Like a lot of people, I have a recurring dream where I walk inside an old house and discover that it is far bigger inside than it appears from the outside.
But that dream became reality for me recently when I toured what seemed to be a charming 18th-century house on a shady street near the heart of Sag Harbor for our open house series.
Sag Harbor’s Suffolk Street is lined with well-kept wooden homes done up in classic Hamptons styles. At number 43, a 95-year-old beach tree and an historic exterior belies what is in fact completely new construction, with all of the modern bells and whistles.
The owners had originally developed the lot for themselves. They wanted to keep the home within the theme of other village residences, so they tapped Kirby Grimes, an architect well known for working on historic homes. Grimes helped give the property its paradoxical feel, by contrasting a modest historic facade with expansive-open spaces within. Even the stone slab front porch, which leads to a huge modern living space with 29-foot ceilings, is a reference to history, specifically to the stone used at the Sag Harbor Whaling Museum.
But after their children left for college, the owners decided they didn’t need quite so much space and listed the 7,000-square-foot property with Mark Baron of Brown Harris Stevens for $12 million.
A central free-standing stone fireplace dominates the front room. It gives the space a deconstructed feel, as do the high ceilings. Without a floor overhead, the second-story front-facing windows seem to float.
The wide-plank white oak floors, which run throughout the house, were finished with a soap and lye method, giving them a natural, almost raw, feeling underfoot.
Immediately to the right of the entrance, is the ground floor master bedroom. The bedroom is staged with the owner’s furniture and fine art, none of which is part of the offering. However, Baron says the purchase of select pieces is negotiable.
In the room’s en-suite bathroom, Baron points out that all the metal fixtures, such as knobs and handles, are sterling silver, as are all of the fixtures throughout the house.
“They are going to tarnish and create this wonderful natural patina,” Baron says.
Behind the master bedroom, is a paneled library, also finished with soap and lye, creating a light, airy feeling, unlike the dark paneled rooms typically seen in older homes.
On the other side of the central hearth is the dining area, which faces the kitchen on one side and a panel of large windows on the other. The kitchen, like so many newly constructed luxury homes these days, is done in book-matched marble cut from a single slab. The island counter top is an impressive 12-foot slab of solid marble.
It’s a kitchen designed for entertaining, with plenty of counter space with the sinks and appliances tucked behind a wall, so caterers can work out of sight and messes can be hidden.
The rest of the bedrooms are upstairs. At the top of the wide landing is a secondary living area, with bedrooms off on either side. The upstairs master suite is the most impressive, as it features a large, one-of-a-kind concrete hearth done in a minimalist style. Off the bedroom is a massive walk-in closet lined with floor-to-ceiling wood cabinetry and with the same shimmering sterling knobs. Past the closet is a large bath and dressing room – the mirror here transforms into a television at the press of a button.
But the real fun at 43 Suffolk is to be had in the basement. The open room features a humidor, a wine cellar and tasting room and, again, a central fireplace. There’s also a massive laundry room. However, all of that could be easily missed, as it’s hard not to stare at the car in the glass box.
The ground level garage has a hydraulic lift, allowing one car to sit upstairs while another waits below. But while it’s down there, why not show it off? This is surely where the real entertaining happens.
Baron says he imagines a buyer who has always wanted to live in the village, but was sensitive to the small rooms and lower ceilings of older-style construction.
“A lot of people are looking for this new modern context, brand-new construction with all the amenities, and then this grand and gracious scale, which otherwise doesn’t exist in the village,” he said.
Outside, the house shrinks back down to scale. It’s feels modest and secluded. Even the salt-water pool in the backyard is rather small – although I’m sure it was as big as codes would allow — and hidden behind herringbone brick walls.
If you’ve passed 43 Suffolk and not batted an eye, you shouldn’t be embarrassed. It looks like every other home in the village, except that it isn’t.