One of the drawbacks Jennifer Ash Rudick discovered while doing research for her just-published book, “Out East: Houses and Gardens of the Hamptons” (Vendome Press, $75), was that she was charmed by every home she entered.
“I’d come home and say, ‘I want to live in this house or that house,” she says. “I love my home in Sag Harbor, and I felt like I’d been cheating all day.”
It’s not hard to understand this fickleness thumbing through the book’s 328 pages featuring some of the area’s most intriquing dwellings and grounds. Rudick, a Palm Beach native, presents a wide-lens spectrum of people and architecture that make up the area’s social fabric. The 400 photos by Tria Giovan explore everything from modern, cubist residences to legacy homes reflecting what the author calls “sun-faded WASP thrift.”
“I wanted to show all types of houses — big or small, expensive or not. As long as they had a soul.”
Rudick says she was hoping to repeat the success of a similar book she did on homes in Palm Beach, although those were upper crusty types, “where every blade of grass was in place.”
The East End, she has discovered, is different.
“These are people who live in barns, lean-tos, little homes on the bay and in follies,” says the 54-year-old author. “We tried to get a cross section of things that were classic and things that were a surprise.”
Take, for example, two farm homes on the same street. One is owned by Trey Laird, head of a creative agency specializing in fashion, and his wife, Jenny, with decor painstakingly designed by Jeffrey Bilhuber so that the interiors and gardens produced a laid-back ambience. The other, owned by artist Mary Heilmann, contains “five and dime” furniture she bought and redesigned herself to create a homey atmosphere, Rudick says. Heilmann’s “garden” is on an organic farm tended by a friend.
“These are completely different residences and yet they are perfect for each owner,” Rudick says.
Here are six of the book’s homes.
Peter Hallock grew up in Southampton, but he didn’t learn to appreciate it until he got a job in the city in the early 1980s. Learning how beloved his hometown was as a weekend destination among his co-workers, he reevaluated its appeal. The end result was that he and his partner eventually bought a unique cottage close to his childhood home and moved back permanently. The structure was a “kit house” built for the 1939 World’s Fair and designed to be transported and assembled quickly anywhere, he says. “It was all held together with little nuts and bolts,” says Hallock, who enhanced the cottage with proper wiring and insulation as well as raising its ceiling. The house has sweeping views of Peconic Bay with a dining porch overlooking Davis Creek. Hallock’s decor is made up of items gathered during travel, such as batik pillows from Indonesia and a pair of cattle horns from England. “It’s both personal and eclectic,” he says.
The key word for the lifestyle of Bob and Pam Melet is “recycling.” The wood-shingled Montauk cottage they bought years ago was left unimproved except for tearing off some errant aluminum siding and repairing the floor. The inside is a showcase for the family business, a warehouse of vintage finds collected by Bob during his travels that serves as a creative resource for area designers. The home itself contains a hodgepodge of items — everything from sculptures made from debris washed up on Mexican shores to a chandelier made of deer antlers. Overnight guests get their own time machine experience with the opportunity to sleep in an iconic 1957 “Scotty” trailer parked in back.
THE COLLECTOR’S EYE
What does a compulsive accumulator need more than anything? A barn, of course. What better place to indulge the habits of New York interior designer Ann Pyne, who as a youngster began collecting Barbies, baseball cards, model cars and more. The two-story Southampton structure, owned by Pyne and her husband, John, serves as a guest bedroom and party area as well as a depository of disparate objects gathered over the years — things such as hanging textiles, tramp art, an ornate Victorian sofa and furniture from a variety of backgrounds. The dining room, for example, contains an American music cabinet, a French stained glass window, an American Country table and Reformed Gothic chairs. The challenge, Pyne says, is making them all work together.
VIBRANT SHELTER ISLAND PAVILION
Architects Peter Stamberg and Paul Aferiat say they realized several years ago that although they wanted to buy a place on Fire Island, they were priced out of the market. The married couple’s second choice was to buy land on Shelter Island, known as the “anti-Hamptons,” and figure out a different type of beach shack. Inspired during a trip to Barcelona by the German Pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohe for the 1929 International Exposition there, they came up with the idea of two pavilions defined by floating planes surrounding a courtyard and pool. In addition to a living area, the main building has a kitchen, master bedroom and reflecting stream. The smaller unit contains a guest room and bath. Both are splashed with a wild palette of colors, from lime greens to fiery oranges, with polycarbonate walls that amplify light inside and make it a glowing beacon at night.
The term “storybook” is overused, but it’s no exaggeration when it comes to a Water Mill family hilltop retreat with an ocean view known as The Moraine. Owned by Ala and Ralph Isham, the home, with its classic wood-shingled exterior and turret breakfast room, has a double-height, vaulted living room decorated with a chandelier from a Boston bank. A beamed ceiling and walk-in fireplace in the living room created the alpine ambience requested by Ala, a fashion designer and victims’ rights advocate who is part Austrian. But the real storybook part is an arcadia designed by writer and painter Robert Dash, who produced the Madoo Conservancy in Sagaponack. The resulting parterre garden is a symmetrical pattern of plant beds made popular during the 15th century French Renaissance — think Versailles. More remarkable, the area actually is a transformed car park with a courtyard entrance. It has perennial borders, a cutting and vegetable garden and a vine-covered dining area.
LIVING WITH SHAPE, FORM AND COLOR
When artist Mary Heilmann went looking for an escape from Manhattan, she found a setting befitting an idiosyncratic artist — a kit home from the 1920s ordered from a Sears, Roebuck catalog. But what really attracted her to the Bridgehampton property was the barn, which she renovated and turned into her studio. Inside is a Disneyland of color that includes flea market finds, handmade ceramics, hot pink and chartreuse chair sculptures, record album collections and surf books — remnants of beach culture from her days growing up in California. Her studio’s floor-to-ceiling picture windows overlook a two-acre organic farm that she lends to a friend, her only request being that he plant the crop rows perpendicular to the house to please her eye. An abstract artist who has had exhibitions at the Whitney Museum of American Art as well as museums around the country, Heilmann says she thinks of her work in terms of nonverbal philosophy, symbolic logic or non-number mathematics. Making art is instinctual, she has been quoted as saying. It’s an attempt “to get love. Really a lot of people make stuff,” she says.