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Dusty road, Amagansett

I’VE BEEN A LITTLE LAX in the blog department lately. Maybe you’ve noticed? Blame it on the heat in this depressing summer of the oil spill, that last month was an unprecedented catastrophe and now is not so bad after all, to hear the authorities spin it. Feel better? I would, a little, if anyone could be believed.

Life is good here in Springs, the “Brooklyn of East Hampton,” as my friend Jill calls it. By that I think she means a few miles from the epicenter, lots of artists, and long stretches of beach (though ours lacks a parachute jump). I just found out that Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson bought a house last summer on Old Stone Highway. That clinches Springs for hipness.


Outside the Old Stone Market: even our delis are arty here in Springs

My garden is nothing to crow about — it looks much the same as it did in June. I haven’t planted anything new. I’m waiting for end-of-summer sales to fill in the bare spots.

“End of summer.” Saddest words in the English language? Not because I love summer more than other seasons, especially this brutal one (I finally broke down and bought an air conditioner). But the passing of any season makes me melancholy. One less summer, fall, winter, spring… life draws in.


Awesome Rose of Sharon hedge

Well, we’re not quite there yet. Let’s call it height of summer. Anyhow, by way of excuses, and for the sake of continuity, here’s what I’ve been up to:

  • Watering, watering, watering, and praying for rain that never seems to come. From watering cans, I went to a hand-held hose, and now I see the wisdom of sprinklers. The process takes 1-1/2 hours any way you slice it, at least every other day. (Soaker hoses are too advanced for me.)
  • Dealing with damage from a freak wind/rainstorm — some call it a tornado — about three weeks ago. The storm lasted all of 15 minutes, and left hundreds of broken trees in its wake. The roadsides are still full of debris the Town hasn’t yet picked up. A big oak in my front yard, below, broke in half; I called Eric, the Tree Man of Montauk, to take it down and cart it away. My front area is getting sunnier — not a bad thing.
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  • Enjoying my house guests. What would summer in the Hamptons be without them? I’m delighted so many friends and relatives want to visit. They’re getting me to the beach more than I would go otherwise. Swimming in Gardiner’s Bay on an almost-daily basis is a joy.

    $25 rummage sale find: Victorian wicker dresser for the guest room (formerly owned by Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft)

  • Eating (lobster, steamers, mussels — don’t tell the rabbi), drinking, spending. Favorite home-made summer beverage: sangria, a great way to enjoy cheap wine. My favorite new restaurant: The Boathouse, overlooking Three Mile Harbor, with it’s $27 prix fixe before 6:30PM.

    Dinner party in Southampton

  • Speaking of early bird specials, I’ve been letting my hair go “natural” for a year, and now it’s  done. No more low-lights, maintenance, choosing between Golden Ash Brown and Medium Warm Brown. It’s just whatever comes out of my scalp, and there’s a lot of…silver. I may look older, but I feel chic. (No illustration for this one. I have yet to see a photo of myself with my new look, and I’m not sure I want to.)

    Rocks I covet

  • A bit of writing — three articles for Hamptons Cottages & Gardens, only one of which has yet appeared — and a new assignment for Garden Design.
  • Keeping my tenants happy. This apartment needs a new air conditioner, that one an exterminator for moths, here the stove ignition isn’t firing, and so it goes. All in a day’s work.
  • Making plans to visit my daughter in Maui in November. It’ll be the beginning of whale season. I asked if you have to go out in a boat to see them, and she said: “No, you can probably see them from my window.” Sounds more exciting than deer from my window.
  • Cruising Craigslist for a Brooklyn pied-a-terre come winter. Yes, I know I said that last year, 3n23k33od5T05P25S2a7tfcf73804bfa319e6ended up loving winter here in East Hampton and didn’t want to budge. But I am bothered that, for the first time in 32 years, we have no family base in Brooklyn. And saddened that what I still think of as the stuff of my “real life” — furniture, art, rugs, books, family pictures — is sitting in a warehouse. Will I ever see it again? Not unless I get a place to put it. I may not need an apartment in New York, but my furniture does. Something like this, perhaps? —>
  • Anticipating my new deck here in Springs, set to happen next week. I had measured and staked something out for bid purposes. Then my friend Jifat, an architect, paid me a visit and said, “Oh, no no no no no.” She helped me re-measure and re-stake, and now the scheme and proportions are much improved. Jifat conceived two decks. One will be a 6’x9′ shower platform three steps up, with an enclosure to be made of half-moon gates, below, left over from a previous project. As the outdoor shower is right outside the bathroom, I’m going to have the bathroom window replaced with a glass door. The main deck will be 16’x24′ off the back porch, with one wide step all the way around. I got four estimates, and chose the contractor Jifat recommended. Looking forward to the chaos and excitement of construction.
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CITY PEOPLE, IT’S THAT TIME AGAIN. Want to sample the Hamptons for a month or so at its hectic, high-season best? If you’re thinking of a summer rental, here’s a taste of what’s available to old-house lovers on a budget (don’t get the wrong idea — bottom-fishing for an August rental in these parts can still set you back $6-10,000).

Above, an adorable 2BR cottage in Amagansett, typical of the area’s 1920s architecture, with cedar shingles and white trim. Pros: it’s a mile from the ocean, if that, and convenient to stores, restaurants, bars, and music venues in Amagansett and East Hampton. It’s got a deck with a circular outdoor shower, below, and a tidy lawn, below that.

The one con: it’s only three houses from Montauk Highway, with its constant hum of traffic. Some people are more bothered by that than others (I’ve learned from experience that you do get quickly used to it, and summer foliage on the trees has a muffling effect).


For pictures of the interior and the owner’s contact information, go here.


There’s something of the same ilk near Three Mile Harbor in Springs, for $10,000 from Aug 1-Sept 10, here.

Both houses are tastefully decorated — better, charmingly — in an unpretentious yet sophisticated Cottage Living kind of way. I don’t know about you, but to me, that’s critical. I don’t care how cute a place is, if it has plaid couches or otherwise ugly furnishings, I can’t abide there, even for a month (though white sheets, packing away clutter, and a quick trip to IKEA all help).

Montauk hilltop house, 512K

IT’S A NEW YEAR, and there are some new real estate prices to go with it. Lower ones.

According to Michael Daly’s Hamptons real estate blog, there are more foreclosures, 30% price drops in some cases, and lots of activity at the lower end of the market.

East Hampton cottage near Three Mile Harbor, 530K

So hie on over to, where you can search for price changes within the last 2 days, and see what those motivated sellers have to offer.

I did. Here’s what I liked among recently reduced properties (remember, these are still asking prices). Click on links below for more pics and info.

Montauk 2BR on 1/3 acre, view of Fort Pond and small ocean view, top, 512K

Nothing cottage on 3/4 acre in East Hampton, above, adjacent to nature preserve and Three Mile Harbor, below, 530K

Three Mile Harbor, East Hampton

Still crazy expensive compared to, say, the Hudson Valley, where you can get a renovated Greek Revival on 10 acres for half a mil. It’s all relative, I guess. Around here, 500K is cheap. Sick.

CAN YOU GET A WATER VIEW in the Hamptons under or around 500K?

Yes, you can! The house won’t be much to look at, though.

Take the view of Amagansett’s Napeague Bay, top, for example. Here’s the house that goes with it, below. At 195 square feet on 1/12 of an acre, it’s barely one step up from a trailer. They’re asking 515K for it, too. But it’s a breathtaking view in an unspoiled area, and the so-called house is right smack on the water.

The beauty of a crummy house is that you can do anything you want with it. No historic detail to worry about. Where is Domino magazine when we need it? Those clever editors could have taken one of these ugly ducks and transformed it into a stylish swan in a weekend.

Have a look at this barn-like structure in the Sag Harbor area, below, on the market for 475K. It’s on .70 acre, with woods in back, water in front.

Awkward on the outside, the interior is more appealing:

And the view, below, is sensational (unless the listing is misleading, which is always possible – I haven’t seen it).

My main aesthetic complaint with these places is the windows. Swapping out aluminum sliders for multi-paned windows and French doors would go a long way toward making these properties more attractive. As for landscaping: think ornamental grasses.

This one, below, is near me, in the Springs area of East Hampton. It’s little more than a shoebox. Asking 425K, the brown-paneled interior cries out for buckets of white paint.

Dig them motorized awnings. They’re to mitigate the glare of the sunsets over Three Mile Harbor (don’t go by that terrible picture, below, from the realtor’s site – it’s more beautiful than that).

A water view, be it ocean, bay, or harbor, is what the East End of Long Island is about, after all.

[Click on live links in this post for more info]

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