Water Mill Abode's Old-World Charm
by mike olson
Compared to the other villages on the East End, Water Mill is a late bloomer. True, it was founded by colonists in 1644, but it took the boom of the 1980s for many of the homes in this hamlet to be constructed. Unfortunately, that is often too easy to tell. But there is one home in Water Mill that eschews the cookie-cutter Hamptons style for an Old World charm. “It’s a wonderful balance to all the overstated gambrel houses,” says Beate Moore of Sotheby’s International Realty. “Even though this is not an old house, it feels like it has always been there. It has a very unique, European feel.”
That feel is apparent the moment you turn off of Little Noyac Path and head up the winding drive to the $12.5-million, 11,000-square-foot home, (listed by Moore), where you are greeted by an Italianate garden, designed by renowned local artist Robert Dash. The founder of the Madoo Conservancy, a two-acre sanctuary in Sagaponack that incorporates everything from High Renaissance to Oriental influences (not to mention a Matisse sculpture), Dash brought that same perfection to this private garden, meticulously placing each element to guide visitors into the home and set the tone for the interiors.
“When you enter the main house, it has this huge hall that almost has a little bit of a mini-castle feel to it,” says Moore, though for a six-bedroom home, the estate features a surprising number of intimate spaces. That coziness is on display from the wood-covered library (located just off the main hall) and each of the home’s four en suite bedrooms to the rounded rooms in the home’s turrets, one beyond the den that serves as a reading area, the other off the dining room that is perfect for enjoying breakfast.
Sitting on an enormous 13.6 acres and bordered by another 25 acres of protected agricultural reserve land, the Newport shingle-style home, designed by architect Daniel Romualdez, offers the ultimate in privacy and pastoral living. “It’s not overbuilt. You have no houses in front of you and no neighbors to deal with,” says Moore. “Plus, it’s elevated, so you have these open vistas and panoramic views from all the bedrooms. All you see is nature.”
This was no accident. The current owners selected this site precisely because it is one of the highest points in Water Mill, giving the home stunning views of the Atlantic, and also because it offered room for the grounds to include a heated pool, a sloping great lawn (that leads to a pond), and bocce and tennis courts that, in yet another nod to Europe, are accessed through a flower bed and not visible from the main house.
Having both ocean views and elbow room may seem impossible to Hamptonites who are used to cramming into tight East Hampton lots just to see the water, but that’s what makes this area of Water Mill so special. “It’s not south of the highway, but when you’re north it’s about the best location,” Moore explains. “The couple who built this home are socially established people with means. They could have been anywhere, but they chose this spot because of the view and the privacy.”
This locale didn’t always attract the area’s elite, however. “Water Mill was really discovered in the ’80s,” says Ann Lombardo, board president of the Water Mill Museum, located in the very mill that gave the hamlet its name. In fact, until recently it was primarily farmland. “It became very expensive for farmers to own, so it made sense to parcel it off and sell it,” Lombardo explains. “All of a sudden there was this beautiful land available, and at the same time there was a market beginning to form for it. It was a perfect storm.”
Despite the excitement, Water Mill has designated much of this acreage agricultural reserve land—including those 25 acres bordering the home off Little Noyac Path—guaranteeing that a new neighbor cannot swoop in and build a colossal eyesore. It is yet another reason why those who had the foresight to pick Water Mill have been rewarded. “There were a few intrepid people who ventured north,” Lombardo explains. “I bought 10 acres there at the height of the recession in the early 1990s, and I was ridiculed. But I don’t have to tell you how that turned out. It just took people who had the vision.”
A few short decades later, Water Mill can compete with any part of the East End and make other townships feel cramped, even a little tedious, by comparison. “Everything looks alike,” says Moore. “It’s like a formula. At this home, there are no wasted spaces or triple-wide hallways. It goes to show that not everything has to look like everything else. If you have imagination, wonderful things can be created.” Beate Moore, Sotheby’s International Realty, 2446 Main St., Bridgehampton, 516-537- 6000.
photography by Beate Moore