Her True Color
Danielle Mailer finds her space
Home has always been important to Danielle Mailer, the second child of Norman Mailer by his second wife Adele Morales. “My mother is an abstractionist painter and she always managed to find these great West Village apartments with open floor plans,” Mailer explains. “She would immediately convert the living room into her painting studio because it usually had the best light. Life with her was colorful, chaotic, and eccentric. She was a nester and she had a flair for making comfortable homes.”
Her parents divorced when she was five and the shuttling back and forth to two different households instilled in her a need to feel settled and have a space of her own. “My father was a frustrated architect and turned his apartment into a ship, with ladders and ropes hanging in our bedroom. We spent our weekends with him and he created small alcoves for each of us, the only divider being a fishnet buoy. We never complained and as more marriages produced more children—nine in all—he just built more cubbies and alcoves. To go to the bathroom I had to swing on a rope and climb down.”
Given her upbringing, with her mother’s love for pattern and color, and her father’s eccentric curve, she has a Bohemian chic sense of style, full of personality and creatively colorful, just like her art. While she tries to separate her art from her personal space, it is difficult. “For years I had my studio in my apartment, following my mother’s lead. I now have a great studio, but the dining table is still where I do much of my night work, unless it’s one of the larger pieces which are relegated to the studio.”
That space is housed in a red barn of a building in Goshen, not far from where Mailer now lives. The building is owned by Peter McEachern and his brother Mark.
Peter happens to be Danielle’s husband, but prior to that he had been her landlord. “Peter and I knew each other and the space was perfect for me. So, I rented it and eventually we became a couple,” Mailer says.
The Mailer-McEachern house is eclectic to say the least. It reflects her love for color and shapes and is filled with her artwork, from older paintings to some of her latest sculpture. The house sits close to the shoreline of Tyler Lake and the view of the water from the expansive windows supplies a complementary serenity to the chaos of color.
The main floor features an open floor plan, with an entry through the kitchen that flows into the dining room/living room area. “When we were married and I moved in, the wall facing the lake was closed in except for a small window,” says Mailer. “Now with the expanse of light from all the new windows the room feels twice as big. Even though I have a studio, I still find myself sketching out ideas here, looking out on the water.”
McEachern, who is director of music at the Salisbury School, has done much of the renovation himself. “My brother and I inherited this house from our grandmother. It was originally a summer cottage, so we renovated it and I bought out my brother’s share. There was a porch which we made part of the house and insulated everything, put in new French doors leading out to the patio. And we had to reshingle the entire house.”
Ah, the shingles. Mailer had a special shade of orange in mind, but unfortunately it was not a manufactured color. The only way to achieve it was to mix it herself, which she did and then it was McEachern’s job to dip each and every shingle before affixing it to the house. “There were about 60 bundles and I tried to do a bundle a day and then hang them out to dry,” McEachern explains. Some three months and 7,700 shingles later, Mailer was very happy.
McEachern and his first wife raised their two children in the house and it was here that Mailer raised her daughter from her first marriage. All the children are grown and while they visit from time to time, the house belongs to Mailer and McEachern and their rescue dog Merlin. They keep furnishing to a minimum to enhance the feeling of spaciousness. As one would expect from the artist, there are shots of color everywhere. One of Mailer’s prize possessions is the red velvet wing chair that sits prominently in her living room. “That chair was my father’s and it was where he sat when Diane Arbus photographed him in his Brooklyn home in 1963. I’ve had it reupholstered in the exact same red velvet. It’s very special to me and part of the legacy that is Norman Mailer.”
While McEachern is teaching music every day, Mailer is teaching art at the Indian Mountain School in Lakeville. “During the day we are both immersed in our work, so when we get home we immediately immerse ourselves in what we love,” she explains Mailer. For her it is creating art; for McEachern it is music. He has been a jazz trombonist for over 47 years, playing in a quintet locally and nationally. He has recorded and written his own music and has produced several CDs. “Music has been a lifelong passion of mine,” says McEachern, “especially jazz and blues—American roots music. I continue to learn and grow which is what keeps me going.”
Mailer and McEachern love to entertain but in a very casual, relaxed way. “Because the space isn’t grand and the living room flows into the dining area, we keep things simple and pray for good weather so that we can be outside as well,” says Mailer.
On a perfect summer evening, guests can walk down and enjoy their cocktails at the edge of the lake. The tiered gardens that Mailer has cultivated, with the aid of Green View Lawn and Landscaping, add a burst of color that leads the eye from her flowers to her vegetables. Mailer began as a still life painter and now concentrates on larger pieces created on aluminum. The pieces have grown in both size and popularity; she is in numerous collections and museums. She begins by doing a drawing and then having Giordano’s Signs and Graphics create the piece on which she will paint.
At the moment, Mailer is concentrating on her latest project—creating a thirty-foot long mural of trout to be painted on the back of the Staples building in Torrington. This will be her fourth giant installation. She chose trout as the symbol of the revitalization of downtown and because there used to be trout in the river that used to run through the town.
In between their work and their art, Mailer and McEachern welcome respites by enjoying the peace and tranquility afforded by their lake house. But their minds are always churning, thinking about the next creative project.