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The House They Weren’t Going to Buy

The House They Weren’t Going to Buy


Josh Kay and Susana Simonpietri, the husband-and-wife partners of the Brooklyn interior design firm Chango & Co., had plenty of reasons to buy a second home in East Hampton, N.Y.

“We’ve been working out in the Hamptons pretty consistently since 2008,” said Ms. Simonpietri, 38, adding that whenever she had to meet clients or supervise contractors, “I’d drive six hours, there and back, in a day, which was not great.”

They also loved the beachy feel and creative history of the area. But when she and Mr. Kay, 45, visited in March of last year, the timing was wrong to buy a house. They were in the middle of renovating their brownstone in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Ms. Simonpietri was pregnant with their first child, and they were about to leave on a trip to Paris.

Nevertheless, Ms. Simonpietri, who is enthusiastic about real estate, decided to set up a few appointments to see some homes on the market. “I’m on Zillow a lot,” she said. “It’s not for everyone; it’s definitely for me.”

The appointments were just to get a feeling for the market — or, at least, that’s what she told Mr. Kay.

“He said, ‘As long as we’re just looking,’ ” she recalled.

But then they saw a house that seemed ideal for them: a 2,100-square-foot, cedar-shingle saltbox built in 1973, with four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a pool, in the Springs hamlet of East Hampton.

“It had some really cool things that we saw right away,” Ms. Simonpietri said. “The living room was a double-story space with these super-skinny 1970s windows flanking the fireplace.”

The interiors had been updated over the years in ways the couple didn’t like, but they were used to making cosmetic changes. “We thought we could just turn it into a white box, and add our stuff,” Ms. Simonpietri said.

It was Mr. Kay who finally asked the question while they were driving back to Brooklyn: “So are we going to make an offer?”

They did, and negotiated the contract from Paris, before closing last June for about $750,000.

Expecting the arrival of their baby boy, Oliver, that August, they moved to renovate the house quickly, while attempting to keep costs low.

With the general contracting company Craft Builders, they enlarged an opening between the living room and dining area, tore out carpeting in the master bedroom and removed the kitchen’s upper cabinets, counters and floor. They installed hardwood flooring where it was lacking; V-groove paneling, open shelves and Carrara marble counters in the kitchen; and new bathroom vanities.

Then they washed nearly the whole interior in a wave of Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White paint — not just the walls and ceilings, but also the floors, the brick fireplace, the kitchen’s cherry base cabinets and even the bathroom tile.

The work was done in three weeks at a cost of about $70,000, and Mr. Kay and Ms. Simonpietri moved in with furniture and accessories they had bought in the preceding months, during their travels: rustic 19th-century chairs and a giant illuminated S sign from their trip to Paris; a living room sofa, rugs and baskets (which they transformed into pendant lamps for the dining area) found during a business trip to High Point, N.C.; and vintage pieces from online auctions, including a pair of beaten-up oversize coffee tables once owned by Tommy Hilfiger, from Julien’s Auctions.

They agreed to leave their yard as it was, and thought they were finished by early July. But just as they were settling in, they heard chain saws nearby.

Hoping that the people making the noise might be receptive to trimming a few overgrown trees and weeds, Mr. Kay set off to find the source. The workers wielding the chain saws, employees of the landscaping company Tri-R, were not only willing to clear some brush, but also agreed to undertake additional work for Mr. Kay and Ms. Simonpietri.

Before long, the simple trimming job had evolved into a complete overhaul of the landscape. Over the course of the summer, the company cut down trees, graded the yard, put down sod, put in a new gravel driveway, installed cedar fences and bluestone paths, added landscape lighting and planted evergreens, bushy grasses and lavender. The work cost another $70,000 or so.

“The lesson here is don’t follow the chain saws,” Ms. Simonpietri said.

Still, they have no regrets about buying a house they didn’t intend to buy or doing landscaping they hadn’t planned on.

“It’s what we’d hoped it would be,” Mr. Kay said of the end result. “It’s just so quiet and mellow.”

As Ms. Simonpietri put it, “We go there and our minds get reset.”



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