Five homes that are significant because of their architecture, their history or a combination of the two will be open to the public on Saturday, November 30, for the 35th annual East Hampton House & Garden Tour.
The tour, one of the most significant fundraisers for the East Hampton Historical Society each year, is a Thanksgiving weekend tradition that brings out East Hampton locals and visitors from farther afield who wish to peek inside some of the most interesting and beautiful homes on the South Fork.
The houses featured this year include a Robert A.M. Stern 1970s beach house, a village home inspired by historic Main Street inns, a modern home in the Amagansett Dunes conceived as four barns, a federal-style home by a renowned interior designer, and a glass-and-shingle home that incorporates former Montauk barracks.
East Hampton Historical Society Trustee Joseph Aversano, the chair of the house tour, gave a preview of two of the homes last week.
The Robert A.M. Stern house, completed in 1975, is oriented to maximize water views and has a rooftop deck that looks out to Hook Pond and the ocean. Poster boards and framed newspaper and magazine articles on display include the architectural drawings and show the house as it appeared when it was just built and how it had been furnished.
Located on Ocean Avenue in the village, the house retains most of its original details. The kitchen, in particular, has a retro feel, with a quarry tile floor and Formica countertops that have a NuTone blender motor built in.
“The kitchen is sort of a moment in time,” Mr. Aversano said.
The house had belonged to the late Carol and Norman Mercer. Ms. Mercer was a garden designer, and Mr. Mercer was a sculptor who worked in cast acrylic.
“The gardens are exuberant here in the summertime,” Mr. Aversano said, noting that Ms. Mercer felt that her garden had to be ready at all times for a drop-in, because different garden clubs would come through.
One of Mr. Mercer’s sculptures still hangs from the ceiling in the house’s bar off the kitchen.
“This house just needs a party and it will come alive,” Mr. Aversano said.
He and his husband, Robert Caruso, became friends with the Mercers after participating in the Joys of Summer to benefit Guild Hall. “The parties would take place at a series of different houses,” Mr. Aversano said of the fundraiser. “It was a lot of fun.”
By the luck of the draw, they got the Mercers’ house, he said, and then they became great friends.
There had been a big, white piano upstairs when the Mercers lived there, he recalled.
The house still has an “upside-down” arrangement, with the living areas upstairs and the bedrooms on the ground level. “This is basically furnished in the mid-century style,” Mr. Aversano said.
The current owners are the next-door neighbors, Jeffrey Gates and Richard Moran.
The next stop on Mr. Aversano’s sneak peek was Millhouse on Osbourne Lane in the village. The house is shaped like a potato barn, though the front and the poolside are nearly all glass. To the rear are “towers” and a small stand-alone building.
“I always try to incorporate some smaller-scale houses,” Mr. Aversano said. “You can’t have all mansions, because these are the ones where people take an idea or two away for their own project or their own house.”
In a phone interview, Millhouse owner Jason Loeb explained that the house was originally two barracks — each a one-bedroom efficiency type of structure — that had been moved there from Montauk in the 1940s and put together.
Nick Martin of Martin Architects in Sagaponack had done an expansion on the house in 2003 that added a living room and kitchen and turned the existing structure into two separate bedrooms with bathrooms.
Mr. Loeb and his partner, Lisa Chai, purchased the property in 2014. Mr. Loeb said the property had not been taken care of at that point and had been overgrown. In 2017, they looked for an architect to update the house again and found Mr. Martin.
“We interviewed two or three other architects, but we found out that Nick did the original work and we were really excited when we connected with him,” Mr. Loeb said.
And now Mr. Loeb is excited to share the house with tourgoers.
“I am extremely proud of the house,” he said. “I feel very connected to what we did and what we created. It was really a labor of a lot of work and love, so I really enjoy showing it and letting other people see Nick’s work as well.”
He said Mr. Martin is like an artist, not just an architect: “He really took our vision and what we wanted and really created something that was beyond what we originally thought we could do.”
The house now four bedrooms, including two with en-suite bathrooms, plus a guest bathroom and a half-bath.
The kitchen, dining and living room share one large space with a tall ceiling and the poolside glass wall opens up for an uninterrupted flow between the indoors and out.
The fireplace has a Venetian plaster surround. “It’s just such a center focal point of really the entire house,” Mr. Loeb said. “Everything is lined perfectly to that fireplace.”
LED rope lights are plastered flush into the walls of the bedroom hallways and additional LED lights are under the stairs to the lower level, creating the illusion of a floating staircase.
The detached structure, which would not be permitted today but was grandfathered, is currently a playroom for Mr. Loeb and Ms. Chai’s 5-year-old son, Nicholas. It has been used in the past as an office and a yoga studio. “It’s now his house, and he always wants to go back there, Mr. Loeb said of Nicholas. “He makes me sit on the patio when he plays.”
In addition to the patio, the grounds feature a graveled seating area around a metal chiminea, and off to the side is a grill.
“The gravel really pulled everything together, because it was a really small space,” Mr. Loeb said, noting that the area was of his own design. “I took a lot of inspiration from the High Line in New York City,” he added.
Tourgoers will have a good look, inside and out.
“They’ll see how the new structure was added to the old structure,” Mr. Loeb said, “and it was just done in a very interesting way in terms of the rooflines. And that was one of the biggest challenges. You have the traditional structure, you have a modern structure, and then everything else.”
The 2019 East Hampton House & Garden Tour kicks off Friday, November 29, from 6 to 8 p.m. with cocktails at the Maidstone Club. Tickets are $200 and includes admission to the tour on Saturday, November 30, from 1 to 4:30 p.m. Tickets to the self-guided tour only are $65 in advance and $75 on the day of. Tickets may be purchased by visiting easthamptonhistory.org or calling 631-324-6850 and are also available at Clinton Academy, 151 Main Street, East Hampton, on Friday, November 29, and Saturday, November 30, between 10 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
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