Victorian Farmhouse on Shelter Island



MY FIRST THOUGHT, when I met Debre DeMers last winter in a real estate office on Shelter Island, was “What is she doing here? She looks like she belongs in Brooklyn!” Turns out, Debre lived in Park Slope for a couple of decades before buying a Victorian farmhouse in near-shell condition “for the doors” (they’re arched and pointy and fabulous). The house had a new roof and a snazzy exterior paint job, but nothing on the inside except studs and insulation (the previous owner ran out of  oomph and money).



Aside from a few minor details (she’s from Montana, I’m from Queens), Debre and I have much in common: an interior design background; cats; collections (I’d never heard of Navajo bug pins before). I love the fact that almost all the building supplies and furnishings in Debre’s house came  from eBay, Craigslist, or yard sales, that she has two stacks of old doors on her porch, and that she’s laying a flagstone walk herself.

She’s been working on the house, which is on a small, sloping lot near North Ferry, for about 15 months, and the renovation is is well along. A wraparound screened porch has dramatically increased living space beyond the original 1,200 square feet. There are gorgeous new barn-wood floors, new doors and hardware, two new bathrooms, and most of a kitchen.





bath IMG_1209

I’m impressed that Debre survived her first winter living full-time on Shelter Island, and seemed to like it. “It’s funny how quickly one adapts to life out here,” she wrote in an e-mail. “I’m always happy to return to my house in the holler.”

18 thoughts on “Victorian Farmhouse on Shelter Island

  1. What a wonderful transformation! I love the colors she picked and the wrap around porch.

  2. That park sloper on shelter island is a stunner. I’d have walked right by that “before” property thinking it looked like it should have a giant beanstalk in the backyard, but now… what a gem.

  3. An enchanting house! I’ve known Debre for almost 30 years, and if anyone could make that cottage into a showcase…. Thank you for showing us what wonderful things can be done with a small house.

  4. So maybe I sound like the armchair naysayer, but I kind of like the proportions of the house in the “before” mode. But yes, it does indeed look like it needed a ton of work. And, I immediately realized the need for the screened in porch. Shelter Island has become a major tick vector with all sorts of nasty diseases you can catch so better save than sorry…and also better than becoming mosquito food. Plus, she got those deck/balconies out of it too.

    Cara, since your a plant person, you should help Debre work up some planters and railing boxes for those decks? And she should think about planting something like a monster climbing rose or two and a big grape to take advantage of all that porch roof, keep it and the space under it cooler in summer and shaded at the edges, produce flowers and/or edible fruit, and generally look cuter than heck. Oh, and a native passion flower vine might be interesting. We have a monster of one in Rhode Island. It doesn’t emerge until fairly late in the season but it really shoots up eventually and produces tons of flowers. They do well on the North Fork so Debre might think of finding a cutting from someone and root it.

    I’m sure you’ve driven by this spectacular gingerbread house close to the road not far from the north ferry landing… It’s very heavily worked, comic and kind of gorgeous.

    We’re in Napa right now. I think you’d like it. You should come out here and add it to your list of places on the blog.

  5. It’s beautiful. I especially love that porch and the blue door. It’s always so great to see such inspired transformations.

  6. Thanks, fixed the link (Terry’s referring to the Friday ‘blog party’ at Re the Gothic doors, I think they’re stunning, personally.

  7. Oh, wow. She’s done a beautiful job with this house. I’m in love with the doors and can see why they would inspire her to buy it. Really like the color she painted them, too. And that tub! Fabulous.

    Glad you could join the blog party, Cara. Happy 4th! :-)

  8. Very quirky, love it! It looks very much as if it might have been a small country church in a past life; unusual doors and proportions. What a fun challenge!

    Love the new cedar shake siding — very Long Island.

  9. I love what she’s done with this house. It’s very Long Island summer house with the fabulous porch and cedar shake siding but then your eye gravitates to the Gothic details and you want to know the home’s history. It’s so calming and serene inside. I just love it.

    Does she know if this has ever been a chapel?

  10. That is a fantastic gift to be able to look at a property and envision how it SHOULD look. Now it seems like a perfect candidate for a home in Sarah Susanka’s book The Not So Big House. I’m particularly taken with the serenity of the bath and bedroom.

  11. What a wonderful transformation. Is it awful to ask how much she paid for the house, and how much she’s put into it? My husband and I spent a weekend on Shelter Island in the spring and fell in love with it. We just glanced at some local listings and were surprised to see some houses under $500 thousand, though none as big or interesting as this one.

  12. Carolyn, I’d be happy to take that conversation off-line if you want to email me: debredemers(at)gmail(dot)com

  13. Townhouselady, my initial attraction to this house was that chapel look. but as far as I know it has never been one. There are several other houses with these lines and arches in the Shelter Island Heights Historic District. The style is Carpenter Gothic.

  14. hey deb, great house!!! i can see you & the felines utilizing your modest space nicely. cant wait to see it in person.
    : on the house now. the porch is great, “why in the hell not screen it, take it from some one that spends most of his time in the midst of those little blood suckers………great idea
    : painting the underside of the roof on the porch white, great idea, cuts down on spider nests, and add some light to the subject.
    :and i love so many other things about it that i don’t have enough fingers to type em with. nice job guys. patients / time pay off, and life is to short not to enjoy dreams that you may have.

  15. Debre is super talented and can transform whatever she touches. She’s also a good human being.

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