Bona Fide Colonial in East Hampton

ONE OF THE PERKS of writing for shelter magazines is getting inside a lot of interesting houses. For the holiday issue of Hamptons Cottages & Gardens magazine, I got a look at the interior of one of East Hampton’s venerable Main Street houses, built around the time of the Revolution.

Its longtime owners removed a later Victorian front porch (for which they were find $5,000 by the Town and considered it a fair deal), restored its wavy glass windows and wood-paneled walls, and furnished it largely with period-appropriate antiques.

You can find the whole article right here.

Photos: Tria Giovan

Ranch Revamp in Sag Harbor

5a44356246c4c1dced5960ef6253d8f3A PIECE I WROTE recently about the reinvention of a postwar ranch house in Sag Harbor, N.Y., is in the August 1 issue of Hamptons Cottages & Gardens magazine. It so happens I’ve known the homeowner, Susan Penzner, who is a real estate broker in Manhattan and Long Island, for 20+ years; I had written about her Sag Harbor vintage clothing store, Havens House, for The New York Times in 1992. This assignment brought us together again.

Along with Jack Ceglic, a local, much-published industrial and architectural designer, she masterminded the total overhaul of a drab, closed-in, and, for lack of a better word, yucky (believe me — I saw the ‘before’ pictures) 1960s ranch into an airy, loft-like space that graciously makes room for both classic modern furnishings and a few hold-overs from Susan’s “antiques” period.


To read the whole story, and see more images of the house and garden, go here.

My Byline Gets a Workout


The new Brooklyn Bridge Park, Garden Design Nov/Dec 2010. Photo: Julienne Schaer

NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, writing for garden and interiors magazines. When I first started, in pre-computer days, I hated it; I suffered terrible anxiety and writer’s block, brought on by wanting so badly to be brilliant. Until I got an article written and delivered, I went entire weekends without leaving the house, or even changing out of my pajamas.


Date palm allee, Garden Design Nov/Dec 2010. Photo: Robin Hill

It’s a whole lot easier now that I’ve realized brilliance isn’t necessary — just good interviewing and reporting skills, a general understanding of the subject matter at hand, clarity and hopefully a bit of sparkle in the writing.

Below: Central Park West apartment by D’Aquino Monaco, New York Spaces Nov. 2010. Photo: Peter Murdock


This month, I have five articles in print: two in the new issue of Garden Design — “Down by the Riverside,” about the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, top, and the cover story, “Inspired Italy,” a South Florida garden by Sanchez & Maddux, influenced by classical European tradition; two in Hamptons Cottages & Gardens holiday issue, out Nov. 24; and one in New York Spaces, an over-the-top, avant garde interior by D’Aquino Monaco, above.

Alex Porter 2370

House in Amagansett by architect Alex Porter, Hamptons Cottages & Gardens, Holiday 2010. Photo: Tim Street-Porter

Burnin’ up the newsstands!

Sweet Home

My dining room, above. The 1940s X-legged table has a linoleum top. I found it at a local yard sale for $50.

ONCE AGAIN, I’VE HAD MY NOSE RUBBED IN IT. I’ve just written two articles for Hamptons Cottages & Gardens magazine (holiday issue, out Nov. 24), which means I’ve spent time visiting and interviewing architects, designers, and owners of multi-million dollar spreads — one very interesting new construction around an antique barn frame, the other a re-done-to-the-teeth mid-century ranch.


The living room, above, where I spend many happy hours reading and watching MSNBC.

Perhaps I should be wondering ‘What did I do wrong?’ Yet somehow I keep coming home to my little cottage with a sigh of relief. It’s cozy and it’s mine.


I hardly used my screened porch, above, this summer. It was too darn hot.


Second Fall in the Country

IMG_4324IT’S MY SECOND AUTUMN IN EAST HAMPTON, and life is good. I’ve planted a few more shrubs, done a bit of fall clean-up. Things are shaping up, landscape-wise, though I’ve been a little lax on the photos. How many times can I show pictures of the same property? Actually, though, I saw a shot of how the roadside area, which is where I’ve been working lately, looked a year ago, and there is an enormous difference. How quickly one forgets.

<-Dump find

What else have I been up to, for continuity’s sake? I was in Philadelphia last weekend, getting a trinity house ready for a renter. I’ve been eating vegan for the past 2 weeks and I’m getting used to it (just made a yummy tofu/spinach frittata). I’ve written several magazine articles, two for Garden Design‘s Nov/Dec issue  (one on the new Brooklyn Bridge Park) and two for Hamptons Cottages & Gardens‘ holiday issue. I spent yesterday in Bridgehampton with my friend Diana White, who sells extraordinary vintage furniture from Biedermeier to Art Deco to Steampunk, helping her with a photo shoot for the website Vintage and Modern.


Home #1

And now, to shake things up a little, I’m entering the ranks of those who “divide their time” between two homes. I’ve signed a lease on a 1-bedroom garden floor-through in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and just 3-1/2 weeks from now, I’ll be busy getting set up there and settling in for much of the winter — I guess. I’m really not sure where I’ll be when or how I’ll decide when it’s time to stay and when it’s time to go. It should be the easiest move ever, since all the stuff I’ll need for that apartment has been in storage for the past year-and-a-half. It’ll be delivered, and all I’ll have to do is unpack.

Consequently, I was very taken with a column in last Sunday’s New York Times, called “Home is Where the Stuff Is.” Boy, did it resonate, especially this passage, in which the author, Thomas Bellers, describes his feelings on returning home to New Orleans after a summer in Sag Harbor and seeing

“a million details of my life as it had been three and a half months earlier. Pocket change on a mantel, two cans of dog treats for the neighbor’s dog, a three-taper candlestick with wax melted over some Mardi Gras beads…

Nevertheless, I greeted these objects with ambivalence. Part of me felt exhausted by their presence. They exerted a kind of lunar pull, tugging me out of the present and into the past. It was like seeing an old friend after a long interval and being overcome with the sickening feeling that one of you has changed beyond recognition, that the old magic is gone.”

Is that how I’m going to feel, unpacking 35 boxes of books I didn’t look at before I moved? Clothing I haven’t needed? Pottery and dishes I easily replaced at yard sales? Music I’ve re-bought on iTunes?

The thing I’m most looking forward to re-acquainting myself with is my super-comfortable Englander mattress. Experientially, there’s more: Seeing friends I haven’t succeeded in luring out to the Hamptons. Volunteering at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Taking a few catch-up swing dance lessons. And coming back here, with the distance that I expect will make me appreciate country life all the more.

Below: Roadside with evergreens in place.  On my way to a ‘tapestry hedge,’ I hope, planning to fill in with looser, deciduous flowering shrubs.