New-to-Market North Fork Oldie with Contents, 245K


Recently I heard from a longtime reader of this blog, who told me she’d bought this 1873 Queen Anne Victorian in the eastern Long Island town of Greenport some five or six years ago, and has been working on it since. She moved out from Brooklyn to live there full-time, and went to town (so to speak) with exterior colors.

55BFHere’s what she writes about her renovation experience:

From the first time I saw this house, I loved the bump-outs & the different/unique shingle designs under the eaves of the roof.  But all that white didn’t accentuate their beauty.  I felt they needed distinction by painting them contrasting/complimentary colors to make them stand out.

I removed the vinyl siding & original clapboard (sorry – didn’t want to paint every few yrs) & replaced them with Hardie Planks, which are pre-colored. The color I chose was called Woodland Cream.  

 Future plans include a carport attached to my mudroom, which will mimic the style of the house & will have a mermaid weather vane at its peak.  I named my house La Casa Sirena (The Mermaid House in Italian) & had a plaque made to hang on the house.  I’m also considering adding a front porch w/ remote controlled screens & ceiling fans. Must go before the zoning board for everything…. 



INTRIGUING TWO-DAY-OLD LISTING in the always-up-and-coming but still-just-a-tad-rough-around-the-edges town of Greenport, near the tip of Long Island’s North Fork.

It’s a circa 1920, 3BR, 1 bath house on a 1/6-acre lot in a neighborhood of older homes (that’s most of Greenport). The exact address is 416 South Street, Greenport, NY 11944. It appears to be in decent exterior shape, with bay windows and decorative shingling.

There’s some mystery about the place, to judge by the well-capitalized listing:

Estate Sale Being Sold As Is With Contents. All Infomation Should Be Verified As Little Is Known About The Home.

I don’t know about you, but that gets my juices flowing. Contents?! Could be anything (or nothing)!



Right now, all we know is that it is a Charming Home With Possibilities Galore!!

Downtown Brooklyn’s Muscular Architecture


MANY OF THE WORKS in the current exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, “Youth and Beauty: Art of the American Twenties,” represent — appropriately enough, since the 1920s was a time of sexual liberation no less than the 1960s — the body beautiful.


I’m sure the show’s organizers felt Youth and Beauty was a sexier title than Smokestacks and Water Towers, but it wasn’t all sculpted torsos and nude limbs. Some of my favorite pieces were paintings and photographs of Jazz Age architecture and the burgeoning New York skyline.


Charles Sheeler (1883-1965), a painter and architectural photographer who turned industrial vistas into great geometric compositions, was well represented, and it was Sheeler I thought of this morning while walking through downtown Brooklyn.


It’s a Wrap


ONE MORE OUTDOOR SHOWER for the road…and before the plumber comes to turn off the water to the outside spigots. I tear myself away with regret from three glorious November weeks (who woulda thunk?) spent at my Long Island cottage, an attempt to make up to myself for the weeks I missed in August, when the place was rented out, and October, when I had a load of commitments in the city.


I spent my last day in the country wrapping shrubs in burlap, Christo-like, to protect them from ravenous deer. When I ran out of twine, I resorted to my sewing kit, my gift wrapping drawer, my office supply cabinet (those black binder clips work great, as do clothespins).




I spent hours raking leaves off the lawn, which I’ve come to consider a Zen pursuit —  ephemeral, never finished.


And then I took that last outdoor shower, a few deep breaths of country air, and some photographs to remember it by.


My Next Project


I NEED A NEW PROJECT. I am getting antsy to find another property to fix up. It’s been two-and-a-half years since my last real estate purchase — the Long Island cottage where I sit this morning, waiting for it to warm up enough to go out and put burlap winter jackets on my deer-prone shrubs.

My official profession, the one I’ve been putting on my tax returns for 30 years  — freelance writing — is not nearly as engaging and energizing as the active, hands-on work of transforming a derelict property into something not only with curb appeal, but with inside appeal as well.

I’ve come to the conclusion that the hard part is not scrabbling together the down payment, or getting a mortgage, though God knows, that part is hard enough. The hard part is finding the property in the first place.

I have not been resting on my mountain laurels here in East Hampton North, which I’ve come to love. It has everything: woods and gardens, bay and ocean, art galleries and farmland. Do I miss the big city 2-1/2 hours to the west? In a word, NO.

Naturally, any “For Sale” sign gets my scrutiny. But none of these have captured my attention. What I’m excited about these days are two properties that are not actively on the market but that are both unlived-in, unloved, and apparently have been for some time. Both are very near my own cottage, so I know the neighborhood intimately. Both are on half-acre lots. I’ve been to the Town Assessor’s office to get every shred of information I can on each one, including the owners’ contact information (often outdated or wrong, I’ve found).


Last summer, I reached one owner by phone, of a secluded 1960s modernist house, top, quite near the water. Just to give you an idea of the property’s condition: there’s a ‘swimming pool,’ above, with a tree growing in it. The owner threw out a price, which is more than I can manage but not beyond the bounds of reason. I said I’d like to see the inside. He lives far away (and indeed, the house has been abandoned for  years); evidently he is in no rush to sell. He said he would contact me when he was in the area, which is not often. I followed up a couple of months later. He said he’d keep me posted. That’s where it stands. But the lines of communication are open. If I had the down payment in hand, I’d be more aggressive. Meanwhile, I’m trying to make my cash on hand grow, and looking around for other, cheaper properties.


Such as this one, above, just down the road from where I live now, a 1940s cottage with an outbuilding only a bit smaller than the original house. I couldn’t find a phone number, but wrote a letter to the present owner’s PO Box. It came back marked Unforwardable. I’m going to put a copy of my letter in the mailbox of the house today.


The place looks like it has been ransacked. I don’t care. It’s on a fairly busy road. I don’t care. There may be mold. I don’t care. (Even mold can be gotten rid of.)  I do care about price (presuming the owner’s willingness to sell at all). That has to make sense. If it does, I’m in.


That’s what I want: a fixer-upper to fix up. A handywoman’s special. A diamond in the rough, the rougher the better.

I see value. I see potential. I see challenge. I see reward. Call me crazy, but I see fun.

Bottom Fishing in Upstate New York


LIVING IN THE HAMPTONS, as I do part-time, I’m often floored by the low prices of real estate in breathtakingly beautiful upstate New York. Around here, mean little ’70s houses are often priced at upwards of half a mil (they may not sell, but that doesn’t stop their owners from trying).

The Catskills and Hudson Valley abound with opportunities to buy a vintage country place cheap. I mean cheap. Real cheap. Did I say cheap?

For $400/month, give or take, you can have a place to garden. A place to commune with nature. Hell, a place to go. And quite possibly a good investment.

The 1930s year-round cabin, top, is in a lake community near Bethel (the real Woodstock, so described when it was was featured recently on the ingenious blog Reclaimed Home). The price tag is a mere $54,900. I see nothing bad about it, inside or out. Go here for a dozen more pictures. You will be impressed.


Meanwhile, the blog Upstater has been getting down, with a new feature called “Five Figure Fridays.” Yep — every Friday, a selection of houses under the 100K mark.

Last week’s installment featured the c. 1900 Pine Hill house above, and a front-porch Victorian in Wurtsboro of similar vintage, below.


Today’s bottom-fishing expedition spotlights Sullivan County, with five properties starting at 39K. Most of them look quite workable to my see-potential-in-almost-anything eye.

We’re heading into the best house-hunting time of year: dead of winter, when the dilettantes stay in the city with a good book. That’s when prices go even lower, and negotiating with sellers is doing them a big favor.

Another thing you can be sure of: what looks unpromising under wintry skies, surrounded by bare trees, is going to be resplendent in June.