Sunday, January 22, 2012

In My Room

This week, I thought I'd blog about my room - well, it's a suite of rooms, actually, laid out in 1889 for Charles F. Dieterich, first president of the Union Carbide Corporation. This is the man who developed the Daheim estate. A century later, I moved into his house.

You know how a song gets caught in your mind, like a nail in a tire? I haven't been able to get rid of the old Beach Boys tune, "In My Room" all weekend long. You remember how it went: "There's a world where I can go/And tell my secrets to/In my room....../In my room..." Maybe it'll get stuck in your mind too, for 48 to 64 hours. Its plaintive melody and lyric, which captured teenage angst and yearning 50 years ago, resonates all too well with today's moribund real estate market.

These curtains came from a palatial apartment belonging to the late father of a Millbrook neighbor. I saved them from the dump (lucky me). How about those tassels?

Here's my bed (obviously), where I have spent a considerable portion of my life, first with a wife, subsequently with 2 boyfriends, and now with a cat. The stains on the wallpaper date from the installation of a new roof, already 10 years ago. The roofer, who called himself Roofs-R-Us, made no provision to protect the inside of the house on rainy days during installation. Ergo, all sorts of things got messed up. Too bad too, as that wallpaper is as old as Mr. Dieterich.

I wouldn't be surprised if some sort of dreadful beaded screen once hung from those little eyes screwed into the bottom of the cherry wood archway. I once read something about the "jigsaw insanity" that reigned for a while in Victorian decoration. I've got some of it here.

The fireplace mantel is full of family photos. The blue and yellow carrier is for the cat, although the chances of actually getting her inside of it range from poor to negligible.

If it's not on the piano, it's on a mantel somewhere, right? This is me and my sister, taken over 60 years ago on Long Island. How about that television set?

Houses like Daheim are full of detail we often don't even notice.

I saw a cartoon years ago of a king with a crown talking to a little boy on his knee, and saying: "If you can't afford to heat a castle in the winter, you can't afford a castle." No comment.

The photo in the middle is me holding little Jazzy at the edge of a volcano in Costa Rica. Will I get around to polishing that frame? That would be a "no." The little boy on the right is me; I was a charming child. The Chinese lamp was originally one of a pair in my mother's New York apartment. The other one fell off a table and smashed, oh, maybe 20 years ago.

The woodwork in my bedroom is all made of cherry, as is that enormous built-in mirrored closet running along the north wall. My bathroom is to the left; a door to the right leads to the west stair.

I have a fantastic old bathroom. The pedestal sink, however, came with me from Tuxedo when we moved here in 1981.

I hung this superfluous tassel here, oh, 4 years ago? five years ago? (Who can remember?) I couldn't brings myself to hide it in a drawer.

The hat on top of the books on the dresser goes back with me to New York in the morning. I would have worn the boots today, had it not been 6 degrees when I woke up. This was no day for a hack in the country. My dressing chair is a Millbrook antique, originally belonging to Mrs. Flagler over at Edgewood. It was covered with a charming washed out polished chintz when I bought it, but my cat so destroyed the upholstery that I have had to cover it with an old curtain panel. It still looks disreputable, but slightly less so.

Here's my squash stuff, which I just used. A couple of country pals and I have a regular weekend round robin. There's an exhibition at Grand Central at the moment - extraordinary athletes playing amazing squash - which impressed us all.

That's my dressing room beyond the portieres, and you-know-who on the rug at lower left, no doubt contemplating her next upholstered victim.

The pictures flanking the mirror above this fireplace are of my parents. Truth be told, in 30 years I have never lit a fire here or in my bedroom.

My father was an explorer in Tibet. Here he is at the apex of youth, looking so very happy. My mother was a beautiful girl who sang in Atlantic City nightclubs in the late 1920s.

Here's my desk, where I'm sitting right now with the cat in my lap, on an old ballroom chair from Tuxedo. I spend a lot of time in these two rooms. In fact, I'm turning into one of those old guys who live in an enormous house that's filling up with junk inside and turning into compost outside.

The door leads to the hall; the plastic detergent bottle on the rattan stand is reminding me that I have laundry in the washer, about a half a mile away (you think I'm kidding).

More family photos. That's my daughter on the wall.

Little Jazzy, age 9.

My suite in the west is balanced by what was originally Mrs. Dieterich's suite on the east. This door leads to a lobby between them, currently filled with plants.

A detail of the door to the plant room.


  1. Hello. Love your blog. Thanks for sharing those photos -- your place is wonderful and I love the way it's decorated -- very cozy and warm. I also love the way you covered that chair with the torn upholstery -- I do that too and I suspect a lot of others do that as well. Because I live in an apt., the size of your rooms seem absolutely palatial. Any chance we could get a glimpse of the kitchen?

  2. Your rooms look very comfortable. I like meandering floor plans, and large rooms you can actually walk around in. The very word "cozy" in association with real estate makes me feel claustrophobic.
    --Road to Parnassus

  3. I have trouble staying at our country house by myself, though it's not as big as Daheim. It's just too quiet. At night, especially, it's a little unnerving.

    Is it ever hard to sleep without the ambient noise of the UES? Do you have many guests to stay? Or parties?

  4. This is a lovely life you live, with time awash all around with little if any detergent. You are nothing if not authentic!

  5. How wonderful to live in a wonderful home. I have always loved older homes. I even sometimes dream of them. When I was a kid I always wanted to go inside and look around and I guess I still do. Thanks!

  6. Nearly 50 years' ago, I arrived in Po'keepsie to attend Vassar. Seeing the remains of the round-arched windows and dusky red brick of the 19th c. campus and town in your recent report has me thinking about February days full of slush and gray skies. The Hudson River Valley is magical but gloomy, too, with all the institutional buildings like prisons and mental hospitals. Millbrook NY is part of my memory bank, too. Wild bars and car accidents, when boys were boys and had to drive back to New Haven or Hartford at 2 AM on Rte 55. Yikes.

  7. Hey John. Good work in keeping the belly of the old Big House warm. Your sharing of your room is actually a pretty generous gesture - not many have the nerve to present their private spaces to strangers, as it were. As for the Wilson family home that was the subject of the Beach Boys "In my room" song: torn down over 30 years ago to make way for the Santa Monica thruway. A monument stands at the surface street level against the wall that holds up the highway. Let's hope Daheim is warm for another 100 years.
    Say 'Hi' to Jana for me ~ JOHN H.

  8. Your home is so beautiful. I wish my home looked like yours. Your so artistic with your decoration and furniture.