Everything Must Go

Morgan McGivern

    On Friday a horde of bargain hunters descended upon an 11,000-square-foot mansion on Hedges Lane in Sagaponack. This wasn’t your average estate sale, but rather a “demolition sale,” an upscale free-for-all in which every toilet (and there were 12), every Sub-Zero fridge (and there were three, not counting the Sub-Zero wine cooler), all light fixtures including dozens of chandeliers, pretty much everything that wasn’t nailed down had to go. Actually, a lot of nailed down stuff went too, from cabinets to closet inserts. It was a bit difficult, however, to remove the mosaic tiles in the bathrooms, so they stayed.

    The sale was run by Susan Zappola and Christina deMaggio, partners in Tag Team Estate Sale. It was the duo’s third such sale in a year. The previous one was also in Sagaponack, in April, where Ms. Zappola recalled “a woman in stilettos fighting with a construction guy over a toilet.” They also sold that house’s wood floors, windows, you name it. “The house looked like Swiss cheese when we were done,” she said. Luckily her husband is a contractor, and thus charged with removing items such as cabinets for easy takeaway.

    The owners of the Hedges Lane house are going to hold onto their floors . . . for now, but not their stair rails and banister. If they hadn’t organized this sale, said Ms. Zappola, “this stuff was going into a Dumpster.” But in a very un-Hamptons waste-not mentality, Ms. Zappola believes in recycling would-be trash and making money for the homeowner, who also saves on hauling charges. And, as everything must go — from the vast marble island countertop (asking $2,000) to the wine cellar — they save on demolition fees too.

    These companies, basically luxury liquidators, do so well that their numbers are increasing by leaps and bounds. Just check the classifieds and you will see ads by Nouvelleview, who bill themselves as “luxury moving planners,” Ferran and Zimmerman, a “tag sale service,” and White Goose, an “estate sale service.”

    Last Thursday, Ms. Zappola and Ms. deMaggio held a preview sale for designers and dealers from such emporiums as Ruby Beets, Antiques at Hayground, and Sage Street Antiques, who made off with a cache of glassware, vintage pharmacy canisters, and other booty.

    Annette Azan-Baker, a Sag Harbor “stylist,” brought two clients to the preview including Deb Galloway, a Sag Harbor lawyer who suffered a boiler puffback and must replace everything in her house. With Ms. Azan-Baker overseeing, she walked away with a mattress, sofas, sheets, towels, and even an iron. 

    Among the other items to go last Thursday were a Miele dishwasher ($250), a Viking stove hood ($500, but not the cover, which Ms. Zappalo thought a builder would pick up), an elliptical machine in the basement gym ($2,000), where there were another seven machines and a pair of ceiling-hung TVs awaiting new owners, and several antique horse whips from the homeowner’s collection.

    The most expensive item in the sale was an antique French armoire going for $8,500. A custom handmade wool rug wasn’t far behind at $5,500. Ditto for an 11-foot-long antique walnut dining table, with an asking price of $5,500 (originally $14,000). The Viking stove was priced at $5,000 (down from an original $12,000). One piece they didn’t have high hopes for selling was a gargantuan 73-inch flat-screen TV installed 10 years ago when the house was built. “No one wants such an old TV,” said Ms. Zappola. Or, apparently, such an old house.

    Just how did they determine prices? After ascertaining the original prices paid from the invoices left by the house’s interior designer (not counting the designer’s 25 to 30-percent fee), the demolition duo cut those prices in half “and shaved off a bit more, depending on condition.” She estimated the final tally would come in at circa $30,000. That’s a lot of bric-a-brac. The liquidating ladies do well too, pocketing 30 percent.

    But why the sale in the first place? Were the owners going to tear down the house? Not exactly. They plan to gut it entirely, leaving only the exterior, while enlarging the footprint. Enlarge an 11,000-square-foot house? “This house is so big I have to text my partner when I need her,” said Ms. Zappola.

    The current owners bought the house in June for about $15 million, and, as with many South Fork buyers, chose to live with the former owner’s furniture over the summer. So, to make matters even more complicated for the Tag Team ladies, the furniture belonging to owners A was being sold along with the fixtures belonging to owners B.

    “Believe it or not, out here a house that’s 10 years old is totally outdated,” said Judi Desiderio, C.E.O. of Town and Country Real Estate. “And five years is on the cusp.” According to Ms. Desiderio, today’s buyer wants an interior that is “clean, modern, but expensive modern — a look you didn’t see 10 years ago. . . . People are even leaving the traditional exteriors . . . a 100-year-old shell, and modernizing the inside.”

    Only in the Hamptons, kids, only in the Hamptons.