Building that summer home in the Hamptons?

A recently-built “cottage” overlooking Halsey Neck Pond,
viewed from the pavillion at Cooper’s Beach

Many of our guests at A Butler’s Manor love to wander through the estate districts and look at the mansions on their large manicured multi-acre lots. These “south of the highway” neighborhoods–south of Montauk Highway, a.k.a. ocean side–are definitely the dominion of the so-called 1%. And early spring is an especially good time to traverse the wide, tree-lined streets and gawp at what a few tens of millions of dollars can buy you, because the ubiquitous European privet hedges that enclose most of them are deciduous and are only now starting to bud out with leaves. Which means you can actually see some of these incredible, enormous summer homes.

Older Shingle-style “cottage,” more traditional to Southampton area,
Cooper’s Neck Lane

(Somehow I don’t think the estate owners who ordered the hedging to be planted considered that for year round privacy, they’d be better served with the evergreen variety –the common name of which, I was amused to find out, is California privet.)

Assuming the economic slowdown of the last half-dozen years even affected the very wealthy, judging by the amount of construction underway on the oceanfront and some of our tonier streets, it is in their rear-view mirrors now.I took a drive around town today and was interested to see that after years of “new traditional” shingle-style building (here’s an example), it seems modern design  in the Hamptons is making a comeback. These necessarily are complete teardowns, and some of the ones I cruised by today were in full frenetic construction mode, presumably because their owners hope to enjoy this summer in the house.

This house, located just east of Cooper’s Beach, is reportedly 1/10 of a mile long


Front view of new house under construction, Meadow Lane,
immediately west of Cooper’s Beach


Same house, from beach. (Note all the workers.)

Of course, housing design is part personal style and taste and part trend, and trends are often cyclical (can we say “platform shoes?”). There was quite a rash of modern houses built in the Hamptons in the 1960s and 1970s, especially in the south-of-the-highway Bridgehampton/Sagaponack area, as farmers sold off tracts of land, opening the area to what some feel was a period of unrestricted development. (The concept of unrestricted development was the primary reason tiny Sagaponack became an incorporated village.)

A beach house from the last “modern era?”

And truthfully, at a certain income level, you are able to build your house to more closely reflect your taste and personality. Calvin Klein tore down this bizarre, oceanfront castle

to build this:

Calvin Klein’s new digs

The state of oceanfront building in Southampton has hit some snags, as FEMA regulations following Hurricane Irene and Super Storm Sandy have imposed rules that new construction be raised on pilings, stilts, or other such forms. Net result: the mansions previously capped at 35 feet above the original grade in the flood zone now threaten to be much higher, thereby impeding the views of other homeowners in the area. The house being built on Meadow Lane, pictured above, will reportedly be 53 feet above grade upon completion. Or witness the imposing house in the photo below, currently under construction on the bay side of Meadow Lane. The land in the distance, on the other side of the water, is the Shinnecock Indian Reservation.

But I digress.

As you see, even though I’ve lived here twenty-three years, I too love to rubberneck in the estate district. I love the rolling green lawns that spread from the hedges to the houses, set far back on deep lots. I love the stately gates and long driveways. I love the specimen trees that dot the landscaping. And I love what I imagine the views from their windows must be.

Ah, to view the vast array of extreme residences and dream of winning the lotto, or discovering that you are distantly related to one of these billionaires and may figure in their will…

But until that happens, remember you always have a home in the Hamptons at A Butler’s Manor!

Quote of the Day: If a man happens to find himself, he has a mansion which he can inhabit with dignity all the days of his life.—James A. Michener 

What’s missing at the beach in the Hamptons

One of the things that sets the Hamptons’ ocean beaches apart is the fact that, from Southampton to Amagansett, there is nothing commercial on or adjacent to them. No on-the-pier oceanfront restaurants where the waves splash against the pylons (sigh). No t-shirt shops. Nowhere to purchase suntan lotion or a hat or flip flops or sand toys. No free-standing burger joints with sand on the floor, no to-go windows to grab a slice of pizza, no place to pick up a six pack of beer.

This gives our beaches a different feel from those further west on Long Island, or the Jersey Shore, or for that matter, the Southern Californian beaches of my youth. It also tends to keep them cleaner, because unless you pre-planned your sundry and culinary needs prior to your beach excursion (perhaps grabbing a sandwich at Schmidt’s Market, or the Village Cheese Shop, or the Golden Pear), your only dining option is the snack bar at Southampton’s Coopers Beach or East Hampton’s Main Beach, and there are plenty of trash cans nearby them.
Instead, you get lots of this:

 (The owners of that “cottage” would REALLY like you to believe that it’s their private beach…but it’s not. ALL the beach is public. Yay!)

 And, if you walk a few hundred feet down from the main public beach, maybe even this:

Now that’s what I call a pristine beach.
And this is what I call a relaxing summers’ day at the beach.
So, what’s missing: the trash, the traffic, the hecticness of a continual line of vehicles driving past (hey, they’re all on Montauk Highway), the tiki bar with what sounds like a frat party being enacted around it…
Doesn’t that sound like a loss you can live with?
What else is missing? You.
Wanna come join us?
Quote of the Day:  Beach Rules: Soak up the sun. Ride the waves. Breathe the salty air. Feel the breeze. Build sandcastles. Rest, relax, reflect. Collect seashells. Bare feet required.  

Getting Ready for Our Close Up!

It’s May, Mother’s Day weekend as I write this, and all the villages in the Hamptons are getting ready for their close up, to paraphrase the immortal words of Norma Desmond in Sunset Strip. Nature, in the form of blooming trees, shrubs, and bulbs, and humankind, in the form of home remodels and spring spruce ups, are putting their prettiest faces on to turn towards the arriving sun and sun-worshippers due to arrive in a couple of weeks.

Produce should always look this good!
The upscale gourmet market Citarella’s opened this past Thursday here on Hampton Road in Southampton. I shopped there today and managed to salivate over almost everything. Parking is not going to be pretty, but thankfully, A Butler’s Manor is easy walking distance of only 1/2 mile away. With beautiful produce, prepared food, sushi, a salad bar, and much more, I predict this will be the go-to place to pick up a picnic lunch for the beach for guests who are looking for a wider variety than burgers, hotdogs, or wraps (all of which will be available at the Cooper’s Beach Pavilion once it opens for the season). And let’s not even mention the pastry selection….drool….
Saw an article today that indicates that Southampton may not have to put up with the Kardashians this summer after all, as apparently they are finding it difficult to rent a mansion for the summer in which to stay and shoot “Kourtney and Khloe Take The Hamptons.” According to TMZ, the wealthy in the Estate District fear the swarming of paparazzi and other disruptions to their quiet enclaves; that the family and their entourage will be less neighbors than neighBOORs. From the standpoint of those of us who live and work here even without “south of the highway” addresses, the disruption will extend far further than just the street where they might rent. Since more craziness is not something we need in the summer, my fingers are crossed that the E! series will be derailed, and that their pop-up boutique store Dash will pop up elsewhere (like Montauk). Check out the article here.
Speaking of articles, we get asked quite a bit about the differences between the villages in the Hamptons and the surrounding areas west of us. The classic real estate office designation is that, regardless of whether the word “Hampton” in the name or not, “the Hamptons” comprise the villages found east of the Shinnecock Canal; that is, Southampton Village, Bridgehampton, Sagaponack, East Hampton Village, Amagansett. For those who don’t know or disdain the villages west of the Shinnecock Canal, an article in the New York Times Real Estate section this week titled “The Hamptons-In-Waiting” may be an eye-opener. Hampton Bays and Westhampton, once thought of as party towns–home to late-night clubs and group rentals–have been mellowed by stricter town regulations. (The party has moved to Montauk.) Real estate prices, while still not inexpensive, are far more reasonable on the other side of the canal. Says Patrick Galway of Town & Country Real  Estate, “Instead of the day-trippers we used to get, families with young kids are choosing to summer west of the canal…You probably won’t see the Kardashians opening a boutique in our area.”
Well, that can’t be a bad thing….
Quote of the DayThere was music from my neighbor’s house through the summer nights. In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and he champagne and the stars. At high tide in the afternoon I watched his guests diving from the tower of his raft, or taking the sun on the hot sand of his beach while his motor-boats slid the waters of the Sound, drawing aquaplanes over cataracts of foam. On week-ends his Rolls-Royce became an omnibus, bearing parties to and from the city between nine in the morning and long past midnight, while his station wagon scampered like a brisk yellow bug to meet all trains. –F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

We’ve got the beaches!

Little Plains Beach, Southampton

In 2010, Dr. Stephen Leatherman (a.k.a. Dr. Beach) named Southampton’s Coopers Beach the #1 beach in America, making all us residents very proud. And now, the venerable National Geographic has seconded Dr. Beach’s recommendation: In a recent article, National Geographic listed the beaches of the Hamptons as #4 in the WORLD, and the best in America, beating out even Hawaii!! (See the complete article here.)

Okay, you ask, where in the world are there better beaches? According to NatGeo:

1) Seychelles
2) Maldives
3) Bora Bora (Tahiti)

Okay, I can live with that.

Speaking of the beach, we sure hope the clouds clear out for this weekend, the official start of summer, as so many visitors to the Hamptons hope to start their summer tans on Memorial Day. (Check out the live webcam of Coopers Beach here to see if you need your bathing suit or a hoodie!) But whether the sun is shining or not, one event on Cooper’s Beach promises to draw a crowd. More than 1,000 people are anticipated on Saturday afternoon at Kites For A Cure, the annual family kite fly sponsored by the nonprofit organization Uniting Against Lung Cancer to benefit lung cancer research. For $30 donation, participants receive a high-quality kite that can be decorated on-site with drawings, names of loved ones, perhaps wishes or messages to be flown over the ocean. All proceeds go to Uniting Against Lung Cancer’s national lung cancer research program. How much fun is this, and you’re benefiting a worthy cause?

(By the way, this native Californian tips her hat to Dr. Beach’s 2012 winner of the best beach in America: Coronado Beach, in sunny San Diego…Congratulations!)

Quote of the Day: Everyone can reach back to one summer and lay a finger to it, finding the exact point when everything changed. That summer was mine.”   ― Sarah Dessen, That Summer


Sometimes seeds blow into the garden or we’ve composted something that eventually gets worked into the soil, and then out of the blue, we get what Chris likes to call a volunteer. I find it fun (Chris, not so much) to see what shows up. Yes, yes, you can argue that anything you didn’t purposely plant is a WEED! — and of course, most of them are. But for example, stuck into the corner of a bed where we’re growing thyme, we have a volunteer tomato plant that is currently about 15″ high. Is it a Big Boy? Cherry? Some other type? If it makes it to full size, we may know.  Over behind the “real” tomato bed is one single sunflower…presumably the gift of one of the birds. Chris pulled out the pumpkin plant that threatened to take over half of the vegetable garden, sigh…guess I’ll be cutting my pumpkins this fall at Hank’s Pumpkin Town with the rest of the crowds. A tiny cedar tree appeared a couple of years ago in the middle of a bed of Lady’s Mantle…Chris transplanted it back behind the pool, where it is now nearly two feet high.

Speaking of volunteers…The weather was perfect for the beach this past weekend, but the riptides were worrisome, and I was glad that all of our guests who enjoyed the ocean did so at Cooper’s Beach where there are lifeguards on duty until 5 PM. On Sunday, two of our guests, Mark and Jennifer, were enjoying the late afternoon hours with a long walk along the beach. A Korean church group had set up in an area quite a ways down the beach, beyond reach of the lifeguard station (even if it had still been manned; it was now nearly six PM). As they approached, a frantic woman ran up to them, screaming for help: One of their members had gone swimming and was in deep trouble. Mark dived into the dangerous surf, swam out, and pulled the man safely back to shore. That’s not only a volunteer, that’s a hero!

Quote of the Day: We make a living by what we do, but we make a life by what we give. –Winston Churchill

The taste of summer

Most of our guests visit A Butler’s Manor for R&R, but there are some who are on business, and we strive to be as close to “home” (without the distractions often found there!) as possible. Patrick, a recent guest, was doing a “deep breathe” between two business conferences. He still had calls to make and reports to send, but with our WiFi operational over the whole property, here’s where he made his “office.”  If you’ve got to work, this is not too shabby, eh?

It’s been a week of exceptionally congenial guests who have evidently enjoyed both their stay and each other. Each day guests have lingered over the breakfast table (okay, so the breakfast table IS in Chris’s garden), chatted with each other at the pool, sat down together in the living room after coming home from dinner…just a really simpatico crowd. It gives me such a warm feeling to see that happen.

Weather on tap for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend is supposed to be perfect — 80 degrees and clear. I’m sure the Butlermobile (a.k.a. the Buick Roadmaster) will be making lots of trips to and from Cooper’s Beach this weekend! Also perfect weather to enjoy a lobster overlooking the marina in Hampton Bays at Sunwaters Grill or Tide Runners (greedy me, I’ve done both this week). The latter has entertainment on the dock overlooking the Shinnecock Canal, and judging by the crowd on the night we went (Sunday), some of those bands have quite a following. A warm night, a breeze off the water, sweet lobster in melted butter, a tropical drink and some live music…doesn’t get much better than that!

Speaking of live music, tonight (Wednesday) begins the summer Concerts in the Park series here in Southampton Village. I’ve said before how this is one of my all-time favorite things to do in summer. Agawam Park (at the base of Job’s Lane) fills up with families out to enjoy a true small-town good time. Pack a picnic, grab a beach chair and a bottle of wine and enjoy the music and the ambiance, while the little kids dance in front of the bandstand or run off to the playground. The Southampton Cultural Center, which funds this wonderful summer activity, sends the bucket brigade around at halftime to collect a small voluntary donation to pay the bands that entertain us. Most of us locals have been attending these concerts for years, and are happy to drop a few bucks in the bucket. So (WARNING, rant ahead!) it just frosts me to see, as I did tonight, a group comprised of say, a couple of women, perhaps their husbands, four or five children, and one or two nannies (!) enjoying the evening, but who shrug and shake their heads when the bucket brigade reaches them as if to say oops, sorry, didn’t bring any money. Worse, I’ve seen people ignore these volunteers altogether, turning away from them as though they didn’t exist. Come on, folks! Southampton is, overall, a very well-to-do community. There is no excuse for not helping to preserve the little joys that contribute to making it such a great place to live and visit.

Okay, stepping off the soapbox now.

We look forward to a great weekend, and helping our guests enjoy all that the Hamptons have to offer, that they will come away loving it the way we do.

Quote of the Day: A perfect summer day is when the sun is shining, the breeze is blowing, the birds are singing, and the lawn mower is broken. — James Dent

Our Beach is Number One!

Okay, so we always thought our beaches were special…the sand is clean, pale blond, and fine textured, and beach grass dots the dunes that separate the summer estates from the ocean sands. But just before the Memorial Day weekend, the internationally known coastal scientist Dr. Stephen Leatherman, a.k.a. “Dr. Beach,” published his list of the Ten Top Beaches in America…and ranked Southampton Village’s Cooper’s Beach FIRST in the nation! In the list of the Top Ten, East Hampton’s Main Beach was ranked #5. In the 20 years that Dr. Beach has been evaluating and publishing this list, this is the first time a “northern” beach has been awarded the #1 spot. (Hawaii’s phenomenal tropical beaches have taken the honors twelve of the twenty years). Not a bad showing for what appears on a US map to be a tiny fingernail sliver of land called Long Island!

And this past weekend was the perfect time to test Dr. Beach’s recommendation, as the weather on Sunday could not have been more optimal.
When shuttling our guests to and from Cooper’s Beach, Chris and I noted that the overflow parking lot was more reminiscent of 4th of July than of Memorial Day. I have a feeling that’s going to be par for the course all summer!

Quote for the Day: “The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea.”  –Isak Dinesen


The Italians have a word for it, which is so much richer, just rolling off the tongue: Abbondanza. High summer, and that is the word that springs to mind when I look out over the garden. The roses are on their second round (despite the wet June!), the dahlias are prolific, the hydrangeas in full bloom, and the grasses are lush and green. The bunnies (drat them) are having a field day.

Abbondanza also describes the perfect beach day today, with temps in the high 70’s and a light breeze blowing offshore, and of course, everyone wanted to be there to enjoy those rays. When we picked up guests Linda and Greg from Cooper’s Beach, they said it couldn’t have been a better day…well, as long as you were cautious of the undertow in the high surf. Have I mentioned that our own Cooper’s Beach is ranked #4 most beautiful beach in the COUNTRY by Dr. Stephen Leatherman (a/k/a/ Dr. Beach)? We are graced with such abundance.

Abbondanza was not the word that sprang to mind this week when we visited Bamboo, a favorite restaurant of mine in East Hampton. Bamboo, open year round, is a lushly Asian-style restaurant that Chris and I tend to forget attracts a hip summer crowd. It has a good sushi bar (and free sushi at the bar on Thursdays, if you can get anywhere close to the bar), a fabulous multi-course prix fixe menu offered year round, and are locally famous for their hefty watermelon martinis. We visited on a Tuesday, and it was crowded. Oh yeah — it’s July! For a change, we skipped the prix fixe menu and Chris started with crabcakes while I had a spicy crunchy yellowtail roll. One of their entrees is a mouthwatering black cod miso, which I love so much I invariably pass up the equally scrumptious Mongolian sliced beef (which Chris orders, thankfully, so I get to have a taste). But when the entree came, I was surprised: It was the smallest portion of cod I have ever seen…perhaps 4″ long by 1-3/4″ wide by 2″ high. What are these, Summer portions? So that we all keep our bathing suit figures? Hmmmf.
I can hardly believe it’s already August, the “highest” of High Season. In addition to the crowds at the beaches, the villages are thronged with shoppers and diners. We try to find for our guests here at A Butler’s Manor an abundance of whatever combination of sun, water, activity, great food, and great shopping that will make their visit especially relaxing and memorable. Some of our guests have rented a boat in Montauk, others are hiking over on Shelter Island, another pair are attending “Super Saturday,” the shopping extravanganza to benefit ovarian cancer, while still others are out enjoying the pool. The last is more my style. Maybe I can join them…
Quote of the Day: When you are grateful, fear disapperas and abundance appears. —Anthony Robbins
Wishing you abbondanza!!