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The Wandering Eye: Good Things From A Great Beauty

Photo of CZ Guest by Cecil Beaton for Vogue.

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

I love a good “estate” auction. I’ve been in New York long enough to have seen Kitty Miller’s, the Windsor’s, Andy’s, Jackie’s, Bunny’s and lots more. On November 14 Stair Galleries in Hudson will be auctioning property once owned by the late style icon CZ Guest, being sold by Cornelia Guest from her family’s Long Island estate, Templeton.

Our local auction house, Stair Galleries, has evolved (in what seems like moments) into a major player in the auction world. A few months ago I wandered in and within minutes in the viewing room I muttered to myself, “Whoever this old lady was, she had great taste…” Indeed, although the selling estate was anonymous, I had hit the nail on the head; the collection that New York auction houses had craved had landed in Hudson. Kudos to Stair Galleries; experience, professionalism and good manners have made the firm formidable.

Mrs. Guest, who died in 2003, was known for her simple elegance. The taffeta skirt with a twin set was her “invention.” Not to diminish her fashionable achievements, but she got away with her famed simplicity and reserve because she was a great beauty. The rather fey Duchess of Windsor needed gee gaws and Schlumberger jewels. Mrs. Guest needed a lot less and she obviously knew it. 

Rather than try to tell the life story of CZ Guest, check out her obituary in The Guardian. I looove a good obit and the Brits excel. Read it for all the details I am too lazy to reiterate. (This New York Times article explains the Times’ obit system – using terms like “pre dead” (that’s us!). And the Society of Professional Obituary Writers has an annual “Grimmies” award. Who knew?

I am (probably unduly…) proud of my obituary for Pancho in Rural Intelligence, where I laud the Times’ obit master and Pulitzer Prize winner, the late Robert McG Thomas Jr.

The property Stair is offering from Mrs. Guest’s daughter, the multi-talented Cornelia Guest, covers the gambit of rich WASPy possessions. There are multiple pieces of purple T. Anthony luggage, Tiffany dressing table accoutrements and a stack of Portault trays that are a bit the worse for wear. It’ll be snapped up. There will be leather-bound books, Steuben bowls and wicker dog beds. 

Parisian decorator Stephane Boudin of Maison Jansen worked on Templeton and there are a few pieces of Jansen furniture. For more information on Jansen, here is a link to the Jansen topic page from my book, STUFF

One of the “famous” elements at Templeton was the acre of leopard carpet underfoot. For a house built around stables and kennels, nothing works like leopard. Being pre spotted as it were, it is the most practical carpet out there. I’ve used it in children’s rooms and my own bedroom — rooms that get a lot of wear and tear. ☺ It comes in many iterations — loop and flat wool, nylon and, my personal favorite, a flat weave that looks about 80 years old.

Anyway — check out the sale starting Friday, November 6. 

A Tradition of Collecting: Property from Cornelia Guest, Formerly The Collection of Winston & C.Z. Guest, Templeton
Saturday, Nov. 14, 11 a.m.
Previews Nov. 6-13
Stair Galleries
549 Warrent Street, Hudson, NY
(518) 751-1000

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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/31/15 at 12:58 PM • Permalink

The Wandering Eye: The Italian Manse Saga Ends

Way back in April, 2008 we “launched” (a grandiose term ) The Wandering Eye with a story on our firm, M(Group)’s project renovating our next-door neighbor’s wonderful mid 19th-century Italianate manse. 

We had done a few projects in the Hudson Valley and we were thrilled to get our mitts on this house. Fantastic elegant “bones” on an incredibly beautiful historic site. The neighbors were fun and adventurous clients. We were all ready to return the house to its original splendor. 

There was no big rush, so the finalized project took a while. Maybe a long while. Really long…

Well, as of this summer, the house is officially complete — or at least the finish line is within sight. Happily, the generous owners offered up their gardens for not one but two friends’ weddings this summer, and there is nothing like the prospect of a wedding to put wind in the renovation sails.

The grand new mahogany porches are completely done. The old office/pantry/dumbwaiter space became a beautiful kitchen with huge windows and 14-foot ceilings. The pool house was gutted, renovated, renamed the Guest House (since the pool was filled in…) and will be Party Central for the college-aged kids. 

Hermes and Frankie inspect their work in the kitchen before the chandelier is hung.

The porches are on all four sides of the house, offering different views, sunlight, and functions. The dining porch opens off the kitchen via a glass door that mimics the flanking triple hung windows. These new generous outdoor spaces let our neighbors live outside, reading or working at the huge table, lounging on big old wicker sofas. 

We didn’t go for matching carriage lamps and neo-Colonial lanterns. For each facade we opted for the “evolutionary” look, which is appropriate in the Hudson Valley. I gave them marching orders for their recent holiday in Morocco and provided a stack of images of brass lanterns to use as inspiration — and they did good work in the Marrakesh souk, sending back three huge brass lights. 

David Varnell, our landscape architect of choice, designed beautiful perennial gardens and laid out stone and gravel walks. The house is anchored to the land now and all the elements are reachable by walkways. We shopped for garden ornaments and our landscape architect found XXL Versailles orangerie planters for the porch and I grabbed XXL iron urns for the garden.

The gates got spiffed up, too. They still look “institutional’”— as in “a mental institution” (some “friends” would argue that is appropriate), but they are cleaned up, tailored, and thoughtful now — a huge improvement. Two nice big maples and masses of spirea will bring order on the road. First impressions are key — these gates made a statement in 1964 (yipes) and they make a statement today (yipes?).

As this project winds down, two new Columbia County jobs have wound up on our dance card. Yippee! We love working where we play. In our business it’s all about the people who actually make the products we design and we’ve found an excellent stable of professional builders and experts in our neck of the woods. Demanding tradesmen following the ranks of demanding home owners north. Works for us.

Onward and upward…

Works for me.

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

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Posted by Lisa Green on 09/14/15 at 06:31 PM • Permalink

Why The Wandering Eye Gives A Posy To Pondside Nursery

Frankie is my garden helper….Kelly Varnell Virgona were the designers.

I am no gardener. I am a pretty good “cutter backer,” I think. Hermes would argue that I kill more than I save. But then He Who Must Be Obeyed doesn’t even venture onto the lawn, let alone deign to touch a pair of secateurs. So his opinion is of little value. (Bam Zow Smash!)

I was raised by an avid gardener. My mother was on her hands and knees digging in the dirt from Day One. She made it into a career as a landscape architect and an avocation as a director of The Garden Club of America. To this day, her garden is a beauty. She set the bar very high.

So it takes your better class ‘o nursery to grab me, kicking and screaming, and entice me to actually buy a plant. Pondside Nursery, on Route 9G south of Hudson, grabs me.

The owner, Claverack native Jake Watts, has created a new horticultural destination in our ‘hood. The nursery’s hardscape and landscape are evolving every season, and I, for one, enjoy a nursery that actually plants a landscape around and into the inventory. It inspires me.

Perrenials Yay! Annuals Blech…

Jake and his crew have ditched the standard retail model of lots of little garden tchotchkes, weird hoses and twee birdhouses. They focus on the plants and leave the gnomes to others. Check out the website and the blogs by Robert Anderson. Lots of information, beautifully delivered. 

Jake has a BA in horticulture. He’s been doing this since 2002 but just dug the pond and established the nursery in 2011. He is a pro at throwing out the Latin names along with the vernacular (I love me a little Latin). His advice over the two years we’ve been stopping by has always been good — and it has often been “That’s not going to work for you” kind of advice, which is the best kind. Last year we gave over our place to Jake to maintain and it has never looked better. 

So check it out. We can’t drive to Hudson without stopping. It’s like Stuckey’s (right)...“PLEEEEEASE can we stop?? Please???” As the designated driver, I control HWMBO. (Bam! Kaboom!) (Photo courtesy of my hometown paper, the Beaumont Enterprise, Texas. Neither the hands or the t-shirt are particularly clean. But the Pecan Log Roll speaks volumes.)

Jake is camera shy and sent me a photo of the whole Pondside gang. You’ll have to guess which one he is.

An aside — further south on Route 9G, Germantown’s Valley Harvest Ice Cream & Grill is open again for the summer. I wrote about it last year, but it bears repeating. Last Saturday night my little house party was jonesing for ice cream so we stumbled over to Valley Harvest. And damned if it was not the BEST banana split I have ever seen/had. I watched as they cut fresh pineapple and strawberries. The whipped cream was real. So was the sugar rush. And it was $4.95. Brilliant.

Pondside Nursery
5918 RT9G Hudson, NY 12534
(518) 828-1179
Open daily, 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. 

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

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Posted by Rachel Louchen on 06/13/15 at 03:17 PM • Permalink

The Wandering Eye Does April In Paris

I got an email from Lisa de Rural Intelligence asking for a blog a week before we were booked to go to Paris for a busman’s holiday of client shopping and celebrating a birthday.

I’d been putting her off. I only like doing these blogs if I can be snarky. And I can’t be snarky about our locale. That would be dumb… and what could I possibly find to criticize?

So then I think: France! And the French!!! Parfait. Fair game. And foreign tourists. Certainment fair game…

We are off.

OK, we can all wax eloquent on the indignities of air travel. So I won’t. Like shooting fish in a barrel. (Note to old barefoot Earth Man splayed across three seats in the terminal: “Drop dead.”)

Les flics.

We safely arrive at our sweet little Rive Gauche home away from home – a friend’s duplex apartment in the 5th in an ancient building with views of Notre Dame from the terrace. We’ve stayed so many times its chez nous. Post Charlie Hebdo, “home” is now sporting 24/7 armed Parisian police posted right by the front door. After our initial “Huh!?” and a day of guiltily dodging in and out, we evolved to a chirpy “Bon jour!” and “Bon soir!” They were consistently charming and consistently gooooood looking. But the rifles scared us.

Travelling with Hermes is a cultural forced march. He has his agenda and he is going see it through to completion. I am part of the march, whether I like it or not. 

He’s figured out the way to keep me in line and moving forward. Culture is bookended by shopping and eating. We walk/Metro/cab to Museum #1. We view and we exit and he then feeds me or dangles a retail carrot — “Look! Le Bonne Marche!! BHV’s pet store! Claude Nature!” Then he tricks me into Museum #2. “We’re so close!” Then lunch. Then Museum #3 and I crawl home for a long nap followed by an espresso and lots of pate and cheese and bread. (He’s good at buying that stuff. He hablos! So smart.) That effectively ruins dinner — but we go out to dinner. Home to watch BBC News and in bed by midnight. 

Repeat, and repeat. And repeat. I’m generally complacent. Sometimes I throw in the towel. “You go to the damn Louvre. I am going home.” And he looks hurt. Or relieved?

The Fondation Louis Vuitton.

This April 2015 all the travel press was about two things — the new Fondation Louis Vuitton in the Bois de Boulogne and the reopened Musee’ Picasso Paris in Hotel Sale’ in the Marais. 

Let’s start with the Louis Vuitton Gehry building. A wonderful gift to the city of Paris. A sculptural triumph. Hermes compared it to the Eiffel Tower. A new landmark. Bravo. 

But the inside. And the function. Damn. We hated it. Grim. Painted concrete floors, battleship gray, and the walls a dead bad white. It was like a well-maintained Manhattan co-op basement. I just wanted to escape the underground gallery spaces — depressing, foggily lit rooms. Mr. Gehry’s interior let us down big time.

Then you get outside in the bones and start trekking up. And up. You wander the warren of levels without any idea of where you are or will end up. There are a few areas for plantings. And, from someone who always admires the public gardens of France, they were cray cray bad. Sad and messy. 

It wasn’t designed for the throngs that will come this summer. M. Gehry incorporated two of my least favorite Parisian design elements — tiny elevators and dangerously narrow sidewalks — throughout his building. It’ll be hell. 

This stock photo conveys none of the chaos I experienced.

So after an hour there we slogged back to the Metro through the dusty Bois (typically ill shod in dark brown suede. Hermes says that is one of my “talents”) and a bit of Neuilly (bet the swells hate the added foot traffic) and proceed to the Louvre — open on Monday.

We use the Porte des Lions. It spares us the pyramid entrance (which we admire but we don’t enjoy) and feeds us right into the Oceanic/Pre Columbian/Primary Art galleries. The main collection is at the Musee Quai Branly (a great museum — go!) so the Louvre stuff is slightly “Greatest Hits,” which I love. Walk upstairs and you are at the end of the Italian Gallery (it never disappoints) and you just walk and walk.

This self portrait stopped me.  If every picture tells a story, what was Sr. Melendez telling us with his blue hair bow and c’est example of his oeuvre? The gaydar is off the charts.

OK — today’s museum experience, to be blunt, sucks. The buildings are often great, but not so the teeming masses of shockingly dressed/undressed cretins taking selfies and talking loudly and listening to audio tours that result in big roadblocks of the unaware. No one is paying attention to anything as far as I could tell. Just wandering vaguely. 

I freak. I race through, glancing at the art and trying to avoid any physical and sensory contact. If the galleries are crowded, Hermes knows where to find me: at the exit within minutes of entering.

Love the sphinxes of the Hôtel Salé  — crenellated castles for crowns.

We started Day 2 at the Musee Picasso Paris. Since we never buy tickets in advance (or make one reservation for any meal) we take it as it comes — or we leave. There was a line — but He Who Must Be Obeyed made me reconsider bolting (“No. Stay. Staaaay. Good boy.”) and it was worth the endless (20 minute) wait. All that Picasso in an amazing 18th-century hotel particulaire, the Hôtel Salé, beautifully restored and hung with tons of amazing work. 

What’s not to love? To return to our theme — how about our fellow visitors? The crowd was still pretty lame — and loud.  Dressed a bit better. Or maybe it was just early in the day.

By Day 3 we were hitting the less obvious museums and the “tone” improved exponentially. “Jeanne Lanvin” at the Palais Galliera was fantastic and the crowd was informed and polite and focused.

The Palais Galliera was a treat.

Move two blocks to the Fondation Pierre Berge/Yves St Laurent — and again, the crowd was there for the exhibition, not their Bucket List. 

“1971: Le Collection du Scandale” was a fun little show. “Saint-Laurent: Truly Hideous” read the headline of Eugenia Sheppard’s review in the Herald Tribune. YSL was inspired by his buddy Paloma Picasso’s thrift shop aesthetic. His collection was reviled and changed the course of fashion in the 1970s. Vintage became acceptable. The exhibition was saved by a large video playing film coverage of the day — brutal! The Supremes’ soundtrack kept us tapping our toes.


So besides culture, we shop and eat. We are not foodies. And because we are teetotalers, nothing is less fun than a long “tasting” without the “pairing.” We just wander — at hours later than the normal person — and jump in. “Monsieur, the kitchen is about to close,” doesn’t scare us.

Hermes was happier than he looks at Le Voltaire. And there were four pups at the next table. Four!

We order French stuff. Old-fashioned French stuff. Steak tartare is my lunch of choice, followed by #2, Croque Madame, or #3, a Salad Nicoise with canned tuna. Nothing nouvelle, vaporized or masticated. 

We love Le Voltaire – close to the antiques dealers and wonderful food. We always hit Le Rotisserie, the “petite soeur” of the Tour D’Argent, about 3 blocks from the apartment. 


OMG. It just occurred to me we missed Collette this trip. How strange not to have walked by. Collette is de rigueur. Not that we ever buy anything. (Now I remember… it was the afternoon I told him to stuff the Louvre — that’s when we would have passed Collette. Sad Face…)

Pickin’ out some new critters at Claude Nature.

Claude Nature is our favorite taxidermist. (Doesn’t everyone have a favorite taxidermist?) Hermes got a handsome little hawk this time. 

And the BHV. I love the BHV, le Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville. It’s a huge old school store in the Macy’s/Alexander’s vein. The store isn’t fashionable or fancy — it is very French. The basement is a famous hardware store. And the pet department is heaven.


An uneventful flight back and the stuffed bird cleared customs. After five days we were done. Fed and rested. A few treasures scouted and headed for New York. French friends reconnected with. As they say, à la prochaine.

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

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Posted by Lisa Green on 04/27/15 at 08:56 PM • Permalink

The Wandering Eye Ends 2014 With A Roar

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

Okay — four years ago I wrote about our holiday decorating experiences at The New York Public Library and I gave some pithy (probably useless) advice. It is way too long for me to re-read. I’m like a movie actor – after the role is completed, I only see the film once: at the premier.

I figure it’s about time for a new holiday diatribe. 

So – this year I had a Holiday Challenge. To wreath the iconic lions in front of The New York Public Library. Now, Patience and Fortitude wore wreaths for decades. They were Manhattan holiday icons. Maybe the Manhattan holiday icon. But the wreaths, with lots of metal substructure, were damaging the soft pale pink Tennessee marble so over a decade ago the Library stopped using them.

I lobbied hard (whined and keened) for the return of the wreaths. I wasn’t alone; lots of other people wanted them. But no, Facilities, in charge of making sure our treasured landmark stays standing and looking good, would not allow them. And who can argue with potentially staining Patience and Fortitude? Not me.

Last year, Facilities came up with a list of approved materials – with the main caveat being No Ferrous Materials. Library President Tony Marx wanted the wreaths — everyone wanted the wreaths. So the games began. We went round and round (and round) with fabricators, manufacturers, designers. All that fake holiday stuff is crammed with ferrous wires. All of it.

After hours and hours of meetings and emails, the Library Special Events Christmas Elf, Bryant (my kinda elf – 6’6” and VGL), found the right designer. We shopped the flower market, finally found the only three greens with no wires and we approved on site/sight. Two 15’ circumferences of plastic boxwood and pine sewn together with plastic fishing wire and all held together with thousands of zip ties. Add East Texas Pine Cones — see that first blog — and a red ribbon and Bob’s your uncle.

Last Sunday afternoon, I met Carlos Rivas, who created the wreaths, and his crew on the steps of the Library and they were installed. Easy on/Easy off — they simply latch under the chin. Lightweight and ‘flow through’ for snow and rain. I didn’t relish installing these bubbas in the Cold Light of Day. Opinions from the Pedestrian Peanut Gallery would not be appreciated. Never let the client (in this case the People of New York) see the process, just the final product.

But I was wrong. Even the old hippie who sat directly below Fortitude throughout the installation, smokin’ a blunt, gave us the Thumbs Up. I got asked a lot of questions (“Where is Saks Fifth Avenue?”) but no one piped up re the wreaths.

They were up and running for the annual Holiday Open House, when the building is opened to 6,000 supporters for a grand party.

And the New York Times has piped in.

If you are in the ‘hood, check out Astor Hall and go up to the McGraw Rotunda to see a Lenox Case with Charles Dickens’ personal annotated copy of A Christmas Carol and a daguerreotype of Tiny Tim— the only known image of the book’s hero.

The Wandering Eye suggests the perfect holiday gift: Top Cats: The Life and Times of The New York Public Library Lions.

The Lions’ early saga was fraught with bad press and criticism (everyone’s a critic, right?). Too benign. Too domesticated.

I guess history has proven the critics wrong. They were the work of the great animalier, Edward Clark Potter, carved by the Piccirilli Brothers out of pink Tennessee marble Mayor Fiorello La Guardia gave them the nicknames Patience (south) and Fortitude (north) during the Great Depression.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 12/06/14 at 04:13 PM • Permalink

The Wandering Eye Says Hermes’ New Book Is A Great Escape

Our Wandering Eye blogger, interior designer Carey Maloney, and his husband, architect Hermes Mallea, are principals in the Manhattan based design firm M (Group).

Well, he’s gone and done it again. Hermes has a new book out. It’s only his second — but it feels like his tenth. 

Our personal literary saga started with his book, Great Houses of Havana. We made research trip after trip (after trip after trip) to the Pearl of the Antilles, with me bitching and moaning “Why can’t we go to Paris??? Why do we always have to go to Havana???” “I’m hungry.” “I’m HOT!” “What did that man say?” “I’m HOT!” “I don’t feel so good…” 

Bear in mind this torment is totally justified and delivered as required. One of Hermes’ nicknames is “Condescencion.”


Havana is hot. Very, very hot.

Granted, we had a good time; we always have a good time (even in Guatemala — aka HELL). But Cuba gave me plenty of ammo to kvetch and whine. 

So he finishes that first damn book and it is a triumph. Both the Commies and the right wingers love it. So that’s good. But — there is always a but — inexplicably, after 30 years of “Carey and Hermes,” “Carey and Hermes,” it was suddenly, “Hermes and Carey” at best. “Hermes and What’s His Name” at worst.



A compliment from Strand Books.

The line was drawn in the sand.

I was gonna write me a book. I gave myself a 12-month deadline and knocked out STUFF. Happily, it was well received and my stock ascended. For a while.

Then, upstate, he started hiding back in that palace of a bedroom suite he enjoys (while I camp in a tiny sad little room ☹) and I knew something was up. Another damn book. 

Well, I have to admit, he does it well. Escape: The Heyday of Caribbean Glamour is a thing of beauty and full of architectural information and social history. Chocka block full. Nowadays, the reading public isn’t very into actual words. Give them a full-bleed photograph with a caption placed far from it and they seem content. This makes us nuts — we want words and information and pretty pictures. Call us crazy.

So buy Escape from your local bookstore, design shop, or from the notorious Amazon. And read it. Trust me, you’ll learn something and enjoy it.

I am throwing a booksigning on November 12 at The New York Public Library in the very glamorous Trustees’ Room from 6:30 until 8:30 p.m. 

Fabulous venues continue in Hudson, where our buddy Colin Stair is hosting a signing on Saturday, November 29 at the very glamorous Stair Galleries, from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m. 

We hope you can join us at one or the other!

In the meantime, here are some photos from the book for you to enjoy.

P.S. So I write this snarky intro and then I read Condescencion’s “Acknowledgements.” He was so nice about me: ”This book would not have been possible without his enthusiasm for the story I wanted to tell.” Oops. My bad. Now I’m all guilty.




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Posted by Lisa Green on 10/31/14 at 04:20 PM • Permalink

The Wandering Eye: Cuban Art On The Hudson

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.

Hermes’s Cuban connections (I call them the R’s – all their names start with R. And I wonder why they don’t like me?? ☺ ) alerted him to an exhibition of the work of the late Cuban painter and printmaker Belkis Ayón (1967-1999) at FRG Objects and Design Gallery, 217 Warren Street.

FRG Objects and Design is showing prints and paintings by Belkis Ayón through September 30 in its handsome space (above Ackermans Appliances). Ayón’s work is classified as Cuban artistic patrimony and isn’t exportable, so the show at FRG is an opportunity to see and buy rarities. Love that.

Belkis Ayón

Ayón was very interested in the Afro Cuban all-male secret society, Abakua. The imagery and references are thick – Cubans don’t do ‘thin.’ There was suspicion when Ayón committed suicide that perhaps she had been killed by members angered at her exposure of secret rituals. She began exhibiting in Cuba in 1988 as the Soviet Union began to fall. With the dissolution of Cuba’s primary source of support, the country fell into what became known as The Special Period in Time of Peace, a decade of extreme economic deprivation. There was very little food and there certainly were no printmaking materials. So Ayón created her own techniques incorporating varied materials – necessity is the mother of invention and Cubans are unparalleled at making do with what they have.

This NPR story focuses on an exhibition of her work that took place in Havana in 2009. And check out an Abakua dancing the Rhumba via the Congo. 

Belkis Ayón Exhibit
FRG Objects & Design
217 Warrent St., 2nd Floor
Hudson, NY
(646) 483-9109

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Posted by Lisa Green on 08/25/14 at 10:12 AM • Permalink

The “Best Of The Interwebs,” According To The Wandering Eye

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.

Walking to work, pondering on the next blog, I quickly start to ponder on more important things — like work.

And at work, we use the Interweb a lot to scout out antiques, check the specs on all sorts of products, suss out images, follow and engage with social media (hahaha — Hermes will argue that is a transparent attempt at my rationalization of web surfing on company time).

Okay, let’s have a “make up a dirty caption” contest!

I am constantly amazed at the new sites I am introduced to – and the information they provide.  The new hardware out there is pretty rad too. Sadly, I am also constantly amazed at how uninformed and computer illiterate many of my peers remain — and how resistant to new technology they are. Way back when this whole mess started, 20 years ago, when we graduated from a typewriter to a word processor to a 100-pound Dell computer, I declared I was not going to be completely left behind.  This mutton was going to make every attempt to keep up with the computer savvy lambs.


And I do love me a new toy. So, to Hermes’s dismay we’ve ended up with a herd of Nest thermostats and a security system I can access — and watch! —  from anywhere. We have iPads to run the house and wacky WiFi that requires three “zones” and lets me work/play outside or in. I tried out those fitness bracelets (wonder where that thing went?) and I would long for a pair of Apple glasses but the frames are très unflattering.

Oh — and as to the Cuban. His Luddite tendencies are deeply ingrained. I ran to the grocery store last weekend and when I returned, it took me a moment to realize the television in the kitchen was on — Hermes was cooking. I didn’t know he knew how to turn on the television!!!!  I was so proud — and then scared. It was like Baby’s First Word, and the brats never shut up again until they are surly teens. Turns out changing the channel was a step too far — but it’ll happen.

So here are a few products and sites that are current favorites…

A screen grab of someone in Austin — it’s 102 degrees! Texas: Conservative AND hot. Bad combo.


First – look at the damn thing. What’s not to love? It is handsome. Ours operates both heating and cooling. Over time it learns your schedule and routines (not as creepy as it sounds) and the NEST incorporates that information into the functions. 

These things are precise. If you aren’t in a room for a period of time, it goes to sleep, kicking off the energy-sucking compressors or boiler. I can remotely turn on the heat when we leave the garage in town, and Hermes’s bedroom is warm when he arrives. (Trust me – this is KEY. When I forget and the house is cold upon arrival, my blood runs colder.)

They aren’t cheap (hahahaha) but they do save energy. Granted, I don’t know how long it will take to recoup my investment — if ever. Like the PC Rhinebeck clients who put in a geothermal system (we used the same company that Bard dorms use… Super-size me!) to save energy, but it cost seven figures. Sorta cancels out the benefits, but it’s nice that they tried.


Here is a screen grab of my Pandora.

Pandora is a music service you pay $4.99 a month for. Try it out for free — with commercials — and then subscribe if you like it. We love it. You put in a musical artist or genre and the service pulls similar songs by “similar” artists and creates a playlist that goes on and on and on. You hear things you know and things you don’t. 

Spotify is $9.99 a month and lets you choose an artist and then gives you access to complete albums to create a playlist. I haven’t figured it out yet — it takes a bit of effort to get up and running. But my 20- and 30-something friends swear by it, so I am giving it three months to figure out.

The M(Group) Stuff Pinterest page.


I resisted this site for a loooong time. I thought it was another useless “design” site with dopes posting useless self-aggrandizing photos. But then I played around with it and realized its value. Say you want images of “American Empire Furniture.” The search turns up scores of images with that hashtag and the pics are posted by antiques dealers, museums and generally savvy type people — and sure, some dummies. I found the perfect porch shades to show our next door neighbors. I found my book, STUFF, with slews of entries (gratifying). Then I found Hermes’s book under “Havana Houses” and he blows STUFF out of the water… (I hate him).

Yesterday I needed to show a client how his apartment would glow with high-gloss Dutch paint ceilings throughout. This isn’t exactly a budget-friendly suggestion. It’ll be a pricey ceiling. He kept kvetching, “I can’t envision it.” But under “high-gloss ceiling” I found endless examples and the deal was done. (Well, in reality he kept saying he couldn’t imagine it until Hermes weighed in. Hermes, they believe.)

[Editor’s note: We’re on Pinterest, too. You can find Rural Intelligence’s Pinterest pages here.]


OK — when the Interweb crashes and the WiFi dies, we’ll be back to a transistor radio and rabbit ears on the TV. In the meantime, pitch the old stereo and big speakers with wires — for wireless SONOS.

These self-contained units connect wirelessly. We have them all over the place. And they’re so portable: just unplug, move and boot back up. Your personal music is on it — your radio stations and Podcasts. Pandora and Spotify. Everything in one place. You can listen to different things on each module, so I can “Wiggle Wiggle Wiggle” while El Jefe listens to Poulenc.

Frankie Maloney’s summer job: lifeguard.

And after spending all that dough on new hardware and subscriptions, with all that money you must have left over, I suggest you put in a pool. Our house cries out for a Gunite extravaganza with lots of old stone around it. I heeded the call to the best of my ability. Went on Amazon and for $36 got me a wading/soaking pool that I love. It took me 20 minutes to set it up and stick the hose in. Two hours later, I was happily floating and re-reading I, Claudius

Hermes has resigned himself to it. At first he was horrified it was within sight of our neighboring Carmelite sisters. I made him walk over there and look, and as long as I keep my britches on, it can stay. Frankly, it’s best for everyone if I keep my britches on.

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Posted by Lisa Green on 07/21/14 at 02:17 PM • Permalink

The Wandering Eye Jumps On The Valley Harvest Bandwagon

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.

Our new favorite lunch spot, on Route 9G in Germantown.

OK, I have written one restaurant “review” in the past. I’m not a Foodie. Hermes says what I eat should not actualy sustain a “normal” (air quotes) human. But it seems to work for me. My body is a temple.


My mantra is Proximity. I have driven past Valley Harvest Ice Cream and Grill on Route 9G for years and never stopped. For no good reason. I love me some ice cream, but obviously not enough to pull over.

Tout Germantown turns out. Baby Russell is sleeping in that car, which sort of explains why they chose to park it “in” the outdoor restaurant.


Then Frankie and I made the leap, stopped for a burger and fries, and I jumped on the Valley Harvest bandwagon. That was one excellent burger. And the fries are real, recognizable potatoes. The seating is al fresco so Frankie could legally hang out by the table — the big hook for me.

Jon does the double-fisted chocolate shake delivery.

Last week I shared my find with parent friends who have a place in Tivoli. On Saturday, low and behold, there they were, with sleeping baby parked adjacent in the car, chowing down on burgers, hot dogs (amazing looking), onion “petals’” and fries. We joined them, and Hermes tried the chicken Caesar wrap and raved. Me, I stick to what I know, the burger. All agreed (and two were real foodies) that the food was good. And both commented that the lady who did the cooking had been concerned that all was well: “She’s so nice!” These were unexpected developments.

The owner, Loretta Fisher, has owned and run Valley Harvest for nine years. A Germantown native and a graduate of Columbia Greene Community College, she has been in the food industry all of her life. Her focus is on fresh, local produce. She told me, proudly “We only have one frozen item on the menu: mozzarella sticks for the kids.” Then she added, guiltily, “I guess I could do them fresh.” No need, Loretta. Save your energy for the adults. Childrens’ little palettes aren’t very developed. 

Look at those fries. Damn… and that lettuce looks like lettuce!

Local and fresh are too rare in our neck of the woods. Years ago the Germantown Fire Department or garden club or some organization put together a cookbook. I turned to Apple Pie—the county is covered with orchards, right? Well, the recipe started with canned apples and things went downhill from there. (Who knew they made canned apples??) 

Valley Harvest is fast and inexpensive too—but not too fast or too cheap. Each order is cooked after you order. Me, I find it reassuring that the food doesn’t emerge 30 seconds after you pay. In the city, when I my Chinese takeout, I can barely exit the site before the doorman calls up, “Food delivery.” That speedy execution always worries me.

Peppermint Chocolate Chip rendered in plywood. LOVE.

Sit outside and admire the nice little tables and potted plants. Watch the cars on 9G. Read the paper. Or Rural Intelligence.

Valley Harvest Ice Cream & Grill
6 Palatine Park Road, Germantown, NY
(518) 537-6266
Weekdays (except Tuesdays) 11 a.m. until 9 p.m. Weekends noon to 9 p.m. Nine p.m. is way sophisticated for Germantown.


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Posted by Lisa Green on 06/23/14 at 03:06 PM • Permalink

Stair Galleries: Finds From A Friend (Tom Noonan)

RUN…DON’T WALK! Time is short and the merch is top quality, so get to Stair Galleries and view the sale slated for Saturday, May 17 – Confluence: The Collection of Tom Noonan. Sadly, Tom has decided to close up his shop, Noonan Antiques.

Tom’s iconic “signage: graced Warren Street for many years. I’ll miss her.

For those of us who have shopped Hudson for decades (ouch!), Tom Noonan has always been on the very short list of Dealers Who Cannot be Missed. His shop was full of the best things – Empire furniture, African art, Grand Tour souvenirs, and Turkish textiles – things Hermes and I coveted - and sometimes even bought. Check out noted antiques dealer and writer, Angus Wilkie’s, essay on Tom.

Tom’s things cover the Stair ground floor and the auction house has installed the collection beautifully (which by the way is WAY HARD!). Weave your way around – and I guarantee there will be things you want Some of the highlights are a group of 19th century obelisks, a pair of large painted terracotta garden urns, English library steps, charming architectural models, Thai lacquer boxes, a Swedish neoclassical console and an array of table and floor lamps.


This is the living room of a guest house we built and decorated in Katonah. I can count six Noonan purchases in this shot.

What’s not to love?


A seated Bodhisattva in front of a remarkable faceted mirror.

Meanwhile, upstairs is MORE treasure from various owners. All in all – May 17 and May 18 will be good shopping days in Hudson.


A Chinese scholar’s rock on a very smart “modern” Neo Classical fruitwood chest with a 1950s wood screen behind.

Stair Galleries: The Confluence of Tom Noonan
549 Warren Street, Hudson
Previews through May 16
Auction May 17-18, 11 a.m.






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Posted by Lisa Green on 05/05/14 at 10:21 PM • Permalink