Creekfront Modern in Springs, Negotiable


I HAVE IT ON GOOD, IF THIRD-HAND, AUTHORITY — from the friend of a friend of a friend — that the 1970s modernist gem, above, on Hog Creek in Springs, N.Y. is highly, highly negotiable. I think the place is pretty fabulous in a Hamptons kind of way, harking back to the boom building years of the 1970s and ’80s.

Cube-like, cedar-sided houses with expansive decks like this one are more common near the ocean, in the former potato fields south of Montauk Highway, than they are here, five miles north of said highway, where the beaches are those of unspoiled and uncrowded Gardiner’s Bay.

So I was sitting at one of those beaches the other evening, watching the sun set and running my mouth to a friend about how I’d still love to trade in my cute ’40s cottage for either an old farmhouse or a place with some kind, any kind, of water view.

My friend said she knew of a house nearby that was still on the market after a year, and that the owner, now elderly and fed up with it all, was very eager to sell. She put in a call to her friend — the friend of the owner — who gave us the address. “It’s a square box,” he said dismissively, and we went off to look at it with low hopes.

In fact, I found the house — on 2/3 of a wooded acre, with frontage and a boat launch on Hog Creek, above, which leads into Gardiner’s Bay — very attractive. I have no objection at all to the architecture. I like its symmetry, proportions, and wraparound decks. We couldn’t access the upper deck, which would have provided a better view of the creek, but peered into the windows of the three bedrooms on the lower level.


Pay no attention to the original ask of 825K. I’m given to understand an offer of 500K would not be unreasonable under the circumstances. The house is part of the Lion’s Head neighborhood association, with its own bayfront marina and beach, a mile or so north of Maidstone.


The house is not for me, after all; I’d still rather have a 19th century farmhouse. But I can’t help fantasizing furniture from Design Within Reach (or its ilk), rya rugs, super-graphics on the walls, great modern lighting.


For those who embrace such a vision, the listing, with interior photos, is here.

The Deck Chronicles: Almost There

VENTURE A GUESS on the cost of my deck project, excluding the new door, by commenting on this post (click ‘Leave a comment’ or ‘[#of] comments’ in small type above). The person who comes closest will win a copy of East Hampton: A History and Guide, a 1975 guidebook to the Town of East Hampton from Sag Harbor to Montauk. OK, yeah, the restaurant section is a bit out of date, but the history hasn’t changed.


MY NEW DECK IS ALMOST DONE, and I’m liking it a lot. The yellow cedar will weather to gray. Meanwhile, it smells good.


Above, see the difference in levels between the main deck and the separate shower platform, and the hole cut out for the new door replacing the bathroom window. Because of the construction, my visiting friend and I were forced to spend the entire day at the beach.

One more day, and there will be an enclosed shower stall between the 4×4 posts, below. I can’t tell you how exciting this is for me.


First meal on the new deck, below: grilled farmstand vegs; quinoa; a humongous heirloom tomato; and a bottle of Jamesport Sauvignon Blanc.


Deck Progress and a Find


THINGS ARE MOVING ALONG rapidly here, deck-wise. On Friday, the builders framed out the entire main deck in all its 400-square-foot glory. That’s half the size of the house itself (excluding screened porch), but it’s in proportion to the size of the backyard and already feels inviting.


They didn’t work over the weekend, and I had to either use the front door or jump down from the back door between the new joists and hurdle. Now they’re back, and sounds of industry — sawing, drilling, hammering — fill the air. My neighbors, luckily, are very supportive. They’re thrilled I’m improving the property instead of letting it turn to shit, as was happening for years before I arrived in May ’09.

Now check out this archaeological find, below: a cast iron mortar and pestle, discovered under two original steps leading from the screened porch to the backyard. Must weigh 12 or 15 pounds. I happen to know the previous owner read tarot cards and fancied herself a witch. That’s apparently what her license plate read (a neighbor told me; don’t know if she also had the popular bumper sticker ‘My Other Car is a Broom’). Possibly she used it to mix eye of newt and toe of frog? In any event, it’s old, clearly older than the house. How and why it got there is anyone’s guess.


Usually I divulge the cost of all my home improvements, but I’m going to keep the deck price a secret for now and let whoever wants to field a guess. Hints: I got 4 estimates, three for the approximately the same price I’m paying, and one for considerably more. These are the parameters: 2 separate cedar decks with pressure treated framing — one 16’x24′, the other 6’x10′ with a shower enclosure and bench. There are four men working, and the job will take four days, so they say. Price doesn’t include installation of a new door from the bathroom to the shower deck.

The person who comes closest in the comments will win…something. Not the mortar and pestle, though.

Deck Day


ALL HANDS ARE NOT YET ON DECK, but at least the wood was delivered yesterday for my backyard deck and shower platform. The builder will be here tomorrow to begin, and within 3 days, weather permitting, I’ll have a much improved situation behind my house.


Above, the “before” in the area of the outdoor shower, where there will be a 6’x9′ raised platform, three steps up, with a bench and enclosure (it will be nice to have some privacy;-) The small bathroom window will be replaced with a glass door, which is on order.

Below, the “before” of the backyard itself, where my temporary covering of wood chips will be replaced with a separate 16’x24′ cedar platform one step up from the ground.


I’ve moved a big old stand of chelone (turtlehead), below, as well as some ferns that will be affected by the new deck, to another spot in the yard. That was a three-afternoon undertaking (afternoons because I spent most of each day working myself up to the task, before finally heading out there around 3 o’clock).

chelone lyoni 2
Didn’t want to lose these shade-loving, deer-resistant fall bloomers: chelone lyoni (pink turtlehead).

Late in the day, a local landscaper — one of several I’d put out feelers to — came with a worker to dig up an 18′ tall threadleaf false cypress, below, in a corner of the screened porch, which would have had to be cut down if I couldn’t find someone to give it away to. I guess it must be worth something, because one of them agreed to take it. Brutal job, and it’s not done yet. The root ball is enormous and has to be fully dug up today and carted away.


This is the first major building project I’ve done here. Can’t count the new roof; that wasn’t any fun. A new roof hardly improved my quality of life, especially since the old one wasn’t even leaking (though I was assured it would if I didn’t replace it right away).

The deck, however, and the outdoor shower…Now those say ‘beach house.’ Yeah.

Less is More: My New Arch

First, let’s recall what the front of my property looked like six short months ago, in November ’09…aaaarrrggghhhh!!


I HAD BEEN CALLING IT AN ARBOR. But when people asked what I was going to plant on it — grapes? clematis? roses? — the answer was ‘nothing.’ I realized it wasn’t an arbor at all that I wanted, but a gateway. An arch, even though it’s not rounded at the top.

It was decided that my wasband, who recently discovered a talent for building rustic structures out of salvaged cedar logs, would build me a structure that would sit between my gravel parking court and the path to my house — an entryway, as it were, a statement of arrival. Nothing too grand, of course; you wouldn’t want a major gateway to an 800-square-foot cottage.

He and I designed something together, sending sketches through the mail. My original idea was that it would have a moon gate (I love moon gates) that would hide the view of parked car(s) and give me a sense of privacy and enclosure.


Last Wednesday, Jeff arrived with all the parts and pieces, per specs, cut and pegged and ready to be put into place. We dug holes for the first two vertical poles, seven feet high and six feet apart, and laid the first horizontal cross piece above it, above. I immediately loved the way it defined the space, as well as the look of it — very Japanese, but not too Japanese. Simple, Zen. I would almost have left it just as it was. However, two poles and a cross-piece wouldn’t withstand heavy winds (such as uprooted mature trees in this area two weeks ago). So in went the second set of verticals, three feet from the first, with a second cross piece on top, below. Still good; it still looked right to my eye.


It needed bracing, so we inserted two short rails between the poles on either side, one at a natural arm height, the other a bit lower, below. So far, everything according to plan.


With the four vertical poles in place, the top cross pieces, and railings on either side, it seemed pretty stable (and we hadn’t even cemented it in yet). The original concept called for 4 additional pieces on top, perpendicular to the two horizontals. We tried four, then three, then two, below. But even two looked…busy. We decided they weren’t strictly necessary. So goodbye to them.


And the moon gate, when we placed it temporarily inside the arch, below, made no sense. With open space all around, a gate looks silly. Its smoothness took away from the rustic quality of the arch and blocked the view of the plantings I’ve worked so hard on this past month. So goodbye to the moon gate, too. Maybe I’ll use it somewhere else on the property (I have a couple of thoughts).


I am thrilled with my arch that isn’t really an arch. I love driving up to the house and having it there to greet me. It seems to bestow new status on my humble home. I feel a sense of house-pride just looking at it, from either side. The proportions are perfect.


I’m glad we left off those extra bits. Less is more, as Le Corbusier famously said. The truth of that over-used statement has never been so apparent to me.