While the blog has been on hiatus and I have been consumed with the full-time, often overwhelming business of remodeling our home on Belvedere Island, a strange thing happened. The world changed. For many of us, the reality of the pandemic is still sinking in. We are absorbing as much as we can, following the advice of professionals, and taking it day by day.
In New York City, where Broadway, Lincoln Center, the Philharmonic, the Met, and Times Square have all gone dark, the indomitable spirit of the city that never sleeps hasn’t dampened, it has just moved indoors. (I just heard that Jimmy Fallon is doing The Tonight Show from his living room!) In honor of Manhattanites, who were among the first Americans to be hard hit, this seems like a good time to re-post our Springtime In New York blog from last year. I hope it brings a smile to your face.
Please stay calm and stay home. We will figure this out and get through it together.
Springtime in New York
Originally published May 7, 2019
I don’t think people realize how kind New York people are.
– Bill Murray
A view of Manhattan peeked through branches thick with cherry blossoms as we approached the elegant old mansion on a cloudy April afternoon. We opened the black wrought iron gate and climbed the slate gray steps to the front porch. The turn-of-the-century home overlooking the Hudson River was built of pale, sand-colored bricks and had a red tile roof.
We waited on the front porch under a dramatic French-inspired round metal awning supported by ornate wrought iron brackets. The glossy cherry red curved French doors and transom windows were edged with a wide, pale gray stone façade. We turned to take in the view from the porch, grateful for the shelter as the air smelled like impending rain.
I had never been on the East Coast in April and was enraptured with the puffy pink gowns worn by three cherry trees adorning the streets before us. The combination of raspberry and pale pink against the lime green leaves lifted the spirit of the day, which had gradually grown somber with the gathering clouds.
We heard the front door open and turned to see Marilyn, laughing graciously as she welcomed Marshall, our friend Stuart, and me with her beauty and kindness. Once inside, we stopped in the living room of the stately 1903 residence to admire the pale blue walls and ornate fireplace mantle.
I knew Marilyn loved old houses as I did and had kept the structure the same as it was when she moved in several years ago. She remarked how beautiful the blue walls looked in different light. Then we turned to the window to take in the striking view across the storied river below.
After settling into our rooms upstairs, our group gathered in the sunroom. The long, narrow space with a slanted wood beamed ceiling encased by three brick walls had initially been an outdoor loggia. Previous owners had enclosed the area preserving the connection to the main house with three sets of tall, arched French doors, creating a year-round space with a dramatic, old-world feeling.
The three sets of interior doors corresponded with large windows on either end of the sunroom and a pair of oversized French doors in the center that open to the garden. Large stone columns connected with beams run parallel to two wings extending from the upper and lower levels of the main house, forming a grand U-shaped courtyard.
Marilyn opened the garden doors and led us out between two elegant Japanese maple trees she planted that had recently donned their beautiful bronze leaves for spring and summer. We continued to the edge of the terrace, which is surrounded by an ancient stone baluster, to take in the stunning panoramic view. Just then it began to rain softly, infusing the air with the fragrance of fresh blossoms from a magnificent black trunked tree in the garden.
The next morning, a tour of the house started in the Grand Salon, as Marilyn calls it, which is connected to the sunroom by the three arched French doors seen in an earlier image. The room has an Arts and Crafts feel, with dark wooden beams and walls paneled in rich golden wainscoting that literally glows. Marilyn played a song for us on an old Knabe piano she had recently acquired and placed in the corner of the room where they often entertain guests.
At the other end of the Grand Salon are two contemporary chairs Marilyn purchased because she loved the round shapes in the fabric. She placed the chairs directly below two Arts and Crafts sconces and added a sleekly modern plexiglass table between them. This light and whimsical vignette surprises the eye with its juxtaposition to the traditional Mission style background.
Another surprise emerged in the adjacent kitchen. A canary yellow Formica and chrome mid-century table and chairs, inherited from Marilyn’s parents, were tucked against the back of the kitchen door. It was utterly unexpected, yet totally refreshing amid the dark wood cabinets that lined the walls.
As I reached for the red purse with a black handle sitting on the counter above the table, I discovered it was actually a ceramic cookie jar (alas, no cookies). Another black and white ceramic cookie jar purse sat at the other end.
As I turned to the counter across from the yellow table, I eyed a clay bust of a woman with a bird keychain hanging from her ear. In front of her lay an old-fashioned tape measure on a metal box painted with a red scalloped border.
The tour culminated in the dining room, where another disparate group of objects in a corner caught my eye. An unusual black and white striped lamp stood behind a glossy black ceramic vessel next to a shiny silver pig standing on a picture of what looked to be a Buddhist monk.
On the last day of our visit, I awoke early to catch the sunrise. As I stared at the skyline before me, I decided Marilyn and Nick’s home was a paradigm of the shining city seen through my window.
Their rooms were filled with eclectic mash-ups of furnishings, rugs, paintings, dishes, balls, books, magazines, plants, collections and objects that seemed endless in their diversity. Just as the Big Apple is a vast, wide-ranging universe of themes and interests that display continuously in its assortment of people, cultures, languages, pets, entertainment, architecture, parks, foliage, restaurants and stores, to name just a few.
Although engaging with the magnificent metropolis of Manhattan while driving, parking, and walking was to us at times challenging and intimidating, our friends remained calm and good humored through it all. And the New Yorkers we encountered everywhere we went could not have been more courteous and gracious.
I decided what I liked most about visiting Marilyn and Nick and the people who call New York City home was their kindness.
Thank you, Marilyn, Nick and New York, for a visit I won’t forget.
For the love of kindness,