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IMG_3969 Maidstone Beach, the never, ever crowded miles-long crescent of white sand a few hundred yards from the house. The bay is so relaxing — kinder and gentler than the ocean’s pounding surf — perfect for swimming and safer, especially with kids.

WHO’S READY TO THINK ABOUT SUMMER? Everyone in the snowy Northeast, I imagine. Hard to believe at the moment, but summer will come, and with it the desire to be near water. I have just the house for you to rent: my utterly secluded 1940s 1,200-square-foot home, a five-minute walk from the beautiful Gardiner’s Bay beach, above, that is one of the Hamptons’ last and best-kept secrets.

June and July are spoken for, but August is available ($7,000). It’s a unique house for the right people — people who dig its arty, Bohemian vibe and don’t require air conditioning or a dishwasher. This is a house that recalls Jackson Pollock’s postwar heyday, when Springs, a hamlet five miles north of the chic village of East Hampton, N.Y., was home to a slew of well-known artists associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Pollock’s own home, now the Jackson Pollock-Lee Krasner Study Center, is a mile away in the Springs Historic District. So is the Springs General Store, a throwback to hippie days that pretty much encapsulates what laid-back Springs is all about. The area is still home to many artists, writers and actors, some famous.

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This is a house in a state of pre-renovation, and my price reflects that. There’s a fully functioning (in fact, brand new) kitchen and bath. The house is clean and organized and (will soon be) fully furnished. But I just bought it a year ago, and many planned projects — a new deck, an outdoor shower, a second bathroom among them (not to mention a swimming pool) — have not yet happened.

At present there are two bedrooms, but also, for all intents and purposes, two living rooms; there’s the potential to sleep 6 or more. There’s also an outbuilding which will be converted as a separate studio by summer.

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Great room, furniture yet to come.

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Dining/sitting room with working fireplace

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View to kitchen from dining/sitting room

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One of two bedrooms, with double bed + single (there’s a second bedroom as well)

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Imagine swimming every day (more than once a day!) right at the end of the block; kayaking and paddleboarding from any number of local launch points; bonfires on the beach (legal); grilling on the brick patio; visiting restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, historic houses, and ocean beaches in nearby East Hampton and Amagansett (10 minutes away) and Montauk (25 mins.), and spending time in the uber-charming town of Sag Harbor (20 mins.).

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Above:¬†Part of Maidstone Park’s two-mile loop for walking/jogging alongside the bay, an inlet leading to Three Mile Harbor, and a nature preserve. All a few minutes’ walk from the house.

For more info, contact me at caramia447@gmail.com. To see my craigslist ad, go here.

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Late summer sunset over Gardiner’s Bay

THE WAITING GAME continues. I’ve officially “gone to contract” on the Long Island beach house deal I’ve been patiently coddling for almost two years now. The seller has signed the contract of sale, my down payment has been delivered, the survey is completed; so is the title search. What remains before we can set a closing date: an amended Certificate of Occupancy for a 14′x18′ outbuilding — a future pool house, studio, guest cottage, workshop — with a good wood floor, skylights, a plumbed sink, and electricity. I want that building to be legal, and it’s the seller’s responsibility to make it so — a matter of closing out some paperwork, as the structure itself was built to code, with proper permits. So I wait to be informed when that is done, and have no idea how long that may take. Meanwhile, I linger in limbo while the weather here in downstate New York turns cold. The house is neither heated nor insulated, and there won’t be much I can do there through the winter months.

What I can do now is dream. I have been poring over back issues of Elle Decor, House Beautiful, and Country Home, seeking inspiration but not really finding it. That’s because the house — a long, narrow cracker-box built in the 1940s, then appended in the 1960s with a shorter wing set perpendicular to the first — has a modernist air in its simplicity, but a set of French doors added later confuses the issue. It’s not a cottage. It’s not a cabin. It’s not a ranch. It’s neither traditional nor modern. It doesn’t appear to have been designed by an architect; it just kind of happened. Soon it’s going to happen to me, and I finally feel confident enough of that to publish a few photos of the interior taken during a recent inspection with a trusted contractor. It’s still chock full of the seller’s belongings, but you’ll get the idea.

Let me clear up one misconception friends seem to have about me and this house: yes, it needs a load of work, but no, I’m not planning to “renovate.” Not right away, anyhow. I’m planning to live in it — camp in it, even — in a state of Bohemian funkiness for at least the first year [I just checked the definition of 'funky' to make sure it means what I want it to mean: modern and stylish in an unconventional or striking way, according to Merriam Webster. Exactly!] Primarily because I won’t have the money to do much else, but also because I just want to relax into being there before making any big plans. I’m looking forward to cleaning and painting immediately, and replacing appliances if need be, but things like a heating system and all new windows (the house will eventually need more than 20 of them) and a new deck and outdoor shower will have to wait. As for a new pool (the original vinyl one is merely a hole in the ground), that will have to wait a long time — five years, perhaps. Meanwhile, Gardiner’s Bay is a few hundred yards down the road.

Assuming the water runs and the lights go on, which they should, the first call I’m going to make is to an arborist. The half-acre has an excessive number of tall oak trees, and I want to open up the property and let in light — maybe even enough for a vegetable garden. Hopefully, much of that clearing can be accomplished this winter while the trees are bare.

In my low-budget decorating dreams I’m seeing a whitewash, sisal carpets, and a few pieces of mid-century furniture. What are you seeing? Dwell-magazine minimalism, or kilims and color? Thanks for your thoughts, however stray or unformed; they’ll go right into my mental files.

Above: The 14′x30′ living room in the short section of the L-shaped house has a working fireplace.

The larger of two bedrooms, above

One of two bathrooms, both needing work

The kitchen is open to…

A second living room, essentially — or dining/family room, with another working fireplace at the end of the long leg of the L (covered at present with plywood)

The outbuilding that’s causing the current delay

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ONE OF THE GREAT THINGS ABOUT BLOGGING is making new friends. Lula and I met only a few months ago, when she stumbled upon my blog and contacted me. We soon discovered we are neighbors in two places. She has an adorable cottage a few blocks from mine in Springs (East Hampton), N.Y., as well as a parlor floor she’s owned for 16 years in a classic 1850s Italianate brownstone in Brooklyn, top and below, virtually around the corner from where I lived for two decades (though we had never run into each other).

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She lives in a state of Bohemian splendor, presently suspended in mid-renovation. Having peeled off old wallpaper, the walls have a Venetian plaster look but await further plaster and paint. The ceiling has been stabilized in parts where it was falling down. There are nearly intact plaster cornice moldings all the way around, with what Lula calls her ‘Shakespearen troupe’ of faces. A new kitchen is in the cards, and there’s a potential terrace at the back which is just tar paper, no railings, at the moment.

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Most of the elaborate plaster cornice is in great shape, above. Other parts, below, not so much.

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Lula is grappling with the questions endemic to living on the parlor floor of a brownstone.

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  • Where to put the kitchen so it’s functional but unobtrusive? Right now it’s in the middle and will probably remain there for plumbing reasons, but in what configuration?
  • How to create a bedroom with privacy? She’s got a small one in the former hall space at the back, and uses the back parlor as a sort of den/guest room, above — but could it be better used as a master bedroom or dining room (currently in the kitchen area)?
  • And what about those magnificent original wood doors and moldings? Were they painted back in the day (she thinks so) and should they be painted again, or refinished and stained? Should perhaps the doors be left wood and just the moldings painted?

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All that remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the place has great cozy charm. With all that original detail, antiques acquired piecemeal over the years, an overstuffed sofa, plants on the window sills, and faded Oriental rugs, it feels much like being back in the Victorian era, for real.

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After my first-ever visit to Lula’s apartment, we went and checked out the new Fork & Pencil warehouse on Bergen Street, above, a few-months-old, crammed-full, well-vetted consignment store — a spin-off of the smaller storefront on Court Street — whose proceeds go to non-profit conservation, arts, and other organizations. It’s more Lula’s kind of place than mine, filled with traditional antiques, but more to the point, I don’t need anything at the moment. Browsing there is purely a theoretical exercise for me. I admire, appreciate, and move on. Don’t need anything, thanks!

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We had a civilized late lunch nearby at Broken English, the sort of self-conscious industrial chic space one used to expect only in Manhattan. I’m glad it’s come to Brooklyn, because my rigatoni with marinara and basil was scrumptious, and the salad, bread, and olive oil were tops. You can tell the quality of a restaurant by its bread and salad, I once read, and I think that’s on the mark. Broken English is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Ignore the snarky online reviews from amateur critics and give it a try. It’s a welcome addition to the nabe, in my book.

Modern Glamour smNOBODY DOES IT like Metropolitan Home. I say this not because I’ve been writing for the magazine since 1981, but because — though it’s known mainly for a certain sleek, high-end modernity — it is also capable of forays into the avant garde, the eco-chic, the rustic and the bohemian (sometimes all in one project). ‘Mix it up’ is Met Home‘s motto, and it sure keeps us readers on our toes.

Met Home, edited by the same small group of people almost from the beginning, is always on top of trends, so when Donna Warner, the longtime Editor in Chief, decides it’s time for “drama queen staircases, elegant draperies, sexy chandeliers, Wicked Queen mirrors, and soothing daybeds,” you better believe it.

Below, Jonathan Adler’s Palm Beach home mixes vintage and new, plastics and marble, neutrals and brights

157Glamour: Making it Modern is the newest coffee-table book from Met Home’s senior design team, written by Features Director Michael Lassell. More than 200 photos of 125 projects by some of the magazine’s favorite designers (and mine), including Benjamin Noriega-Oritz, Amy Lau, Celerie Kemble, and Jonathan Adler, employ principles that define this thing called glamour as it stands in 2009:

  • oversized objects rather than little bitty ones
  • luster, polish, shine and sheen, applied with restraint
  • antiques and vintage alongside modern
  • Asian influence on Western interiors
  • the use of multiples (framed images, a pottery collection) to make a whole more than the sum of its parts

Below, designer Shamir Shah transformed a New York City apartment foyer into something uniquely glamorous with a ceiling made of 31 rice-paper lanterns

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Some projects are more accessible than others, but all are inspiring. Some of the ideas in the book, like putting a chaise or lounge chair in the bathroom, as one designer suggests, don’t cost a thing.

Below, Nisi Berryman, owner of Miami’s NIBA Home, went all-out glam in her fuchsia-colored bedroom with a Baroque mirror, vintage vanity, and furry pillow on an acrylic chair

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