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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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WITH TWO AS-YET SEMI-FURNISHED BEACH HOUSES to rent this summer, I’m back to my old shoestring-decorating tricks. Nothing I love more than visiting thrift shops and yard sales with a purpose.

On my way out to Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.), where I’ve been staying in my cedar-shingled cottage again for the first time in a year-and-a-half — that’s the one on the market for sale — I made five stops en route from Brooklyn: the Southampton Hospital Thrift Shop, the Southampton Animal Shelter Thrift Shop, and the Retreat Thrift Shop in the Bridgehampton Mall, from which I came away empty-handed (mostly clothes and/or overpriced, though I’ll keep trying). Then, heading further east, I stopped at the always-promising ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) Thrift Shop in Wainscot and the rarely-disappointing LVIS (“Elvis”) (Ladies Village Improvement Society) Thrift Shop in East Hampton, from which I emphatically did not.

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At ARF, I scored a never-used, just a teeny tad shopworn wicker sofa and armchair, plus ottoman, made by the Lane Furniture Co., with Hamptons-standard white cushions, for $325. (Fridays are 50% off days, but the manager gave me half-price even though it was a Wednesday.) Abracadabra, the living room is pulled together. That they are super-comfortable is a bonus.

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Nor did LVIS, whose furniture barn is a go-to whenever I’m doing errands in the village of East Hampton, let me down. There I found two framed posters, below, of art I love for $20 apiece, and a white ginger-jar lamp for $15.

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Then, at an estate sale in Amagansett last Friday, I picked up a square Moroccan-style pouf, below, for $50. I’ve been wanting a pouf in the worst way. It’s pretty stunning with my thrift-shop sofa, on the tan-and-white striped rug donated by my friend Stephanie (who is also the source of some mismatched dining chairs, a very chic look).

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Thanks to thrift shops and good friends, one of my chief middle-of-the-night worries — how am I going to furnish two houses by Memorial Day? — is on the way to being solved.

THE WAITING GAME continues. I’ve officially “gone to contract” on the Long Island beach house deal I’ve been patiently coddling for almost two years now. The seller has signed the contract of sale, my down payment has been delivered, the survey is completed; so is the title search. What remains before we can set a closing date: an amended Certificate of Occupancy for a 14’x18′ outbuilding — a future pool house, studio, guest cottage, workshop — with a good wood floor, skylights, a plumbed sink, and electricity. I want that building to be legal, and it’s the seller’s responsibility to make it so — a matter of closing out some paperwork, as the structure itself was built to code, with proper permits. So I wait to be informed when that is done, and have no idea how long that may take. Meanwhile, I linger in limbo while the weather here in downstate New York turns cold. The house is neither heated nor insulated, and there won’t be much I can do there through the winter months.

What I can do now is dream. I have been poring over back issues of Elle Decor, House Beautiful, and Country Home, seeking inspiration but not really finding it. That’s because the house — a long, narrow cracker-box built in the 1940s, then appended in the 1960s with a shorter wing set perpendicular to the first — has a modernist air in its simplicity, but a set of French doors added later confuses the issue. It’s not a cottage. It’s not a cabin. It’s not a ranch. It’s neither traditional nor modern. It doesn’t appear to have been designed by an architect; it just kind of happened. Soon it’s going to happen to me, and I finally feel confident enough of that to publish a few photos of the interior taken during a recent inspection with a trusted contractor. It’s still chock full of the seller’s belongings, but you’ll get the idea.

Let me clear up one misconception friends seem to have about me and this house: yes, it needs a load of work, but no, I’m not planning to “renovate.” Not right away, anyhow. I’m planning to live in it — camp in it, even — in a state of Bohemian funkiness for at least the first year [I just checked the definition of ‘funky’ to make sure it means what I want it to mean: modern and stylish in an unconventional or striking way, according to Merriam Webster. Exactly!] Primarily because I won’t have the money to do much else, but also because I just want to relax into being there before making any big plans. I’m looking forward to cleaning and painting immediately, and replacing appliances if need be, but things like a heating system and all new windows (the house will eventually need more than 20 of them) and a new deck and outdoor shower will have to wait. As for a new pool (the original vinyl one is merely a hole in the ground), that will have to wait a long time — five years, perhaps. Meanwhile, Gardiner’s Bay is a few hundred yards down the road.

Assuming the water runs and the lights go on, which they should, the first call I’m going to make is to an arborist. The half-acre has an excessive number of tall oak trees, and I want to open up the property and let in light — maybe even enough for a vegetable garden. Hopefully, much of that clearing can be accomplished this winter while the trees are bare.

In my low-budget decorating dreams I’m seeing a whitewash, sisal carpets, and a few pieces of mid-century furniture. What are you seeing? Dwell-magazine minimalism, or kilims and color? Thanks for your thoughts, however stray or unformed; they’ll go right into my mental files.

Above: The 14’x30′ living room in the short section of the L-shaped house has a working fireplace.

The larger of two bedrooms, above

One of two bathrooms, both needing work

The kitchen is open to…

A second living room, essentially — or dining/family room, with another working fireplace at the end of the long leg of the L (covered at present with plywood)

The outbuilding that’s causing the current delay

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GET READY to be blinded by the white…

IMG_0410The photos in this post were among my inspirations in deciding to give my own worn tongue-in-groove floors, left, a whitewash.

They may look OK here, but trust me, they’re bad in spots, and I just couldn’t get excited about the idea of sanding and refinishing them when I can go all screaming white.

You’ll forgive me if I don’t properly credit the rest of the photos, lifted from other websites. Most of those sites didn’t give proper credit, so I don’t know the original sources. I did note that many of them seem to be of homes in London, though white-painted wood floors are very popular here in the Hamptons, too.

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I’ve rented out my cottage for the last two weeks of August, and no sooner do I anticipate some extra income, I make plans to spend it.

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Of the three main items remaining on my wish list (painting the floors, a new kitchen counter, and glassing in the screened porch to create a year-round room with fireplace), the last is too major to contemplate immediately, and of the first two, it’s the floors that bother me most.

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So next Monday, a painter is coming to move all my furniture out to the back deck (weather permitting) or onto the screened porch (weather not), sand the sad floors down, and give them two coats of white paint for that clean, beachy look I covet.

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To see more pictures of white floors, go here, here, and here.

my scandinavian retreat wood bed

I’m lovin’ it already. What do you think?

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WANT TO RENT my bright and comfortable 1940s cedar-shingled cottage in Springs, N.Y. (5 miles north of East Hampton village) August 1-31? It’s on a landscaped half-acre with a view into peaceful woods from the back deck.

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The house is half a mile – a 10 minute walk, 5 minute bike ride, or 2 minute drive –from the beautiful, unspoiled, never-crowded Maidstone Beach on Gardiner’s Bay.

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– 2BR (one full bed, two twins), 1 bath

– High ceilings, skylights, screened porch, huge deck, best outdoor shower ever

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– ½ mile to Maidstone Beach, 1 mile to Louse Point (another spectacular beach on Accabonac Harbor). Superb swimming, kayaking, paddleboarding, etc.

– 5 miles to ocean beaches at East Hampton and Amagansett

-Under 1 mile to Springs Historic District, including Jackson Pollock-Lee Krasner House and Springs General Store

– 10 minutes East Hampton Village, 10 minutes Amagansett, 20 minutes Sag Harbor, 25 minutes Montauk (restaurants, bars, stores, art galleries, historic houses, movies, etc.)

– 2-1/4 hours from NYC, barring traffic

– Washer-dryer in basement

– Flat-screen TV, DVD player, Wi-Fi, printer, iPod dock

– A/C in living room, ceiling fans in LR and MBR

– $7,000 August 1-31

To see more photos, go here. Email caramia447@gmail.com if interested in renting, or for more information. Thanks!

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