The inside scoop on East End real estate
From famous faces to desired interior designers, the Hamptons is crawling with potential buyers looking for that perfect pad for the summer season. Discover who's shopping around for the next best buy on the East End.
lady gaga: Featureflash/Shutterstock.com
Looking positively understated in a little black dress, Lady Gaga recently made an appearance in East Hampton, setting off speculation anew that she was shopping for more than just a few additions to her wardrobe at Intermix. In 2010, rumors circulated that she was interested in a Michael Davis–built custom home in Sagaponack. Perhaps she’s now revisiting the idea of purchasing a Hamptons retreat, joining the ranks of fellow divas and recent East End home buyers Madonna and Jennifer Lopez.
In the fashion business, name brands can fetch a hefty price, and the real estate world is no exception. “A known architect, builder, or interior designer who has done excellent work is going to bring more value to a property,” says John Healey of Town & Country Real Estate, who currently represents a $44.9 million, five-acre estate in East Hampton designed by architect John B. Murray and built by Peter Hammer, with interiors decorated by Victoria Hagan. A member of the Interior Design Hall of Fame, Hagan meticulously decorated the 17,000-square-foot, ten-bedroom, 13-and-a-half-bath home, which has sweeping views over a pool, tennis court, and adjacent 45-acre reserve.
Hagan’s color scheme, fabric choices, and furnishings make the sizable home seem more intimate. “Although it’s a large house, people have commented that it’s very comfortable,” says Healey, who adds that while the home is not priced to include the decor, “I wouldn’t be surprised if people wanted to negotiate for the property as is. It’s unusual to have a home that ‘done’ on the market. It’s totally turnkey.”
For Lindy Woolcott, who designed her own home in East Hampton, it was important to create a residence that was both glamorous and laid-back, while reflecting a global perspective. “I was a fashion designer for 22 years with Brooks Brothers, Adrienne Vittadini, and Andrea Jovine,” says Woolcott, who also ran her own company for nine years, selling a women’s collection of hand-crafted, decorative pieces in shops around the world. “One of the advantages of building your own house is that you can make it accommodate your lifestyle,” adds the designer, who has three children with her husband, Robert. “We’re very social. We wanted to build a house to suit a young family. It’s all about shared living spaces, but each space is defined.”
Woolcott began with the concept of a modern manor house. “English staircases in manor houses are very grand and central to everything, so I started with that idea in mind,” she says. “It’s important to get the scale right. I’m very inspired by Georgian architecture, with structured, big open windows.” The decor also incorporates English influences, with simple linen fabrics and muted, calming colors. “I included vintage 1950s and ’60s antiques and custom pieces,” Woolcott adds. “There’s a lot of natural wood, but nothing too glossy or shiny. It’s very natural, cohesive, and consistent.”
Completed in 2011, the 4,255-square-foot, five-bedroom, four-and-a-half-bath home is on a shy acre with a pool. It’s listed for $4.2 million with Martha Gundersen of Brown Harris Stevens.
In Bridgehampton, a contemporary barn on five secluded acres, built and designed in 2000 by acclaimed designer Mark Zeff, is attracting attention. Known for his elegant, refined interiors, Zeff has worked for such celebrity clients as Hilary Swank and Gabriel Byrne.
Represented by Mala Sander of Corcoran and listed for $3.25 million, the 5,500-square-foot, six-bedroom, six-bath home boasts a wood-burning fireplace set into walls of glass that overlook a dramatic pool and waterfall. It also includes a 1,200-square-foot pool house with guest quarters, a living room, and a sauna.
“There’s almost a tree-house effect to the home,” says Sander. “The central fireplace is amazing, with all the glass. The owners did some basic infrastructure work, but everything is Mark’s design.” Among the exceptional details are antique Moroccan doors in the master suite, a screened porch with brick fireplace and beamed ceiling, and a sleek kitchen with opaque glass. “To have a designer of Mark’s caliber is key,” adds Sander. “You know that the proportions are correct, the design elements are flawless, and the space flows seamlessly. If you were building from scratch and wanted to hire a designer of his reputation, things would get very expensive.”
swank: cinemafestival/Shutterstock.com; byrne: Featureflash/Shutterstock.com
If rules are made to be broken, then the Southampton Town Rental Permit Law is a fitting example. The law requires locals seeking to rent their homes to apply for a permit, which costs $200 and is valid for two years. Approximately 1,400 permits have been issued, only 15 percent of the 9,000-plus Southampton rentals listed on HREO.com.
But a new amendment incorporating potential fines recently got everyone’s attention: The resolution, passed in May, would increase the penalties for unlawful rentals with code violations from $3,000 to $15,000 for first offenders and from $8,000 to $30,000 for second offenders.
Here’s what you need to get that $200 permit: floor plans drawn to scale, a current survey including location of and access to parking, Certificates of Occupancy and Compliance, a notarized smoke detector affidavit, an engineer’s or architect’s Certification of Code Compliance, and a designation of agent for service, authorizing the Town Clerk of Southampton to receive its legal notices. Got all that?
Originally, renting for a period of fewer than 29 days was illegal, but the law was amended to make 14 days and over legal, a popular move because 14-day rentals are tax-free (although they still require homeowners to obtain a permit). The number of renters allowed depends on the number and size of bedrooms in a house.
“This law started because of share houses,” says Southampton Town Councilman Chris Nuzzi, who sponsored the law in 2007, “but now we also see high-end single-family houses essentially operating as commercial establishments. Instances of severe overcrowding represent health and safety issues for occupants and quality-of-life issues in the surrounding community.”
“Instances of severe overcrowding represent health, safety, and quality-of-life issues”
Many Southampton Town residents count on the rental income from the summer months to subsidize their mortgages and are either unaware of the law or unwilling to comply. “Screw you,” says one local resident. “This is my house, and you can’t tell me what to do with it.”
Nuzzi acknowledges that some people rely on rental income and that renters bring revenue to local businesses and restaurants. “This is an ongoing discussion, and we are happy to help people with questions,” he says. “We realize that it’s our job to work with property owners.”
Unlike Southampton, which requires a permit for every rental, East Hampton demands a rental permit (application fee: $50) only for the use of a separate apartment in a single-family residence.
JOIN THE CLUB? CHANCES AREN’T LOOKING GOOD
Many Hamptons homes come with a pool, a tennis court, and occasionally even that rarest of luxuries, a private golf course. (Three Ponds Farm in Bridgehampton, currently on the market for $68 million, boasts an 18-hole Rees Jones course.) Yet locals still social-climb and even clamber to become members of the East End’s elite country clubs. Your millions may get you a waterfront home with Picassos on the walls, a Porsche in the driveway, and a hand-carved stone tub imported from Italy, but unless you have an in, you won’t have much luck making it past the gatekeepers of these old-school private establishments.
The Maidstone Club, founded in East Hampton in 1891, ranks among the best private clubs in the world. Its members descend from families who can trace their bloodlines to the Founding Fathers. In the famed Social Register blue book, a membership at the Maidstone Club is denoted simply as “M,” just as Harvard gets an “H.” The Maidstone’s reputation for snobbery is legendary: Groucho Marx once joked about his rejection, “My kids are only half Jewish. Can they play at least the front nine?” Today, it’s still virtually impossible to get in. Current members include Eric Gleacher and Steve Croft.
In his now-classic novel Bonfire of the Vanities, Tom Wolfe fictionalized the Southampton Bathing Corporation. A pedigreed last name is certainly a benefit at the “Beach Club,” as it’s known, though not always: Randolph Hearst was accepted as a member, but his subsequently widowed wife, Veronica DeGruyter Beracasa de Uribe Hearst, was reportedly not. Typically the club is said to accept only the spouses and children of those who are already members. (The list of rejects includes prominent names such as real estate mogul Richard LeFrak and his wife, Karen, and oil baron David Koch.) This spring, a mini media storm erupted over proposed memberships for social-scene regulars Andrés and Lauren Santo Domingo: He is the billionaire heir to a Colombian beer family, and she is from the fashion world. Some members of the WASP-y club were said to frown upon the couple’s taste for publicity, and there’s still no word on whether they’ve been accepted within the storied ranks. Current members include Nina Griscom, Jay McInerney, and Muffie Potter Aston.
The Meadow Club in Southampton, founded in 1887, is the exclusive bastion of grass-court tennis lovers and serious croquet players alike. Membership is available strictly on a referral basis, and an age-old scandal still lingers among the hedgerows: In 1943, charter Meadow Club member Duncan Cryder’s grandson, William, was shot by his wife, Ann, who mistook him for an intruder, an event that was fictionalized in both Truman Capote’s Answered Prayers and Dominick Dunne’s The Two Mrs. Grenvilles.
Bloomberg: Miro Vrlik Photography/Shutterstock.com; wang: Helga Esteb/Shutterstock.com
The Shinnecock Hills Golf Club, also established in 1891, was the first on the East End to admit women. With its Stanford White–designed clubhouse and founding members including various Rockefellers, du Ponts, and Vanderbilts, the club has been home to a number of U.S. Open tournaments (the next will take place in 2018). The rules here are particularly strict: “Members and guests are expected to keep their shirts tucked in and to wear their headgear with the bill forward.” Oh, and no cell phones allowed. The club’s hallowed ground has also been contested by the Shinnecock Indian Nation, which brought a lawsuit against the Town of Southampton in 2005, alleging that the land (including the golf course) is part of its original territory and was illegally turned over to the town and private interests in 1859. The case was dismissed in 2006, and today the land is valued at about $1.7 billion.
Disinclined to bother with the old guard at all? The Atlantic was created in 1992 by developer Lowell Schulman, who found other area clubs slow to welcome Jewish members. With an initiation fee in the $100,000 range, it became a hangout for titans of industry such as Edgar Bronfman, Jr., Jonathan Tisch, Leonard Stern, and Henry Kravis. Yet it is not without controversy—a Muslim-American former caddy has filed a lawsuit against the club, claiming discrimination based on race and religion. Current members include Vera Wang, Arthur Becker, and Michael Bloomberg.
Sited on the former Bridgehampton Race Track, The Bridge charges a whopping $750,000 initiation fee and has retained some of the raceway’s original track and signage (like chevron gasolines). In 2002, founder Robert Rubin broke the traditional club mold, eschewing dress codes and hiring architect Roger Ferris to design a striking glass-and-steel postmodern clubhouse instead of a dated shingle-style confection. The club has attracted self-made men (and some women) from the worlds of finance, real estate, art, and entertainment, such as Richard Prince and Lyor Cohen. As for the price of admission, Ferris says, “It can sound like a ridiculous amount of money, but a lot of members justify the cost. They use the club as the extra room they’ve always wanted and no longer have to add on to their house.”
Car-leasing magnate Mike Pasucci launched Sebonack Golf Club in 2006, paying $46 million for the property. Ten founding members reportedly paid $1.5 million each, including Stanley Druckenmiller, Richard Santulli, Paul Desmarais, Jr., and Johann Rupert.
For a mere $5, it’s still possible to play golf in the Hamptons. The Poxabogue Golf Center in Sagaponack is a longtime favorite of locals and celebs alike, with a par-three course and driving range. Plus, you can have breakfast in the clubhouse for less than $10—a true bargain on the East End.