Laid-back Luxury

We spent Easter with my godfather, Chuck Elmes, at his 1760’s estate home in Middletown, NY. As we pulled up to his picturesque, 400-acre polo farm (Blue Sky Polo), Chuck walked down the dusty drive to greet us; hair wind-blown just-so, small tear in the breast of his sweater, hands dirtied from a hard day’s work… but he had had time to set the dining room with his fine china and crystal.

Chuck was raised on a plantation in Georgia and as a young man he moved north and entwined himself in the country club & real estate worlds. That and his love for polo inspired him to start a polo club. The man knows his way around a horse farm, a clay court and a boardroom. He’s as rugged as Robert Redford and as refined as him in The Great Gatsby. He’s the definition of laid-back elegance and exactly what Ralph Lifshitz has been bottling and selling for decades.

After getting the Easter feast going, Chuck took us for a little drive around the grounds. The views and smells—saddle soap and leather—refreshed my fond childhood memories of watching polo games and riding his exceptional ponies.

Aside from the sprawling, perfectly-level fields abuzz with matches, there is a sideshow at Blue Sky that Chuck [loves and] has brought to the forefront in recent years. He boards dogs in what he calls The Pet Camp. It’s like Canyon Ranch for canines. He has roughly 70 pups at any given time (from around Manhattan and its ‘burbs) and he honestly knows each and every one by name (and personality). By day the dogs romp around a racetrack, play in the fields, swim in the pond and sunbathe. And at night, one by one, he calls them in and they slip into their individual horse-stall-suites.

While on the topic, I recently found a great little London-based pet boutique, Mungo & Maud. They will be launching a US online store next month. The wooden dog bowls are polished and chic and the adjustable rope leads and collars are very cool.

Fo’ Rill…

I don’t know if it’s the pathetic excuse of a winter that we’ve had, but I am aching for Spring… just dying to tear into the cold, dormant soil to start beautifying our dead, gray backyard again. With the blank canvas we’re presented with every year, there are so many things to consider. One of my absolute favorite garden statements—real or (in my case) regularly dreamed about—is the RILL. They are so chic and simple.

Rills, or narrow canals, are water features that add dimension, ambiance and soul-pleasing sounds to any outdoor space. Formal rills are made of concrete or masonry and sometimes house beautiful water plants and flowers. In nature, rills—similar to natural brooks—are typically a narrow and shallow incision in topsoil, caused by surface water runoff. Historical origins of rills—seen in the designs of ancient Persian, Moorish, and Islamic gardens—were used as water transportation (from a spring or aqueduct) for irrigation of other daily uses.

Enjoy the gorgeous rills below!
For directions on how to build your own rill, click here.