By Annette Hinkle
A few years ago when architect Bill Beeton and his wife Julia Hubbard, a landscape designer, decided to sell the barn-style home they had built on Merchant’s Path and move closer to Sag Harbor Village, they were looking for something very specific.
“That was one of the main driving forces,” concedes Ms. Hubbard. “I like a lot of light in the house, but also for the garden – we could only do a shade garden there.”
The couple also had two children, Harlan and Lucy, and wanted to be closer to the schools. So they started hunting for the ideal piece of property to meet their requirements.
“We needed a fixer upper. That’s what we do,” explains Ms. Hubbard. “And it’s harder to find fixer uppers on what I consider to be an amazing piece of land.”
What they ultimately found was a 1950s ranch home on a corner lot in Redwood. Mr. Beeton didn’t have Redwood on his radar when his realtor friend told him to go over and check out the house, but once he saw it, he realized it was perfect.
It was a fixer upper in the truest sense of the word and in truth, it was the property that sold them. At just over half an acre and dominated by one big hill, the lot, which was overgrown with brush and old trees, wasn’t even waterfront. But in it, the couple saw great potential (and lots of light) and were hopeful that once they finished construction on their new two story house they would have water views of Sag Harbor Cove and the village beyond.
That home, which was designed by Mr. Beeton and completed in 2013, is an artful merge of traditional and contemporary elements and it is one of five homes that will be open to the public as part of the John Jermain Library’s annual house tour on July 10.
From the outside, the shingled-style home has a very traditional look. Inside, it is bright and airy with well proportioned rooms and common spaces dominated by light colored finishes and wood floors. By varying the ceiling height throughout the house, in his design Mr. Beeton has succeeded in creating rooms that reflect their function. A high dormered ceiling in the dining room, for example, brings in lots of light and a touch of formality, while the lower ceiling in the living room and the pitched cottage style ceiling of the TV room both imply coziness and intimacy.
Mr. Beeton and Ms. Hubbard like having visitors and they are expecting no fewer than 14 guests in the month of July, which is why the house is designed with spaces that provide ample opportunity to socialize as well as places to disappear and find quiet time.
“There are lots of different areas in the house and it works really well,” explains Ms. Hubbard. “And there are a lot of bathrooms which is key — we have five bedrooms and five and a half baths.”
The house was built over the existing footprint of the ranch home and it sits well back from the road on top of the hill. This gave Mr. Beeton the ability to lower the existing basement considerably, thereby providing a good deal of living space on the lower level for guests as well as a rehearsal room for Harlan, a Pierson freshman and the bass player and lead singer in the band “Red Tide.” The upstairs space is smaller and given over to the family’s bedrooms. And yes, there are indeed great water views of the bridge to North Haven and Sag Harbor Village from the deck off the master bedroom. Though the two story home replaces a one level ranch, Ms. Hubbard feels that it doesn’t dominate the site in a negative way.
“I have had a number of neighbors say they like the way this house sits,” she notes. “Even though it’s bigger than what was here, it doesn’t loom.”
The outside spaces, of course, are Ms. Hubbard’s domain, and after the lot was cleared, the large hill was filled in and tapered to make it less extreme. Like the interior spaces of the house, the multi-level property allows for a series of garden areas (populated by light-loving plants in shades of purple, silver and pink including salvia, sedum and lavender) that function as outdoor “rooms” with each serving a purpose, whether it’s to welcome visitors, provide privacy around the pool area or provide herbs and a quiet place to sit off the kitchen.
In fact, every detail of this house and garden is well thought out, and for good reason. Unlike their Merchant’s Path home, which they always knew was built for resale, this time, Ms. Hubbard and Mr. Beeton knew they were designing a home for themselves.
“We rented Merchant’s Path out every summer. One of the things we learned was when you’re doing that, you stop putting out personal items,” explains Ms. Hubbard. “Eventually I realized one of the things I wanted to change was I wanted this to be our house with our pictures and our things.”
As a result, while their Redwood home is well appointed and designed, it is also casual and welcoming. For example, though elegant, the living room is comfortable in a way many overly-formal living rooms are not.
“We want to be able to put our feet on everything,” says Ms. Hubbard. “We have two kids and we want them to have their friends here.”
One wall is dominated by a fireplace surrounded by what looks to be worn and rustic barn wood paneling, but is actually wallpaper. The space is lined with built in (and well-stocked) book shelves and the east wall is all glass and doors leading out to a covered porch complete with a hanging platform bed — because, as Ms. Hubbard so astutely notes, every house needs a napatorium — and the landscaped pool area beyond.
And subtly tucked off the living room is another inviting feature new to the couple’s way of thinking — a bar.
“At the end of the day, taking yourself to the bar to fix a glass of wine is great,” says Ms. Hubbard who points out that because the pool is much closer to the living room than the kitchen, it’s a convenient place for guests to dash in and grab refreshments.
“We wanted the house to be warm and enveloping and people to feel good here,” notes Mr. Beeton. “We get a lot of people year round and they’re happy here.”
The Friends of the John Jermain Library annual house tour for the benefit of the library is Friday, July 1, 2015 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tickets are $45 in advance at The Wharf Shop on Sag Harbor’s Main Street or at the library’s interim location at 34 West Water Street. On the day of the tour, tickets will be available at both locations for $50. This year’s house tour features four homes in Sag Harbor Village and one in neighboring North Haven. Call (631) 725-0049 for more details.