Whole House in Cobble Hill Can Be Yours Tomorrow!

KNOW ANYBODY WHO WANTS TO RENT a 5BR, 3 BATH TOWNHOUSE in Cobble Hill? A truly special four-story house, on a coveted park block, with great light, two working fireplaces, a high-end kitchen, wood floors, lots of original detail, and a delightful garden?


That would be mine. It’s been vacant for two whole weeks, and I’m getting nervous.

Sure, I was smug a few months back, sitting pretty with my rental property 100% occupied, crowing about the strength of the rental market. That was when I thought I could, as usual, segue easily from tenant to tenant. That was before this damn recession affected me personally.


I even had the nerve to start a blog subtitled “Old Houses for Fun and Profit.” Well, forget the profit. With the Cobble Hill house unrented, my monthly income is suddenly halved, and there’s no fun in that, either.

I thought I was doing everything possible to rent the place, listing it with several brokers and painting the house top to bottom. But I haven’t tried blogging about it until now.

So: if you are (or know someone who is) a large, solvent family in need of an extraordinary dwelling in a prime Brooklyn neighborhood to the tune of $8,000/month — a lot of money, granted, but it’s also a lot of house — e-mail caramia447@gmail.com without delay, and save a hefty broker’s fee.




A few quirky tidbits about the house and its location:

  • The house is pre-Civil War, built in the 1850s.
  • It has more original interior detail than any other on the block (and I’ve been in most of them). That includes 4 marble mantels, parquet floors on the parlor floor, cove moldings on the parlor floor, and the staircase/balusters. The ornate fixture in the front entry hall was once a gas fixture and is original to the house.
  • Legend has it that the house is part of a row of five, all built by one gentleman on Warren Street for his five daughters and their families. These were not carriage houses, though there are several on the block; they were always one-family houses.
  • The house is backwards! (That may be true of the whole row of five.) What is now the front facade of the house was originally the rear facade; that’s why the front is unimpressive.  If you stand in the garden and look up, you see its full size.
  • The house is backwards probably because access was from Warren or Henry Street. There must have been an opening or possibly a road that ran through what is now the back garden in the 19th century.
  • The rear parlor (living room) was originally the front parlor. We opened up the hallway and inserted the columns (which are salvaged porch columns) in the late 1980s, shortly after we bought the house.
  • We also raised the ceilings on the top floor in the two back bedrooms (when we bought the house, those two rooms were an attic you couldn’t stand up in) and added the three arched windows.
  • The kitchen dates from 2000. Cabinetry is custom maple, and the appliances are all status symbols (Viking, Bosch, Sub-Zero, etc.)
  • Cobble Hill Park became a park in the 1950s. Prior to that there was a church there, and Verandah Place was gated. The church was torn down, and a supermarket was set to go up in its place. The community objected, and the park was created. It was renovated in 1989.

At Home with Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner


I’M LIVING A SCANT MILE from a National Historic Landmark and cult-of-personality epicenter, the Pollock-Krasner House. It’s an 1879 farmhouse here in Springs where two leading lights of Abstract Expressionist painting, Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner, lived from 1945 until his death in 1956 (she continued to use the house until the 1980s).

He produced his best-known works in the cedar-shingled studio by laying a canvas on the floor and moving around it, athletically flinging, pouring, and dripping paint with brushes, sticks, and turkey basters (“I paint to express my feelings,” he famously said — “not to illustrate them”). The studio floor is the artistic highlight of the tour, spattered with remnants of Pollock’s work (the real things are in museums worldwide). Krasner took over the studio after Pollock died and painted prolifically there for many decades.

This house is where they lived when Pollock was in his creative heyday, featured in LIFE magazine as the greatest American artist of the 20th century. It’s where they entertained large groups of artist friends, and apparently drank way too much. I was curious to see the inside of the place. Would it be avant garde, wildly colored?


Not at all, I found out on an hour-long guided tour last Saturday ($10, reservations required). The docent filled us in on the artists’ backgrounds and brilliant artistic careers, not shying away from  the group’s questions about the tragic side of the story: their co-dependent relationship, his decline into alcoholism and depression, his extra-marital affair, and death in a car crash a mile from the house (both are buried nearby in Green River Cemetery, under enormous boulders).


The house, which had no heat or plumbing and was in ramshackle condition when they bought it for $5,000 right after WWII, retains some of the furnishings from those early days. It is rustic and unpretentious, with a rusty anchor on the wall, picked up while beachcombing, and a carved Spanish breakfront used as a kitchen counter.


Definitely the home of artists, it is decorating-on-a-shoestring, with pleasing results. I can relate.

Krasner’s “Left Bird Right,” above; a 1953 painting by Pollock, below


Pollock-Krasner House & Study Center, 830 Springs Fireplace Road, East Hampton, NY 11937  631/ 324-4929, http://www.pkhouse.org

Yard Sale: The Store


I ACCOMPLISHED A LOT this weekend, especially in the garden (oh, my aching back). But my greatest achievement of the past couple of days was finding Vincent Manzo’s tucked-away antique/vintage design store open. His posted hours are Saturday and Sunday 12-5, but I’d tried three times during those hours and never found him in.

Three times I peered through the windows at colored glass and funky lamps and wrought iron lawn furniture and rattan sofas and wondered: is it reasonably priced? This is the Hamptons, after all, and the answer to that question is usually “No, it’s not.”


The last time I tried, I sat in my car in front of the store and called Vince’s cell phone. “I’ll be open later,” he said. “How much later?” I asked. “About 3 o’clock,” he said. It was noon. The people at the next-door gallery waved their hands. “Oh, he comes when he feels like it.”


Vince likes buying more than selling. Who can blame him? The hunt is way more exciting than sitting in the store waiting for customers.

Vince, when I finally got inside the store and met him, has a good eye, and no wonder. One of his previous jobs was in display at Tiffany’s. He trawls suburban Long Island from head to tail (it’s shaped like a fish, we learned in 7th grade), discovering a load of mid-century design and colorful kitsch, as well as more traditional furniture and collectibles.


Which he sells – YES! – at remarkably reasonable prices. The things I inquired about — a Chinese red three-drawer chest with gilded hardware and a Nakashima-esque slab-of-wood coffee table, mounted on X-shaped picnic bench legs — were $75 and $125 respectively.


I’ll definitely keep going back.

YARD SALE is at 66 Newtown Lane (rear building), East Hampton, NY. 631/324-7048, 917/972-7885

See Vince on Martha Stewart.

Driving the Backroads Just to See What’s There

IT’S FIVE WEEKS since I moved to Springs, and I’m still discovering the area. My sister is visiting; as we drove around today so I could show her my favorite beaches at Gerard Drive and Louse Point, I saw lots of houses, old and not-so-old, I hadn’t seen before.

This glass-fronted chalet, overlooking Gardiner’s Bay, is on the market for less than I would have guessed: $990K. I’ll bet it would have been $1.2 or $1.3M not long ago.


Side view

Now if I had my druthers, I would own THIS cedar-shingled saltbox, left and below. It’s on quiet Barnes Hole Road — built around 1820, I’m guessing. There’s something so charming and harmonious about it. I love the open storm door, more like a shutter. You know I’ll be driving by frequently just to say hello.


Then again, I can also appreciate a good ’70s modernist house (though not as much as the true antiques), like this one on the cliffs at Barnes Landing. I especially like the steps ‘carved’ into the lawn.


Tourist in My Own Town

SPENT THE PAST COUPLE OF DAYS IN BROOKLYN, cleaning up after the painters in Cobble Hill with my partner in parenthood and NYC real estate. We worked through a three-page checklist of repairs, tip-toeing around in stocking feet so as not to soil the stair carpet Stanley Steemer had just shampooed.

So ya think ya wanna be a landlady? Hope you like crawling around a wood floor with a scraper, tack cloth, and spray bottle of Goop-off.

After which I felt justified in splurging on a decent room for the night. How odd, after 30 years of residence in Brooklyn, to sleep in a hotel. I chose the Hotel Le Bleu, because I was dying to know how (and whether) a hotelier could pull off a chic boutique hotel that by rights belongs in South Beach on 4th Avenue, sandwiched between a taxi dispatcher and a U-Haul parking lot, with Pep Boys and Staples for neighbors.

They pull it off pretty well; the place seemed busy and the clientele hip, though I quickly closed the curtains against the view of U-Haul trailers. (One commenter on tripadvisor.com pointed out that the picture on the hotel’s website, a nighttime shot of the Brooklyn Bridge three miles away, was ‘misleading’.)

But once inside, the $169 room was sleek and comfortable. Poofy pillows, a rainhead shower, Bill Maher on a humongous flat screen TV, and free juices, sodas, and cookies in the mini-bar went a long way toward making the whole expedition more fun than frustrating. And the service staff couldn’t be friendlier.

For dinner, we walked over to Palo Santo, on Union between 4th and 5th, one of the city’s few restaurants serving South American cuisine, and ate grilled mackerel with plantains and orange cake with whipped cream, washed down with white sangria in a skylit, brick-lined room excavated out of a brownstone backyard.

Yesterday morning, before heading back to Cobble Hill for Round 2 of cleaning and fixing, we stopped at Lowe’s for supplies (light bulbs, grout, vacuum cleaner bags, new toilet seat, etc.) and I was drawn into Roy Vaccaro’s New York Old Iron salvage yard by the sight of a dozen white pedestal sinks gleaming in the (yay!) sun.

For $50, I got a great porcelain pedestal with a heart-shaped sink cut-out, around which I’m going to build my Springs cottage bathroom when I get around to it.