Tour a Historic East Hampton Home That Stays True to Its Roots



In an era when house-flipping has become an everyday hobby and people rarely get to know their neighbors, it’s uncommon to come across a home with staying power. But consider the East Hampton guesthouse featured here: Part of it dates from 1716 and has remained in the same family for more than five decades, thanks to the current owner’s parents, who had the presence of mind to save the cedar-shingled saltbox from demolition and have it moved to their six-acre property near the ocean in the 1960s. The structure, which had occupied a farmstead where White’s pharmacy stands today, was slated to be torn down in order to make room for the municipal parking lot behind East Hampton’s Main Street.

In the late 1990s, Bridgehampton-based architect Kathrine (Kitty) McCoy was commissioned to design a Georgian-style primary residence for the family, and more recently the time came to ramp up the guesthouse into something more substantial for her client’s two grown daughters and extended family and friends. “The hardest part about the project was massing two new wings around the original structure,” notes McCoy, who created a U-shaped home that hugs a back terrace, with the Colonial-era building at its center. “We wanted to keep the integrity of the older house, which was so loved by the family, but make it work for a new generation.”

Historic Home

Accordingly, she moved it slightly to take advantage of a massive copper beech tree that now partly shields the new, low-slung west wing from the street. This part of the house contains the kitchen, two bedrooms, and a mudroom lined with bricks that were reclaimed from the reconfigured back terrace. The east wing comprises two separate bedroom suites for the client’s daughters.

Sandwiched between the spacious additions, the historic Colonial portion of the house—which had its share of “improvements” over the years—has been seamlessly integrated. Sheetrock ceilings were removed to expose original rafters, and those that had been painted white were stripped and waxed. For continuity, McCoy replaced a hodgepodge of windows with evenly spaced six-over-six versions that suggest the look of a 300-year-old façade. And while she didn’t alter the Colonial portion’s layout, McCoy reworked its smallish rooms to make them more compatible with the new wings. A guest room adjacent to the new kitchen has been turned into a blue and white dining room, and the former dining room functions as a wood-paneled library.

Throughout the house, which is now more energy efficient and also sports a basement, moldings and windows are consistent, and floorboards are even, although the 18th-century second-floor bedrooms are still barely tall enough to stand in. “We tried to retain as much character as possible,” McCoy reports. “Even the steep Colonial-era stairs leading to the attic, which no one will ever see, have been preserved.”

Contributing to the sense of cohesiveness is a design scheme masterminded by New York–based decorator Ingrid Ongaro. “Because the house’s architecture is a mix of modern and Colonial elements, the decor reflects that as well,” she says. “Dark crewelwork fabrics have been lightened up and made more current with new additions, like Indian block-printed fabrics for most of the upholstery and curtains.” Adding further contemporary flair are a host of works by Damien Hirst, cutting-edge photographs, and dusky-blue mid-20th-century glass globe lanterns in the hall.

Since the home is partly tasked with the job of entertaining frequent guests, McCoy carefully considered how to reinvigorate the back terrace, ultimately deciding to relegate “a corner banquette that the family loved to the backyard, since it was just a bit too large for the space. I designed a replacement to go with the new outdoor furniture, which was just as important to this project as anything else. The back terrace has been the scene of many memorable meals for the family, and that was something we had to re-create.” In the case of this “brand-new” house, history didn’t completely repeat itself, but it also seems like it never left. 

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Designer Spotlight

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Karen Wells Design
Karen Wells Design creates professionally finished, uniquely beautiful interiors. Interior design, furniture design, interior architecture, project management, space planning, and curating collections are our specialty. Each project brings a fresh aesthetic based on the clients tastes, idiosyncrasies, and how they want to live. Interpreting each space for its functionality, refining it through the use of color, texture ,light, art, and furniture proportions allows KWD to create environments called home.

Karen Wells Design

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Builder Spotlight

M&M Custom Homes
M&M Custom Homes is recognized as one of the premier home builders in the Hamptons and throughout Nassau County. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, we provide a superior client experience—creating exceptional value with state-of-the-art construction and unsurpassed design.


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Garden Spotlight

Gardeneering
For thirty three years, every design we create stems from our holistic approach to landscape gardening. Beginning with developing the best possible soil, our attention branches out to address all facets of a project with similar focus. Whether it's hardscape or quality of plant material, the installations are of the highest order -- as is the quality of our estate maintenance services. Every effort is made to blend the client's vision with the aesthetic aspects of the house and property -- ultimately, to create an organic realization.


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Kathryn’s Flower Gardens
Kathryn’s Flower Gardens is committed to providing exquisite cutting gardens, container plantings and unique and heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs, all grown right outside your door. Inspired by the agricultural heritage of the east end, Kathryn’s was created as a sentimental tribute to the owner’s young daughter. Led by a team of experienced horticulturalists, the firm’s sole focus is on providing boutique and personalized containers, flower and vegetable gardens. Located in Sag Harbor, Kathryn’s Flower Gardens is a subsidiary of Summerhill Landscapes.


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Garden Spotlight

HARMONIA INC Creative Landscapes and Fine Stonework
HARMONIA INC was founded out of a profound passion for creating complete landscapes and gardens that co-exist in harmony, with the natural settings that grace each property. Harmonia will design and install a customized landscape complimentary to your visual desires, and your personal lifestyle. “ Our work is a reflection of how you will want to enjoy your property for years to come.” Harmonia Inc is a full service design, installation and maintenance company, beautifying the Hamptons every day. 631-537-9672

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