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.
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.”