10 Days ’til Closing


THE WINTER WAS LONG, filled with urban activity and a whole lot of waiting. Soon I’ll be purchasing — finally — that house I’ve been yammering about lo these many months. The house people have been inquiring after, as in “How’s your new house?” To which I’ve been replying, “Well, it isn’t exactly mine yet.”


The rhododendrons have suffered some deer damage this winter, but not too bad. Along with a few raggedy cedars, they’re the only evergreens on the property.

Next Wednesday, March 27, after a closing at the seller’s attorney’s office in Bridgehampton, N.Y., it will be. And then I’ll be embarking on another round of tree work, planting, painting, repairs. Joyfully.


View from the newly filled-in swimming pool toward the house. A path from the planned parking court to the house will traverse this area.

Just to bring things full circle for a moment, when I embarked on this blog in December 2008, my first post laid out the concept: to take readers along on my quest for the “perfect beach house.” As it happened, I found a house in only three months, but wanted to keep on blogging — and because it wasn’t the perfect house, I kept on looking.


This new property, a few hundred yards from Gardiner’s Bay on Eastern Long Island, is much closer, quite perfect in its quirky imperfection. It’s a one-of-a-kind modernist house — no architect’s name attached that I’ve been able to find — begun in the 1940s and added onto in the 1960s, on half an acre of wooded land. It’s unheated and uninsulated, though with two fireplaces, I’ll use it 6 or 7 months of the year.

It’s a unique house, and I should know. In the past four years, I haven’t ever stopped perusing the listings, just to make sure there isn’t anything more interesting out there (in my price range). There isn’t. This is it. In its undefinable style, its rough state, its Bohemian ambiance, it feels altogether like me.


This house will lend itself well to visits by friends and family. Twelve hundred square feet in an L-shaped configuration, it feels huge to me, with a separate outbuilding — now a workshop, above, soon a guest cottage (think new windows, door, deck). The Japanese garden theme I gave some study is now just a loose notion. It seems limiting. What do you mean I can’t have river birches?


Side door to kitchen area

I met with my friend Jifat Windmiller, an architect, who was so helpful in conceiving a plan for my previous deck and outdoor shower. We talked decks, and paths, and parking.  We’re moving the parking to the present boatyard (the seller has two motorboats parked in a fenced area) so that one enters the property in the middle and walks toward, as Jifat put it, “the embracing arms of the house,” instead of parking in a narrow drive and approaching a short side of the house made of cinderblock. I’m mulling over ideas for entry gardens. Another of her brilliant thoughts: to work an existing brick platform, top, into the design of the new wood deck.


This will not be a renovation — not now, anyway, and not for the foreseeable future. I’m doing everything small and natural and inexpensive. Treading lightly on the land, making no major changes until I’m there a while (except for felling trees…TIMBER!!) When I talk path materials, for example, it’s either moss or wood chips for starters, with gravel and possibly dry-laid flagstone pieces to follow. Such interior renovation as there will be this year will consist of getting a working shower and replacing 30-year-old kitchen appliances, fixing broken windows, and a paint job.

I was out there this past week, staying at a friend’s nearby. I spent an hour at the property, walking into all its corners, assessing the topography, and trying to identify trees. Anyone recognize the bark below?


The property hasn’t been used or lived in much for probably 10 or 15 years, and hasn’t been raked in as long. It’s going to be practically archaeological in the beginning. I cannot wait to get out there with my tools and see what lies beneath.

About cara

I blog (for fun) here at casaCARA, and write (for money) about architecture, interiors, gardens and travel for many national magazines and websites.

11 Responses to 10 Days ’til Closing

  1. AstorC says:

    Rough guess on the bark says silver birch–first growth trees in a forest. Not from the silvery hue, but the horizontal striations on the left hand tree.

  2. cara says:

    I wish. That would be nice, but for some reason I don’t think it’s a birch. It’s hard to identify trees without the leaves.

  3. donna dorian says:

    Oh, boy! Let’s celebrate with champagne and balloons. We are all looking forward to seeing what you will do with your dream-come-true home. And you are right: all the fun is in the doing.–donna d

  4. Elke says:

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!! Time to celebrate after the 27th. All best wishes for your DIG!!!!

  5. Julia Mack says:

    I vote Silver Birch also and would like to recommend those exact colors, whites, taupes, browns, as the start of a color scheme for both indoors and out. Modern, clean and bright–just what an old house needs to freshen up after years of neglect.

  6. Janice says:

    Whatever you do, it will be fantastic!
    Quietly watching from Hudson Quebec!

  7. Closing just in time for the much-awaited spring thaw (we hope). Can’t wait to see what you do with the place, even if it means mostly cleaning up at first. That in itself will change “the look” dramatically. Did the present owner have the place built? Maybe you can ask him who designed the place?

    And those look like birches to me too.


  8. cara says:

    Thanks, all, for the words of support. I can’t wait to see what I do with the place either! No, Marlene, the house was built — at least the more recent part — in the 1960s (or so the seller told me– haven’t seen any paperwork to that effect, but it seems right from the looks of it). He has owned it since ’82, though he started renting there in ’77. If I remember correctly from my initial research at the Town offices (where are those notes?), there were at least two previous owners, but the paperwork didn’t go back to the beginning. I’m going to pick the seller’s brain further about the history if I see him at the closing; he also promised to show me some photos of what the place looked like in its heyday, when there were “pool parties with lights” strung about. I’d love to see those photos, and I’ve already reminded him several times about them. Hopefully when the clear-out is out of the way — it was happening this past weekend! — he will remember.

  9. Ah, so he is not the original owner. He really may not know how the house came about. I don’t blame you for being so eager to see those photos.

    We wondered what the influx of salt water would do to our spring plantings, but the bulbs seem to be coming up despite the cold. Out in Five Towns, though, an alarming amount of evergreens are turning rust brown, not a good sign. Could be a blight, but we wonder if the salt water flood had something to do with it.

    My son took down a bunch of large oaks on his property and some neighbors came over to call him a tree killer–this is a sacrilege in these parts–but he is so pleased with the result. More sun, more lawn, more room for flower beds. I think you’re going to see a big difference in that property when you clear out some trees too.

    Very excited for you. Still in recovery myself, I am happy to be happy about someone else’s project starting up!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Since the house was never listed, did you find it by walking around the ‘hood?

  11. cara says:

    Yes. Best way. No real estate broker involved (though they can be helpful).

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