was designed by the American architect John Duncan (he did Grant’s Tomb). It is elegant and so completely ‘classical’ it’s exotic. 
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I am no great fan of ‘endless pools’ – they only work when, like this one, they ‘magically’ shoot out into more blue water.  The red slats/steps are very cool.  The mid century modern house you aren’t seeing is now a paladar – a family run restaurant.  I could move in…
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The Swiss ambassador’s house was designed by Richard Neutra – and the pool(s) is huge and chic.  As is the house… 
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This pool and pool house, with their simple neo-Colonial lines, won awards in the ‘50’s.  Another Casa Protocolo in ‘El Country,’ hence the water…
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The ‘cement pond’ at the United States Head of Special Interests’s (i.e. ambassador’s) residence.  It’s what I imagine your better class of Officer’s Club looks like.  Very “American,” isn’t it?
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This is the entrance to a public salt water pool.  We weren’t allowed in.  Prior to Fidel, the Cuban’s excelled at resort/recreational architecture.  The idea was for the designer to have fun so the place looked fun… Cubans, then and now, know how to have FUN.
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In general, the ocean crashes onto rocky shore in Havana, not beach.  You have to drive maybe 20 minutes outside the city to the closest nice beaches, and two hours to Varadero, their Hamptons. The only beach we saw in Havana proper is at the (former) Biltmore Yacht Club.  I can’t find the (super) cute photo of Baby Hermes on the beach there (he will be relieved..)
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This little number is another Casa Protocolo.  The house is a Roman-style villa called La Mansion.  And that name is not an exaggeration…a marble palace.
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We did a house in Acapulco years ago.  Quite a house.  Two pools.  One huge amorphic one with a 40’ waterfall and a grass ‘hut’ that seated 60 for dinner (right).  And a smaller, more discrete, rectangular one (below), closer to the main house.  The first night, the client turned to me, and over the roar of the waterfall, yelled, “Mira!  This way is Beverly Hills and that way is Bel Air.  Perfect!!”  I had to agree…
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One day the client said something about the pools, implying I must have tried one out.  I replied, “Oh,  I’ve never been in your pools!”  He was stunned.  It never occurred to me; I’m a Worker Bee.  I silently wondered if he knew he was paying for our hotel ‘casita’ a few hundred yards away, with a private pool? 
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Me at my Acapulco desk…
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If you want to go to Cuba, drop me a line.  I’ll tell you what room to get at the Nacional and how to cadge a guest pass at the Biltmore YC.

Stay warm! —Carey Maloney
For the complete archive of past Wandering Eye blogs, click here.

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 01/31/11 at 01:11 PM • Permalink

The Wandering Eye: Christmas Decorations

Rural Intelligence Style Our blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his partner Hermes Mallea, an architect, are principals in the M (Group).
My Rural Intelligence buddy Marilyn (think Rumpole’s She Who Must Be Obeyed) suggested a blog on Christmas decorations.  She knows we have decorated The New York Public Library for years and figured this was a good direction to point me in…

Astor Hall with the tree
So –  Indeed we volunteer decorate the Library every year, and we love it. What better space to tackle than Astor Hall?  When they asked us to help back in 1996, we were renting a house up here a few houses north of where we are now.  I looked out the window, and there was a huge spruce with birds flying around it..  Hmm.  Natural.  That could work! 

Little families crowd the tree
We hit the collections for inspiration and fell upon the Library’s huge trove of Christmas cards.  There it was—a mid-19th-century German card with a snowy fir tree full of little birds.  We found more cards with trees and birds, especially the 1960’s UNICEF cards.  So we had a theme and it was connected to the Library (the vast scope of the Library has always allowed us to work backwards. You name the theme, the Library has the materials to back it up.)
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Circa 1949 author and librarian Emma Brock was on the same track.
We needed pine cones, so I mention this to my mother.  Off and running, and a month later, she had collected, via Cub Scout troops, her garden clubbers, and even a group of nuns, 14 huge boxes of beautiful East Texas pine cones, sorted by size (!) for her contribution to the effort.  So these get shipped up.

Meanwhile, I am wondering/worrying—how will we hang them?  Well.  They don’t need to be hung. They just stick to that artificial tree (fire code) like Velcro.  Magic.  Given how rich we were in pine cones, we covered that tree densely and used them as a skirt projecting 5’ around the tree. 

And damned if those pine cones haven’t lasted—with minimal refreshing—year after year… Amazing and unexpected.  Sort of a water to wine-ish-y miracle!  I use them everywhere—in bowls, in the huge Pyrex containers by our fireplace, on the table in my elevator vestibule… Pine cones rock.

Then I shopped for lots of fake birds, as natural looking and forest-y as we could find.  No tucans.  Also lots of little nests to hang, sit, and perch.  Wooden cranberry garlands add a bit of color.  Some snow brightens it all up.

The final product is big and bold from a distance but detailed and ‘lively’ up close.  Children seem to enjoy it—we have Harry Potter-inspired owls that evoke gasps.  And the adults stop to look too.  The librarians set up a large glass case with holiday-theme items from the stacks (such as Charles Dicken’s personal copy of “A Christmas Carol” and a daggeurotype of the real Tiny Tim)—every opportunity is a learning experience at the NYPL!

Upstairs in the very grand Trustees’ Room, we garland it up and focus on pine cones and gilded ribbon, with just a few escapee birds around.

Here the Trustees’ Room set up for a lunch we hosted for six potential donors.
Once this installation is completed on Thanksgiving weekend, I am pretty much done with Christmas decorations for a few weeks. (In the interest of full disclosure, we have about 15 talented window dressers who do the work.  At this point, I just wander through and tweak a bird here or move a pine cone there…)
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My junk store Santa on our front porch. He lights up of course…and he is on a dimmer!
I’ll admit to being consumed with how much trouble it is to set it all up and take it all down, so I opt for a few bold statements (to amuse me) and leave it at that.  Plus, I am loathe to completely change my environs.  I sort of like them the way they are and don’t need a month of twinkling lights and gilded pine cones to add forced sparkle to my already glitteringly glam life (note: insert irony…)

Which brings me to the timetable.  As noted above, I realize it takes time and effort to put all this junk up.  This is the price you pay.  But don’t use that as an excuse to put it up months in advance.  “The holiday season” has gotten longer and longer.  I won’t be pretentious and expound putting up the tree on Christmas Eve, but, really, you want that stuff around for a month or more?  Too much…  If you really “need” the buzz of all that tinsel, it may be nature’s way of telling you you should spend some dough on making your digs nice all year ‘round…

Sweet, right?  There are about 24 pieces and all are almost a foot tall.  Bought in Mexico maybe ten years ago.  This year was the first time it got unpacked.
I put up a few things at our house—a big Mexican crèche is lots of fun to play with, and my junk store Santa makes me happy.  Then we toss around the most useful decorations we have—shiny, plastic, expandable things bought in Puerto Rico to decorate a holiday rental. Love them.  Glittery and funny and they fold flat… 
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Antique Hermes with his Puerto Rican star
When in doubt, nothing works better than lots and lots of evergreens.  Pile it on.  Cheap, elegant, and PC.  When I am feeling ambitious, nothing works better for me than sticking the branches everywhere—jammed behind a painting frame, piled on top of a cabinet, laid flat on tables…You have to watch out for ‘sap’ damage – wrap the leaking stems.

When it comes to lights, we go two ways.  First choice are the old-fashioned BIG tree bulbs we grew up with—multi colored, but on dimmers.  The dimmer is key—it lowers to a wonderful,  evocative glow. Very cool.

If the lights are white we mix two sizes. Let’s say 70% small with 30% medium or large—you get great depth and more interesting results.  Ideally, the mix is virtually imperceptible. 

Rural Intelligence StyleOn the Christmas card front, we long ago opted for New Year’s cards.  The pressure is off!  They can be sent well into January, and they aren’t as likely to be missed in the mass of mailings running up to December 31.  We use the same template every year—a nice thick card with the year engraved in a color up top and our names in another color down low.  That blank page forces a handwritten note—which is the point, right?  Printing your name under “May your Seasons be Bright” is a cop out and not greatly appreciated around here.
Gifts can wait until New Year’s and are mainly books.  We find pens and ribbons in the same colors so everything ‘matches’.  We go for cheap white paper or brown butcher paper and use lots of nice satin ribbon.  As a source for ribbon, I swear by Jamali.
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Many Christmases, we go to Palm Springs.  Our friend Barbara has a great house (1930’s Spanish, formerly owned by the Jack Warners, rented by Elvis—quintessential “Old Palm Springs”), and we park there for a few weeks.  I pull out her stuff and buy a little pine tree to stand on a table in the living room.  Simple and desert-y.
We discovered Palm Springs’ “Most Decorated” house a few years ago. AMAZING. Nothin’ like this in Columbia County.. Five million lights and blow up things and moving things and reindeer sculpture with computer monitor heads. Thousands come. Can you imagine being the neighbors?? Kenny, the artist, started doing it when he was a teenager. And continues to this day (I hope).

Check it out on YouTube—which is longer than the actual tour, by the way. On and on and on and on, right? Kenny started to bum me out…So just Fast Forward ...
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“Kenny Irwin Jr. is my birth name.” How “California” is this??!?
I was going to sign off with a cheery “Happy Holidays” but that reminds me… What is it with those people who “correct” others with “It’s Merry Christmas.”  I am not involved in the War Against Christmas.  I am simply including—for ease—many holidays crammed into one month.  On Christmas Eve, I will wish you a Merry Christmas, but the defensiveness of these zealots is nuts.  Christmas will continue to reign as America’s premier holiday—what with all that $$$ being spent, no one is out to kill Christmas.  How’s about we all just celebrate, each in our own way???

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Speaking of zealots:  On December 15 at 7 p.m. in its South Court, The New York Public Library will host a program with the curators of “Hide/Seek,” a show of portraiture by gay artists at the National Portrait Gallery.  One work, a video by AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz, was deemed by the Catholic League—a grand name for a tiny lobbying org (oh, and What’s-his-name Boehner weighed in with some vitriol)—as “anti-Christian” and “an attack on Christmas.”

For 11 seconds, ants crawl on a wooden crucifix.  This is a threat!?!?  Talk about insecure. The museum sadly bowed to demands to censor itself and the poop has, rightfully, hit the fan…Come to the Library that night and hear what the curators, in their only NYC gig, have to say.
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Hermes at Christmas in Texas with his in-laws.  Fun!
—Carey Maloney
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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 12/09/10 at 12:52 AM • Permalink