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THIS AUGUST I’VE BEEN in and out and roundabout and back and forth. I’ve spent more time on the Long Island Expressway, it sometimes seems, than in my much-loved house in Springs (East Hampton), N.Y. And I’ve fallen down the job of documenting my garden. For that I have a novel excuse besides the fact that I haven’t been here as much as I’d like: the weather’s been too good! Decent garden photography on a sunny day, in the dappled shade of tall oaks, is near impossible. But the other morning, I woke at 6, stepped outside into a misty morning, and ran to get my camera.
GUEST CABIN, SHE SHED, WRITING ROOM, LOVE SHACK…whatever it’s called, it’s the latest project to be (nearly) completed at my Long Island, N.Y., beach house, and I think it turned out pretty cute.
Here’s what the 14’x17′ cedar structure looked like a month or two ago:
In the two years I’ve owned the property, the shed had become a very handy storage unit for leftover lumber and bits and pieces of furniture I didn’t know what to do with. I had a yard sale in June and got rid of most everything. Then, the same two-man team who painted the house last spring and whipped up bookshelves and a closet for me removed the trio of aluminum windows, above, replacing them with a pair of French doors left behind by the previous owner.
A casement window went into the side of the building where no window had been before (above). In this photo the French doors are merely primed; I later had them painted brown to coordinate with the house. I was going to have the shed painted Aegean Olive to match the house as well, but after it was power washed, I decided I liked the look and would keep it that way, at least for now.
Naturally my little folly ended up costing a lot more than expected; the shed required a whole new roof, not just a patch job, including replacement of some rotted rafters. (The two skylights were salvageable, happily.) I sacrificed a deck for budgetary reasons, but I had the guys build three four-foot-wide steps leading to the French doors, using stringers from Home Depot.
The furnishings are all things I had on hand, including a rustic hutch from my previous house that had no place to go. It was all done in a feverish couple of days at the end of June, as the house is rented out for July. I hear the shed — no, cabin — was a great success with young visitors over the 4th.
THE MONTH OF LONGEST DAYS is drawing to a close, and I feel compelled to celebrate it with a blog post before it fleets by. The alliums, lush purple just two weeks ago, are already browned on their stalks. Those are not my alliums, above, though I have a few, or my lily pool; they are attached to an East Hampton oceanfront estate I toured as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days program on June 21.
Young men in straw hats were stationed to direct mortals like myself through this sensational south-of-the-highway estate, pointing the way to wildflower meadow, cottage garden, woodland walk, vegetable garden, parterre and croquet green (pool and tennis court go without saying). Have a small look:
It was a month of yoga on the beach, lobster in Montauk, sunsets from the jetty, and the humble satisfactions of my own half-acre compound shaping up (as I type, two men are working by night to finish the transformation of shed to guest cottage; photos to follow).
I introduced two friends to one of the oddest and most photogenic places I know of on the East End: Multi Aquaculture Systems, an Amagansett fish farm, below, the last on Long Island. Besides tanks of striped bass and other fish, it has ducks and dogs and a cafe selling Provencal pottery and picturesque decaying buildings and wildflowers in abundance by the bay.
I swam a couple of times at my local beach, below. It was exhilarating, and that’s how I know it’s really summer.
LAST MONTH’S ‘OLD STONE STROLL’ in Springs (East Hampton), Long Island, to benefit the renovation of tiny, unassuming 1881 St. Peter’s Church, below, was a revelation to me, even though I’ve had a home here for six years now. The self-guided tour of eight gardens, all located along what was once an unpaved road called the Springs-Amagansett Turnpike and is now Old Stone Highway, reminded me of the hamlet’s artistry and celebrity — not least because Springs’ best-known resident was abstract expressionist painter Jackson Pollock, who inspired a wave of artists moving to the area in the 1950s and ’60s.
One of the properties on the tour (the most modest of them) was musician/performance artist Laurie Anderson’s; she was outside planting vegetables and chatting with visitors. Another was the 18th century farmhouse of the late sculptor Constantino Nivola, one of whose house guests painted a mural on the dining room wall (the guest happened to be the monumentally important architect Le Corbusier, and it’s the only Corbu mural in the U.S.). A couple were places I’d already been wowed by on Garden Conservancy Open Days; you can see one of them here.
Everywhere, it seemed, there were vignettes of great charm, even (perhaps especially) where gardens were not manicured to a fault.
Below, the home of Charles Savage, who has put together three properties over a couple of acres with garden room after garden room, including arbors, statues, urns, a stone courtyard, etc. But I liked the backwoods “hills and dales” areas the best, and the driveway/breezeway. Why don’t more people do that? It’s like a picture frame for your backyard.
Below and top, a glimpse of the 7-acre estate of handbag designer Judith Leiber and her husband Gus , a painter.
Below, the onetime home of Constantino and Ruth Nivola. He was a sculptor known for his sand-casting technique; she made Etruscan-style jewelry in a little wisteria-covered cottage on the grounds. We peeked in the windows of the house (which was not open to the public) for a view of the Corbu mural. Wouldn’t I like one of those in my place…
Finally (for purposes of this blog post), the most evocative spot at “The Landing,” below, a 12-acre property on Accabonac Harbor owned by a member of the Bacardi rum family.
UPDATE 6/11/15: July is spoken for.
Looking for a Bohemian idyll à la Jackson Pollock and friends, mere meters from the water? Located in Springs (East Hampton), a five-minute walk from uncrowded, miles-long Maidstone Beach and a short distance from the Springs Historic District, on a secluded, wooded half-acre. Sleeps 6. 10 minutes East Hampton village, 10 minutes Amagansett, 20 minutes Sag Harbor, 25 minutes Montauk. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more pics and info, including great room, home office, guest room, studio and gardens not pictured here. Available for July and/or August, minimum 1 month.