At Home With Kurt Giehl And Jeff Ragovin - 27 East

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At Home With Kurt Giehl And Jeff Ragovin

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Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Eames lounge chair and ottoman in a bedroom of Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Eames lounge chair and ottoman in a bedroom of Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Outdoor seating by Gloster at Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Outdoor seating by Gloster at Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home by architect Reid Balthaser of RTB Design Services.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home by architect Reid Balthaser of RTB Design Services. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Barcelona chairs by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the living room of Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Barcelona chairs by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the living room of Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl, standing, and Jeff Ragovin with their dog, Jack, at their Springs home.

Kurt Giehl, standing, and Jeff Ragovin with their dog, Jack, at their Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home.

Kurt Giehl and Jeff Ragovin's Springs home. ERIC STRIFFLER PHOTOGRAPHY

author on Oct 2, 2020

After 25 years as an executive director with J.P. Morgan Investment Bank, Kurt Giehl switched gears.

Four years ago, at the age of 50, he and his husband, Jeff Ragovin, sold their apartment at Frederick Douglass Boulevard and 148 Street in Harlem and moved full time to Springs.

“There’s got to be more,” he told himself at the time.

It may have been a midlife crisis, but only in the best sense of the word. “Nothing bad happened,” he said. “I just needed the next stage of my life, a Plan B.”

Once the couple were settled into the home on Old Stone Highway, Mr. Giehl had to actually come up with a Plan B. Pondering the existential question “What am I going to do?” he took clues from the area’s history and came to his conclusion: “I’m going to paint.”

Although he had never picked up a paintbrush before, he jumped in headfirst, taking oil painting classes with artist Janet Jennings every Monday morning at her studio for two years.

It’s obvious that he learned a lot from Ms. Jennings: One can see her influence in his work. Both artists are obsessed with the sea and the line of the horizon.

“Then she stopped,” he said, still feeling the sting.

The Wall Street trading floor is polar opposite to the lifestyle of an artist. “I sat next to people this close,” he said, his arms outstretched. “There’s a whole energy when people are nearby.

“Now, I paint all day alone,” he said sitting in his living room. “I feel very isolated. Jeff travels a lot for work. I wake up and paint, paint, paint.”

He laments the lack of an artists’ collective in East Hampton. “It’s a shame,” he said. “I look for opportunities to paint with people. The artist community is so nice and welcoming.”

His friend the artist Ross Bleckner told him, “You have to paint every day.”

“It’s true,” Mr. Giehl said. “It’s like a muscle. The more you do it, the better you get.”

Mr. Giehl grew up in Rochester and Mr. Ragovin grew up in Manhattan. They met on Fire Island 19 years ago and recently celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary. A year after they were married, they bought the Japanese-inspired, single-story house on an acre.

The living room was formerly the master bedroom, with cork flooring. Paper pocket doors separated the bedroom from the dining room.

“There was no real privacy,” he said. “Guests had to go through the bedroom to get to the pool. Also peculiar.”

Needless to say, the house was not conducive to entertaining, especially for a couple who thrives on entertaining.

With help from their good friend architect Reid Balthaser of RTB Design Services, they turned the bedroom into a guest-friendly living room, now home to oversized sectional couches upholstered in natural linen, white Barcelona chairs by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, swivel chairs by Baker, and a custom coffee table by Withers & Grain.

Looking outside, past the pool and a large expanse of lawn, another outdoor living room, with seating by Gloster, mimics the furniture inside.

Jack, their 7-year-old black Maltese Shih Tzu, follows us up the masculine steel-and-wood staircase, where the cement landing matches the fireplace surround, and the steps match the 8-inch white oak plank flooring.

“My art is everywhere,” he said, stopping to pause at his painting “Bostwick Bay,” one of many seascapes. “Now the whole house serves as a gallery until I sell it.”

Indeed, a large diptych is wrapped in the foyer and ready to head out the door to its new owners in Bridgehampton. “I’ve sold 110 paintings,” he said. “I keep track like a banker.”

Sitting down at his desk at the top of the stairs, he opens his computer to show off his spreadsheets. He notes the time it takes to create each painting, and tracks the artwork he has on Instagram, Facebook and other outlets such as folioeast. “You have to stay organized,” he said.

His business plan has served him well. He’s sold 67 percent of his work, much of it through Instagram. Last spring, during a “drive-by” art show, he displayed nearly 20 paintings on custom easels on his lawn — and sold 10.

The master bedroom is also located on the new second story, above the living room. “We have the most and least comfortable chairs in this room,” he said of an oatmeal leather Eames chair and a white, molded plastic ottoman on either side of the bed.

Rather than sitting in the chairs with a book, the couple is more likely to be found tooling around the yard or cooking for friends when not working.

An Eero Saarinen Arebascato marble table is for more intimate dining in the kitchen, but Mr. Giehl’s favorite room is the screened-in dining room, where a steel-and-wood rectangular table from Home Nature is surrounded by 10 Eames shell chairs with garden views.

There were three types of bamboo growing on the property, as well as their neighbor’s property, when they made the purchase. “It was a nightmare,” he said of digging the invasive plant out.

The couple left some of the “good kind” of bamboo, which forms a striking wall outside the dining area, as well as on one side of the long driveway. The other side is lined with cedar trees. Passing through the front gate is utterly magical.

The path leading to a grand Japanese maple just outside the breezeway, is lined with dappled willow. “I’m thinking of replacing it with something more structured,” he said. “The problem is, what do we do with these trees?”

Cryptomeria, green giants, emerald green arborvitae, and Korean pines enclose the property, creating an airy yet private sanctuary. All in all, about 75 trees were planted, along with boxwoods, ornamental sea grass, sedum and limelight hydrangea throughout the property.

The couple is planning to turn a previously “wasted” part of the yard into a secret garden, including vegetable beds, antique lighting, and a small table and chair set for sipping wine.

Mr. Giehl is never far from his Stihl clippers, and keeps an old wisteria, another plant that could become invasive, very tight, inciting some jealousy on my end. “I cut it back hard,” he said. “I don’t like the flowers.”

“I shape these,” he said, stopping to snip some outrageously rounded shrubs. “The new name is ‘clouds.’ I used to call them pom poms.” You could never tell that the black pine topiaries in containers were infested with tip moths.

The moon-like topiaries are in stark contrast with his love of the straight line, which is more obvious in his basement studio. Works-in-progress include a romantic seascape, a vivid color block experiment and a large collection of neutrally colored 2-inch-by-2-inch blocks.

An old dresser serves as a storage unit for tools of the trade, some re-purposed like squeegees and ink brayers used to apply paint to canvas. An old shoe drawer fits tubes of paint perfectly.

Prototypes of serving trays, part of his new line of home accessories based on his paintings, rest on a settee. Pillows, napkins, placemats and boxes are in development and will launch in the near future.

If not at home, there’s a good chance the couple is on the water. They raise oysters as part of the town’s public program, in Three Mile Harbor, where they keep a fishing-focused 34-foot Cobia center console.

Wall Street allowed Mr. Giehl the freedom to choose a less stressful and more meaningful way of life. By utilizing his past, he created a perfect present, and lasting contributions to others.

“Paintings take on a life of their own I may or may not know about,” he said.

Twelve seascapes are currently on view through October at Rejuvenation Dentistry and Health in the Village of East Hampton.

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