The Scoop

Terrific finds for the home from Hammertown Barn; immortalizing your best (furry) friend; house cleaning the nontoxic way

The Scoop

a fresh start: easy updates for every room


Behind the Barn

When Joan Osofsky opened the first Hammertown Barn in Pine Plains in 1985 — actually in an old horse barn — she stocked it with a mix of antiques, vintage objects and well-chosen new home accessories. It was an artful choice, as well as a lesson in how to make it all work. Now with a branch in Rhinebeck (as well as a third in the Berkshires), Hammertown is among the most popular haunts for those looking for distinctive things to re-feather the nest — things ranging from kitchenware to furnishings by Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams. One plus is that after the exciting but nerve-wracking business of selecting a new sofa or chair, you can load it up and take it home — most pieces are in stock. (Delivery, of course, is an option for those of us not riding around in a van.) Hammertown is at 3201 Rte. 199 in Pine Plains (518-398-7075) or Montgomery Row in Rhinebeck (845-876-1450).

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Picture Perfect

“I’m a crazy animal person, so it’s a natural fit,” declares artist Lora Shelley of the latest turn her work has taken: portraits of pets. The Athens, Greene County, resident began as an illustrator, then moved into fine arts. Stylized portraits (“not of real people”) gave way to realistic portraits (“mostly of women”), followed by portraits of women with their animals. “Now people have started asking just for paintings of their pets,” she says.

Shelley can work from an owner’s photographs, but prefers to visit and take her own. “I love to meet the animal to get a feel for its personality. And I like to see its home environment, so I can put that in the painting.”

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Portraits are executed on wood panels. Says Shelley: “I use acrylics, oils, pastels, or mixed media. Sometimes I’ll add collage — I love going back and forth.”

Portraits start at about $1,000, depending on size. “Sometimes the paintings are larger than the pets themselves,” Shelley remarks. For more information, check

Ditching the Dirt

The home-cleaning service Organic Environments has a tagline: “Your Serenity Awaits.” After the hectic holiday season, a little serenity sounds good — as does kicking off the New Year in a sparkling clean house, and one that got that way without cleansers that leave a toxic residue. Young entrepreneur Ryan Fouhy and his brother, Christopher, launched Organic Environments just over a year ago. Says the high-energy Fouhy: “So many people are changing the way they live, making massive health-minded changes — organic foods, recycling and so forth — that we thought we’d offer something that’s in line with the green choices people are making. We use orange-based or oxygen-based cleaners that are all natural, and almost all organic. And we use a steam program in bathrooms on all the fixtures. It helps sanitize. It’s one thing to look clean, but to be germ free is very important, too.”

The Fouhys (both in their 20s) are no strangers to the business world. Born and raised in Poughkeepsie, they’re scions of the family that owns De’s Jewelers, a fixture in the mid-Hudson Valley for the past 60 years. “That’s where we get our entrepreneurial influences,” Fouhy declares. “Our grandfather gave us a lot of guidance about running a customer-based business. A lot of people say, ‘The customer’s always right,’ but we really mean it, without a doubt.” 

A basic cleaning for an average house — kitchen, dining room, living room, three bedrooms and one bathroom — is $99, with each additional room costing $7.95. For the next few weeks, there’s a 50-percent-off deal for the first visit. And if the house is really horribly dirty? Says Fouhy: “We’ve just gotta work extra hard.”

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Call toll-free 877-purityoe (877-787-4896) or schedule an appointment on-line at

Carpet Magic

Ed O’Brien’s company, Down to Earth, specializes in cleaning rugs and carpets — and after 30 years in the biz, O’Brien has seen all kinds of messes a carpet can get into. “Stains, dogs, cats, beverages, gum — I might use three different methods on one rug,” says O’Brien, himself a very down-to-earth kind of guy whose son, Edward the third, works in the business with him. “Every carpet’s treated differently,” Edward the second says. “Some colors run, there’s Orientals with fringes …. They’re all hand-blocked, framed and cleaned by hand. They don’t just get a quick dip in a vat or run through a steam machine. I put a lot of time into the rugs. I don’t care if the carpet cost $100 or thousands. In fact, cheaper rugs are tougher to clean because they shrink irregularly.” 

The company, which also cleans upholstery, handles a lot of corporate accounts, as well as “many multimillion-dollar homes,” notes O’Brien. “And a lot of authors.” (We all know what a sloppy bunch writers are.) Summing up his philosophy, O’Brien says: “I once had a woman call me up and ask me, ‘Who’s your most important client?’ And I said, ‘The next person that calls. Everybody else is already my customer.’ ”

Down to Earth is at 55 Van Wagner Road, Poughkeepsie. 845-416-0959;

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