Sag Harbor After the Rain


I’VE STARTED SPENDING TIME “OUT EAST” AGAIN. Though I can’t stay in my own un-winterized bungalow just yet, I’ve been able to bunk nearby and do a bit of garden clean-up on my half-acre property, and begin to catch up with friends I haven’t seen since last fall.

This past week was mostly sunny, but there was one all-day deluge. One evening I found myself in the back streets of Sag Harbor after the rains had let up, with a little time to spend before meeting a friend at the bar at Baron’s Cove, a new and very pleasant hang-out I’ve discovered (fireplace, great cocktails, nice happy hour menu).

Here’s some of what I saw in a 15-minute stroll: the delightful cottage, top, landscaped almost entirely with hinoki cypress; a Victorian farmhouse backlit by the clearing sky; cloud-reflecting puddles; and vistas of low-key properties that don’t scream Hamptons, but merely whisper spring in the country.


Garden Voyeur: Ingenuity in Sag Harbor


DRIVING THROUGH THE HISTORIC VILLAGE of Sag Harbor, Long Island, recently, the creative landscaping on a smallish corner lot grabbed my attention. I parked the car and popped out to get a closer look at the curved metal planting beds, below, made of what look like galvanized feed troughs. I didn’t even have to trespass; I took these iPhone shots standing on the sidewalk.




Among the plants I recognized in this well-designed front yard: oakleaf hydrangea (in bloom in the background), abelia ‘Frances Mason’ (a type of honeysuckle, which I happen to know because we had it in Brooklyn years ago), various hollies and miscanthus


a kousa dogwood


marvelous smokebush



Japanese blood grass




and a spectacular river birch with peeling bark, growing out of a bed of liriope. I so want a river birch!

The brown-painted house, top, is pretty unusual too, partially screened by horizontal wood slats that shield the windows from passersby, but let light in. It has a sort of Japanese feel, as does the garden itself, in its generous use of gravel and overall simplicity. A fine example, I think, of what can be done in small space with a well-honed design sense and a heap of imagination.


The Real Deal: Sag Harbor Village Antique

I WAS ALERTED to this 2BR, 2 bath cottage in the coveted village of Sag Harbor by the Long Island real estate website, Curbed Hamptons, which has been very generous with links to my blog lately. Sotheby’s, the listing agent, claims it dates back to the 1790s. I believe it, though I wonder if that dormer was added later.

I include it here on casaCARA not as a real-estate listing — though it is indeed on the market, for 845K — but for its interior charms.

I think it’s what the French call bobo — bourgeois bohemian — and many a Hamptons house-hunter will not get it at all.

The genteely peeling place looks right off the pages of the unconventional British design magazine World of Interiors.

Personally, I don’t think it needs any renovation. It’s perfect just as it is, including the furnishings.

Go here for the listing, with photos of the rear of the cottage and the small (.16 acre) yard, and here to read Curbed’s characteristically juicy take on the prior ownership of the house.

Two Sag Harbor Cottages Under $600K

SPRING IS HERE, and country/beach/summer-house shopping is gearing up. Here are a couple of listings to consider if you’re in the market for something small in the ever-desirable village of Sag Harbor, on Long Island’s South Fork. Above, in the heart of the intact 19th century historic district, a tiny (1 BR, 1 bath) cottage of 581 square feet, with an ask of 595K. Call it a pied-a-terre, think of it as a condo. It’s conceivable you could live here without a car, jitney-ing from NYC to the village and walking everywhere, to shops, beach, restaurants.

Rather pricey, but mighty cute. Photos of kitchen and bath are below, and the full listing is here

THE SECOND ONE, below, with an asking price of 499K, reminds me of my own place in Springs. It’s an unprepossessing cedar-shingled cottage of indeterminate age — perhaps 1930s or ’40s, with updated windows and with a cathedral ceiling in the living room — with a tad over 1,000 square feet of space.

It’s got 3 BR, 1 bath, on 1/2 acre just outside the historic district but still within the official village of Sag Harbor; it’s set back from the road in a quiet neighborhood a block from a body of water called Upper Sag Harbor Cove.  You’ll find the listing here.

Cottage-Hunting in Pine Neck


EVER ON THE TRAIL OF MY NEXT PROJECT, I went out the other day with my sister and  Steven Frankel of Saunders Real Estate to tour properties around the 500K mark in Pine Neck, near Sag Harbor, Long Island. If you’d like to do the same, or for more info on any of the houses in this post, contact Steve directly: 917/903-2005, He’s fun.

We had visions of a 1940s cottage with a front porch that could be ‘charmed up’ and transformed into a pleasant weekend home or used as a rental property.

Steve took us on a circuit of five houses that, by design or geography, went from bad to much better. The first was depressingly motel-like; I’ll spare you a photo of that one.

By the time we concluded our tour, house #5, below — a c. 1950 4BR, 2 bath with detached garage (artist studio!) and full basement — seemed like a substantial lot of house, a short stroll from a beautiful bay beach, top. 21 Elm Street has just been reduced to 499K, and it’s my considered pick of the bunch for value. 


Unlike most such houses, which have a warren of small rooms, this one has a living room with long sight lines, below, and skylights. The dropped ceiling could be removed to reveal a peaked ceiling, though buckets of whitewash over the dark paneling and maybe white floors would go a long way toward making the place feel more expansive.


In between, we saw 32 Birch, another 4-bedroom, below, built in 1950, that seemed overpriced at 575K. Virtually all these houses have attached sun rooms that are often the most appealing part. Here’s a link to the listing.


I thought the kitchen, below, was bigger and better than most.


Going back in time and down in price a bit, we next saw 12 Dogwood, a 1945 3-bedroom. For more photos, click here.



This last, 26 Dogwood, was built in 1938 as a summer cottage and is unheated to this day. It appealed to me for its simplicity and lower price: they’re asking 415K.



Any of these ugly ducklings can be clad with cedar shingles, dated ‘picture windows’ replaced, French doors substituted for aluminum doors, and on and on. Ya gotta have vision. And money, of course.