Hamptons Reno: Up from Camping

IMG_3638IT’S BEGINNING TO FEEL LIKE HOME around here, though I’ve been unhappy about the unseasonable cold. Memorial Day weekend, it was 48 degrees in my living room. That set me to questioning the wisdom of this whole endeavor — my recent purchase of an unheated house in the Northeast U.S. There’s nothing wrong with having a summer cottage. It’s just that I had naive hopes of stretching the season to five months a year, if not seven. Definitely more than three. Wearing multiple sweaters, a wool hat and scarf indoors, sleeping under two down comforters, and huddling by an electric space heater was not what I had in mind. And though a fireplace is  pleasant, it’s less so in June.



Whatever the temperature is outdoors, it’s the same indoors, especially with large openings along the back wall, above, that can’t be called windows. They have no glass in them, just wood shutters that shut out light but not cold air. What is to be done? Get estimates for new windows! Double-insulated ones, as a step on the road to eventual winterizing (single-paned windows are a special-order item at this point, so rarely are they requested). I’ve had two contractors here measuring. I await their estimates, so I’ll know what I’m in for, though I don’t expect to be able to act on it for a while.


I’m hunkered down in the longer leg of the L-shaped house. My kitchen, above, is cute and functional. I like my new Avanti stove; I’m cooking with gas!  The great room, below, in the shorter leg, remains uncharted territory.


Then there’s the landscape. A few evenings ago, a garden-designer friend walked the property with me and marked saplings and small trees for removal or limbing up. A large number were festooned with red ribbons. The landscape guys didn’t show up as promised on Saturday; they came Sunday morning, and set their chain saws buzzing for about four hours, until my next-door neighbor popped his head over the fence and asked us to desist. I had little choice. Less than half the job was done, but I like what I’m seeing. It’s still going to be a shaded woodland garden, but with room to plant an understory of shrubs and perennials.




Wood chips mark temporary paths

Speaking of popping over fences, I had two unwelcome visitors this past week: my gardening nemesis, the white-tailed, tick-carrying deer. I shrieked and waved my arms madly, and they bounded away, sailing over the 6-foot fence with no apparent effort. Another fond hope dashed.

I’ve had welcome visitors, too — friends who say kind things like, “Ah, you’ve been working your magic!” I feel a long way from magic, but considerably closer to home.


After the rains: sunset at Maidstone Park

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.
This entry was posted in HAMPTONS, LANDSCAPING, LONG ISLAND, RENOVATION. Bookmark the permalink.

10 Responses to Hamptons Reno: Up from Camping

  1. Stephanie says:

    Looking good, Cara. Sorry about the deer. I’ll lend you Deja. She’ll keep them at away.

  2. Jenny Hankwitz says:

    your place is totally great. I keep looking with yearning at those Maidstone cottages…

  3. Mary Louise says:

    I have so enjoyed your blog since stumbling
    accross it last year. Being from Texas, where the
    weather can change within a moments notice,
    I am wondering why you wouldn’t put
    insulated glass where the openings are? If you
    want to enjoy this wonderful space for seven months
    out of the year then this would be a wonderful choice!

  4. mud4fun says:

    It has been abnormally cool over here in the UK too. My wife has lost a lot of her first sowing of vegetable seedlings due to overnight frosts just two weeks ago and many other seeds have simply not germinated due to the cold conditions. We’ve had to re-light our solid fuel stove to get some warmth into the house this weekend. Normally we let it go out in April/May and it doesn’t get re-lit until September so it is very unusual for us to have to light it in ‘summer’ but the house was getting colder and colder without any heating.

    Your house is looking much more like a home now and the picture of the lanterns and fireplace is great. I like the jaunty angle that you’ve taken it at. :-)

  5. Windows where those shutters are would drastically change the light situation, as well as keep you warmer. No spring this year and now we wait to swing straight into summer. My neighbors had the same experience with their vegetable garden as your UK reader. Lost all their seedlings twice. I guess the cold has kept you moving because the place is shaping up very quickly. Kitchen and great room both look lived in, in a good way!

  6. Jane says:

    Hi Cara,

    Reading about your visiting deer I remembered what my parents did on their wooded lot. They lived in an area that did not allow fences at all ( a planned community) and were plagued with deer. So my father strung heavy wire from tree to tree to tree at the perimeter of their property at the 8ft and 4ft level. You could not see it therefore not visually disturbing. It all worked perfectly well for 20 years. Perhaps you could do the same along your fence line at the 8ft level?

    Also at night he would string them across the driveway as well. He used a piece of wood with the wire wound around it left attached to a tree on one side of the drive during the day and then at night unwound it and attached it to a tree on the other side.

    Love your blog.

  7. Barbara Schwerin says:

    Really great,Cara!

    barbara schwerin marmelade714@aol.com

  8. cara says:

    Thanks, as always, folks, for your readership and support. Yes to the insulated windows, except the walls and ceiling are not insulated, and until that is done, the windows aren’t going to help very much. And yes to the wire strung at an 8 and/or 9 foot level above the solid six-foot fence. I’m thinking that might be the solution. Next post: photos of the newly cleared property after two days of three men with chainsaws, leaf blowers, dump truck, etc.

  9. Ann says:

    You have a “Habitat” store in Middle Island, 631 924 4966. There are two more, one in Bay Shore, another one in Suffolk. They have new and used stuff that is donated so the price on it is half or often much less. If the first store doesn’t have what you want be prepared to go to the second and third. I needed two glass doors which Lowe’s wanted $2650 for and I got two that were even nicer at my Habitat Store for $25 each! You could well afford to reconfigure that wall if you could find cheap double pane windows. There are a lot more shapes of windows that would be more pleasing that the “shed row” of openings you have now.

    Never pay retail if you can avoid it.

    Good luck, 48F is just not comfortable. When I was in a too-cold situation I bought a kerosene heater to tide me over.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Cara: Happy to see your continuing progress on your home and know it will all work out eventually to your specifications. It’s always slow going but I guess that gives us time to adjust as things evolve. I’m about to make a major move and it has me overwhelmed, so your “adventures” keep encouraging me to keep going.

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