The Other East Hampton


THE WORD “HAMPTONS” generally conjures up a picture of oceanfront chateaux behind impenetrable hedges, or modernist cubes in the dunes with infinity pools and five-car garages.


The modest circa-1940s cottages in this post are typical of the Maidstone Park neighborhood, a short walk from the sandy beaches of Gardiner’s Bay.


They’re in the unincorporated area called Springs, 5 miles north of the picture-postcard Village of East Hampton, but very much in the Town of East Hampton, with East Hampton taxes and an East Hampton ZIP.


I enjoy fantasizing about buying and fixing up one or more of these unpretentious summer houses (some now occupied year-round).


But they rarely come on the market — they’ve been in families forever — and when they do, it’s often with unrealistic price tags.


The cottage, above, totally spiffed up and kitted out inside, sold recently for over half a million. (That wasn’t unrealistic, but I’ve occasionally seen others with asking prices of 700K and more.)


Take a walk with me down Richardson Avenue, when the stark winter landscape lays bare houses that in high season are mostly hidden behind tangles of shrubbery and brush. It’s a fine thing to do on a dreary February day.




Cottage Bathroom: Close to Done

DSCN0979I’M OUT IN SPRINGS these rainy days, enjoying the shut-in life. Bring on the cabin fever. I’m busy with query-writing, soup-making, and savoring my newly renovated bathroom.

(Go here for ‘Before’ pics.)

I came out here Wednesday from Brooklyn, not knowing if I’d have a flushing toilet (the plumber hadn’t called me back). I do.

I have everything I need, except a sink. The plumber didn’t get around to installing it — a vintage pedestal still sitting in the basement instead of the bathroom — before going on vacation for a week. OK. I’m sure he deserves a vacation.

DSCN0961My initial reaction — I hadn’t been out here in a month, having decided to leave the contractor to it, and not try to micro-manage things from afar — was generally positive. I just wasn’t sure how I felt about the turquoise grout I chose for the floor and subway-tiled shower walls. I had thought it would be kicky and fun, but my first impression was not “kicky”; it was tacky. For about a day-and-a-half, I toyed with the idea of asking Miguel  to re-do the shower walls with white grout. But then I decided I don’t care that much. And by today I’ve decided I *love* the floor and even like the shower walls. The problem with colored grout on white tile, I’ve realized, is that it emphasizes irregularities, and old houses have irregularities.


So be it. It’s a cottage. It’s grout. It’s not important. Onward. (This is why I didn’t become an interior designer, even though I went to school for it: no head for details. I hope God is not really in them.)


I love the wainscoting and my new medicine chest, below, found for $50 on Court Street in Brooklyn (there’s an orange sticker inside that says ‘Hub Towel Supply Co.’) I’m using it in place of the carved yard-sale mirror, which is too large to hang flat anywhere in the room, now that the wainscoting, topped by molding that projects 1-1/2″ from the wall, is in. (I hadn’t thought of that.)


Speaking of projecting from the wall, the light fixture I ordered from Rejuvenation, which I like and which (whew) casts adequate light — it takes a 100-watt bulb — doesn’t quite clear the medicine chest, which is 5-1/2″ deep.

I’ve called and ordered a new fixture with a deeper projection — 9″ instead of 6″ — and will have that installed when it comes. Rejuvenation will exchange it and I only have to pay for shipping.

See what I mean, though? I’m a broad-stroke person. Not good with details, at least not the first time around. Good thing I’m my own client.

240 Catskills Acres + Farmhouse $1.2M


NEED A PLACE TO PARK SOME CASH? (I wish.) Don’t trust the stock market? Want to go back to the land in a big, big way?

Take a look at this gorgeous upstate New York property, finally on the market after 30 years. It’s a rare, unspoiled parcel at the end of a dead-end road in Bovina, N.Y.,  one of those towns “that time forgot,” in Delaware County.


Think of it as $5,000 per acre, and the house as free. It does need total renovation, according to the listing agent, but it doesn’t look half-bad in the pics.


Go here for a visual tour of the land at its wintry best, and read the well-written copy (I could probably be sold on a piece of real estate by an unusually literate listing). Among the main bullet points:

  • Adjacent to 1,100 acres of protected, never-to-be-built-on New York State land
  • Possibility of selling off 50 acres and still retaining complete and utter privacy

Split it with someone. A few people. There’s plenty to go around.

Please note: I am NOT a real-estate broker, and have no financial interest in the sale of this or any property mentioned on this blog. I just like spreading the word about unique properties and what I believe are solid investment opportunities.



Photo: Tracy Collins

THIS PHOTOGRAPHY CLASS I’m taking is really opening my eyes. Not just to the world around me, but also to how others photograph that same world. I’ve become captivated by the work of two people I don’t know but for their Flickrstream and blog. They’re evidently neighbors of mine here in brownstone Brooklyn; I recognize their turf because it’s very close to my own.


Photo: Tracy Collins

Tracy Collins (threecee on Flickr) is a professional web and graphic designer who has spent a lot of time documenting the furor surrounding Atlantic Yards, the destruction of the old and the rising of the new. His technical prowess is immense and he does fancy things like time-lapse photography. I’ve photographed some of the same blocks and buildings here in Prospect Heights, often hastily and indifferently. Tracy photographs the neighborhood with love and attention and strikingly saturated color. And captures the moment — the interesting moment.


Photo: Amy Feezor

I also stumbled recently upon M-Dashing, the year-and-a-half old blog of Amy Feezor, copy director at Real Simple magazine and resident of Brooklyn Heights. She groups photographs thematically, which makes the whole add up to more than the sum of its parts. Amy crafts worthwhile blog posts out of things that otherwise might fly right under the radar, like minor graffiti and random touches of red (that last for Valentine’s Day). She’s one to watch, and I’m watching.


Photo: Amy Feezor

Spare Us the ‘Fancy Houses’

DSC_0002PROSPECT HEIGHTS in Brooklyn was designated a New York City Historic District  in 2009. Now any external changes to a house’s appearance are subject to the guidelines and regulations of the city’s  Landmarks Preservation Commission. No longer will it be possible for something like the crazy-quilt travesty, left, to occur.

This, er, unique facade is on St. Marks Avenue near Carlton. I pass it frequently and it never fails to shock me. It’s beyond “remuddling,” a  term coined by Clem Labine, the original publisher of Old House Journal. More like “radical bastardization.” Why oh why would anyone do such a thing to a 19th century brownstone? Seems impossible that someone could fail to appreciate the charms of, if not the individual house, at least the uniform row.

A little light was shed on the “How could they?” question by a friend in Cobble Hill many years ago. There was a house on Amity Street with a similar ‘permastone’ treatment — I believe that’s what it’s called. The house belonged to the mother-in-law of this friend, whose husband was of Middle Eastern origin. She told me that her mother-in-law had created this monstrosity in the 1950s, saying she wanted her house to look like one of the “fancy houses in Damascus.” So that explains something. I haven’t been to Damascus; perhaps the house wouldn’t look as out of context there.

Today, I drove down Amity to see whether that facade is still there. It isn’t. Then I drove down Pacific, to delgadobefore-300make sure I hadn’t mis-remembered the street. It wasn’t there either (does anyone else recall that house, or did I dream the whole thing?) Anyway, I surmise the building was restored when I wasn’t paying attention, and now blends perfectly with its Victorian neighbors.

Yes, the good news is that such a building is salvageable. At great cost, of course. A year-old post on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s blog tells the story of Joe Delgado, a Wall Street trader turned licensed contractor who bought the four-story building, right, in Clinton Hill in 2007.


The building was “a disaster,” the article reads. “A previous owner had covered the building’s facade with white Permastone, added pink awnings, installed an after-hours club and two bars in the basement, and rented the top floor to drug addicts.”

Hard as it may be to believe, the Landmarks Commission told Delgado the building had once been a carriage house.

waverly-front-300<— AFTER

Delgado located a photograph that showed “a little girl on the steps of a brick double townhouse built in the 1870s. Prompted by the photograph, Delgado removed a massive addition from the back (complete with the club’s tiny stage and shag carpeting). He restored the facade and the original window lintels and sills, which had been hidden behind the Permastone. He also rebuilt the cornice and back wall, and installed exterior doors custom-built from antique wood to replicate the doors in his photograph.”

The house now looks like this, left. It’s good to know that even a house as badly compromised as this one can be rescued. “Finding the photograph made things easier,” Delgado said, “but not less expensive.”