At Home with Noel and Debby Hare At Home with Noel and Debby Hare - 27 East

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At Home with Noel and Debby Hare

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authormy27east on Oct 23, 2008

As a young girl, Debby Herrick Hare pictured her dream house on a sunny beachfront in Hawaii. As it turned out, it was much closer to home—directly across the street, in fact, from her childhood home in Southampton.

“When I was about 10, my family moved to that house,” she said, pointing across North Main Street to the historic, circa 1750 home where her mother, Constance, still lives.

Since 1980, Ms. Hare and her husband, Noel, have lived in another of Southampton Village’s architectural gems—a traditional Federal-style home that was built in 1836 for Capt. Jesse Halsey. Later owners included the Jennings and Hallock families. One well-known resident in the early 1900s was Dr. David Horace Hallock, a prominent physician in the early days of Southampton Hospital, who served as its chief of surgery and ran his office out of the house for some years.

“He wasn’t practicing there anymore when I was growing up across the street, but I remember hearing stories about him from locals,” said Ms. Hare, who serves on the board of the Southampton Historical Museum.

Ms. Hare’s family roots run deep on the East End. Her Herrick ancestors arrived on these shores in 1642 and helped found Southampton Village. In 1869, her great-grandfather founded Herrick Hardware and her late father, Samuel Herrick, ran the iconic Main Street store—considered the oldest family-owned hardware store in the U.S.—until he passed the baton to Noel Hare around 1985.

The Hares met in Boston (he was a senior at Harvard University and she was a student at the Katharine Gibbs School), lived in California for a while, and traveled around Europe in a VW camper. But when it came time to have children, they felt the pull of Ms. Hare’s roots and moved to Southampton. Son Noel III arrived in 1976 and daughter Alexandra was born in 1981.

“Our first house here was a broken-down farmhouse with no plumbing on David White’s Lane that we bought for $28,000. People thought we were crazy, but we had fun fixing it up,” said Mr. Hare.

But the couple always had their sights set on the old Halsey house, which over the years had been expanded a number of times and converted into a three-family house.

“The owner, Dave Hallock, came into the hardware store one day and I told him to let us know if his family was ever thinking of selling,” he remembered.

When that day came in 1980, the couple said, “we’ll take it,” without so much as seeing the home’s interior, according to the Hares. The home came complete with two elderly ladies who were long-time tenants of the home’s rental apartments. They remained with the Hares for a few years.

With the help of Southampton architect Eric Woodward (who is married to Ms. Hare’s sister, Hilary), the Hares reconfigured the apartments to give their growing family more space, expanded the kitchen, and made minor cosmetic changes—all while maintaining the home’s historic charm and architectural integrity.

“We loved so many things about this house—its original slate roof, the mahogany and beveled glass entry doors and the mahogany staircase that leads to a landing with a beautiful stained glass window,” Mr. Hare noted, also pointing out an intricately-carved oak fireplace with green tile hearth and carved tin inserts in the entry foyer.

For Ms. Hare, the home’s wraparound porch—with its collection of wicker rockers, hanging ferns and colorful flower planters—has always been one of the house’s most special features.

“It’s very old-fashioned, and Noel and I spend a lot of time out here in the summer—just relaxing, having cocktails, and watching the world go by,” she said. “Because the train station is nearby, we get a lot of foot traffic. It’s nice because people stop and say hi and even take pictures.”

The Hares’ home is just as photogenic on the inside, thanks to Ms. Hare’s flair for nesting and decorating.

“My home environment is very important to me. I like colors, fabrics and furnishings that are neutral, organic and have a calm, Zen-like feeling,” admitted Ms. Hare, who is devotee of running and yoga.

“Debby is always moving furniture around, often by herself. I have to watch where I walk in the dark,” joked Mr. Hare, smiling at his wife of 37 years.

Many pieces of furniture, including the couple’s massive four-poster, king-size bed, came from the John Rogers Collection, which was Ms. Hare’s favorite Main Street haunt until it closed. From teak to bamboo, the reproduction pieces exude a South Seas feel, which is fitting for a couple who loves the sea and sailing the tropics.

Family heirlooms also grace the four bedroom, 3 1/2-bath home. An antique wood and marble dresser in the entryway once belonged to Mr. Hare’s aunt. And his great-grandfather built the nearby pine blanket chest, which is now a repository for seashells and candles, books about the sea and Mexico, and photos of the couple’s children and two young grandchildren.

“Our artwork collection is also important to us,” said Ms. Hare, noting that her mother and husband have served on the board of directors of the Parrish Art Museum.

In the formal living room, an early painting by Southampton artist Paton Miller hangs in a prominent location. On another wall is a rare pastel work by Mr. Miller, which Ms. Hare snatched up at a local yard sale.

Hanging in the dining room is the first piece of “real” art they bought—a beautiful painting by Nicolai Cikovsky—and another by artist Casimir Rutkowski.

“And that’s a painting of a motorcycle that our son did when he was in high school,” said the obviously proud Ms. Hare. “Today he’s a talented tattoo artist in North Carolina.”

Although the couple enjoys hosting frequent dinner parties for family and friends in the dining room, they admit—as they walk into their all white bead-boarded kitchen—that neither one “is a big cook.”

“We spend most nights in here, eating by the fire,” said Ms. Hare, stepping into the casual sitting area off the kitchen. Built-in cabinets and windows clustered around the wood-burning fireplace add charm and warmth to the cozy space. Ms. Hare decorated the room with an old farm table she found at an antique store, a 1984 poster from the Whitney Museum of Art featuring a work by the late Southampton artist Fairfield Porter, and a seascape painting by her cousin who lives in Maine. Over the fireplace, she hung a wooden carving of Buddha because it exudes a “feeling of spirituality and calming.”

Avid sailors, the couple own a 37-foot sailboat—dubbed the “Somerset II” for the town that King Arthur left from on his search for the Holy Grail—and have often dreamed of circumnavigating the globe together.

Although that remains a dream, the couple is now off on another adventure—building a modern three-bedroom home with expansive ocean and jungle views in scenic San Pancho, Mexico.

“Five years ago, the place was undiscovered, but now people are finding out how beautiful it is. Quite a few people from Southampton are down there, which is nice for us,” says Ms. Hare. “We really love this old house and Southampton will always be home to us, but it’s so exciting to finally build a home from the ground up, and to be in control of all the early design decisions.”

Debby Herrick Hare, it seems, is finally getting her dream house on the beach. And when Casa Hare is completed, they hope to use it—and their Southampton abode—as vehicles for home exchanges with other globe-trotting adventurers.

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