HAMPTONS VOYEUR: Quintessential Cottage in Sag Harbor

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WHEN I FIRST SAW Phyllis Landi’s cedar-shingled cottage on a curving half-acre waterfront lot not far from the ridiculously charming village of Sag Harbor, I thought I’d found my dream house. Of course, Phyllis, a freelance TV producer, lives there, and has no intention of moving.

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But this house has it all, in my book: location cubed, and the warmth that comes only with age (it was built in 1908). And, like all my favorite houses, it’s quirky: the house, now around 750 square feet, was once twice the size. Owned by two sisters, it was cut in half at some point, and the other half moved down the road a piece.

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Phyllis, who bought the cottage in the early ’80s, used it for many years as a weekend place, and now lives there full time, did all the right things. She put on an addition for a kitchen and breakfast nook, opened a wall between the two main rooms to create one expansive living/dining area , and put French doors on the back, bringing in light and leading to a deck that must be glorious in warm weather.

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Yes, it’s tiny, but perfect for a woman and her 3-month-old golden Lab puppy, Wilson (there’s one bedroom in the attic loft, and a daybed for guests in the sunroom, above).

It helps that Phyllis has a confident hand with decorating. She painted dark paneled walls and woodwork mostly Linen White (she painted right over the panels in the living room, below, and added wainscotting up to chair rail height in the dining room). She stuck to a neutral palette to keep things serene and uncluttered. Most of the furnishings have a 1930s-’50s aesthetic.

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The main pieces are a ‘pretzel’ rattan sofa and chairs in the living room, which came from Secondhand Rose in New York; a blond wood Heywood-Wakefield dining table, hutch, and console, below; Eames chairs in the same pale wood; a shag wool rug and George Nelson daybed from Design Within Reach.

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The kitchen has a classic cottage look, all white with pieces of collectible art pottery and Fiestaware providing splashes of aqua and green.

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In the attic bedroom, Phyllis built a window seat with storage beneath.

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After visiting Phyllis for the first time, I decided I’d move a mountain to get a place like hers. Later, when I found out what it was worth (well upwards of a million), I realized I’d have to move an entire mountain range, which is beyond my capabilities. So I went back to my own cottage in the woods, a tad disappointed, but delighted that such a place even exists.

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A giant shout-out to Carrie of Brick City Love, who blogs about the ongoing renovation of her Newark, NJ, rowhouse, for her patient tutuorial in uploading pictures to WordPress from Flickr. She has saved me untold hours of time and aggravation. THANK YOU CARRIE!!

Brooklyn Thrift Shop Challenge

I’m dating myself by saying this, but I remember when you could find really great stuff* in thrift shops: Bakelite radios. Art Deco vases for a quarter. Eames chairs for $15. Rya rugs. Higgins glass. Chrome cocktail sets. 1940s barkcloth. World’s Fair juice glasses. *Not all at once

The other day, I decided to find out whether you could find anything at all worth buying anymore.

p1020309I was on a mission.  I was thinking of the empty shelves of the cottage in Springs (left and below) I’m going to contract on next week.  I’ll need to furnish and kit out the place cheaply and in a great hurry, between closing April 15 – fingers crossed, God willing, Inshallah, spit spit – and Memorial Day, which I hope will be the start of my summer rental season.p10203061

So I started at one of my old haunts, the Salvation Army in Bed-Stuy (the one on Downing Street near the Broken Angel House), where, back in the day, I picked up a hand-tinted panorama of Genoa, Italy, for $7; an entire wardrobe of some lady’s super-stylish, big-shouldered 1940s cast-offs, for $20; and a great, swooping sofa a la Vladimir Kagan, upholstered in orange with glints of gold.

The place hasn’t changed a bit. It’s still dreary and depressing, with that thrift-shop smell.

But I held my breath and picked out a white melamine mixing bowl, a set of Oxo knives, and a green wire drinking-glass carrier that might be ‘old’ (total $12). Not very exciting. Then I went into the furniture department and spotted, among plaid couches and utter crap, a blonde wood armchair with webbed seats that I momentarily hoped might be Jens Risom but quickly realized was IKEA.

p1020831No matter. It was $25, in great shape, and will totally work in Springs. I bought it.

I moved on to the Goodwill on Livingston Street in downtown Brooklyn, where I had an epiphany: where yesterday’s thrift shops were filled with the products of Woolworth’s and Kresge’s, today’s are filled with second-hand Target, Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, IKEA, and Martha Stewart for K-Mart. Which would actually be OK, if the prices were startlingly better for those incomplete sets of dishes and silverware. But they aren’t, which begs the question: why not just go to Target, IKEA, etc. and buy the stuff new?

Still, I bought two turquoise chargers ($4) and four dessert plates with hula dancers that I recognized from Fish’s Eddy ($8, probably the same as Fish’s Eddy).

Thrift shop bonanza

Thrift shop bonanza

Then I made a final foray to the Bendel’s of thrift shops, Housing Works on Montague Street. And there I didn’t buy anything. Why? Because the abundance of well-priced, relatively tasteful stuff (white restaurant china and glasses for $1-2 apiece, a plywood media unit on casters by Blu Dot for $165, all the art and photography books I’ll need to fill those shelves) is such that, when I’m absolutely sure the cottage is mine, I may not need to go anywhere else.