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COME BE MY NEIGHBOR here in Springs (East Hampton), Long Island, NY, where what I think of as the Hamptons’ best-kept secret — Maidstone Beach on Gardiner’s Bay, above — is located. Have you ever been to the Greek Islands? This long crescent beach, with its clean, swimmable waters, gives Skiathos a run for its money. It’s never crowded — ever, even in summer, since most visitors to the Hamptons prefer the pounding Atlantic, five miles to the south. Good. Let them go.
An interesting property has just popped onto the market, an easy-peasy two-minute walk to that beach. It’s a pair of ten-year-old cottages — a two-bedroom, above, with a one-bedroom behind, each with its own deck and outdoor shower — that would make a fine rental property and/or weekend getaway. They’re a bit small for full-time living, but they are winterized, so it’s not an impossibility. The listing doesn’t disclose the size of the property. It’s long and narrow; a quarter-acre or less.
Back of front cottage
Back of rear cottage
Layout provides decent privacy between the two
Lovely backyard behind the rear cottage
You’ll find a few interiors shots here. The place appears in great shape, move-in or rental ready.
As for that beach, you can see a sliver of it from the front of the property, above (yes, you can, on a clearer day than the one on which this photo was taken). As for the 550K ask, which probably seems outrageous to those living in other localities, I’m afraid it’s reasonable for these parts. I know I’m sounding a lot like a realtor in this post (I’m not one, by the way — see the disclaimer on my ‘About’ page), but this property really will not last!!!
Beach plums in bloom
STEAMING TOWARD A MOVE-IN DATE of this Friday at my new/old house in East Hampton, N.Y. Yes, I know it doesn’t look move-in ready, and the fact is, I still don’t have water. But that’s my goal. The phantom plumber was supposed to come yesterday to hook up a couple of fairly important items, including a toilet, but he was sick. Fingers crossed for today.
I had two satisfyingly productive days recently. On Sunday afternoon, I put a coat of primer on the plywood floor in the dining/sitting room, above and below, soon to be covered by floor paint, probably white. Quick way to make the place feel cleaner and brighter.
This first required the painstaking removal of hundreds of carpet staples, most with tufts of carpet stuck to them, a prospect that had been hanging me up for weeks. My daughter got to it last week with a pair of pliers, enabling the operation to proceed, and for that I am very grateful.
I spent almost all day Monday cleaning the house as best I could without H2O. That was a rather non-green operation involving broom and dustpan, the vac, Swiffers both dry and wet, spray cleaner, and lots and lots of paper towels. I won’t be happy until I get my rubber gloves into a bucket of hot soapy water, but it helped.
While I worked inside, Eric the tree man buzzed and chipped outside, removing tree limbs and a couple of whole trees near the house that posed a danger of falling. It’s not a dramatic change, but to me, the space in front of the house feels more open and airy. (Don’t go by these iPhone shots. I keep saying the place looks brighter, while the photos look terribly dim.)
The kitchen floor, below – 18″x18″ charcoal gray tiles — has been laid and will be grouted today.
This was the inspiration photo for the floor tiles:
The stove and fridge are being delivered later this week.
The contractor built a wooden base for a deep two-basin kitchen sink top that was left behind in the shed, below, following a magazine picture I showed him. I think it came out better than the picture.
Then I’ll have to say goodbye to all my helpers for a while and forge on alone for the next couple of months. The coffers have run dry, and all incoming funds will be going toward fix-ups at our mews house in Brooklyn. <–That link is to a four-year-old post; the rent has gone up. If interested, contact me at caramia447@gmail. The longtime renters are leaving, and the place requires attention and an infusion of cash.
By the way, anyone need a 9-1/2 foot long liquid propane tank, bottom? Once used to heat a now-disappeared swimming pool, it sits in the parking area like a beached submarine. I got a $4,000 estimate to take it away, so it won’t be leaving any time soon. It’s not in my way, but neither do I anticipate any future use for it. Do I have any takers?
A MONTH INTO MY OWNERSHIP of a mid-20th century house needing much TLC on the East End of Long Island, a reader emails to say: “I’m loving your blog posts about your beach house…it is looking much better! You may not realize it, but seeing your posts definitely shows consistent progress.” I’m so glad it looks that way from afar. From anear, things are not moving as fast as I’d like.
Never mind window locks, which is where I left off in my last post. I’m not up to that yet. I ordered a single casement fastener to try before committing myself to two dozen, and it hasn’t arrived yet. Meanwhile, I’ve been doing some online shopping, for a “neo-angle” shower rod and a window screen. Again, just a single sample as a try-out, from screenitagain.com, associated with Lowes. If this works, it could be a very good thing: each custom-made screen (approximately 29″h x 36″w — though you need to send measurements to the 1/16″, and I’ve discovered each window is different), with a basic wood frame and plastic mesh screen, plus two spring tension fasteners and a tab at the bottom, is about $36. An upgrade to the ‘clearer view’ material adds about $20 per, so we’ll see.
Did some yard-saling over the weekend, and wouldn’t ya know… A few days after my Tanger Mall sojourn, where I bought new retro fixtures at the Restoration Hardware and West Elm outlets for the dining room and kitchen, I found the genuine articles right here in East Hampton for a pittance. Above, a green metal shade of the type I originally had in mind, an unusual rounded variation on the typical shape: $10. Naturally I grabbed it, though I’m not sure for where.
At the same sale, I picked up a pair of vintage white glass globes, above, very Sixties, very Pop, perfect for the great room, below, though perhaps a bit too small in scale for the height of the ceiling (the globes are about 12″ across). They were $20 apiece. A friend suggested hanging them together at different heights, which would be fun. These finds only fueled my determination to hunt bargains, of which more in my next post.
What else? I have a whole new room, a whole new building, to think about. On Friday, the previous owner came, as agreed, and cleared out the shed, below — a onetime pool house, now to be… well, I’m not sure what. Garden shed, guest cottage, writing studio, workshop? My goal is to keep it from becoming a storage unit, though that is an ongoing temptation in the absence of a garage or basement.
And thanks to a visit from Eric the arborist, I can now see the forest for the trees. There are more than just oaks here — there are hickories, red maples, and sassafrass, as well as dogwood, wild cherry, and barberry. We’re starting nearest the house on trees that are in imminent danger of losing limbs. Eric is conservative; there are only a few he slated for outright removal. On most, he’ll just “lighten the load,” cleaning them up and pruning out deadwood. I trust him implicitly. At my former home, he eventually removed about eight huge oaks, and the more he took away, the better I liked it.
The saplings are still going to be my problem. It makes sense to pay Eric to climb 100 feet up, but not to take down 5-foot trees with 2″ trunks, of which there are hundreds. That’s something I can handle with a lopper, if only I could decide what to lop. I’ll enjoy watching them leaf out, and figure it out later.
Do you have the patience to wait
till your mud settles and the water is clear?
Can you remain unmoving
till the right action arises by itself? asked Lao Tzu in the fifth century B.C.
It’s a tall order for one of my temperament, but I’m trying.
LET THERE BE MORE LIGHT, said the new owner of the meagerly electrified beach house, and so Tom the electrician came and upgraded the situation over a period of two days — installing dedicated circuits for the fridge, stove, and space heater; running wires for new overhead fixtures in the dining/sitting room, above; removing lamp cords that snaked along floors and walls with no regard for that thing called code; and capping and burying wires that ran willy-nilly through the half-acre property, illumination for the pool that no longer exists and trees that may be coming down.
Staying one step ahead of the tradesmen, as is my habit, I hopped into my car yesterday morning, a rainy Tuesday, determined to produce by day’s end a hanging fixture for over the kitchen counter and another for over the dining table I don’t yet have (and don’t know the size or shape of). This is a challenge on the far East End of Long Island, where shopping ops are few.
There’s nothing like an enforced drive up-island to make one realize how aptly named Long Island is. I hadn’t intended to go more than a few miles east if I could help it. My hope was that I’d find two marvelous fixtures at either the Ladies Village Improvement Society thrift shop in East Hampton or the ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) shop in Bridge, and then make a 12:00 yoga class. But as good as those shops are, they hew traditional, and my vision here is rustic/retro/industrial. The woman at ARF suggested I try the Restoration Hardware outlet at the Tanger Mall in Riverhead, and I decided to go for it, though it’s an hour’s drive from Springs. I stopped along the way at Revco Lighting and Suffolk Lighting in Southampton, two high-end showrooms whose prices I had no intention of paying, and also at Schwing, an electrical supply store where I picked up a bunch of landscape lighting catalogues and had an illuminating discussion about low versus line voltage — and realized that landscape lighting will have to be a low priority. Decent quality fixtures cost in the neighborhood of $200, and I need 10. And then there’s installation.
Ultimately I succeeded; my long day’s journey yielded what RH calls a vintage barn pendant in slate gray for over the kitchen counter, above; I paid $107 (originally $249) and it seems to be of very decent quality. There’s a West Elm there, too, to which I’ll be returning when it’s time for rugs. There I picked up a big white bell-shaped enamel shade, right, for over the future dining table, for $50.
I had been hoping they’d have the pumpkin-shaped bentwood fixture, below, I’d seen and liked in the West Elm catalogue, but they only had the long cigar-shaped one ($79 without its innards, orig. $169) and I decided the ceiling is too low for such a long fixture.
I capped my lamp-shopping triumphs with a stop at East Hampton Hardware, where I bought a $5.99 ‘jelly jar’ sconce, the kind normally used for outside back doors. I tried it in the long ship-like hall, and I think it’s just right. I’m going back for a second one. Can’t beat the price, right?
Some of the existing lighting in the house and yard is very ‘Springs’ — artistic, to put it kindly. In the kitchen, the under-cabinet fixture is a long homemade metal panel that takes four tubular bulbs, below. Above the sink: a pair of ’70s white cubes. On a dimmer, with small floodlights, it gives abundant light. I’m keeping both.
In the yard, there’s an assortment of landscape fixtures, below, which I now realize are vintage and not cheap. But I hate them: there’s a pagoda, two carriage lamps, and two flowers, which I’ve promised to my contractor when I find replacements. The only one I can handle, though it’s not beautiful, is a utilitarian-looking thing that’s fallen over on its side. I’ll be looking into path lighting, but it’s not top of my list.
There’s also a pair of nautical-style, nicely oxidized sconces on the house’s exterior, below. They’re heavy and old and I like them a lot.
Charles the plumber is due tomorrow to install the shower body, and Miguel, the contractor, will tile the bathroom next week. Hopefully I can persuade the plumber to return to install the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and toilet, while Miguel moves on to window repair.
I spent two hours this morning researching casement fasteners, left, and I’m still not sure I’ve found the right thing. Coming up: let there be locks.
IT WASN’T MY MOST productive week. It started in a blaze of sunny optimism and ended in wind and rain, loneliness and discouragement, with an identity theft nightmare that took a precious day at the bank to sort out, and the realization that things are going to take longer and cost more than this impatient, frugal renovator would like. So what else is new? It’s a renovation.
Propped open all the wood battens along the back wall of the house for the first time. They have no glass, only screens. They seem very much a summer-house-at-the-shore kind of thing, and I’m not sure what to make of them or do with them.
I’m undertaking these improvements cautiously — not because I’m not wholly committed to the house, but because it’s a quirky house, the likes of which I’ve never seen or dealt with. I don’t understand it yet, and I’m not willing to impose stylistic choices on it until I do. But I must make some, if I’m to have a functioning kitchen and bath.
Kitchen sans old appliances
In the past, I’ve played with retro fixtures and glass mosaics and expensive European faucets. Now my watchwords have become “plain, basic, cheap”– as well as “available immediately.” I’ve just come from Cancos Tile in Southampton, where I ordered plain white 6″ square ceramic tiles for a new shower surround, and white 2″x2″ squares for the floor. Octagons seemed like going too in a 1930s direction, and I’m tired of them; I’ve done them so many times before. And choosing any kind of color for the bathroom, when I haven’t chosen color for anything else, seemed premature.
Bathroom sans fixtures
On Monday I waited for the plumber to show up, and my mood plummeted when he didn’t. All the tradespeople are suddenly busy now, all their customers deciding to spiff up their homes for the season. I’ve got dibs on them, too. They like me, this feisty silver-haired lady with the interesting house and weird ideas, and I try to be as charming as possible while foisting money upon them.
Existing kitchen sink top to be recycled
I ran out to the local plumbing supply co. and bought a bathroom sink and faucet, a shower body, and a kitchen faucet (all American Standard, chrome, in stock), just to be able to call the plumber and say, “Charles, I’ve got everything! It’s all here for you!” The bathroom sink is a plain pedestal on sale, below — perfectly nice, but more Deco than I would have liked. I would have liked a wall-hung cast-iron utility sink, but this one came to hand (as soon as I finish this blog post, I’m going to Google the sink I would really like).
I do whatever I can do myself — trash-hauling, leaf-raking — but there’s not much more I can do without water (or building skills). I tried lopping some of the excess saplings that litter the property, but got quickly overwhelmed and indecisive. What if some of these trees have good fall color, or would provide welcome screening? I realized anew the wisdom of living in a place for a year before making landscape decisions. Instead, I sank down on a bench in the sun and mused. I decided that all 23 awning windows must open. They are the articulation on the front of the house. I can’t screw them in place just to save a few bucks on labor and hinges. I went around and opened all of them, to air out the house and see how it looks that way, and I like it.
On Tuesday, Charles showed up, tore out the kitchen and bathroom fixtures single-handedly, and got the water pump, above, going (though with nothing for the water to flow into). I don’t have to dig a well, which is cause for celebration. And on Wednesday, Keith the Metal Man came, below, and hauled away what Charles tore out, which made me very happy. Miguel, who’s going to restore the windows and do the necessary building and tile work in bathroom and kitchen, promised to give me two days a week, starting next week.
That other part of the house — the 1960s addition which is the living room or great room, has been forgotten for the moment. I don’t have the resources to plunge in full steam ahead, and that’s OK. Because what I also do not have is an iota of buyer’s remorse.