Outdoor Living

A beautiful beach cottage

Steven S. Miric Image by: Steven S. Miric Author: Style At Home

Outdoor Living

A beautiful beach cottage

This small shingled cottage -- just a shack, really -- that belongs to Fiona Duff Kahn and her husband, Robert Kahn, is a miraculous holdout from the developers' wrecking ball that has leveled so many of its compatriots among the increasingly valuable properties of New York's fabled Hamptons. It helps that it is in Wainscott, a tiny, low-key community sandwiched between East Hampton and Bridgehampton that until recently wasn't really on the Hamptons radar. Nestled on a small piece of property shaded by giant pines and thick rhododendrons that borders on a farm, the house has expansive views that belie its small size. It's within biking

distance of the beach, and when it's quiet, you can hear the ocean, but it feels more like a cabin in the woods.

The house was most likely a prototype of a 1940s Abercrombie & Fitch kit house that came in numbered pieces with slots. "There's not a nail in the house," says Fiona. Just 700 square feet with two bedrooms, it was built in 1947, and a spacious screened porch was added in 1952, which granted another 400 square feet of living, lounging, and dining space to the tiny bungalow.

Fiona's husband, Bob, is an architect, but this house is more her domain, left deliberately unimproved, to keep life as simple as possible. There is no electricity on the porch, which invites "beautiful dinners where the whole place is lit up by candles," and there's no heat, so it's purely a summerhouse, with a cast-iron stove for chilly nights in spring and fall.


Excerpted from Mary Emmerling's Beach Cottages by Mary Emmerling Copyright © 2008 by Mary Emmerling. Excerpted by permission of Random House of Canada Limited, on behalf of Clarkson Potter. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

"The house is underbuilt, whereas houses today tend to be overbuilt and all sealed up," says Fiona. "The walls were unfinished; you could see the studs, which are only one-by-twos. The asphalt roof had been repaired with heavy-duty aluminum foil! There was nothing but brown kraft paper lining the inside of the clapboard exterior. It felt almost porous." Fiona did make a few changes to the house: "Everything was brown, and you couldn't see a thing without turning on the lights," so she added bead-board paneling inside and painted it white, which brightened up the interior significantly, and then chose a friendly palette of 1940s colors for the floors, furnishings, and curtains. The living room floor is robin's-egg blue, the guest room floor mossy green, and the bedroom floor calamine pink; there are touches of forest green (on a vintage refrigerator and claw-foot tub), and yellow and cheery red gingham on the ruffled curtains. Furnishings were either in the house already, or are tag-sale or flea-market finds, an amiable beach-house jumble. There are no modern conveniences like a dishwasher, washer and dryer, or TV, which suits them just fine. Life steps back half a century here to a simpler time when clothes dried on the line and kids entertained themselves collecting shells, building sandcastles, or playing cards.

To Fiona and her family, including her four-year-old daughter, Kiki, the house feels larger than its diminutive size because "there are so many different places to hang out -- the porch, the living room, a hammock and swing on one side of the house, and Adirondack chairs and picnic table on another," says Fiona. "The porch is a perfect napping spot -- you just get into the hammock and pretend you are going to read in the perfect green, shady light." They never know what the farmer next door is going to plant. Some years it's corn; this year it was a remarkable field of big sunflowers that made them feel as if they were living in Provence.
 
The house has the feel of serendipity about it, probably because Fiona and Bob have put such a light footprint on it. "It feels like we inherited it in a way," says Fiona. "You get to know the people who lived here before you through a house, while in the process, you make it your own."


Excerpted from Mary Emmerling's Beach Cottages by Mary Emmerling Copyright © 2008 by Mary Emmerling. Excerpted by permission of Random House of Canada Limited, on behalf of Clarkson Potter. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. The house has the feel of serendipity about it, probably because Fiona and Bob have put such a light footprint on it. "It feels like we inherited it in a way," says Fiona. "You get to know the people who lived here before you through a house, while in the process, you make it your own."
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Outdoor Living

A beautiful beach cottage