There are many who might consider themselves Renaissance men, but few can actually meet that definition, which is simply "a person with many talents or areas or knowledge." One such man who definitely meets this criteria, and more, is Chris Hall, a partner, along with founder Bill D'Agata, of Pembrooke Fine Landscapes.
Bruce Springsteen, Chris Hall, Elaine Steinbeck at the dedication of the stage at Bay Street. (Courtesy Photo)
Raised in Union, New Jersey, Hall has lived in the Hamptons since his family relocated to the East End during his college days at St. Michael's (in Burlington, Vermont) in the late 1970's. Hall and his wife, MaryAnn, currently live on the North Fork with their children.
His first daytime summer job was hanging on the back of a garbage truck, collecting trash for Suburban Sanitation in Sag Harbor, while washing dishes at a local restaurant at night in Noyac.
The life-long entrepreneur started a pool service company at the age of 19 to put himself through college. Ten years later he sold the business to his partner, and used the funds to build and renovate homes in the Hamptons.
During that time, Hall also opened The Music Hall in Westfield, New Jersey. The Music Hall was a CD store and a destination for music lovers in the tri-state area. The retail store had the largest collection of used CDs in New Jersey. The Music Hall supplied WNEW-FM with much of its collection of imported music and B-sides.
Guitar legend Les Paul with Chris. (Courtesy Photo)
After selling The Music Hall to a retail chain store, Hall returned full-time to the Hamptons and, along with his new business partner, Ray Sanchez, founded Peconic Online. Eventually joining forces with Manhattan based I-2000, Peconic Online was responsible for providing Internet access to our area while creating the first websites for companies that included Bridgehampton National Bank
, Hamptons International Film Festival
, the Hampton Jitney
, Southampton Hospital
, and the Hampton Classic
. Hall was in charge of website development and mergers and acquisitions during his tenure with the technology companies. At this time, Hall also arranged for the broadband needed for Vin Scelsa (WNEW pioneer) and his show "Live at Lunch." Hall eventually went on to become assistant producer of the show, and befriended executive producer Bill Kollar. Kollar later became partners with Hall and Pete Fornatale at "Mixed Bag."
Path to Success was Hall's next venture where non-profits benefited from fundraising activities organized by Path to Success. Among his favorite projects was his work with the Long Island Music Hall of Fame, specifically his efforts with board member Tom Benson.
Pete Fornatale with Sting. (Courtesy Photo)
Engaging his diverse professional background as an entrepreneur in the fields of luxury swimming pool construction, landscape design and creation, technology, and music, Hall brings over 30 years of experience to the art of developing, and maintaining properties in the Hamptons, as well as the North Fork, and continually combines his considerable talents and passion in an ever-changing and evolving field.
Hall reveals, "I enjoy every aspect of working on some of the most amazing homes in the country, and I am truly fortunate to meet incredibly interesting people as I help them make the most of their beautiful homes and landscapes."
Chris coaching his son's basketball team at Madison Square Garden. (Courtesy Photo)
In addition to his professional responsibilities, Hall is a man deeply involved in his community. He has assumed active roles in civic, charitable, and educational organizations. He has served on the board of directors, or been an active member, in the Southampton, Sag Harbor, East Hampton, Montauk, and Manhattan Chambers of Commerce, and "Proudly served on the board of the East Hampton Kiwanis Club."
Not busy enough! Hall also spent over 10 years on the school board in the district his children attended, as well as coached youth baseball, basketball, and football teams in the towns of Sag Harbor and Southampton. Also, Hall and his wife occasionally like to participate in Survival and Spartan Races with their friends, and recently completed the Spartan Race at Citi Field.
This man carries a beat as well, and while partners with radio legend Pete Fornatale, Hall produced "Mixed Bag Radio" for Sirius/XM. During this time he worked with Fornatale on events that would benefit WHY Hunger (formerly World Hunger Year).
Oh, and another thing to add to his impressive curriculum vitae, Hall is a monthly contributor to our own Hamptons.com, where he writes an informative and interesting column about the trends in pool construction and landscaping; also, what's cool, what's affordable, and how to get it done right.
Despite his seemingly busy schedule, his love for his wife, his children and his extended family remain his top priority. Time at home and traveling to new destinations with his family are his favorite activities.
"I have yet to meet someone that doesn't have a vision of how they would like to relax in their own home," Hall said. (Courtesy Photo)
Crediting his simple mantra of "Be dependable, accountable, and listen," Hall avows that adhering to this philosophy "Has allowed me to work successfully alongside the finest architects, interior designers, contractors, and home owners to deliver exceptional results; on time and on budget."
Thanks for taking time to answer a few questions for us:
What would you consider to be the most important components when a home owner is considering adding a new pool to their property?
Form and function are the two most important components when adding a swimming pool to their property. The pool is a visual accessory to the overall landscape. Therefore, the design, the placement, and the comprehensive look of the pool is a crucial component to a fully landscaped backyard. The function of the pool is the other key element. When working in concert with our clients, I need to know how they plan to use the pool. Will it be a lap pool for exercise? Is there a spa included? Would a negative edge be a good fit? After discussing a series of options the design begins to unfold.
What would be your recommendation(s) to a new home owner with little or no knowledge of landscaping to help them achieve a property design to be proud of?
Hall and his wife occasionally like to participate in Survival and Spartan Races with their friends. (Courtesy Photo)
I'm a big fan of taking out the yellow pad and brainstorming. I consider all of our clients to be knowledgeable. I have yet to meet someone that doesn't have a vision of how they would like to relax in their own home. Once the words
begin to flow, and often they flow quickly, an initial design is not far behind. There are endless visual resources available online. I like to work with the client to research the many possibilities of what has been done and what can be done.
How much of the business is new design versus redesign for both pools and landscaping?
All of Pembrooke's work is new design. Even when we tackle a project that has an existing pool, generally the pool is removed and we start with a blank canvas. Our clients like to bring their own vision and needs and combine them with our experience and sensibilities.
What's the most "outrageous" request that has been made of you with regards to landscape and pool design?
Pembrooke works with local companies, including nurseries, whenever possible. (Courtesy Photo)
We are seeing an ever increasing desire to bring technology, specifically high-end audio, and video to the overall design. We recently completed a pavilion with three televisions that were incorporated into a design that had already included a full kitchen and custom fireplace. The look and feel of an outdoor sports bar blends seamlessly with the tennis court, pool, and spa.
Do you work mostly with local nurseries for plantings in your landscape designs?
Bo Diddley and Chris Hall at "Mixed Bag Radio" recording session. (Courtesy Photo)
Pembrooke works with local companies, including nurseries, whenever possible. Our need for specific plants for each situation rules the day. We also search for best possible price for our client, without sacrificing quality.
What is the most unusual pool construction you have undertaken?
My brother in-law-came to me with very specific requests that incorporated a wide variety of needs. He needed a 75-foot lap pool, a fully functional spa for eight people, a shallow area with bench seating throughout, chemical free water filtration, and a negative edge with a waterfall facing his home. He also wanted the pool to blend seamlessly with the outdoor kitchen and fireplace that we were asked to build. To make a long story short; we did it! One time only, I broke the rule of choosing not to work for friends and relatives (he is both); and I survived and he and his family were thrilled.
Coming into the "season" demands on your time must be substantial, what would you consider to be a reasonable time frame for new pool construction, and new landscaping?
Our process, including the timeline, depends on the client. Pembrooke is a boutique landscape design/build firm and we complete our projects on time and on budget. Along with the client, we agree upon a reasonable time frame. The length of time varies quite a bit, depending on the scope of the project. I really enjoy the process and ideally we like to take our time. I find that our clients do as well.
Any tips you could relay for those that might not have a vast budget to spruce up their property?
Chris with American icons Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell after an incredible session at S.I.R. Studios in New York. (Courtesy Photo)
There are times that clients choose to build in phases. That's one way to accomplish a long term goal, while enjoying your property throughout the years.
What charitable work are you passionate about these days?
My wife, MaryAnn, and I have varied passions about the charitable work that we do. Most of our work is done privately. However, I have recently begun to explore releasing the audio and video archives of "Mixed Bag Radio" for the benefit of WHY Hunger. Pete Fornatale and I completed nearly 200 sessions with a wide variety of incredible musical guests. The video of those sessions has never been seen. I would love to honor Pete's memory, while contributing to a cause that he held near and dear to his heart. He introduced me to Bill Ayres many years ago. Bill founded WHY Hunger with Harry Chapin. He continues, along with his amazing staff, to be "a leader in building the movement to end hunger and poverty by connecting people to nutritious, affordable food and by supporting grassroots solutions that inspire self-reliance and community empowerment."
Finally, are you still keeping the beat with any involvement in music?
A Bruce Springsteen
concert in Brooklyn was a recent guilty pleasure for me and MaryAnn. Like so many of us, my involvement in music is a daily passion. I'm always excited to hear new music, and learn the lessons and perspective that a great song has to offer. On a professional level, I'm on hiatus except for the review of the "Mixed Bag" archives. However, on a pro bono
basis, I'm always ready to come out of retirement and tell some stories about my amazing Walter Mitty-like experience of working side by side with my dear friend Pete at "Mixed Bag!"
If you would like to schedule an appointment or would like to speak with Chris Hall, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
, or contact Pembroke Fine Landscapes directly at www.pembrookefinelandscapes.com
. For more information on WHY Hunger, visit www.whyhunger.org
; for Pete Fornatale information go to www.petefornatale.com
, and for "Mixed Bag Radio" on The Loft at Sirius/XM, head to www.siriusxm.com
, although the show no longer airs on the radio.
Eileen Casey spent many years working in the television and music industries in New York City on the "ABC In Concert" weekly series, as well as several prime time network and cable television specials. An award-winning journalist, editor, and artist, and former Editor-in-Chief of Hamptons.com, she enjoys staying warm in Charleston and cool in the Hamptons.