When One Door Closes

GREAT APHORISM I first heard 20 years ago and have never forgotten: “When one door closes, another door opens….but it’s hell in the hall.”

Up until now, especially as a freelance writer, I’ve found that to be true. That ‘hall’ limbo — whether a few weeks without an assignment or a period of uncertainty between moving out of one place and into another — has never been one of my favorite states. You try to relax into it, and everything eventually shakes out and settles down and even works out for the best. This past week, however, the first door was closed less than 12 hours before the second swung open, and I was asleep most of that time.

Behind now-closed Door #1 were the two weekly columns for the Brooklyn real-estate website Brownstoner, one on interiors and one on gardens, that have occupied most of my work life for the past year. They were popular and I enjoyed writing them, but they consumed too many hours for the money the publisher was willing to pay and I was willing to accept. So that came to a definitive end last Monday night.

More pressing than the sudden lack of income, even, was the ocean of free time that opened up before me. But as I said, I didn’t have long to stare into the void. Tuesday morning, I was out for a walk here in Springs (Long Island, N.Y.), and glanced, as I always do, up the driveway of the house I’ve coveted for two years now — an un-winterized modernist house on a secluded half-acre, a few hundred yards from the Gardiner’s Bay beach that to me is as good as any Greek island (my friend and I call it Utmos).

Previously I’d researched the house’s ownership in the Town office and had email exchanges and a few phone calls with the owner. He seemed ambivalent about selling, though he’d spent virtually no time at all at the house in the past decade or so, and I’d more or less given up on it ever happening. But now I noticed that the stockade fence was missing pickets. Peering through the hole, I saw the house’s sliding doors standing ajar and furniture pulled half out onto the deck. It looked like the place had been broken into. I came home and shot an email to the owner, who responded quickly. He was grateful, and said that now he’d make one of his exceedingly rare visits and check things out. I was sorry the house had been broken into (not much was stolen, as it turned out), but glad there was an opening in our communications.

A couple of days later, a neighbor who knew of my interest in the house texted to say there was a car in the driveway. I didn’t wait, but ran right over and introduced myself. Finally we met, and hit it off. Finally I saw the inside of the place (a mess, but I don’t care). It all felt right.

Long story short: I’m going to buy the house! The owner had had a real estate broker take a look; she didn’t ‘get it’ (few would; I’m among the few). We’d already talked numbers, and on the phone Friday agreed on one. He’s going to take back the mortgage so I don’t have to go to a bank; it would be hard to get a loan on an unheated house in any case. The down payment will be all the cash I have, but still not as much as a bank would require. This means I don’t even have to sell my present house in Springs, which I also love. I can hold onto it and rent it out.

It feels awfully premature to talk about this, let alone blog about it. Anything could happen. Our lawyers have yet to speak. The seller could change his mind.  But I have a strong sense that this house is going to be my next project, my next obsession, my next lode of blog material, my next door.

The Outsider: Oversized Roof Terrace in Williamsburg

MY LAST GARDEN COLUMN TODAY for Brownstoner, and I wanted to go out with a bang.
It’s a spectacular 4,000-square-foot rooftop woodland/meadow, all in containers, by garden designer Rebecca Cole.

You must see this…and you can, right here.

The Insider: Small & Stylish in Carroll Gardens

IT’S THE END OF AN ERA: my last Thursday design column for the Brooklyn real-estate website Brownstoner,The Insider, went up this morning.

I saved one of my favorites for last: the 600-square-foot apartment of my friend Robert Farrell, an interior designer, whose careful choices and knowing mix of the modern and the antique have served him well in this very space for a decade-and-a-half. You can read all about it here.

Inquiring Minds: Stand Up Paddleboard Yoga

WHAT CAN I SAY? It’s summer in the Hamptons, and stand-up paddleboard yoga (SUP Yoga, in the parlance) is the subject of my latest column for the website Curbed Hamptons. Even though sports, or any physical activity outside of yard sales and gardening, is outside my normal purview, I can’t resist adding a link to it here.

The Outsider: Shady Terrace in Brooklyn Heights

NO SUN… no matter. My friend Elke Kuhn has wrought a lush green miracle on the north-facing terrace behind her 2nd floor Brooklyn apartment.

Go here to read today’s Brownstoner post about how she manages to nurture all sorts of lovely things and keep them going from year to year.