At home with Joe Pintauro and Greg Therriault - 27 East

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At home with Joe Pintauro and Greg Therriault

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Photos by Dawn Watson

Photos by Dawn Watson

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author on Mar 29, 2010

It’s not uncommon for East Enders to own more than one home, but it is rare when a couple’s vacation home sits adjacent to their primary residence. Such is the case for award-winning writer and artist Joe Pintauro—who is perhaps best-known as a playwright—and his partner, Greg Therriault, a former potter who is now a psychotherapist.

The couple, who met in Sag Harbor and have been together for more than 30 years, delight in the unusual distinction of owning two neighboring homes in Sag Harbor Village, both of which they live in and enjoy. The two farmhouses are practically mirror images of one another in structure, but definitively different in design—the primary residence is chock-full of antiques and personal collections while the secondary “vacation” house is ultra-modern and sleek inside.

In keeping with the styles of the two residences, there are two outbuildings on the land as well, each complementing its anchor house. A small “Ruskinian Gothic” carriage house, once a boat house, and now Mr. Pintauro’s favorite place to work (he’s a 2008 Guild Hall Lifetime Achievement Award winner, among other distinctions), sits next to the main house. Across the back lawn is a neoteric pool-side guest suite for the secondary residence.

During a recent interview and subsequent tour of the homes and outbuildings, Mr. Pintauro reported how he came to possess the compound.

“I bought it in the 1960s from the money made from my poetry books ... It was a long time ago when things were cheap,” he said. “It’s a luxury but we love it.”

The two homes were built in the 1870s, according to Mr. Pintauro, though he and Mr. Therriault are only the second family to live in the primary residence, a charming, two-story farmhouse filled with light, love and antiques—many of the pieces preserved from the original owners of the house.

“We didn’t want to violate the real old authentic character of this place,” Mr. Pintauro said. “The aesthetics of it are very satisfying, very livable.”

In fact, the last person who lived in the house before Mr. Pintauro purchased it was Gladys Bassenden. She not only provided the house with a staggering collection of antique furniture and rugs, but also with scads of the latest fashions from the early 1900s (she had been a milliner). Additionally, until she died Ms. Bassenden until kept in touch with Mr. Pintauro and Mr. Therriault and advised them on the care and upkeep of the property.

“Gladys would always call me up around February 15 and say, ‘I want to remind you it’s time to cut back the grapes, don’t wait too long.’ Then she would call on Christmas Eve and say, ‘Where are you going to put the Christmas tree? It should go in the small dining room.’ So we would put it there,” Mr. Pintauro recalled fondly.

Some of Ms. Bassenden’s other contributions come in the form of antique, handmade Persian rugs, which grace the wooden floors of both homes. The coverings, which she referred to as “rain rugs,” had been stored in the attic to use in case of inclement weather, according to Mr. Pintauro.

“She used all new rugs in the house, those were the ‘good rugs’ to her,” he said. “But to protect them, she’d roll those all up and put out the ‘rain rugs,’ these beautiful Persians.”

For a while, the couple preserved Ms. Bassenden’s possessions but eventually decided that displaying her pieces would be more fitting with her wishes.

“We started bringing everything down from the attic and mixing it in,” Mr. Pintauro said, adding that he, Mr. Therriault and their frequent guests have found great joy in many of Ms. Bassenden’s leavings.

“There are trunks up there full of old, amazing hats,” he said. “We’ve had parties where people go up there and come down looking like Miriam Hopkins.”

The two men have such respect and tender feelings for the former owner that they keep a painting that she made in the house. And a small picture of her hangs in their dining room.

“Keeping the house this way comes out of that feeling of really not wanting to do too much damage to Gladys, who’s now long dead, to her idea of this house,” Mr. Therriault said.

“The house is so full of fantastic memories,” Mr. Pintauro added. “This is kind of like a little time capsule house, it gives us extreme personal satisfaction ... It’s like a nest. You bring your straws in and you make it what you want it to be.”

Lovingly filled with an assortment of furniture and objects from the couple’s former homes in Key West, Florida and Manhattan, as well as from their world travels and, of course, from some pieces from Ms. Bassenden—including antique finds, French pieces, Persian rugs, an Italian Murano glass chandelier and whaling artifacts—the home is reminiscent of an airy Key West bungalow.

Light positively pours into the many windows of the large main living room downstairs. A conversation area, complete with a green plant and wicker chairs, at the far end of the room is the focal point upon entrance into the home. An antique roll-top desk (“Every time an antiques dealer comes in they ask, ‘You want to sell that desk?’” Mr. Pintauro noted.) and a much-used piano balance the room entry. Two overstuffed and comfortable white couches sit opposite one another near the white-mantled fireplace, bridging the two ends of the spacious room.

Pieces from a lifetime of collecting fill the home. The eclectic melange works well together to create a showcase of some of the longtime couple’s loves and passions: design, art, literature and music. Pointing to a stunning clear acrylic chair in the living room, Mr Pintauro reported, “That was in the Whitney, there’s a big photo I art-directed of two nudes—one standing and one sitting—on that chair.”

The living room leads to a charming small dining room with wood wainscotting and wooden floors. A few pieces of maroon and black and earth-toned pottery that Mr. Therriault crafted years ago are on display on the table.

The kitchen downstairs is simple and tidy, and is a rare sight for a Hamptons home as it has not been renovated. Mr. Pintauro laughed as he told of a time when a friend visited recently with a group of fashionable ladies in tow.

“He was here with a bunch of people, high-style women from Texas,” he said. “They went into the kitchen and one of them yells out, ‘Cynthia, wait ’til you see this, it’s a kitchen that hasn’t been done up.’”

A humorous touch in the kitchen is an impressive sticker collection, which borders the washer and dryer area. At first glance, it looks like a wallpaper design, until closer inspection reveals it to be comprised of “Sunkist,” “organic” and “Dole” labels peeled straight off fruits and vegetables and stuck directly onto the wall.

Right off the kitchen in the back of the house is a curious little pantry room where Mr. Therriault keeps some of his treasures and finds from the property, including sea glass, bottles, ceramic dolls and scrimshaw. The room is a favorite among photographers, he noted, adding that it has been featured in a book on tiny spaces.

Taking a walk up the pie stairs leading to the second floor, Mr. Pintauro pointed out some of his and Mr. Therriault’s family treasures.

“Here’s a painting from my great-grandmother’s house. My mother taught me my first poem, John Greenleaf Whittier’s ‘Where are you going little man ...’” when she showed me this when I was a child, he said. “This marble table belonged to Greg’s grandmother. And here’s Greg’s great-, great-, great-aunt, the only woman who ever won the Congressional Medal of Honor.”

“Joe wrote a screenplay about her,” Mr. Therriault said of his pictured relative, Dr. Mary E. Walker, a battlefield surgeon.

It’s not just many pictures of family and friends and keepsakes that make the upstairs of the house feel like a cherished home. Perhaps one of the best and most treasured things in the residence rests on a fluffy white duvet upstairs—the couple’s cat, Fannie—a former feral feline they rescued 17 years ago after she had been badly injured by an animal trap.

“She’s the most wonderful and angelic cat, sort of like Avatar,” Mr. Pintauro said as he gave her a loving rub.

Fannie is one of a long line of pets which the couple has tended. Some of the others—including dogs Cream Cheese, Rex and Daisy, and cats Lang and Socrates—are now buried under a grape arbor, which Mr. Therriault points out on the way to the couple’s “guest house.”

The tour continues across the lawn and past the pool and into the couple’s contemporary showplace next door. Different strokes for different folks (but in a good way) might be the best way to describe the secondary home on the property, which was once a Halsey Homestead, according to Mr. Therriault.

The floor plans and general layout are nearly the same in both houses, but the design styles, though complementary, are markedly contrasting. Modernity rules next door at the home Mr. Pintauro and Mr. Therriault use for entertaining. The luxe kitchen could be seen in a magazine advertisement for the most up-to-date amenities and brightly colored contemporary art—many pieces painted by Mr. Pintauro—hangs on the walls.

The couple painstakingly renovated the second house themselves. They said that they made the decision to go in a 180-degree turn from their primary home to give it a different sense of place.

“It’s completely different, but that’s what we like about it,” Mr. Therriault said.

There are design nods and references back to the main house, however. For example, the dining room boasts a set of eight Hans Wegner chairs which Mr. Therriault bought at Second Hand Rose in Manhattan many years ago. The design style might be different from the chair in the main house, but the clear acrylic material and mix of antique/modern is the same.

Though house-proud of all the modern conveniences of the secondary residence, it’s apparent that the couple’s primary home is where their hearts truly lie.

“This is the idea of home,” Mr. Pintauro said upon returning to the main house. He added that he and Mr. Therriault are fortunate to enjoy the convenience and functionality of using both homes, pointing out that the guest house is much better equipped for cooking and hosting large dinner parties but the primary residence is a more comfortable fit for them.

“I remember once we had this big group over for dinner and we were all over there [in the guest house],” he said. “But the piano is here so we all came over later to hear the music. People started dancing and singing ... It’s the same house here but it’s so much better.”

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