Pleasures to Behold Despite the Rain

Balcastle in Southampton Village was one of the highlights of the Parrish Art Museum’s Landscape Pleasures symposium and tour over the weekend. Jennifer Landes

    The Parrish Art Museum devoted an entire weekend to “Landscape Pleasures” and despite the rain and gloom, the gardens and houses showcased still dazzled.
    One of the chief attractions of both Saturday and Sunday was William Sofield and Dennis Anderson’s Southampton Village residence “Balcastle,” a 1911 house built as a school and inspired by an Irish castle.
    On Saturday, Mr. Sofield, who is a designer of both residential and commercial properties for clients such as Brice and Helen Marden, Gucci, and Bottega Veneta, described the process of restoring the building and property 20 years ago. He included his thoughts on other properties he has renovated or designed in various locations and vernaculars across the country, including a Los Angeles hunting lodge hideaway for Doug­las Fairbanks and Mary Pickford before they were married and an Aspen getaway perfectly incised into the mountainside.
    On Sunday, the gardens of Balcastle were open for touring. They feature ivy-covered turrets and numerous intimate nooks and wider expanses. A hexagonal pool house and guest quarters have wall-size gothic window frames and a souk-like air of abandonment and rough luxury.
    Of Balcastle, he said, “People either love it or hate it. I’ve heard it’s an eyesore or a wonderful folly. No one is ever tepid about it.” He said many of his neighbors felt they were living in the shadow of it. He helped take the edge off the property with dense plantings and a profusion of ivy, which has covered the ominous towers with relaxed and inviting greenery.
    Other speakers on Saturday were Alexa Hampton, Charlotte Moss, and Mario Buatta, who delivered an absurdist comedy routine while sharing some of his original and more recent projects.
    The properties on the tour were literally all over the South Fork map. In East Hampton, Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper opened their Huntting Lane grounds, five acres carefully planned and laid out with rolling terrain punctuated with specimen trees, statuary, and other points of interest all kept immaculate by the owners.
    In Sagaponack, John Barman and Kelly Graham showed off their property, which was once believed to be the site of a trans-Atlantic radio station next to the ocean and set up with a curator’s eye for the perfect object in the perfect location.
    Steven Gambrel’s Glover Street property in Sag Harbor rang with the history of the community’s seafaring traditions with actual ship bells and other subtle paeans placed about the residence and its outbuildings. The landscape, set on a cove, was subtle but rich in greenery framing the sea view just past the lawn. With fireplaces in several rooms all burning bright embers, the chill of the day disappeared and the warmth of the rooms with their sometimes unusual but brilliant color schemes kept up a soft glow.