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One Mercantile

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How We Live: A Cool Cottage Heats Up the Chatham Countryside

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Rural Intelligence Style“I left New York City kicking and screaming,” says the photographer Laura Resen (left).  “Now there’s no way I would go back.  I don’t want what it is; I miss what it was.”

The story of how a sophisticated, Manhattan born-and-bred artist, interiors and still-life photographer ended up living in the Chatham countryside begins, as so many stories of drastically altered lives do, with falling in love. 

Originally from Montana, Cloud Devine, an art-and-fashion photographer, came to Manhattan when he was young enough for the city to help shape his identity.  Still, he longed for some wide-open spaces, so after he met Laura, they bought a weekend place together, a small tenant farmer’s house outside of North Chatham on the edge of a beautiful field (top photo) that the Old Chatham Hunt rides across throughout their season. “It was perfect for two people,” Resen says.

Then eight years ago, along came a daughter, Tess.  For a while, all continued as before, going back-and-forth on weekends.  Then time came for Tess to go to school.  Faced with two (to Laura and Cloud) untenable options—New York City private and public schools—they opted for Chatham, instead. 

And Chatham is all the better for it.  Far from yielding to the old ye-olde when they moved to the country,  the couple brought their urbane sensibility and loft furnishings with them, making a serious contribution to the phenomenon that has earned this region the sobriquet “Brooklyn North.” 

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Books piled on their sides in stacks between the windows of the 1 1/2 story living room reinforce the horizontal lines of the modernist furnishings, which include chairs by Alvar Aalto and Gio Ponti. The large end wall is thus free for hanging art, much of it is by Cloud and Laura, both of whom sell their artwork through Aero Studios in Soho.

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An artist’s eye comes in handy when three people live in 1000 square feet.  The coats and hats surrounding Cloud Devine, right, seated on a boot bench just inside the front door, may appear to be decorative, but they are there out of necessity.  The two-level cupboard at the end of the dining table (below) has presence but looms far less than a uniformly tall piece would have. 
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In 2005, Tess started school at Hawthorne Valley, a highly-regarded Rudolf Steiner School in nearby Harlemville.  “It would have been a perfect school for me,” says Laura.  “But Tess is more traditionally academic.”  She recently switched to the Chatham public school, where she appears to be thriving.
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Tess and her mother have been collaborating on a project, Fairy Garden, a series of photographs of Tess’s found treasures.  “Beaver Skull”, 2010, (a.k.a. “Toothy”), right, hangs in the living room.  “I love that she’s growing up in nature,” says Laura.  “I’m not sure I’d have been so enthusiastic about her city finds.”
Rural Intelligence Style In a bold decorating move, the couple counteracted the oppressive low-ceiling in their bedroom by papering it with a gold print whose iridescence is amplified by the white-painted floor. 
Rural Intelligence StyleThe all-white porch says summer with a minimum of visual clutter.
Some of the photographs in this story, all taken by Laura Resen, appeared previously in Domino and in Livingetc, an English magazine.

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Posted by Marilyn Bethany on 01/07/11 at 09:34 AM • Permalink