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THE ROLLER COASTER RIDE IS OVER. I’m officially in contract to sell my East Hampton, N.Y. cottage, after a long winter of offers, negotiations, anticipation and disappointments. Closing will be on or before May 15 — five years to the day since I bought the house in 2009. My real estate agent and my neighbors think I’m crazy, but I’m still gardening just as I would if I were staying — raking leaves off the perennial beds, top dressing with compost and mulch, pruning winter storm and deer damage.

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Sign on David’s Lane, East Hampton

I want to leave the garden in tip-top shape (with no expectations that the new owner will be as OCD as I am). The house and garden have always been primarily a labor of love for me, though I admit to hoping I might be compensated for those labors in dollars someday. That’s not to be the case (no, I didn’t get my twice-reduced asking price), but I’m not changing the sub-title of this blog. I still believe in old-house real estate as an investment. But sellers have to be prepared to wait for the market to cycle round to a favorable position, and I wasn’t able to wait any longer, with House #2, a 1940s modernist ranch in the same community, bought last year, awaiting further renovation.

photoI’m enjoying my last spring at House #1 though not, all things being equal, my last in East Hampton, where they do daffodils really well (not either of my houses, left).

I’m no longer in need of furnishings for two summer rentals (in fact, I now have four sofas), but I’m still attending yard sales on Fridays and Saturdays just for the fun of it. See below for a photo of my latest acquisition, a set of six vintage wrought iron and wood chairs that are surprisingly comfortable. Do I need them? No, not at all. Do they work with the style of my new/old house? No, they don’t. Was I going to pass them up at $40 for the whole set? Of course not.

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I’m also busy sketching ideas for a new deck and new configuration of rooms at House photo_3#2. Its renovation will be incremental and low-budget, once again, and will provide abundant blog fodder in months to come. In late winter, I took a five-session “Design Your Own Garden” class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, taught by Jim Russell, who was terrific — he had us all thinking about our gardens in new ways. The T-squares and HB pencils brought me back to my year at architecture school, and I was very happy drawing and erasing away, though I never got as far as spec-ing actual plants, like some of my classmates. I spent almost the entire course on a general landscape concept: organization around three courtyards; as well as  possible designs for a new deck and a system of paths.

Though I’ll be there another few weeks, things have now taken on a wistful “last time” feeling over at House #1. Easter Sunday, a friend came for a late lunch on the back deck. We opened a bottle of Prosecco, as we have done many times before, and lay on the chaise longues looking into the woods, talking and laughing, as we have done many times before. Though I’ve been known to profess non-attachment to any house or apartment (having moved four times in the past eight years), this one is hitting me hard. At least it’s well-documented.

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IT’S SPRING, and I like my life again. Winter is my time for serious worry. With spring come more lighthearted concerns. Instead of How the hell am I going to pay my bills?, it’s Are you supposed to cut above the leaf node or below?

Yes, the Felco has come out of its sheath and, as long as I still own my cottage on the East End of Long Island, I am working it – transplanting things from here to there, raking leaves off the perennial beds, spreading new grass seed in bare spots, feeding the daffodil foliage that’s beginning to poke up. Only just beginning: after our brutal Northeast winter, the season is very slow to start this year. Mid-April already, and the only forsythia blooming is the forsythia I forced in a vase.

With spring comes optimism that I will sell my cottage soon and be able to turn the full force of my attention to the other house I own in the same bayside community. There’s been a price chop on the cottage, to 435K, which immediately attracted a new offer. A pattern is emerging: people (young people, as it happens) fall in love with the house’s considerable charms — really become infatuated with it. Soon fantasy turns to the reality of all that’s involved in owning and maintaining a house. It’s a big decision, and some become convinced (in one case by a father/financier who was “not feeling the vintage thing”) that some other house, a house built more recently than c.1940, would be easier.

Maybe so, maybe not, but this time I’ll keep my own excitement in check until a contract is signed. Meanwhile, I’m thoroughly enjoying staying in the cottage — recently redecorated with thrift shop furniture and exceedingly bright and pleasant — and country life in general. Sitting on the deck on a warm day. Walking down to the bay at sunset. Morning yoga at the Springs Presbyterian Church, a meadow view behind the window panes. A multigrain fruit and nut muffin from the Springs General Store. It’s the simple things, said a friend, and that’s my motto of the moment.IMG_2838

I moved three miscanthus – tall ornamental grasses – from the backyard up to the front of the property to screen the parking court, since the ilex I chose not to wrap in burlap last fall has been nibbled bare, rendered useless as screening, by the resident deer. As I tucked the grasses into their new spots, I talked to them. Don’t they say plants respond to our conversation, or perhaps just to the carbon dioxide we exhale as we lean over them, blabbing away?

“Now you guys have about 30 days before the maple leafs out, so take advantage of the sun now and do all the growing you can,” I told them. “Okay? Okay. Conditions may not be ideal, but you’re gonna be just fine.” I reassured them and myself at the same time.

 

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WITH TWO AS-YET SEMI-FURNISHED BEACH HOUSES to rent this summer, I’m back to my old shoestring-decorating tricks. Nothing I love more than visiting thrift shops and yard sales with a purpose.

On my way out to Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.), where I’ve been staying in my cedar-shingled cottage again for the first time in a year-and-a-half — that’s the one on the market for sale — I made five stops en route from Brooklyn: the Southampton Hospital Thrift Shop, the Southampton Animal Shelter Thrift Shop, and the Retreat Thrift Shop in the Bridgehampton Mall, from which I came away empty-handed (mostly clothes and/or overpriced, though I’ll keep trying). Then, heading further east, I stopped at the always-promising ARF (Animal Rescue Fund) Thrift Shop in Wainscot and the rarely-disappointing LVIS (“Elvis”) (Ladies Village Improvement Society) Thrift Shop in East Hampton, from which I emphatically did not.

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At ARF, I scored a never-used, just a teeny tad shopworn wicker sofa and armchair, plus ottoman, made by the Lane Furniture Co., with Hamptons-standard white cushions, for $325. (Fridays are 50% off days, but the manager gave me half-price even though it was a Wednesday.) Abracadabra, the living room is pulled together. That they are super-comfortable is a bonus.

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Nor did LVIS, whose furniture barn is a go-to whenever I’m doing errands in the village of East Hampton, let me down. There I found two framed posters, below, of art I love for $20 apiece, and a white ginger-jar lamp for $15.

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Then, at an estate sale in Amagansett last Friday, I picked up a square Moroccan-style pouf, below, for $50. I’ve been wanting a pouf in the worst way. It’s pretty stunning with my thrift-shop sofa, on the tan-and-white striped rug donated by my friend Stephanie (who is also the source of some mismatched dining chairs, a very chic look).

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Thanks to thrift shops and good friends, one of my chief middle-of-the-night worries — how am I going to furnish two houses by Memorial Day? — is on the way to being solved.

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BUYING PROPERTY IN WINTER takes a lot of creative visualization. It’s hard to imagine lush greenery and abundant flowers when the ground is covered with snow, or plants are fifty shades of brown.

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View at rear of property into Town-owned, undeveloped woods, which seems to extend the backyard forever

That’s why I’m populating this blog post with inspiring springtime images — they inspire me, anyway, and hopefully, prospective buyers will feel the same — showing how things will look as the season progresses at my c.1940, cedar-shingled 2BR  Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.) cottage.

The house is still on the market. I rejected a few lowball offers and had two near-deals fall through. I’m tired of riding the roller coaster, and hoping the winter of my real-estate discontent is made glorious summer (apologies to William Shakespeare) by a reasonable offer from mortgage-worthy applicants.

The official Corcoran listing is here. For photos of the interior, the deck, the outdoor shower, and more nitty-gritty info, like taxes (low!), go here. And feel free to email me at caramia447@gmail.com with any questions.

Meanwhile, please scroll down to see what things will look like as the world renews itself in months to come.

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Magnolia, spring bulbs, sweet william, golden spirea

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Gravel path from front of property to rear, lined with perennial beds (i.e. all this comes back, bigger and better from year to year).

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Same path, looking back to front in early morning. Forsythia in bloom in background, boxwoods and Alberta spruce along property line at right.

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Another view of main perennial bed, with lamium, perennial geranium, ferns, barberry, hakonechloa, iris, Alberta spruce and more

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Found driftwood in a bed of lily-of-the-valley

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Fragrant olive and other flowering shrubs at front of property

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Euphorbia, above, with Korean box and golden spirea

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Doublefile viburnum, 10 feet across

Below, a few photos showing what’s to come a little later on in the season.

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Perennial geraniums and irises in flower…

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Elephant ears (these are annuals) with Korean box, hakonechloa, Japanese painted fern

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Accabonac Harbor in Springs (East Hampton, N.Y.)

IMG_3969 Maidstone Beach, the never, ever crowded miles-long crescent of white sand a few hundred yards from the house. The bay is so relaxing — kinder and gentler than the ocean’s pounding surf — perfect for swimming and safer, especially with kids.

WHO’S READY TO THINK ABOUT SUMMER? Everyone in the snowy Northeast, I imagine. Hard to believe at the moment, but summer will come, and with it the desire to be near water. I have just the house for you to rent: my utterly secluded 1940s 1,200-square-foot home, a five-minute walk from the beautiful Gardiner’s Bay beach, above, that is one of the Hamptons’ last and best-kept secrets.

June and July are spoken for, but August is available ($7,000). It’s a unique house for the right people — people who dig its arty, Bohemian vibe and don’t require air conditioning or a dishwasher. This is a house that recalls Jackson Pollock’s postwar heyday, when Springs, a hamlet five miles north of the chic village of East Hampton, N.Y., was home to a slew of well-known artists associated with the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Pollock’s own home, now the Jackson Pollock-Lee Krasner Study Center, is a mile away in the Springs Historic District. So is the Springs General Store, a throwback to hippie days that pretty much encapsulates what laid-back Springs is all about. The area is still home to many artists, writers and actors, some famous.

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This is a house in a state of pre-renovation, and my price reflects that. There’s a fully functioning (in fact, brand new) kitchen and bath. The house is clean and organized and (will soon be) fully furnished. But I just bought it a year ago, and many planned projects — a new deck, an outdoor shower, a second bathroom among them (not to mention a swimming pool) — have not yet happened.

At present there are two bedrooms, but also, for all intents and purposes, two living rooms; there’s the potential to sleep 6 or more. There’s also an outbuilding which will be converted as a separate studio by summer.

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Great room, furniture yet to come.

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Dining/sitting room with working fireplace

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View to kitchen from dining/sitting room

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One of two bedrooms, with double bed + single (there’s a second bedroom as well)

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Imagine swimming every day (more than once a day!) right at the end of the block; kayaking and paddleboarding from any number of local launch points; bonfires on the beach (legal); grilling on the brick patio; visiting restaurants, bars, shops, galleries, historic houses, and ocean beaches in nearby East Hampton and Amagansett (10 minutes away) and Montauk (25 mins.), and spending time in the uber-charming town of Sag Harbor (20 mins.).

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Above: Part of Maidstone Park’s two-mile loop for walking/jogging alongside the bay, an inlet leading to Three Mile Harbor, and a nature preserve. All a few minutes’ walk from the house.

For more info, contact me at caramia447@gmail.com. To see my craigslist ad, go here.

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Late summer sunset over Gardiner’s Bay

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