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DEMOLITION has begun — and it ended, four hours later — at my East Hampton beach house, above. That’s how long it took to disappear two closets and a storage area in a corner of what’s eventually to become a ‘winter studio,’ and in summer, a great room with an open kitchen. Those four hours revealed a skylight and a large southwest-facing window, long blocked by the warren of unneeded storage spaces.

Below, top: ‘Before’ view showing a corner of the great room occupied by a group of closets. Below, bottom: ‘Now’ view showing that area of the rooms sans closets.

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I love demolition. Tearing down walls is about the cheapest, most cathartic thing you can do in a home renovation, and it always makes a space lighter and airier. Sometimes you have to build walls, too, but removing them is the fun part.

I’ll be moving the kitchen into that newly opened-up corner. Yes, the kitchen I built just a year-and-a-half ago, below, has proved to be temporary; it served well for two seasons. But I’ve come to realize that if the great-room end of the long, narrow house is ever to be utilized — if people are ever to be induced to go down there — there needs to be FOOD. That’s really the only thing that gets people into a little-used part of a house, more so even than TV. Also, when I insulate that part of the house for my own use in the off-season, I’ll be needing a place to cook.

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My plan is to simply move the appliances and the sink and possibly even some of the cabinets into the new area (the old kitchen area will become a small bedroom/study). I love the old kitchen, and it functions very well, so I intend to more or less replicate it in the new spot.

Meanwhile, I’m having fun on Pinterest, coming up with some of the photos below. They all have beamed ceilings, and most have a window in the center of the appliance wall. Their simplicity inspires me. And of course, a whitewash changes everything.

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Via countryday.wordpress.com 

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Via poppytalk

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Via a paper aeroplane

Next up: new windows!

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I’M FOREVER LOOKING for clues to the origins of my Long Island beach house. The town records, which go back only to 1957, when zoning was adopted, are useless, since the house was built before then. But when? And by whom? And was it designed, or did it just sort of happen?

I Googled the name of a long-dead previous owner, and came to this lovely blog postwritten by a visitor to the house, recalling hammock-swinging and gazpacho-making in the summer of 1975.

I’ve asked the last owner to dig out any photos he might have, and I have hopes he may get around to it one day. I’ve been to the Long Island Collection at the East Hampton Public Library, and read Alastair Gordon’s Modern Long Island: The First Generation of Modernist Architecture 1925-1960, which accompanied an exhibition at East Hampton’s Guild Hall in the 1980s.

But I still know very little about the architecture and design of my own house. Occasionally I come across something that strongly reminds me of it. One of these recent discoveries was on the website The Selvedge Yard, which reproduced an article published in Architectural Digest in 1976, about Truman Capote’s house in Sagaponack, a boxy wooden structure he built in 1962. It had, the magazine said, an “intentionally untended” look. (The house still stands but has lost its untended look, and with it, its charm.)

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For Capote, this was one of three homes (the others in Manhattan, California and Switzerland), but it seems he spent as much time out there as he could, especially in autumn and winter. He was, of course, well-heeled enough to winterize the house, but quirky enough to do it in such a way as to make it look unfinished by choice. (My as-yet-unwinterized house also looks unfinished, because it is.)

I love the dark glossy floors, the walls of books, the exposed-beam ceilings — and the typically pithy Capote-isms in the article, such as this: “For me, it’s a bore to use a decorator. I know exactly what I want. I don’t care to have someone come in and tell me what I need to live with. I know.”

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2703301STEPS — NO, REALLY — STEPS TO BEACH. Lots of real estate listings say it. In this case, it’s true. This is the third house in from the water at Maidstone Beach, East Hampton, below, a long sandy crescent on Gardiner’s Bay that I never get tired of touting as the Hamptons’ best-kept secret (actually there are a couple of other equally well-kept secrets, but it’s one of the top three).

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The house (at left in photo at top) is a shingled cottage from the 1950s, probably, with a glassed-in front room that probably used to be an open porch, and a garage out back. Two bedrooms, two baths, a working fireplace, and a whole lot of clutter, which I hope you can see through.

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It’s been on the market for about two months, which surprises me. I should have thought it would be gone by now.

You can see the listing, with more photos, here. 

 

IMG_4968I’VE CLOSED UP SHOP in East Hampton for the winter. Had to. My house has no heat, and the nighttime temperatures have dipped into the 40s and even 30s. Yes, I have a fireplace, a space heater, down comforters and cashmere sweaters and fuzzy slippers. But all that can only take a body so far. So I’m back in my Brooklyn brownstone apartment for the duration, having come to terms with the fact that my Long Island house is a five-month-a-year proposition (though I pay the mortgage twelve).

Below: New late-season planting areas

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The beginnings of a pinetum (conifer collection), above.

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A new experimental bed filled with odds and ends I don’t know what else to do with, above.

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Raised beds now containing about 300 bulbs (allium, Queen of the Night tulips, Pheasant’s Eye daffs), above. A flower farm: something to look forward to come May, for sure.

I tore myself away, as always, with regret. Planting bulbs, walking along the beach, gazing at sunsets (below, from the jetty at Maidstone Park), watching the autumn colors come on day by day — those things sustain me in a way traipsing along city sidewalks does not.

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Moving forward, from afar, on two major projects this winter: the installation of 11 new windows, and the demolition of a storage room and two closets at one end of the great room, below, to create an unimpeded open space, about 400 square feet, that will eventually become a (heated, insulated — though not this year) “winter studio.” Don’t you love the sound of that? I do.

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My last week at the house was spent packing, weeding, winnowing. There’s no end to it. Two IKEA bags full of books off to the LVIS thrift shop. Three more cartons of random items into the shed, marked ‘Yard Sale.’ As hard as I try, as much I pare down, stuff just… accumulates. OK, I confess: I went to a couple of yard sales on my last morning.

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Off to the shed with ye… or the “rubber room,” above, passed along to me by my friend Diana.

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End of season yard-sale find, above. How could I pass those up? 

Close the skylights. Close the fireplace flues. Strip the beds. One last laundry. Clean out the refrigerator. Roll up the rugs. Push the furniture away from the back wall and cover it with drop cloths, for protection during demo and construction. Dump the annuals.

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Wait — scratch that last item: “Dump the annuals.”  I couldn’t bring myself to do it. The coleus and Swedish ivy and other plants in my deck containers continued to thrive. I didn’t have the heart to dump them (though the clay pots they’re in will break over the winter if I don’t). But I’ll wait until the cold does them in, then do the deed on one of my upcoming quick visits ‘just to check on things.’

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A stay of execution for the container plants, above.

So it’s last call. Shutting down the joint. Bartender’s gonna throw me out. Pack the car. Unplug the modem. Look around one more time. Go room to room, say goodbye. Around the garden. A few more iPhone pix. Peer into the shed. Why must the day I leave have to be so beautiful?

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Maidstone Park,  above.

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THE LADY IS VERY HAPPY with her new deck. What the contractors didn’t know, as they worked for four days right outside my windows, is that I could hear every word they said, and even understand the ones in English. I’m the Lady, as in “Did the lady see it yet?” and “What did the lady say?”

See the happy lady, below.

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See the new deck in all its fresh-smelling cedar glory.

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See the new storage shed for beach chairs, grill, etc.. I’ll need more, for garden tools and whatnot, but it’s a good start.

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Time now to start planting around the deck, to integrate this large new feature — probably 500-600 square feet — into the landscape.

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Yesterday I drove to my favorite nursery, Fort Pond Native Plants in Montauk — it’s not really all natives, but it’s got an interesting, healthy selection — and bought some ornamental grasses (Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ and a very cool-looking plant called Purple Love Grass, or Eragrostis spectabilis), and interplanted them along the walkway, below, with Amsonia hubrichtii (blue milkweed), Heuchera ‘Palace Purple’ and bloody sorrel. Got a purple/chartreuse thing going.

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I’m coveting some new shrubs and trees, including a hinoki cypress and perhaps a magnolia. For that, I await the post-Labor Day sales.

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