Hamptons Weekend Cottage Keeps it Simple

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A FRIEND OF MINE has had a tendency to move often, both her family’s primary residence and weekend/vacation homes. Fortunately, she also has a talent for making any apartment or home look Domino-ready in very short order.

This two-bedroom 1930s cottage in a community of older homes near the village of Southampton, Long Island, is a long-range proposition, but it still looks essentially the same as it did one late summer evening two years ago. That’s when I saw it for the first time and took these photos, shortly after my friend and her husband moved in. (I’m finally getting around to sharing them as part of an effort to resume more frequent blog-posting),

The cottage proves a few things: that (well, as recently as two years ago, anyway) you can still find a substantially built house on a nice chunk of property — in this case, a flat, sunny acre — with vintage details, wood floors and walls — for under half a mil. And that you don’t need to over-furnish or overspend to create an interior that’s chic and functional. Sometimes simple is best.

My friends did a tad of work in the bathroom, installing a new wall-hung stainless steel sink, and virtually none in the rest of the house, even leaving the kitchen just as it was, with its basic appliances and linoleum floor.

They wired up some home-made lighting, and recycled furnishings they’d had in storage. The main seating is two twin mattresses on platforms, arranged in an L in a former sun porch. The dining table converts to a desk, or perhaps it’s a desk that converts to a dining table.

It’s all charmingly improvised and very much to my taste. There’s a renovation in the cards that will add a bathroom, a large bedroom, a screened-in porch and outdoor living areas. Meanwhile, the unassuming cottage fits the bill.

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Styling for Summer with Thrift Shop Finds

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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.

HAMPTONS VOYEUR: Casual Decor for a Quirky Rental

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PART OF THE FUN OF BLOGGING is getting the occasional bead on a great subject from a reader. I met Dorothee van Mol and her husband Paul a year ago when they came to look at my East Hampton cottage as a possible year-round rental. We spent a pleasant hour chatting on my deck, but ultimately, they decided to rent in Southampton, closer to their primary home in Brooklyn. Dorothee continued to follow my blog, and when she saw the unconventional modernist house I bought in East Hampton last spring, she knew I’d be interested in seeing the sprawling complex she and Paul have been renting.

The site: now that’s a tale. As is the house itself, which began as a 1920s industrial dairy building. It’s unclear whether cows were actually housed there, but refrigerated compartments, concrete floors, a pass-through marked “Milk and Package Receiver,” and other quirky elements are clues to its origins. The acre-and-a-half spread, on the fringe of Southampton village, was owned at one time by a garden designer, some of whose landscape architecture remains, and then by three partners who began an ambitious expansion of the house with cinderblock construction and casement windows, covering many thousands of square feet, before feuding and parting ways. The property came up for rent, and that’s when Dorothee and Paul, who have two college-age kids, stepped in. They decorated resourcefully, on a shoestring, with furnishings they had in storage, items they found on the property, and a few fill-ins from IKEA. I love its casual Bohemian air.

Let’s circumnavigate the property first, and then we’ll go inside…

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Walls around the gravel parking court and elsewhere on the property are made of stacked stone in wire cages called gabions.

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Charcoal gray-painted trim against brown vertical clapboard siding, looks chic and ties together disparate windows and doors.

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One of two kitchens — yes, that’s right — is in an extension at the front of the house.

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Around the side, you sense the building’s utilitarian origins.

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Old perennial beds and self-seeding annuals soften the unfinished walls of the never-completed extension.

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There’s a lap pool around the back, of which I’m terribly envious, surrounded by ornamental grasses and an allee of trees.

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Long gravel walks punctuated by cypress trees and lined with flagstone packed in wire cages have a classical Mediterranean feel.

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A wall of glass windows and doors opens to a gravel courtyard. The parking court and entry gate are in the stone wall at left.

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The long west-facing entry hall gets afternoon light. Kitchen #1, below, is down the end.

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There’s a small dining area in that same kitchen, above…

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and a rustic bar.

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The main living space has one spectacular window and a wood ceiling.

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Wire grids found around the property were pressed into service as bulletin boards.

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There’s a sophisticated contemporary bathroom with a marble vanity and the world’s smallest sink, below.

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Kitchen #2, below, looks out into the heart of the abandoned construction project, which, as greenery overtakes it, seems a bit like an ancient archaeological site.

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Below, the enormous master bedroom.

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Two additional bedrooms, one with the curious cubby-hole.

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The future of the site and the couple’s tenancy is uncertain, so — though they put in a fair amount of work painting and decorating — the whole project has a casual, spur-of-the-moment feeling about it. Thanks, Dorothee, for letting us have a look.

New Home for the Parrish Art Museum

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LAST FRIDAY, having spent a couple of days in my adopted community of Springs (East Hampton), N.Y., and filled with Long Island pride, I resolved to stop at the Parrish Art Museum on my way back to the city. I’d been sucking up a lot of received opinion (overwhelmingly positive) since the contemporary art museum opened in its long-awaited new digs last November, and I wanted to see for myself.

I liked it, too. The museum relocated from its former cramped quarters in a Victorian brick building in the Village of Southampton to a startlingly elongated shed-like structure with a double hipped roof, set in a vineyard off Montauk Highway in Water Mill. Just looking from the outside at the 34,000-square-foot museum, designed by the Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, was enough to give me “museum legs” (that tired feeling you sometimes get from schlepping around looking at art), but in fact, its galleries comprise only 12,000 square feet and are so stimulating and open that it wasn’t fatiguing at all.

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I found the art bracing, including the many abstract works, though my conservative preference is for local landscapes and paintings by realist Fairfield Porter and American Impressionist William Merritt Chase. The Parrish has extensive holdings of both in its permanent collection, and each has a dedicated gallery.

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Howard Kanovitz’s airbrushed 1974 Hamptons Drive-In is easy enough to appreciate.

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Local artist April Gornick’s 1984 Light Before Heat puts me very much in mind of my beloved Louse Point and Accobonac Harbor.

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Fairfield Porter’s depiction of rural Calverton, L.I., in the 1950s.

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With a pleasant cafe overlooking the grape arbors and an easy-to-swallow admission fee of $10, the Parrish is well worth the stop, coming or going.

Inquiring Minds: Southampton’s Gin Lane ‘Cottages’

FOR TODAY’S CURBED HAMPTONS COLUMN, I interviewed Sally Spanburgh, local historian and author of a new book, The Southampton Cottages of Gin Lane (History Press). She’s also a blogger, and the book is an outgrowth of her 4-year-old blog about the historic architecture of Southampton (Long Island, N.Y.)

Gin Lane (aka Dune Road) is a three-mile long oceanfront strip on which 19 original cottages remain. The joke, to me, is that these so-called ‘cottages’ are actually sprawling mansions with untold square footage and numbers of bedrooms. They were built in the 1870s through 1920s, not by the “upper echelon” (they were in Newport) but by bankers, lawyers, doctors, judges, stockbrokers, and so on.

Love their evocative names: Nightbrink, Sandymount (shown in the postcard, top), Happy Go Lucky. Click here to read the whole post.