The Big Reveal: Inside My Beach-House-to-Be

THE WAITING GAME continues. I’ve officially “gone to contract” on the Long Island beach house deal I’ve been patiently coddling for almost two years now. The seller has signed the contract of sale, my down payment has been delivered, the survey is completed; so is the title search. What remains before we can set a closing date: an amended Certificate of Occupancy for a 14’x18′ outbuilding — a future pool house, studio, guest cottage, workshop — with a good wood floor, skylights, a plumbed sink, and electricity. I want that building to be legal, and it’s the seller’s responsibility to make it so — a matter of closing out some paperwork, as the structure itself was built to code, with proper permits. So I wait to be informed when that is done, and have no idea how long that may take. Meanwhile, I linger in limbo while the weather here in downstate New York turns cold. The house is neither heated nor insulated, and there won’t be much I can do there through the winter months.

What I can do now is dream. I have been poring over back issues of Elle Decor, House Beautiful, and Country Home, seeking inspiration but not really finding it. That’s because the house — a long, narrow cracker-box built in the 1940s, then appended in the 1960s with a shorter wing set perpendicular to the first — has a modernist air in its simplicity, but a set of French doors added later confuses the issue. It’s not a cottage. It’s not a cabin. It’s not a ranch. It’s neither traditional nor modern. It doesn’t appear to have been designed by an architect; it just kind of happened. Soon it’s going to happen to me, and I finally feel confident enough of that to publish a few photos of the interior taken during a recent inspection with a trusted contractor. It’s still chock full of the seller’s belongings, but you’ll get the idea.

Let me clear up one misconception friends seem to have about me and this house: yes, it needs a load of work, but no, I’m not planning to “renovate.” Not right away, anyhow. I’m planning to live in it — camp in it, even — in a state of Bohemian funkiness for at least the first year [I just checked the definition of ‘funky’ to make sure it means what I want it to mean: modern and stylish in an unconventional or striking way, according to Merriam Webster. Exactly!] Primarily because I won’t have the money to do much else, but also because I just want to relax into being there before making any big plans. I’m looking forward to cleaning and painting immediately, and replacing appliances if need be, but things like a heating system and all new windows (the house will eventually need more than 20 of them) and a new deck and outdoor shower will have to wait. As for a new pool (the original vinyl one is merely a hole in the ground), that will have to wait a long time — five years, perhaps. Meanwhile, Gardiner’s Bay is a few hundred yards down the road.

Assuming the water runs and the lights go on, which they should, the first call I’m going to make is to an arborist. The half-acre has an excessive number of tall oak trees, and I want to open up the property and let in light — maybe even enough for a vegetable garden. Hopefully, much of that clearing can be accomplished this winter while the trees are bare.

In my low-budget decorating dreams I’m seeing a whitewash, sisal carpets, and a few pieces of mid-century furniture. What are you seeing? Dwell-magazine minimalism, or kilims and color? Thanks for your thoughts, however stray or unformed; they’ll go right into my mental files.

Above: The 14’x30′ living room in the short section of the L-shaped house has a working fireplace.

The larger of two bedrooms, above

One of two bathrooms, both needing work

The kitchen is open to…

A second living room, essentially — or dining/family room, with another working fireplace at the end of the long leg of the L (covered at present with plywood)

The outbuilding that’s causing the current delay

A Very Vintage Christmas


THAT CUTE HOUSE, above, is an 1810 Greek Revival jewel built by a sea captain in Greenport, Long Island. It now belongs to Adrienne Grande, who bought it recently and has been fixing it up for the past year. It looks mighty spiffy with the wreath on its freshly painted picket fence.


At Christmastime, Adrienne brings out her mom’s collection of vintage tree ornaments from the 1940s and ’50s. The peach, above, brought back a sudden memory of being invited to help decorate our next-door neighbors’ tree in Queens. I could swear they had that same peach, as well as a plum, a banana, and other fruit. I was about 5 at the time, but the delight I took in those ornaments persists to this day.



So bring on the family heirlooms, the nostalgic music (I just heard Aaron Neville’s exquisite Holy Night on WBGO), and have yourselves a joyful and very vintage Christmas.


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!

Greenport Waterview Cottage 499K


IN SWELTERING TIMES LIKE THESE, even the sight of water is a relief.

Oceanfront may be out of reach for most of us, but if bay, sound, harbor, creek, or inlet will do, that opens up the possibilities considerably.

Here’s a 1960 Cape-style cottage on 1.25 acres at the head of Pipes Creek in Greenport, on Long Island’s North Fork, with views out to Shelter Island Sound. It’s got 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, and an enclosed porch. Total square footage is 1,890, and taxes are $6,500/year (bit of a bummer, that).

To see pictures of the interior, go here.


It’s an exclusive listing with Jeanmarie Bay of Town & Country Real Estate,
631-298-0600 x 109 or 917-519-4180, Tell her I sent you.

Map Giveaway: LI Before the LIE

IMG_3417UPDATE: Lisa of South Slope, Brooklyn (comment #7) is the winner of the map!

THIS PAST SUNDAY, I followed a yard sale sign to a classic 1850s Greek Revival. It was late on Day 2 of the sale, and there wasn’t much left (and I was on my way to yoga — a girl’s gotta have priorities). But I did manage to snatch up a couple of 1930s road maps with mellow retro colors and evocative pen-and-ink illustrations.

As a little incentive to you, dear readers, to get you in the habit of commenting on this blog — and in the interest of market research — I’m giving away a 1930s Esso map of Metropolitan New York and Long Island, gratis. It’s full of anachronistic touches, like the words “The Ghetto” plastered over the Lower East Side; a ferry schedule; a long, long list of golf and yacht clubs; and no Long Island Expressway or Kennedy Airport. Suitable for framing!


All you have to do is comment on this post. Click on ‘Leave a Comment’ or ‘[Number of] Comments,’ above, under the headline of this post, and a form will open up for your comment. You can use your real name or not, but you do need to give an e-mail address, which won’t appear on the blog, so I can contact you if you’re the lucky winner. On Sunday, June 20, I’ll select the winner at random using’s random-number selector.
Tell me how you discovered this blog, what you like about it (or dislike – I can take it), what you’d like to see covered here, why you like old maps, what kind of old house you live in — I don’t care what you say, just comment! You might enjoy it.