Because I’ve been putting my head down lately in a small house at Peconic Landing, the retirement community in Greenport, the concept of “home” has been very much on my mind. If casual acquaintances were to ask, I would still say I live in East Hampton, despite the fact that it takes two ferries across Shelter Island and about an hour to get here from there.
Peconic Landing is expansive. In addition to its 105 “cottage homes,” it has what it calls “patio homes,” which are smaller and financially more modest, as well as a huge main building with 187 one and two-bedroom apartments and an underground garage.
While built specifically for a couple like my husband Chris and me, the scale of the cottage we live in is, frankly, larger than necessary. An 8-by-12-foot Persian rug is swallowed up by the living room, and the dining table in an adjacent alcove can seat 10 with plenty of elbow room. There are two bathrooms, a two-car garage, a study-cum-guest bedroom with a double couch for overnight visits, and a sunroom done up in a sort of garden theme (decorated with a couch in vintage floral upholstery, my desk, a couple of chinoiserie-floral desk lamps, and plenty of plants on plant stands arrayed under the windows).
The first house I called home in East Hampton was not the place on Edwards Lane in East Hampton that I have frequently written about, but a more unusual abode in the bay-beach dunes in Amagansett. It began its life as a tidy four-room house in a boatyard at the head of Three Mile Harbor, which the owner wanted to get rid of. My first husband and I had it moved east on the back of a giant moving truck to the environs of Gardiner’s Bay, where we set it atop a foundation and basement, far enough back from the shoreline — two or three dunes back, with a bit of wetland in between — that erosion wouldn’t immediately undermine it. (Yes, Virginia, we did know about erosion back in the 1960s!) We also added a narrow bedroom and loft to one side, although we didn’t extend heat and it took fortitude to sleep there. The Amagansett house always felt a bit like camping, with the call of whippoorwills and bobwhites ringing out at dawn and dusk.
Not only does the word “home” echo with associations, however, so does “cottage.” I hesitate to tell the folks in charge at Peconic Landing that to East Hamptoners, a cottage used to be what we called a very large, turn-of-the-century building, probably in the Shingle Style, with an ample third floor and a wraparound porch, near the ocean in what The East Hampton Star used to refer to as “the Summer Colony.” Cottages as we knew them way back when were intended for single families of means and numerous staff. The cottages at Peconic Landing are actually cottage-cottages: one story, with a bungalow layout and neat plantings out front that bloom in spring.
“A house is made with walls and beams,” reads a rather corny wall sign at one of my new neighbor’s cottages, “a home is built with love and dreams.” It may be schmaltzy, but how true!