Styling for Summer with Thrift Shop Finds


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.


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.


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.



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).


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.

Garden Inspiration: Arne Maynard


RENOWNED BRITISH GARDEN DESIGNER ARNE MAYNARD started his 2-hour talk Saturday morning at Marder’s Nursery in Bridgehampton, which I attended in hopes of picking up a few tips for my own Long Island half-acre, by saying that gardens must have a sense of place — that “a garden needs to belong to its setting, environment, architecture, history.” That’s accomplished primarily by using elements of the natural landscape, in order that a garden not look “like it could be anywhere.”

Top: Haddon Hall in Darbyshire





Of course, Maynard’s sense of history is a lot longer than mine. His favorite period is the 1400s-1700s; his favorite architectural style is Elizabethan. His work often surrounds 500-year-old manor houses owned either by the National Trust or celebrities like James Dyson of vacuum cleaner fame and Tricia Guild, the interior and textile designer (that’s her Oxfordshire home, Appleton Manor, built in 1174 with additions as recently as the 1920s in the four photos above). So it was surprising that, in fact, I did come away from the lecture with — if not ‘tips’ — a great deal of inspiration, and even some consolation.


Maynard is charming and down-to-earth, describing one property in its ‘before’ stage, with a bright green lawn and red roses, as looking like “a biscuit tin,” and admitting that when he first saw a modern sculpture he was expected to incorporate into his design, his reaction was “What on earth am I going to do with that?” (It turned out to be a beautiful addition to a lavender-filled gravel courtyard, third photo from top.)

Arne Maynard Series - The Mill House (15th June 2010)


Maynard loves “shadows of the past on the landscape,” leaving in place such things as agricultural furrows that have been worn into the earth. He creates walkways by “watching where people walk” and isn’t above the quick fix, like planting lavender in places where existing concrete is broken, instead of repairing the concrete. He’s a proponent of the undulating yew or box hedge, sculpted with chainsaws (they look like hell at first, he says), and believes that even architectural mismatches like the ornate iron gates installed by the previous owner of an old stone water mill “are part of its history now.” (That made me feel better about the French doors on my modernist house.)

Arne Maynard Series - The Mill House (15th June 2010)

He “spent two years taking out the wrong things” at one job site before planting anything at all, and admits he “created a monster” of high-maintenance borders and knot gardens at his own first home in Lincolnshire. His current residence, in Wales, below, is much simpler, though he did plant a few narcissi (60,000) and snowdrops (40,000) to make the garden “feel it’s been there forever.”


Toward the end of Maynard’s presentation, he showed renderings for the project that brought him here: a brand new oceanfront mansion, currently under construction. It couldn’t be more different from his steeped-in-history UK projects, and made me wonder if it was the novelty or the payday that drew him to the East End of Long Island (which he’d never visited before and which he was pleasantly surprised to discover was “not all delicatessens”). The house is humongous and ersatz, and I hope Maynard’s plantings of beech, boxwood cloud hedging, fruit trees, cultivated native grasses, bayberries and sea lavender will be dense, and that they, along with the creeping thyme in the crushed-shell paths, provide a much-needed, though artificially imposed, sense of place.


Hamptons Reno: Shoestring Lighting Buys


LET THERE BE MORE LIGHT, said the new owner of the meagerly electrified beach house, and so Tom the electrician came and upgraded the situation over a period of two days — installing dedicated circuits for the fridge, stove, and space heater; running wires for new overhead fixtures in the dining/sitting room, above; removing lamp cords that snaked along floors and walls with no regard for that thing called code; and capping and burying wires that ran willy-nilly through the half-acre property, illumination for the pool that no longer exists and trees that may be coming down.

IMG_1767Staying one step ahead of the tradesmen, as is my habit, I hopped into my car yesterday morning, a rainy Tuesday, determined to produce by day’s end a hanging fixture for over the kitchen counter and another for over the dining table I don’t yet have (and don’t know the size or shape of). This is a challenge on the far East End of Long Island, where shopping ops are few.

There’s nothing like an enforced drive up-island to make one realize how aptly named Long Island is. I hadn’t intended to go more than a few miles east if I could help it. My hope was that I’d find two marvelous fixtures at either the Ladies Village Improvement Society thrift shop in East Hampton or the ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) shop in Bridge, and then make a 12:00 yoga class. But as good as those shops are, they hew traditional, and my vision here is rustic/retro/industrial. The woman at ARF suggested I try the Restoration Hardware outlet at the Tanger Mall in Riverhead, and I decided to go for it, though it’s an hour’s drive from Springs. I stopped along the way at Revco Lighting and Suffolk Lighting in Southampton, two high-end showrooms whose prices I had no intention of paying, and also at Schwing, an electrical supply store where I picked up a bunch of landscape lighting catalogues and had an illuminating discussion about low versus line voltage — and realized that landscape lighting will have to be a low priority. Decent quality fixtures cost in the neighborhood of $200, and I need 10. And then there’s installation.IMG_1765

Ultimately I succeeded; my long day’s journey yielded what RH calls a vintage barn pendant in slate gray for over the kitchen counter, above; I paid $107 (originally $249) and it seems to be of very decent quality. There’s a West Elm there, too, to which I’ll be returning when it’s time for rugs. There I picked up a big white bell-shaped enamel shade, right, for over the future dining table, for $50.

I had been hoping they’d have the pumpkin-shaped bentwood fixture, below, I’d seen and liked in the West Elm catalogue, but they only had the long cigar-shaped one ($79 without its innards, orig. $169) and I decided the ceiling is too low for such a long fixture.


I capped my lamp-shopping triumphs with a stop at East Hampton Hardware, where I bought a $5.99 ‘jelly jar’ sconce, the kind normally used for outside back doors. I tried it in the long ship-like hall, and I think it’s just right. I’m going back for a second one. Can’t beat the price, right?502195

Some of the existing lighting in the house and yard is very Springs-arty. In the kitchen, the under-cabinet fixture is a long homemade metal panel that takes four tubular bulbs, below. Above the sink: a pair of ’70s white cubes. On a dimmer, with small floodlights, it gives abundant light. I’m keeping both.

IMG_1759  IMG_1760

In the yard, there’s an assortment of landscape fixtures, below, which I now realize are vintage and not cheap. But I dislike them: there’s a pagoda, two carriage lamps, and two flowers, which I’ve promised to my contractor when I find replacements. The only one I can handle, though it’s not beautiful, is a utilitarian-looking thing that’s fallen over on its side. I’ll be looking into path lighting, but it’s not top of my list.

IMG_1772  IMG_1775



There’s also a pair of nautical-style, nicely oxidized sconces on the house’s exterior, below. They’re heavy and old and I like them a lot.


Charles the plumber is due tomorrow to install the shower body, and Miguel, the contractor, will tile the bathroom next week. Hopefully I can persuade the plumber to return to install the kitchen sink, bathroom sink, and toilet, while Miguel moves on to window repair.


I spent two hours this morning researching casement fasteners, left, and I’m still not sure I’ve found the right thing. Coming up: let there be locks.

Raking Leaves is a A Fool’s Errand


THAT PHRASE POPPED INTO MY HEAD TODAY as I raked leaves. It’s an impossible task, because every night’s breezes bring a fresh layer. Yesterday I observed my next-door neighbor raking, raking, raking, making huge piles for the town pick-up. Today, I glanced into his yard and saw that they’d been replenished. But I happen to know he rakes for fun, so it’s OK.


Daffodil bulbs ready to go in the ground at Bridge Gardens

Besides raking, I’ve been busy with other fall landscaping chores, inspired partly by a two-hour workshop I attended on Saturday at Bridge Gardens in Bridgehampton called “Putting Your Garden to Bed for the Winter.” At least half the discussion was about which hydrangeas bloom on old wood and which on new. I can’t have hydrangeas at all because of my deer friends, so I tuned out.

Below, transplanting clumps of hydrangea ‘Annabelle’ at Bridge Gardens

I was reminded of how important it is to keep watering, especially after such a dry season as we’ve had. I’ve been moving hoses around from individual tree to tree so they get soaked in the root zone (particularly some of the big evergreens that look parched), pulling up spent annuals, planting three new aronia (chokeberries) as part of my ‘tapestry hedge’ in front, and moving other things from places where they’re not thriving to places where I hope they will.

Below, annual Japanese fountain grass, perennial geranium ‘Roxanne,’ and Saturday students at Bridge Gardens


Just as I was coming to the end of today’s to-do list, the UPS truck pulled up with my bulb order from Scheeper’s. It’s not a big order — just 10 ‘Gladiator’ alliums, 10 gorgeous lilies I couldn’t resist, even though they need sun and deer like them (I’m going to plant them by the front deck and keep a spritz bottle of Deer-Off handy), and 100 Spanish bluebells for a wooded area in the backyard middle distance that I haven’t gotten around to doing anything with.

How Bridge Gardens deals with deer, below


I’m feeling a bit of urgency, as I’m moving into my Brooklyn pied-a-terre next Monday. I won’t be around much in November, and I want to leave my East Hampton place in good shape — well-watered, nicely mulched, cozily tucked in for winter.

One of several unusual types of elephant ear at Bridge Gardens, below


Second Fall in the Country

IMG_4324IT’S MY SECOND AUTUMN IN EAST HAMPTON, and life is good. I’ve planted a few more shrubs, done a bit of fall clean-up. Things are shaping up, landscape-wise, though I’ve been a little lax on the photos. How many times can I show pictures of the same property? Actually, though, I saw a shot of how the roadside area, which is where I’ve been working lately, looked a year ago, and there is an enormous difference. How quickly one forgets.

<-Dump find

What else have I been up to, for continuity’s sake? I was in Philadelphia last weekend, getting a trinity house ready for a renter. I’ve been eating vegan for the past 2 weeks and I’m getting used to it (just made a yummy tofu/spinach frittata). I’ve written several magazine articles, two for Garden Design‘s Nov/Dec issue  (one on the new Brooklyn Bridge Park) and two for Hamptons Cottages & Gardens‘ holiday issue. I spent yesterday in Bridgehampton with my friend Diana White, who sells extraordinary vintage furniture from Biedermeier to Art Deco to Steampunk, helping her with a photo shoot for the website Vintage and Modern.


Home #1

And now, to shake things up a little, I’m entering the ranks of those who “divide their time” between two homes. I’ve signed a lease on a 1-bedroom garden floor-through in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and just 3-1/2 weeks from now, I’ll be busy getting set up there and settling in for much of the winter — I guess. I’m really not sure where I’ll be when or how I’ll decide when it’s time to stay and when it’s time to go. It should be the easiest move ever, since all the stuff I’ll need for that apartment has been in storage for the past year-and-a-half. It’ll be delivered, and all I’ll have to do is unpack.

Consequently, I was very taken with a column in last Sunday’s New York Times, called “Home is Where the Stuff Is.” Boy, did it resonate, especially this passage, in which the author, Thomas Bellers, describes his feelings on returning home to New Orleans after a summer in Sag Harbor and seeing

“a million details of my life as it had been three and a half months earlier. Pocket change on a mantel, two cans of dog treats for the neighbor’s dog, a three-taper candlestick with wax melted over some Mardi Gras beads…

Nevertheless, I greeted these objects with ambivalence. Part of me felt exhausted by their presence. They exerted a kind of lunar pull, tugging me out of the present and into the past. It was like seeing an old friend after a long interval and being overcome with the sickening feeling that one of you has changed beyond recognition, that the old magic is gone.”

Is that how I’m going to feel, unpacking 35 boxes of books I didn’t look at before I moved? Clothing I haven’t needed? Pottery and dishes I easily replaced at yard sales? Music I’ve re-bought on iTunes?

The thing I’m most looking forward to re-acquainting myself with is my super-comfortable Englander mattress. Experientially, there’s more: Seeing friends I haven’t succeeded in luring out to the Hamptons. Volunteering at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Taking a few catch-up swing dance lessons. And coming back here, with the distance that I expect will make me appreciate country life all the more.

Below: Roadside with evergreens in place.  On my way to a ‘tapestry hedge,’ I hope, planning to fill in with looser, deciduous flowering shrubs.