Yard Sale Season


YARD SALE SEASON IS UPON US. Here in East Hampton, N.Y., it’s fertile picking ground. Actually, I’ve been checking out the East Hampton Star‘s yard sale ads all winter, whenever I’ve been here on a weekend, and I’ve scored a couple of items that make me unreasonably happy: the blue-and-white tin spackleware urn ($15), top, and a chunky green wood bench, below, probably home-made, that works perfectly at the foot of my bed ($10).


Yard-saling is an extremely popular weekend pastime around here. On Friday, there was a queue outside the door of a cedar-shingled cottage in Wainscott, below, which was billed as the moving sale of an “ex-Martha editor.” As it happens, I didn’t find anything — not being in need of white kitchenware or white linens bundled with white ribbons — but I liked the house, with its subdued green trim and angled bump-out to create a south-facing sun room. (This picture was taken as I exited, after the eager crowds had dissipated.)


This is my third spring on the East End of Long Island, and as I’ve done every April since living here (formerly full-time, now part-time), I planned my own yard sale to unload the stuff that tends to pile up in one’s basement when one is an aficionado of yard sales. I didn’t have all that much to dispose of — I’ve actually grown quite good at saying ‘No’ to new acquisitions — but a few friends wanted to join forces, using my 400 square foot gravel parking court as a staging area. So we placed our own ad in the Star for Saturday April 23 (“Years of accumulation”), which, as residents of the region know, was cold and foggy, with rain pelting down all day. A total washout.

View from my back door Saturday


We had advertised Sunday as a rain date, though, and two of us decided to proceed, though it was Easter and quiet, even on my busy road, and none too promising, weather-wise, in the morning. It was a long day: nine hours from the time I started bringing stuff up from the cellar to the time I put the ‘Free’ box of leftovers out on the roadside. We had a flurry of activity in the beginning, then sparse custom throughout the day, which ended with a few neighbors on lawn chairs drinking prosecco in brilliant sunshine.


The upshot: enough cash to keep me away from the ATM for a few days, and enough cleared-out space in the basement to hold the spoils of future yard sales.

Walk and See


ONE OF THE THINGS THAT SHOCKED ME when I moved to the country was how much driving one has to do to get anywhere. The other day a friend and I combined yard-saling with a fitness walk, and in the process I noticed several fine old houses on Springs Fireplace Road — four in a row — that I sort of knew were there, but that had more or less escaped my notice as I whizzed by at 50mph.


One’s a mid-19th century farmhouse, above and top. I love the fresh coat of white paint over everything – the clapboards on the lower level and the shingles above, the arched window in the attic, and the restrained gingerbread on the porch.


Then there’s a very plain and unprepossessing cedar-shingled house, above, with an offset front door that looks exceedingly  informal — perhaps it’s not the original front door.  The duck decoys, below, made me smile, as did the purpose-built box to hide the electric meter (I need one of those).


Right next door is another cedar-shingled farmhouse of the late 19th century, below. with blue trim on the fence tying in to the front entry and window lintels. This house deserves better in the way of an entry portico, I think.


A little ways down from that one is a house, below, with painted shingles, dormer windows, a picket fence, and a plaque reading 1839.


There’s a marvelous barn, below, behind it.


Walking. It’s an eye-opener.

Lonelyville Charmer 649K


OF ALL FIRE ISLAND COMMUNITIES, each with its own beachy character, my favorite has to be Lonelyville. First of all, there’s that great name, which it seems is also the title of a bluesy number sung by Della Reese in 1958 (as well as an episode of Law & Order, seventh season).


Lonelyville is bohemian, a little off the beaten boardwalk. It doesn’t have its own ferry landing; Dunewood is the closest. There’s no grocery store or lifeguard stand.


I  have fond memories of spending a month in Lonelyville in the early ’80s, when my parents rented a cottage there. Vegetation was much sparser then. There were long stretches of sand between houses, some of which are old cedar-shingled cottages floated over on barges from the mainland.


Today, Kitty King, a real estate agent, showed my sister and me this hidden, 3BR oldie a short way from the ocean, with a spectacular pergola-covered roof deck. It’s just the kind of place I like — quirky, comfortable, oozing with charm.


The sellers have owned the house for 40 years. It’s been on the market for quite a while, apparently, and has already been reduced once. While 649K may seem a lot to ask for a house that can only be used part of the year, it is reasonable for Fire Island, where quite ordinary houses are priced in the 700’s and 800’s.


No house with birds and vines painted on the porch ceiling could possibly be ordinary.

For more info, go here.

Vintage Cottage in Springs 450K


THIS IS A PROPERTY I KNOW very well. It’s near where I live, for one thing, and I pass it almost daily. For another, I looked at it myself a year-and-a-half ago before buying a roughly similar place just down the road (this house has been mostly off the market since then).


I actually like the house a lot, and I like its potential even more. Can’t guess its age — 1920s perhaps? — but it had a big old barn, which has since been removed. The architecture is plain and unpretentious, with the cedar shingles characteristic of old East End houses. The kitchen is huge and has a country feeling. It’s got 2BR, as does mine, two baths (I have one), and a garage (I have none). It’s 1,000 square feet to my 800, and on a similar size lot, a ‘shy’ half-acre.


So why did I buy mine and not this one? First and key, mine cost 130K less than they’re asking for this house — but my house and property were in far worse condition. My lot is heavily wooded and has a more secluded feel. This one is more exposed, but nothing landscaping couldn’t fix. It cries out for a fence and hedge to shield it from the (fairly busy but not as bad as I feared at first) road.


The other thing that made me prefer my house is the fact that my main living space has a high peaked ceiling and skylights. The living and dining room here, below, feel a bit claustrophobic because the ceilings are low. Rip ’em out, I say (there’s nothing but empty attic space above), and you’ve got a soaring, expansive interior.


Furthermore, it’s in Springs, which I can now confirm as a full-time resident, is GREAT. We’ve got the best bay beaches and a cute historic district with a general store, library, art galleries, and the Jackson Pollock-Lee Krasner Study Center. This house is a short walk from the historic district, as well as from two other vital amenities: a wine store and pizza place — and, of course, it’s five miles from East Hampton and Amagansett, if you’re looking for chic restaurants and/or ocean beaches.

The asking price is more than fair for all that. Now take it away. For more info, go here. Or contact Karen Benvenuto, Saunders Real Estate, 631/458-4933, kbenvenuto@saundersre.com

Fire Island Forever

Just to clarify, in response to a confused e-mail: I refer to several different Fire Island communities in the post below, but all photos were taken this week in Ocean Beach.


IN THE ANNALS of my personal real estate regrets, Fire Island is a biggie. Coulda shoulda woulda.

For non-New Yorkers, Fire Island is a 40-mile-long, quarter-mile-wide sandbar off the south shore of Long Island, reachable only by ferry and banned to cars; the only wheeled vehicles are bicycles, golf carts, and little red wagons.


We rented the Ocean Beach charmer, above, for a month in 1985.

In the early 1980s, my parents rented a 1920s cottage on a huge lot in Lonelyville, reached via a long wooden boardwalk through stands of tall grass, invisible to all comers until the last instant. It could have been had for $100,000. They didn’t buy it, nor did we. I was worried about mosquitoes, and money.


In 1998, having rented in Fire Island many more summers, we bid in earnest on a property in Fair Harbor, very near the ocean — one of those quirky places you know by now I like. It was known as ‘Half House,’ because half of it (the bottom half) had been washed away in the great hurricane  of 1938. So the original 2nd floor sat atop a wood deck — just a cedar-shingled triangle, with a separate guest shack, on two lots, a rarity. We negotiated all winter to get the price down to $245,000, then backed out at the last minute. I was worried about beach erosion, flood insurance, and money.


Somebody slap me upside the head, willya?


Of course, now there’s not a thing under half a mil anywhere on Fire Island, and in that price range it’s going to be the size of a trailer.


Earlier this week, I spent two days in Ocean Beach, visiting a friend who reminded me I passed on the house next door for 180K, now on the market for 850K.


Ocean Beach is the metropolis of Fire Island, the only community with an actual main drag, below, of stores and restaurants. It’s also the only year-round community, with water and an elementary school, but that is not a lifestyle for the faint-hearted (or sociable). The Ocean Beach ferry runs all year long, weather permitting, though in January and February it’s more like an ice-breaker.


I walked around Ocean Beach taking pictures, noting how few and far between the remaining old houses are. Most have been torn down and replaced, or expanded beyond recognition, but it’s those funky vintage cottages that are dearest to my heart.


Of course I looked in the windows of real estate offices. There’s a geodesic dome (!) for 595K in nearby Corneille Estates, and a number of other properties in the 5’s and 6’s, which is probably a comedown from years past.


I’m in no position to take advantage at the moment, but the beach is nice and wide, and I didn’t get a single mosquito bite.