Tour A New York Home Built From a Ship's Hull
Nature, it is said, abhors a straight line. If that's true, Mother Nature herself must covet Zoe Hoare and Chris Mead's cottage in Sagaponack, New York. "Nothing is straight, plumb, or level," says Hoare. "Take a look at our floorboards." The 14-inch-wide timbers indeed betray a slight curve, perhaps because the three-bedroom home was built in 1748, from a ship's bowed hull. Since then, the architecture has settled, so shelves tilt and doorjambs buckle, just as this forward-thinking, history-loving couple like it. "Perfection is boring," Hoare declares drolly.
In this photo: Mead removed the plaster between some rafters, allowing sun from the skylights to stream into the living area below. Upstairs, a 1950s Eastern European runner graces the mezzanine.
Mead, the proprietor of interior-design mecca English Country Antiques in nearby Bridgehampton, discovered the house on his own a decade ago. He was attracted to the property: a full acre, enclosed by privet, mere minutes from the beach. The building itself, however, had fallen into disrepair, as two elderly, chain-smoking sisters had been occupying a single room for decades. But Mead, a photographer as well as an antiques dealer, saw how thoughtful renovations could enable the saltbox to sail into the 21st century.
In this photo: The living area's sea-themed tableau includes a Victorian pond yacht, a taxidermic seagull, and 19th-century art-student landscapes. Zoe Hoare stripped this antique French chair's tattered upholstery to reveal the fine construction beneath. Mead's shop, English Country Antiques, stocks the reproduction washing table.
Living Room Seating
Mead knocked down part of the first floor's ceiling and removed a partition that blocked off the kitchen—creating one large, sun-drenched room oriented around the hearth, where the 18th-century inhabitants had cooked and hung their kettles. Then he whitewashed all the walls, charred from hundreds of years of fires, in "Decorators White" by Benjamin Moore and laid in slipcovered, boxy-armed sofas and other choice pieces from his 10,000-square-foot store.
In this photo: Slipcovered in white denim, a trio of Mitchell Gold + Bob Williams sofas offers ample seating. Hoare painted her dark, 19th-century Chinese coffee table to better reflect light.
Hoare's organizing trick? "Go around with a bin," she urges, "and free yourself of everything you don't love or need." If you find you have unsightly necessities, she advises, "decant them into charming receptacles," such as the empty lemonade bottles she uses for olive oil and the old canning jars that store coffee and spices, lined up together on the shelves above her stove.
In this photo: A simple shelf supports a beautiful and functional arrangement of cooking essentials. Hoare sells the lidded glass containers—old canning jars updated with French labels—at chezzoe.net.
Bright Idea: Recycle empty bottles as cruets by adding cork pourers and slate tags. (For similar pourers, $13.57 for six; amazon.com. Slate tags, $18 for four; thenewgeneralstore.com)
This 1940s Gustavian bench turns a corner of the master bedroom into a reading nook. Above the mantel: a pastoral landscape, dating from the 19th century, and a wooden reproduction urn relief.
Bright Idea: Released from kitchen duty, French tea towels enjoy a cushy new gig covering throw pillows.
Sourced at a local salvage yard, the cast-iron stove heats up the dining corner. The Swedish-style side chairs, wrought-iron chandelier, and mirror (made from a window frame) all hail from English Country Antiques.
Hoare drafted this circa-1900 oak woodworker's table into service as a potting station, then hung vintage pails and watering cans on the home's exterior wall.
How do the couple make sure their home stays glorious—or, as Hoare quips, "Why are we being featured in Country Living instead of on Hoarders?" Grouping like with like keeps curios in check—riding boots in one corner, stacked platters in another.
The couple stash their everyday glassware in a 19th-century oak Chinese cabinet, topped with a taxidermic seagull.
How to Display Collections
Hoare takes pleasure in composing "still lifes infused with romance, whether the objects are from nature, such as rocks and succulents, or compelling utilitarian pieces—watering cans, zinc clockfaces, and pine blanket boxes." Mead christens the look "glorious disarray."
Hoare tends to arrange items by shared color, even a muted one: Take, for example, the mango-and-rosewood hand mirrors, which visually rhyme with a cache of Belgian wigmaker's heads, all highlighted by a tarnished brass lamp. "The shapes differ, but the earthy colors unite," she says.
In this photo: Indian hand mirrors, dog portraits, and Belgian wig molds from the 1890s converge in a charmingly offbeat installation. Mead happened upon the 1910 butler's sideboard during a buying trip in England.
Bright Idea: Flank a portrait with hand mirrors to scale up the impact of both—creating a whole wall of "art."
A single antiques fair yielded a windowsill's worth of French terra-cotta pitchers, glazed with sprightly stripes and spots. Hoare fashioned the darker pillow covers from Swedish textiles, the lighter pair from French tea towels.