Inquiring Minds: Long Island’s Modernist Architecture

MORE THAN A DECADE of research — and a whole lot of driving — went into the newly published Long Island Modernism 1930-1980 (W.W. Norton), a scholarly survey of L.I.’s visionary 20th century architecture disguised as a lush coffee table book. For my weekly column on the website Curbed Hamptons, I spoke with author Caroline Zaleski about how what she initially thought would be a “pamphlet and a short list” became a major tome, with a master list of 501 buildings, 25 essays, and more than 300 archival photos. Yes, there’s more to Long Island architecture than suburban sprawl.

Go here to read the whole illuminating interview.

Inquiring Minds: Swimming Pool Fashion and Function

“INQUIRING MINDS,” MY NEW INTERVIEW COLUMN for the real-estate website Curbed Hamptons, made its debut today. The subject is swimming pools, latest trends in.

Slated for weeks to come: interviews with locals in the vanguard of their fields on such topics as the upcoming East Hampton Antiques Show, the craze for stand-up paddleboard yoga, and the communal organic farm known as EECO.

To read the inaugural column, click right here.


The Real Deal: Sag Harbor Village Antique

I WAS ALERTED to this 2BR, 2 bath cottage in the coveted village of Sag Harbor by the Long Island real estate website, Curbed Hamptons, which has been very generous with links to my blog lately. Sotheby’s, the listing agent, claims it dates back to the 1790s. I believe it, though I wonder if that dormer was added later.

I include it here on casaCARA not as a real-estate listing — though it is indeed on the market, for 845K — but for its interior charms.

I think it’s what the French call bobo — bourgeois bohemian — and many a Hamptons house-hunter will not get it at all.

The genteely peeling place looks right off the pages of the unconventional British design magazine World of Interiors.

Personally, I don’t think it needs any renovation. It’s perfect just as it is, including the furnishings.

Go here for the listing, with photos of the rear of the cottage and the small (.16 acre) yard, and here to read Curbed’s characteristically juicy take on the prior ownership of the house.

Two in Springs under 500K

WHEN I FIRST MOVED OUT TO SPRINGS in May of ’09, I had to revise upward my blog’s definition of “affordable real estate,” from 500 to 600K. Otherwise, I’d have had little to write about in the Hamptons, which has a deserved reputation for inflated prices, even on the meanest shacks.

Had a reputation. Three years hence, I’ve noticed, there’s plenty on the market for 500K. Even 400K. Maybe less.

The real-estate site Curbed Hamptons, once obsessed strictly with multi-million dollar properties, has noticed this too, and they’ve been doing a little bottom fishing. They’ve recently launched a new department called Under 500K. Real estate for the rest of us, in other words — part of an effort, as they put it, to “strike a balance between fantasy and reality.”

The latest post under the new slug features two houses in Springs — one a nothing house but near the water, the other further inland but more than decent.

Listing: 11 Gardiners Cove Road, Springs [above and top]
Price: $449,000
Bedrooms/Bathrooms/Sq. Ft.: 2/1/700
Acreage: .72
Located next to a 26-acre nature preserve and just 100 yards from the water, this cottage may be on the small side, but boasts a rather large .72 acre parcel of privacy-loving property. Newly renovated, it features a cleared lawn, outdoor shower, and what looks to be a pretty decent kitchen. It first hit the market in November of 2011 for $469K, but just experienced its first pricechop yesterday.

Listing: 30 Fifth Street, Springs [above]
Price: $495,000
Bedrooms/Bathrooms/Sq. Ft.: 3/2.5/1600
Acreage: .28
Weighing in with more than double the square footage—but a third of the acreage—is this 3-bedroom a little further down the road. The home features an open floor plan, granite kitchen, central A/C and a pretty handsome deck that seems to complement the landscaping quite nicely. You’ll also find a “separate master wing with vaulted ceiling and large ensuite bath.”

Curbed Hamptons, being cute, posits this as a “deathmatch,” asking readers to vote on which they prefer. Me, I think they’re worthy opponents.

To read the whole of the original post, go here.

Amagansett Flipper: Before & After

H10985AN ITEM ON CURBED HAMPTONS, the real estate gossip site that is the Brownstoner of the East End, caught my attention this week: a 4BR, 4 bath Amagansett house on 3/4 acre, newly on the market for $2.2 million. It looks attractive enough, with its French doors and patio, but it would not have drawn my scrutiny if the address hadn’t sounded familiar: 1 Cranberry Hole Road, near the intersection of the new and old Montauk Highways — rather too close to the intersection if you ask me <sniff>, but set well back from the road.

I remember well the long driveway, because I went to a yard sale there when I first bought my house a few miles away in ’09. Back then, the house looked like this:


The interior was dark and dreary, and I recall stressed but kind people dealing with overflowing boxes of videotapes and other junk, who gave me a rusted wrought iron bench which now sits on my front deck. I offered a few bucks, but they insisted on giving it to me, so eager were they to get rid of things. That’s why I remember the house at all.

At the time, I most definitely did not think, “Ooh, I’d love to buy this place, fix it up, and flip it for 2 million dollars!” But Katie Brown did, and did, paying $500,000 for it in March 2010, banging out a reno in a mere 15 months, and putting it right back on the market. That’s why she’s Katie Brown.

Katie Brown is a “lifestyle expert” and TV personality, a smaller-scale Martha Stewart, with long-running cooking and decorating shows that have been on Lifetime, A&E, and PBS (I’ve never seen them — as with Oprah, I know her career only through print media), several books, and a line of bedding and bath linen for Meijer, a chain of Midwest department stores. With her husband, William Corbin, a digital media exec, she’s renovated several houses on the cheap and a shade too trendily, including a Brooklyn brownstone, which I’m guessing is their primary residence; a Berkshires cabin that was written up in The New York Times; and another couple of places in the Hamptons which have been covered in sadly now-defunct decorating magazines.

Whether they originally bought the Amagansett house as a flipper is unclear. I’m guessing that was always the intention. In Katie’s own blog from the early spring of 2010, she called it a “weekend retreat” — but apparently not for her own family.

This is how I remember the house looking from the yard sale (these pictures are from Katie’s blog, with temporary furnishings– you can now see the dining table and chairs outdoors on the patio in the current real estate listing):



Here’s what Katie saw in the c.1980 ugly duckling: “Although its grey exterior might appear to be a little drab, I think its what lies inside that matters most. Decades of history embedded in dated wallpaper, beautiful wood paneling in the main living room, sliding doors galore, and a backyard that looks like extends to the depths of eastern Long Island. As the weeks progress I plan on remodeling the entire house, and transforming this place into a summer retreat.”

This is the newly whitewashed, vastly improved main living space as styled for sale:


The enterprising couple hit all the Hamptons real-estate tropes with their reno.

Set down a long private driveway…a chef’s gourmet kitchen with serious appliances…open living room, beamed ceilings with a fireplace… surrounded by French doors… garden courtyard…charming outbuildings, one an art studio…heated gunite pool… lush lawn….

Well, really, what could be bad, when you put it that way?

Former master bedroom, below


New master


Kitchen before


Kitchen after. I just have to go on record saying I don’t like the kitchen at all. Shiny black tiles combined with rustic wood? No! And the placement of the refrigerator looks plain wrong.



New dining room, below. I recognize the farmhouse table and graphic poster from another house.


New bath


Do I sound a little sour grapes? I don’t mean to. I’m full of admiration for clever, energetic, talented people who don’t give a damn about the received wisdom that ‘it’s not a good time’ in the real estate market, and hope they make a tidy sum.

What’s a Hamptons house without a pergola?


I just wonder whether they know anymore: What is real life and what is staging?