Victorian Farmhouse in North Fork 293K

HERE’S A BRAND NEW-TO-MARKET foreclosure, looking mighty cute — a classic Victorian farmhouse with a front porch and gabled attic. Makes me want to run right out to the East End of Long Island and take a look. It’s at the very end of a road, heavily wooded, a block from Long Island Sound.

Would somebody who knows the area well please let us know what’s wrong with it;-)?

There’s a coffered ceiling in the living room, right, a mantel if not a working fireplace, wood floors, French doors. Nothing wrong with any of that. In another photo, however (the room with red walls, below), there are recessed lights in the ceiling, a symptom of misguided reno somewhere along the line. Making me wonder why there’s no kitchen shot. With luck, the kitchen is “unimproved” since at least the 1930s!

The dining room, below, shows nice high ceilings and more of the dreaded recessed lights.

An overhead of the property on the listing sites reveals a bunch of random outbuildings that might be demolished for more vegetable-gardening space.

See how fantasies begin? Doesn’t take much for this old-house addict in springtime.

For the full listing, go here, or here. You might have to register for all the details. Or do your own Google search: the address is 975 Anderson Road, Southold, NY 11971.

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?

Long Live Peconic Public Broadcasting

THE NUMBERS 88.3 on my car radio were instrumental in my decision to move to the East End of Long Island in 2009. It was a clear day in February, with snow on the ground. I was driving the back roads of East Hampton — the ones with wonderfully evocative names like Two Holes of Water Road and Stephen Hands Path — just to see what was there. I had lived in New York City for many, many years, and was having trouble envisioning myself in the country among cornfields and wild turkeys.

Until I realized that the radio station I was listening to, WLIU, was playing music that was just perfect for the likes of me. It was an NPR affiliate, at the same frequency as my New York City mainstay, WBGO, and it was playing an uplifting mix of blues, jazz, soul. I heard Billie and Solomon Burke and Ella and Louis… listened for a while, and thought, YES. I can live here. This is a good place to live. I will be all right.

And so I was. Unfortunately, the station is not. A miracle is the form of a couple hundred thousand dollars is needed by the end of this month to keep the station from folding. Last fall, the license for 88.3FM was purchased from Long Island University for $2million by an independent group. It became known as Peconic Public Broadcasting and continued to play the same great music. Partial payment was made; a final payment is due August 31, a deadline that can be extended no more. Read more details here.

Last spring, when Peconic Public Broadcasting moved from the campus of Southampton University to smaller quarters in the village of Southampton, I volunteered a few hours to help them pack up. I met some of the DJs whose voices and choices I’ve so enjoyed. Smooth Brian Cosgrove of “Afternoon Ramble” (thank you, Brian, for playing Van Morrison on a daily basis, and turning me on to Betty LaVette, as well as older stuff I had somehow missed, like Keith Richards’ “Make No Mistake”). Eddie German, of the evening “Urban Jazz Experience” and ready-made dance party “Friday Night Soul,” who seems to specialize in digging up underplayed, esoteric cuts. Relentlessly cheerful Bonnie Grice, whose “Eclectic Cafe” and “The Song is You” accompany me on my morning errands and who introduced me to jazz violinist Regina Carter and many others now on my iPod.

If you want to offer some 11th hour help, this Wednesday night, August 25, is “Locals Live,” a benefit concert at Old Whaler’s Church in Sag Harbor featuring East End bands and artists, including Nancy Atlas, house band at the fabled Stephen Talkhouse music venue in Amagansett. Admission is $25. Or just call 631 591 7003 and pledge, or do it here.

The voice of 88.3 FM
will be silenced
on August 31, 2010
if you don’t act now!
CALL (631) 591-7003
to find out how you can play a significant role in the
future of the station.

We mustn’t let the music die!

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,

Montauk Magic


ONE OF THE OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS of writing for shelter magazines is that you see a lot of potentially envy-inducing places. Usually, I’m fine. A place may be beautiful, decorated by a top designer, or owned by very rich people, but it’s not generally something I can personally see myself living in, or desiring to live in, and I return to my humble cottage without wanting to cry.


Not so with my latest assignment for Hamptons Cottages & Gardens magazine. For an upcoming issue, I’m writing about a newly built house — compound, actually — on Lake Montauk that looks from the outside like a vernacular cedar-shingled cottage, but inside — sensitively, seamlessly — has all the bright, clean openness of  modern architecture.


The architect is Robert Young of the NYC firm Murdock Young, and the photos in this post (I’m just giving you a sneak peek) are by Michael Moran.

Though the house is 4,300 square feet, with five bedrooms and quite a few baths, it’s emphatically not a McMansion. It’s so cleverly broken up into smaller elements (the architect calls them ‘Monopoly houses,’ which are linked together by a tissue of steel and glass) that it feels totally human-scaled.

Look for the issue, distributed locally in stores here on the East End of Long Island, on August 15.