The Cool House

Saturday, September 26, 2015

The upside

Last week I was in mourning for the magnificent spruce tree that has been the focal point of the property since the lots were divided in the sixties. I couldn't imagine what the house would look like without the tree it was designed around. Being a glass half-full person so I knew there would be more light both inside the kitchen and the bedroom above as well as in the yard. What I hadn't understood was how the removal of the tree would allow us to see for the first time the design of the house from the north-west dining room to the southern garage side.

It's possible to stand on the far side of the front lawn and truly appreciate how the house nestles into its surroundings, a testament to Andrew Geller's unique architecture. At last we can fully compare this side with the backyard facing east side. Definitely the upside of losing the tree.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Andrew Geller: Deconstructed at Nassau County Museum of Art

Author and documentary film maker Jake Gorst, grandson of iconic architect Andrew Geller, will be talking about his grandfather and signing copies of his book Andrew Geller: Deconstructed, at the Nassau County Museum of Art on Saturday, September 26th at 3pm.  The event is being held in conjunction with the Museum's current exhibition The Moderns, Chagall, Degas, Léger, Miró, Picasso and more...

Do not miss Jake Gorst's unique presentation which is full of stories about his grandfather, the "architect of happiness", and his influence on architecture and design from the 1950s onwards. Tickets available here

Andrew Geller Beach House Sagaponak Long Island 1966 (Elkin House)

Friday, September 18, 2015


We are in mourning today for a part of the landscape, for what the tree surgeon described in April as the best tree in the Incorporated Village and for the core of our view every day for the past eleven years. When we moved in to the Cool House the previous owner explained the house's unusual design was conceived in part around this enormous mountain spruce tree in the front yard. Its beautiful fringed, dark green arms seemed to offer our home an enveloping hug, protecting it from the harsh Long Island winters, providing shade from the relentless summer sun. Each morning we have stood in front of the kitchen windows, sipping coffee, watching the birds and squirrels among the branches, marveling at its magnificence.

We took every opportunity of good weather in Spring, Summer and Fall to enjoy lunch al fresco on the patio beneath its branches until, sometime after the Fourth of July celebrations, we noticed the needles on the bottom branches were falling off, even though they were still green. Over the course of the next couple of weeks the phenomenon worsened. We googled, consulted the landscape and the tree experts and came up with a diagnosis of severe needle drop. We crossed our fingers and hoped it would be a temporary problem but the needle drop persisted, leaving only brown fronds; some days it seemed as though it was raining pine needles. 

While we still had tiny, green pinecones on the ends of the branches we could still hope for a recovery but when these too started falling and the branches turned brown and bare farther and farther up the tree we knew we were facing a dying tree. By mid-September it was all over. Even the uppermost tip was dry and the ground beneath covered in a couple of inches or more of desiccated needles.

For the last month we haven't been able to sit outside on the patio, everything has been covered in pine needles. We couldn't bear to drink our coffee looking at the tree, it was too depressing, and most telling, the birds and squirrels abandoned it. Finally, we knew it could no longer be saved and made a called the tree guys to remove it. Today they spent 8 hours taking down its 150' skeletal remains. 

I'm trying to look on the bright side, the west facing rooms will have more light, the front lawn will have less stress, we can replant the dell but all I can see is negative space, a pivotal part of the landscape gone. It's still a shock that it happened so quickly: two months from the first sign to complete failure. All that remains is a stump, a truck load of wood chips and an aching heart. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Andrew Geller: Deconstructed

As most readers of this blog know The Cool house was designed by iconic modernist architect Andrew Geller, best known for his geometric Long Island beach houses and design work for Raymond Loewy.  Sadly Andrew Geller passed away in 2011 but he left behind a treasure trove of blueprints, photographs and documents that his grandson Jake Gorst has collated and preserved to ensure his grandfather's legacy.

From these sources and the interviews that he recorded over many years, Jake Gorst has lovingly produced a tribute to his grandfather.  Andrew Geller: Deconstructed provides readers with a unique insight into the mind of an artist who over a fifty year career impacted the course of design and architecture.  I received my copy yesterday and it is delightful, full of images never before published. 

Jake is currently promoting the book at a series of events including a book signing on April 13 2015 at 7pm at the Book Revue in Huntington.  Andrew Geller worked throughout the twentieth century mcm design revolution, his architecture can be found from Montauk to Texas and his commercial work took him from the restaurants on the 107th floor of the World Trade Center to Israel.  I can't wait to get my copy signed and listen to Jake share personal anecdotes about "the architect of happiness".  See you there?

Images from Andrew Geller: Deconstructed by Jake Gorst copyright © 2015, published by Glitterati Incorporated 

Monday, November 03, 2014

Spucing Up

Hard to believe that it's been almost a year since I last posted anything on this blog. It's not that we haven't been tending to The Cool House rather that social media has changed a lot about the way I document my life and that goes for the house too.  I'm more likely to take a thousand word snap of something we've done and post it right there to Facebook or twitter. One click and I've saved all that tedious typing. You could say instagram killed this blog.

But it would be unfair to ask you to search through all the hundreds of photos of sunsets and kittens to find one that shows the renovated pool, or the color we ended up with in the sitting room after several, expensive redoes.  So, here, in no particular order, are the projects we undertook in the first ten months of 2014.

Pool renovation: all the pipes, skimmers and reruns were replaced. This job entailed digging up and replacing half the brick patio but it mbas meant no more leaks. Also the pool light works again and we have a new, quieter energy saving pump. The pool housing is screened off with a nicer replacement for the termite eaten fence and next Spring a gas heater will be installed.

We lost a couple of trees and big rhododendrons to last year's severe winter, which Neal the Landscaper said was an opportunity, especially as the pool guys had to rip through the shrubbery to lay new pipes so hey presto one May weekend we got a new awesome shrubbery. well, almost new, The Guy insisted on keeping a dog wood because it looks spectacular from the master window for one week in May. It will probably come crashing down this winter!

The kitchen patio, front path and steps were re-grouted and broken bluestone slabs were replaced. We also installed four Marvin windows in the den, downstairs bath and basement where the rot or weather had damaged them beyond repair.

While all that was going on we started the BIG PAINT JOB, which kept getting bigger as we progressed form room to room. I'd taken three months to narrow down the fifty odd shades of gray and gold to half a dozen. We used Benjamin Moore Aura paint on all the walls and baseboards, which has no off gases and dries to a tough knock resist finish; the painters replaced moldings as needed. Eventually after much trial and error, we chose Collingwood for the kitchen and second and fourth bedrooms, Moonshine for the great room, stairs, hall and balcony and one bath, Camouflage for the third bedroom & the den. My office ended up Golden Tan, the third bedroom Buena Vista Gold, the laundry Metropolitan and we matched the original dusky pink tiles in the downstairs bath to Peau de Soie. The painters took advantage of the cool, dry summer and stained the house Mission Brown, with doors in Marvin Bronze to match the windows.

Last but certainly most significantly, we converted from oil to gas. This was prompted when our oil guy telling us he couldn't keep the monster burner going much longer coincided with an oil bill that cost more than our first new car. I won't bore you with the details of the 6 month saga of no heat or no hot water, repairs, work-arounds and crossing our fingers it took to get us to October 8 when National Grid finally turned the gas on. It's also not the prettiest project, and it took one guy an entire 8AM-4PM day to get the monster out of the basement but it did finally get done. We worried about an ugly gas meter outside our beautiful house but we managed to hide it behind an estate rhododendron. Can you see it in the photo above? No? Neither can anyone else! More importantly we can take showers without screaming and the air coming out of the vents is toasty so it's probably the project that impacts our comfort level the most.

10 years later

Finally, 10 years after we moved in, thirteen years after the last coat of Navajo white, we summoned up the courage to have the space painted. As this room is open to so many spaces, we envisioned chaos, with scaffolding everywhere and paint-splattered animals leaving tacky trails on the furniture and furnishings.

And the color? I had major issues here. The eastern light and huge windows played havoc with the hues. Each wall looked a different hue, a different color even. I'd love a color on one wall at 9 am and hate it by 1. Another would look great on one wall, be subtle on another and disappear on a third. It became a process of elimination and I know I drove the painters crazy, though they were much to polite to say so, even when I changed my mind in the middle of the night and emailed them with the new choice.

What do you know? Turns out the whole process was drama free. Even though some cats love the no-smell BM Aura paint and snuggled up to it at every opportunity, they managed to keep their paws out of the paint trays. Scaffolding? Not necessary. Three men with rollers accomplished the whole job in two days.

The wall color we finally landed upon is Benjamin Moore moonshine. On this wall, and only this wall it looks a watery green, That lasts an hour or so when the north eastern light hits the wall. The same color is on the balcony walls, which look off-white and the double height wall that looks gray. Later in the day all the walls fade to the neutral color in the first photo above, which is a very relaxing shade that showcases the art.

When it was all clean and fresh The Guy decided he had to have this bright and vibrant piece by Long Island artist Stanko, which was framed by rockstar framer Cherie Via Rexer of Ripe Art Gallery. It has a mid-century vibe that really sits well in the space. The only regret I have about this room is that we didn't have it painted four years ago when we renovated the kitchen. On the other had the paint color I had in mind for this room wouldn't have worked nearly as well and i would be repainting right about now...

Friday, December 20, 2013

Classic Miid-century Furniture Reissues

Great news for fans of classic American furniture by designer and manufacturer Harvey Probber. Until now his furniture has been out of production since the 80s, the only way to find his modular sofa has been the occasional sighting on ebay or 1stdibs. This Fall, M2L, a New York distributor of authorized modern furnishings catering to the design trade, has been licensed to produce new editions, including the 1947 Sling Chair above and the iconic 1972 Deep Tuft sectional below. 
Prices for the Deep Tuft Sofa start at $15,000 in plush fabric for a 5 piece or $19,000 in leather. It may seem a lot but this furniture is so well made it will last a lifetime. 

Here at The Cool House we inherited a 1968 12-piece sectional sofa that's still as comfortable and sturdy as ever-although it was reupholstered four years agoAs Probber once said "the true test of great design is time".
Other pieces to be reintroduced include sleek, wood wrapped casegoods and seating from the Architectural Series that were originally produced inFalls River MA in the 1960s.

It's been 10 years since Probber's death when an retrospective of his work was held  at Baruch College in Manhattan. it's certainly time to give these gorgeous designs another, closer look.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Wet & Dry

It has rained so much this month that residents are hallucinating they have replaced their sedans with motor cruisers, and are rudely awakened when they try to gun the ever deepening floods, stalling out in 2' of water. I've interpreted Areal Flood Warning to mean A REAL FLOOD WARNING and I'm taking appropriate measures to avoid waiting 90 minutes for a tow truck to haul me out of the embarrassing and expensive situation that driving through flooded roadways could bring. In any case it's been an unforgettable start to summer!

As water from Tropical Storm Andrea poured down the road, swirled around the driveway, gushed past the newly planted hostas to fill the dell outside the dining room, we contemplated going with the flow by turning the dell into a giant pond; simply replacing the hostas with waterlilies. Which led me to remember I hadn't posted about a recent successful project in the backyard that turned the dank, smelly pond by the bridge into a dry water feature.

Firstly, a little background. For years I've been running interference with the dogs, trying to keep them from drinking out of the pond. We tried a cover but it was too cumbersome to move when we needed to get at the pump and mesh kept the dogs off but allowed decomposed leaves, garden debris and the balls off the damn linden tree to fall through the holes and fill the pond. Honestly, who would build a pond under a conifer and plant a bunch of fast-growing shrubs around it? I wanted the pond part gone but still needed a way to keep the water flowing to the rocks and along the stream.

I came across this low maintenance water feature on that looked perfect for our purposes. We already had most of the structure in place, it seemed easy-peasy to drain the pond and swap the mucky water for stone chips and gravel. The instructions indicated it could be completed within a couple of days so we began by buying six bags of pea gravel. These sat for a month on the patio while we dealt with a bunch of non-house related crises and some too wet/cold weekends

Finally, on Mothers' Day weekend in May when three consecutive days of sunshine were forecast The Guy set to scooping out the pond. He hauled six garden refuse bags of dirt out of there, at which point we knew those six bags of gravel were not going to make much of an impact. We used those bags as a base for the buckets that would act as miniature reservoirs and went back to Home Depot for another 10 bags of pea gravel. Two more trips to the HD later we were 18 bags in and almost to the top of the pond. We turned on the water and tested the pump and were suitably impressed when the heard water gurgling from the fountain. We still had a few damming issues along the stream (anther two bags of crap were filled) but in the end we had a dry water feature that works - it's a very quiet, soothing sound which adds to the ambience out back.

The project cost approximately $250 for a new pump, piping, buckets and gravel. Even though we had most of the construction already in place it took considerably longer than the projected week-end but it was worth the effort and at least one part of the yard stays dry no matter how much rain pours down on us.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Can I get a clean sweep?

Allow me a wee rant. I know I don't deserve such self indulgence because really, when was the last time I published a post? A month ago, two months? But I am verily pissed off, pushed to the edge and if I don't express the rage here I may let go in less appropriate quarters, and like blowing on a dandelion clock, you never know where the stuff ends up. No one wants to see that go down In Real Life.

Soooo, what, I hear you wonder, has got me so annoyed?

Not the wild flowers, certainly but the state of the roads. My road in particular. It is June, the second week in June to be precise, and our roads, that we pay a whole bunch of freaking money in property taxes to maintain, have yet to be swept.

And here's the excuse I heard at the Village Trustees meeting in May when I queried why the sweeper hadn't swept the sand and detritus from the winter: 

"I know it's late this year but we need to be sure the last snowstorm has passed and we've had two lots of heavy rains before we can sweep." 

Seriously, this was May 13th. The last snowstorm was early March and we've had weeks and weeks of rain since then. Also, no one had a definite date for road cleaning. According to the Village budget we have more money on hand than last year yet the budget for this fiscal year sets aside $2000 less for road seeping. Why?  I'm quoting from memory here because the minutes haven't appeared online (SIGH) but the response was

 "It was cheaper than we thought last year (a mild winter when it wasn't necessary to sweep the roads as much because little sand had been spread) and I didn't think we would need that amount of money this year."

So why aren't the roads being cleaned? The Incorporated Village could spend funds right now sweeping the sand, grit and other crap that I'm still treading through the house. More importantly it's a public safety issue. Cars and cyclists are skidding on the mess, a large portion of which has formed an island at the bottom of a steep hill. Every time it rains heavily that muck in the photo turns into sticky mud. When it's dry, it's like riding on marbles. 

It's almost a month since the last Village meeting. Memorial Day has come and gone; we are officially into the summer season and still our roads are a disgusting, dangerous mess. The Town of Huntington, which maintains the southern end of the road had the sweepers out in April. It's ironic that our Village, incorporated to preserve its unique character, has worse roads than the town.