Chris and his partner Jess split their time between their home in Brooklyn and their new little cabin in the Catskill Mountains. During the week, they are both crossing paths around New York, running between showings and events (Chris works for Totokaelo & Need Supply Co. and Jess within the fashion industry) and coordinating travel schedules. By contrast, their weekends are spent quietly up here in the Catskill Mountains, walking trails, stoking the fireplace and playing together with their son, Kit.
What can you tell us about your work?
I am the buying director (official title is General Merchandise Manager but saying that doesn’t really explain much) for two of the leading concept stores in the US. Totokaelo & Need Supply Co. It sounds pretty cut and dry, but honestly it is the best job in the world. I travel to various markets and fashion weeks around the world to meet with the most inspiring, creative and relevant fashion and home-goods brands to create a unique well curated edit for each of the two concepts. I get to interact and work closely with some amazing people, not only externally, but internally as well. I really love all the people I have met over the years.
Where did you both grow up?[C] I was born in a small town in Southwest Virginia, Lexington, and then moved to Richmond, Virginia when I was a teenager. [J] I grew up in Portland Texas.
How did you meet?
We are in the same industry, just on opposite ends, while I am on the buying side of things, she is on the selling side of things. We first met at a tradeshow in New York. She was working with one of the brands that we carry. I immediately turned to my colleague and said, “I don’t know who she is, but I am going to marry that girl”. Well it wasn’t that simple. It took over a year for us to connect again, but in the end it worked out.
What can you share with us about your home? How long have you had this place?
We live full time in Brooklyn and both work in the city and travel a fair amount for our jobs. At times it feels like we’re running a marathon, but sprinting the whole way. We are originally from much smaller towns, with open spaces, room to breathe. We found ourselves coming to the Catskills every chance we could, hitting the reset button every weekend. After numerous weekend trips, we started to look at the financial side of it. Two weekend trips a month would be equal to a monthly mortgage. We were throwing away money by renting out other people’s weekend houses and not just going to our own place. So we started to look slowly, kind of sorting out what style of house we wanted. We changed our minds a million times, but never really narrowed it down. Once we had our son, Kit, that is when things started moving quickly. He was such a different baby when he was outside of the city, more relaxed. We knew we needed to find something quickly. So one weekend we were staying at Scribner’s Lodge and by chance had a conversation with someone who knew this house was on the market. The next morning we came in and knew it was our place, although you really had to see beyond the pink painted floors and walls.
We have had this place a little over a year and a half now, and it has been such an amazing project. I have taken almost every room down to the studs, and built it back up. This place, has everything we need and love. It is spacious enough for guests to come and do as they please, room to hang out in the kitchen and make coffee, sit by the fire in the living room, or read a book in bed. Nobody feels like they are on top of each other. It has been a struggle at times, when something happens like the well breaking unexpectedly and having to get a new one put in, but there have been just as many rewarding moments so I guess it all evens out.
This place, has everything we need and love. It is spacious enough for guests to come and do as they please, room to hang out in the kitchen and make coffee, sit by the fire in the living room, or read a book in bed.
What are some of your favourite objects in the house? Can you share the stories behind them?
The only two things that we kept from the previous owners, (although they decided to leave the house semi furnished with the stuff they didn’t want) was the firewood ring, and the hulking Country wood burning stove. The ring was easy to move, the 600 lb stove, was a challenge. I was able to get it up on plywood and shimmy it across a few rooms to the now living room. The stove has been such a nice feature, it is a nod to the history of the house and it heats the entire home. It becomes a gathering place at the end of each day.
Hands down my favourite piece of furniture is our Isamu Kenmochi rattan chair that we have in the master bedroom. I had been hunting years for one, they are semi rare in the US, and when they do pop up they are beyond our budget. So after going a deep down dark message board hole, I found a posting from some mid-century modern store outside of Las Vegas from 6 years ago with a grainy photo of some items they had for sale, in the back corner, I saw the Kenmochi. I think I called and left 10 messages before someone got back to me, but it turned out they still had it and it was 1/3rd the price of anything I had ever seen.
What are some of the activities you like to do around the area?
There is so much to do up here. The trails are endless, and there are some amazing restaurants up here. Table on 10 for the best Pizza on Friday and Saturday nights, Sweet Sue’s for breakfast, Gracie’s for brunch, Scribner’s or Brushland Eating House for dinner. We also love going to Migliorelli’s farm stand for fresh produce.
Do you have a morning routine here?
I wake up every morning with Kit, between 5-6:30 and we have yoghurt & granola. He is 21 months, and he is really getting good at feeding himself. From then, we play, either with his Elmo alphabet briefcase or his growing collection of animals and cars. It’s a really nice routine to have, just an hour with him one on one, just the boys.
A bedtime routine?
We have a pretty set evening routine, after work, we make dinner and sit at the table together, it is something that both Jess and I have carried over from how we were raised, we all sit at the dining table together and share a meal. I hope it is something that Kit will appreciate later in life. After dinner, we all do an activity together, either colour, read books, kick/throw the ball, it’s all of us together. After about an hour of playing, we shift to bathtime, it’s either a fight or an extension of playtime, depending on the day (and his mood). After bathtime, he’s into PJs, by then it is around 8/8:30 so we head to bed to read a few books and sing a song or two and then he is down for the night. On Friday nights, we always have a little “movie night” session after bathtime, the current obsession is Boss Baby, for some reason he always asks to see “Baby”, maybe he is just reminding us who is really in charge.
What do you cook for a Sunday night meal at home?
It really depends upon the season. During the Spring and Summer we use the grill almost every night and Sunday is no exception. A lot of grilled veggies and fish. During the winter months, we end up making a lot of soups. I’ll share one of our favourites that has a lot of winter veg and feels a bit rustic.
1 Carton of Chicken Stock (you will also fill it back up with water and add to the soup)
2 parsnips, rough chopped
4 carrots, rough chopped
1 sweet potato, cubed
1 Bunch of Kale (picked and ripped into small pieces)
6 cipollini onions, roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic, sliced thinly
3 pcs of fennel sausage (taken out of the casing and cooked in a cast iron before adding to the soup)
Fresh Herbs (Rosemary, Sage, Thyme, Fennel Seed)
Fresh Black Pepper
In a heavy bottom deep pot, heat some Olive Oil, add the Cipollini and Garlic and let them sweat.
Then add the Carrots and Parsnips. Once they have a little brown on them, add the stock and water.
Bring it to a slow rumble (while your doing that cook the sausage thoroughly).
Put it on medium low, add the cooked sausage and the cubed Sweet Potato.
Let cook until the potatoes are tender.
Add the Kale and herbs, cook for 5 more min then season to taste.