Brooklyn the Beautiful: Dogwood Town

THIS MAY DAY in Brooklyn is a drizzly one. Still, Brooklyn’s brownstone streets are exquisite in spring. Don’t tell anyone… they may decide to move here in droves.

Dogwoods have been in their prime these past couple of weeks, lighting up the fronts of dark-hued row houses with blossoms of pink and white.

P.S. It’s not just dogwoods. See below.


Posted in BROOKLYN, GARDENS & GARDENING | Tagged | 5 Comments

Vintage Cottage on 2/3 Acre, East Hampton, N.Y. 580K


IF THIS HOUSE HAD COME UP when I was in the market a few years back, I would have seriously considered it, even though Sotheby’s is advertising it as a teardown. (The address is 110 Old Stone Highway, East Hampton, NY. You can Google it.)

The house needs work. So what else is new?

But what an upside this property could have: it’s a 1950s cedar-shingled cottage with great interior spaces (as seen in my through-the-window shots, below), on a flat, sunny .6 acre that would be terrific for gardening.

There are two outbuildings: a freestanding summerhouse (screened porch) that looks to be in good condition, and a guest house that reeks powerfully of mildew and needs to be gutted ASAP. That’s the one potential deal-breaker, as far as I can tell from my trespassing, if the house itself smells the same (only the guest house was unlocked).

It’s located on the historic Springs-Amagansett Turnpike, AKA Old Stone Highway, where a number of avid gardeners and high-profile people make their homes.

See the full listing here, with a photo of the pool in season.

It won’t last long. Don’t say I didn’t tell you!



Sag Harbor After the Rain


I’VE STARTED SPENDING TIME “OUT EAST” AGAIN. Though I can’t stay in my own un-winterized bungalow just yet, I’ve been able to bunk nearby and do a bit of garden clean-up on my half-acre property, and begin to catch up with friends I haven’t seen since last fall.

This past week was mostly sunny, but there was one all-day deluge. One evening I found myself in the back streets of Sag Harbor after the rains had let up, with a little time to spend before meeting a friend at the bar at Baron’s Cove, a new and very pleasant hang-out I’ve discovered (fireplace, great cocktails, nice happy hour menu).

Here’s some of what I saw in a 15-minute stroll: the delightful cottage, top, landscaped almost entirely with hinoki cypress; a Victorian farmhouse backlit by the clearing sky; cloud-reflecting puddles; and vistas of low-key properties that don’t scream Hamptons, but merely whisper spring in the country.


Posted in HAMPTONS, LONG ISLAND | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Best of Brownstoner’s “The Insider”

BROWNSTONER.COM, the behemoth Brooklyn-based real estate website for which I write a weekly interior design/renovation column, The Insider, has a new look.

The redesign brings larger images and easier-to-read typography, along with real-time discussions and other improvements, detailed here.

So I thought this would be a good time to catch up with a few of my favorite Insiders from weeks past. Click on any of the titles below to see the full posts in their new, wowie-kazowie incarnation.

The Insider: Narrow South Slope House Gets New Staircase, Extension and Lots of Light


The Insider: This Light, Bright Williamsburg Row House Was Rebuilt From the Ground Up


The Insider: Park Slope Brownstone Has Room for Bold Accents and Quirky Detail


The Insider: Modest Fort Greene Reno Becomes a Total Gut, With Happy Results


The Insider: Spare Modern Décor Enhances This Park Slope Limestone Beauty


The Insider: Revamping a Sunset Park Row House for a Clean, Modern Look







Historic Upstate New York Farmhouse 350K


THIS LISTING COMES DIRECT TO YOU from a longtime blog reader of mine, Lillian DeMauro, who is selling her late 18th century house outside Andes, New York, in Delaware County’s Catskill Mountains, under three hours from NYC.andes_ny

Looks and sounds good to me. For more specifics, read on:

Built c.1790 as a tavern along the Esopus Turnpike, the house has served as a community meeting house, a link on the Underground Railroad and, more recently, a farmhouse.

The house was featured in the 2013 book A Simpler Way Of Life, Old Farmhouses of New York & New England.

There are five fireplaces, two with bake ovens, several pine-sheathed rooms, original chestnut / pine flooring throughout, plaster walls throughout. The house retains “original surfacing at a rare level,” writes Lillian, including sheathing, plaster, flooring, staircases, paneling and paint.

Rooms include 4-5 bedrooms, 1 bath, library, dining room, living room. “Rooms can be used flexibly; you decide,” Lillian writes.

Much work has been done since 2000, including new cedar shingle siding, new hot air heating system, new hot water heater, plumbing, wiring and new basement.

The house sits on two-thirds of an acre, surrounded by state-owned or leased land, planted gardens, lawn and trees.

In Lillian words, it’s “near 21st century cultural and social amenities, with the natural world at your back door.”Among the nearby diversions: hiking, kayaking, canoeing, swimming, tennis, golf, world-class trout fishing, theatre and opera.

For more info: Paul or Lillian, 607-746-7199 or


Posted in CATSKILLS, HISTORIC PRESERVATION, PROPERTIES FOR SALE | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Last Look at San Miguel


AS IF TO MAKE SURE I would leave San Miguel de Allende thoroughly in love with the place — as if to hammer home the point that it is spectacularly deserving of its perennial spot among the top few on Conde Nast Traveler‘s annual Best Cities award (#1 in 2013) — the sunset on my final night was a breath-taker.

As my friend and I rounded the corner where Calle Relox opens up to the Jardín on our way to my last SMA dinner, we both suddenly gasped and groped for our cameras.

The day had been balmy, and the cloud patterns produced the most dramatic sunset of my two-week stay. And they do know how to light those monuments.


I had spent my last full day, finally restored to gastro-intestinal health, wandering the streets with no essential purpose but to absorb the atmosphere, have a last cup of coffee at Zenteno, a pleasant café where American boomers while away many an hour, grab a few final photos (such as that of David Kestenbaum’s brass bull in front of the cultural center known as Bellas Artes, below, which had become as much a symbol to me of SMA as the Parroquia) and pick up a few more gifts and souvenirs.


A woman in Zenteno’s happened to mention an exhibition of antique Mexican blankets at Bellas Artes, below, so off we trotted to see it. It was illuminating to compare the geometric designs of the locally woven blankets one sees in the markets with their more intricate antecedents.


Adios, San Miguel, but not forever.

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San Miguel de Allende: Nothing Not to Like


MY TWO-WEEK VISIT TO THE MEXICAN FANTASY-VILLAGE of San Miguel de Allende is coming to an end. I have only good things to say, except in one regard: the drinking water.

It’s true what they say: don’t drink it. And I didn’t mean to, but there it was on the table in a restaurant frequented by American tourists, where we’d been before. Without thinking, I picked it up and drained the glass. At least, I think it was that glass of water that caused me to spend more than 30 precious vacation hours in bed, a plastic wastebasket by my side. BOTTLED WATER ONLY.

Fortunately, the bed is comfortable, the internet only went down for an hour, and today I’m feeling human again.

My release from stomach misery, today’s perfect weather and my impending departure have made me appreciate this place all the more.

The Spanish-style historic architecture, long vistas to the western mountains from the tops of hilly, stone-paved streets, rooftop gardens filled with thriving plants, the sophisticated Mexican modern aesthetic in certain galleries and restaurants — all that I was bound to like.

Other things have been more of a surprise. At first I was put off by there being so many North Americans present, and thought maybe there was something exploitative about it. Now I think it’s probably the best thing that could happen to a Mexican town, and I’m guessing most locals would agree.

San Miguel still feels thoroughly Mexican, at least to me. But there is a sort of comfort factor in there being so many Americans here. This entire hotel is made up of us, mostly 60’s and older. We meet in the lovely circular garden, and they’re Democrats, I can tell. How? The hotel’s community room hosts meetings of the Occupy SMA group and shows films about climate change. (The Texans who build mega-mansions up in the hills? Probably not Democrats.)

I haven’t seen so much hippie-style clothing on women since 1969 — oversized earrings, fringed shawls and scarves, floppy hats, long skirts.

How to spend the days hasn’t been a problem. After the photo workshop, there was an event billed as a “Beat” cantina crawl, and I feared hokum. It took us into places I’d have been afraid to go on my own: Gato Negro, the second-oldest bar in San Miguel, from 1929; El Cu Cu, the most attractive of them, from 1955; and La Cucaracha, a fluorescently-lit, scary-looking place where some seedy characters were already hanging around the bar when our group entered.

It is to their credit that I didn’t realize they were actors, about to impersonate and read the poetry of Jack Kerouac, William Burroughs, Neal Cassady and Diane di Prima with great bawdy spirit (not all of them actually spent time in San Miguel, but… poetic license). At each stop, we drank mezcal, which I now think of as smoother tequila. Need I say it turned out to be loads of fun, and more authentic than hokey.

A word about the shopping here. It’s varied and abundant. Not just the high-end galleries under the arches of old haciendas, which are reasonably priced for the quality of their textiles, furnishings, pottery, metalware, etc. But also (my bailiwick) the street markets. They are sprawling — they just go on and on — and open every day under corrugated tin roofs. Even what may look at first like schlock bears scrutiny. Many of the vendors, like Patricia, below, who sells silver jewelry, design and make their own wares.

Market-shopping here is stress-free. The vendors are not pushy; in fact, it’s sometimes hard to get their attention. I’d buy more — rugs, blankets, pottery — but don’t want to acquire more than I can take on the plane.

The food, it seems, can be excellent or mediocre. My favorite so far: La Mezcaleria, a chic little place, for both food and design. But you’d have to be in San Miguel a lot longer than I am to run out of places to try. And with those American dollars, we can try the most upscale places in town.

Bottom line in San Miguel: you need do nothing but walk the streets. There’s aesthetic pleasure at every turn.


La Mezcaleria on Correo, with their cucumber and cilantro margarita


El Gato Negro


El Cu Cu


La Cucaracha, left to right: “Neal Cassady,” “William Burroughs” (in hat), bored bartender, the director, “Jack Kerouac”





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