Cottage Bathroom Underway


THIS IS THE EASIEST RENOVATION I ever lived through. More accurately, the gut job on my cottage bathroom in East Hampton is the first renovation I ever didn’t live through, the first time I’ve had the luxury to be elsewhere while dirt, noise, and inconvenience were taking place.

DSCN1125I’m hours away in Brooklyn, while Miguel, the contractor/carpenter/ tile guy, and Charles, the plumber, both of whom I trust implicitly, do their thing. In another 10 days or so, all will be fresh and new, the very picture of a cliched cottage bathroom.

I chose and ordered the materials, and left them to it. I have no desire to micro-manage this or supervise it in any way (also, there’s no water). No designer was hired, no plans drawn. I had two 20-minute meetings with Miguel in which I waved my hands about and explained how I visualized the project, throwing in a few terms like “clamshell” and “quarter round” and “bullnose” so he’d know I’ve been this way before.

The demolition is done, and the tub installation is happening this week, with tile work to follow. The friend who’s keeping my houseplants alive this winter peeked in to check progress and captured the scene, including the 1940s flowered wallpaper behind the medicine chest.

I’ve never been so relaxed about a renovation either. However it turns out — even if a molding is a couple of inches off, or something is not quite as I envisioned it — it’s going to be just fine.

A Loose Schedule and a Tight Budget


Above: Eric Ernst, Tree Man of Montauk, thinning out my overgrown forest so I stand a chance of growing something other than ferns

I’M ALL OVER THE PLACE HERE. I still have so much to do pull this house and garden together, I’ve hit another impasse of indecision. So I’m planting daffodils. (Though everywhere I dig, I hit inch-thick wisteria vine, and spend more time pulling and cutting wisteria than digging holes for the bulbs.)

I’ve accomplished a lot in the four months since I bought this cottage in May. But I have so much further to go. Not knowing whether this is a long-term home or a flipper makes it that much harder to proceed. If I knew for sure it was the former, I would take my time and spend more freely. But if it’s going to be a flipper, I just want to get it done.

Perhaps I should buy the Zen mindset my friend is trying to sell me. “You’re here now,” she says. “When you decide you don’t want to be here anymore, you’ll go somewhere else.” Yeah, but how exactly do I proceed with my renovation on that basis?

This I know: as soon as possible, I’d like to feel “Oh, how charming” pulling into my driveway, instead of “Eeewwww. Ugh.” That driveway — broken asphalt studded with weeds — is part of the problem. As is the house itself, with its discolored cedar shingles. And a front yard more brown than green. What’s the opposite of curb appeal?

The deer fence and patio have fallen off the top of my priorities list. I’m thinking of letting the deer have one last winter of ravaging the evergreens and rhododendrons, and spending that money indoors instead, on a fireplace, new bathroom, new kitchen counter, and a paint job. I also need a whole new roof. I’m gathering quotes from tradespeople: two roofers so far, two bathroom contractors, and a housepainter.

Viburnum plicatum tomentosum

In the meantime, I’ve been canvassing the nurseries for shrubs on sale. I’ve fallen for a viburnum tomentosa plicata, or doublefile viburnum, above, eight feet across and flaming red, at Spielberg’s in Amagansett (the picture shows it in spring). At 40% off, it’s under $100, plus another $100 to plant (it’s very heavy). Deer don’t like it, but it needs a good sunny spot, and those are still in short supply on my lot. I also want a river birch somewhere; I love the peeling bark and delicate leaves. And dogwoods.

The truth is, I’m not in that much of a rush. I keep reminding myself that this is not a HGTV project done in a weekend. It’s real life, on a loose schedule and a tight budget.