Houses are just about all I’ve thought about this week, as we put the final touches on the second Home Book of the season. It will be a supplement to next week’s Star and distributed free to shops and gathering places.
Choosing houses, or cottages as the case may be; finding appropriately sparky writers; convincing homeowners to let their names be used, and arranging for the inimitable Durell Godfrey to get photographs or obtaining others — these are all challenges, for sure. But it’s always fun. I am not the only member of the staff who puts on a different hat to make the Home Book happen, of course, and in the process, I’ve gotten to better appreciate their talents.
The fact is, however, that I’m an armchair traveler. I rarely get to visit the houses we feature. I spend time perusing architects’ Web sites, contact homeowners, enjoy suggestions from many sources, and, eventually, edit the stories, choose the photos, and hope it all turns out well.Unlike most of the glossy journals that circulate here, The Star stays away from houses that are on the market. It may impact our bottom line negatively, but we aren’t comfortable with becoming a vehicle for property sales. We think our readers appreciate that we are in it on behalf of architecture and design rather than the real estate game.
We broke that rule only once — that I know of — and we don’t expect to do so again.
The history of the local Gardiner family trumped our scruples when the Karmely family, who own the Gardiner white house on Main Street, invited us in in 2010.
My aim is to strike a balance between houses that are old or new, big or small, and decorated simply or to the nines. The features I like best are those that not only peer into distinctive interiors but also give readers a look at the way people live, the lifestyle that informs their aesthetic choices.
As for me, I live in a house that grew from a small silversmith’s shop to a two-story gambrel-roofed residence with three tiny upstairs bedrooms, and then grew again into the house we have today after first and second-floor additions in the 1930s. A spirit of preservation, more than a taste for fashionable decor, decorated it, because those who lived in it before I did held onto old things and handed them down across the generations. Even though it is quite an extraordinary place, I don’t think my house belongs in one of our Home Books, however: It would seem like a kind of journalistic nepotism.
For about 20 years, I held onto a photo from The New York Times of a relatively small house with a wall of windows that opened to a deck on one side. I’m not sure what I was thinking at the time, but I set down the architect’s name just in case I might need it some day. It was an inexpensive, one-story rectangle of a house that wouldn’t make the pages of The Times now (or even those of a Home Book, I’d wager).
While I love my house, I can’t help having fantasies about other abodes from time to time. What would it be like to live with an attached greenhouse or conservatory? What about an azure-blue infinity pool? I sometimes imagine how the two-inch-thick marble top of the work table in my kitchen (which was once a printer’s stone in the Star building) would look as a coffee table in a modernist setting.
The dream-fodder provided by years of producing Home Books is endless. But the marble top isn’t going anywhere, nor am I. In the words of the old song, written by East Hampton’s own Thomas Payne, “Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam / Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home. . . .”