An Original on Hook Pond

Anchored to the land but like a ship at sea
The great room in Linda James’s house is classic Scheffer, with a vaulted ceiling, wide beams, brick-lined fireplace, and chandelier. Artwork, books, and memorabilia testify to family life.

An East Hampton house with views of Hook Pond from almost every room is nestled on a preserved 1.78-acre site with 328 feet of pond frontage.  Designed by the dean of local architects, Alfred Scheffer, and reconfigured so that it now flows into four sections, the house was built in the mid-1950s for the Right Rev. Austin Pardue, the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh, and his wife, Dorothy Klotz Pardue, a former nationally ranked tennis player. The Bishop’s Cottage, a one-room building he used as a writing studio, is still there.

In 1968, Linda and Seldon James, who lived in New York City, were spending the summer with their young children in Sagaponack. House-hunting with Tina Fredericks, who at the time was working for the Boots Lamb agency, they decided to take a look at a place Ms. Fredericks said they could never afford.

They knew it was the house for them as soon as they walked from the front door into its enormous living room, with a huge brick-lined fireplace at one end, a vaulted ceiling, Tudor-style beams on the walls as well as the ceiling, and huge windows overlooking the pond.

Educated at the University of Pennsylvania, Scheffer had built Tudor and Georgian houses in Westchester County before coming to the South Fork in the late 1930s. Over the years, he designed more than 100 small houses on the Amagansett dunes, particularly in the Beach Hampton neighborhood, and 20 or so larger houses, like the Pardue house, on the South Fork and in Douglaston, Queens. His work effectively combines Cape Cod architecture and the Shingle Style prevalent in East Hampton with his own refined and spare aesthetic.

Immediately hooked, the Jameses made an offer on the house, but it was turned down. A month later, however, the sale was on after Mrs. Lamb agreed to cut the commission in half and the furniture was taken out of the deal, although Ms. James bought several pieces, including a hunt, or circular drop-leaf, table and a blanket chest, after the closing.

At Hook Pond Lane, Ms. James said, Mr. Scheffer “had a challenge to make his architecture work with the topography of the site and his respect for the wetlands.” He extended an existing berm just east of the house, raising the level of the house and yielding a better view of the pond from almost everywhere.

The heart of the house is the high-ceilinged living room. A kitchen and small bedroom, which may have been a maid’s, is at one side. The other original bedrooms, Ms. James said, were “typical Scheffer, nondescript, like boxes with low ceilings.” Although Ms. James redesigned the built-in bookcases in the living room, the grass wall covering and the flooring are unchanged.

Outside, on the pond side of the house, is an original pergola and patio bordered by a low brick wall with plants cascading along it. The door to the patio and a trellis off the kitchen are original, as are the house’s decorative shutters.

 In 1974 Todd Williams, then an unknown young architect, enlarged the house, creating a separate area with bedrooms for the couple’s three children and their own living room. A small patio off their rooms is original, but Mr. Williams removed what had been a door to the outside to make room for bookshelves. He also turned what had been the attic in this part of the house into a bedroom reached by a spiral staircase. To accommodate the staircase, the wall of one of the children’s bedrooms had to be curved, which was somehow accomplished without interrupting its wallpaper. He also added three dormers and a small terrace above one of the bedrooms.

Mr. James died in 2007 and when, in 2011, Ms. James came to live in East Hampton full time, she decided to recreate a part of the house for a wing of her own. It juts into the surrounding meadow like a ship at sea. Erica Broberg Smith, an East Hampton architect, did the design and her husband, Scott Smith, the cabinetry.

 Two bedrooms were gutted and the space turned into a sitting room connected to the bedroom by a small hallway and pocket door, with a study area on one side and a closet on the other. Two bathrooms were merged to make a larger one. The original windows in her wing were replaced, although many other windows in the house are original, and a window seat was added.

The house, like many others Scheffer designed, was built without a real dining room so meals are served in the kitchen or, on occasion, laid out on the hunt table in the living room. Like others of the mid-1950s, the kitchen is divided into cooking and eating areas. On a recent visit, Ms. James told a visitor about what happened to the kitchen at Christmastime one year.

She was cooking and the family and friends were eating when her husband abruptly got up from the table, went down to the basement, where he had a woodworking shop, and emerged with a sledgehammer. He proceeded to knock down the top part of a kitchen cabinet that blocked off the cooking area. “I want to be able to see you!” she said he exclaimed. He continued to work carefully to preserve the wood, which he used later to build a corner cabinet. The bottom of the truncated kitchen cabinet remains in place and has a usable countertop.

Ms. James, who had a career in public health and co-chaired conservation and climate change efforts for the Garden Club of America for six years, said that her house is closer to the water than any other on Hook Pond. Scheffer, Ms. James said, used weathered brick and different textures and colors of wood throughout the house, which blend with the landscape and help create a sense of place.

Last year, Edwina von Gal, the landscape designer who is a proponent of toxin-free lawns, encouraged Ms. James to allow the lawn to grow into a meadow to be mowed only once a year and to protect a buffer of native vegetation along the pond. Now, depending on the weather and time of year, the meadow grasses change color, enhancing the panoramic view of the pond from Ms. James’s window seat and the effect of being out at sea as the grasses move with the wind.

 

Linda James’s wing juts toward Hook Pond. The meadow grasses, which are cut only once a year, evoke ocean waves.
The patio provides shelter from the sun and wind and an extensive view of the pond.
Grasses also undulate on this side of the house, in front of the kitchen area at right
The house is close to the lane, but the family rarely uses the front door.
Linda James’s desk gives evidence of the work she does.
An ample window seat in her wing offers respite and calm views.
The sitting room in the children’s wing is now used by guests. The living room can be seen through the door at right.
A needlepoint image of the house on the bag above was made by Dorothy Klotz Pardue and given to Linda James.
A blanket chest, Argentinean tools, and a miniature windmill built by Michael Sinclair for Deborah Light Perry in 1976 and won by Alexandra James at the L.V.I.S. Fair.