Sam the cat stands on a vintage bed from Ted Meyer’s Harbor Antiques in East Hampton, with a Swedish chest from Bloom against the wall
Mona Nerenberg first spied her dream house at the age of 9. “My family lived in Huntington, and we would take our Sunfish and go sailing at Towd Point Road,” she says. “I used to see this house—you couldn’t see it going to the beach, but you could always see it coming back.” Several decades later, the proprietor of homegoods haven Bloom in Sag Harbor, along with her partner, landscape designer Lisa Bynon, purchased the four-bedroom cottage in North Sea and got to work.
Formerly attached to a fish market that had placed the entire structure at risk of being condemned, the 19th-century house hid its charms well, beneath vines and blue shag carpeting. Bats haunted the empty rooms and nested in the three nonfunctional fireplaces. Nerenberg wasn’t fooled. “I think a lot of people would have just gutted it, but we didn’t,” she says. “The flow of the house was perfect. We didn’t change one wall.”
An 18th-century table (rear) and a Poul Kjærholm chair (left) mix with newer pieces in the living room
But the kitchen needed some serious help. With the aid of interior designer Mark Cunningham, a close friend, Nerenberg opened up the dark space, adding a couple of windows, removing the kitchen attic (which provided the beautifully worn, paint-splattered wooden planks for the kitchen floor) and installing appliances selected with her love of cooking in mind. The hand-lettered sign that once marked the property’s fish market now sits nestled in the white ceiling beams.
Having sold all of their furniture along with their previous home in Sag Harbor (“We walked out with our cats and our clothes,” Nerenberg says), the couple embraced the task of starting from scratch in North Sea. “The first piece I always buy is a table,” says Nerenberg, who took Cunningham’s advice and went with a long, oval antique one that is rich with patina. Other pieces arrived through serendipity: a breakfront that didn’t quite fit in at Bloom, an antique Swedish chest also plucked from the store, artwork on indefinite loan from friends, a Poul Kjærholm chair (won at auction, destroyed in transit) so elegant that its water damage is easily mistaken for moiré fabric.
When it comes to furnishing a home, Nerenberg’s advice is simple: “Just buy what you love.” And for an instant infusion of ease, she recommends apple matting, pointing to her chunky, hand-woven living room rug. “It always makes everything feel summery to me,” she says.
One surprise of the house has been the first-floor nook, which has become a favorite. “You can sit on the sofa and see into the ballroom and into the dining room. You can see the fireplace,” says Nerenberg. “I didn’t think we’d even use it, but there’s something about a little room in a big house.”
The Mediterranean-inspired garden by Lisa Bynon features potted olive trees inside beds of lavender
Meanwhile, Bynon transformed the 3-acre property, putting every last inch of it to use and taming the wild gardens into beautiful, bountiful submission. “She’s got wood stacked in one corner, the chicken coop in another corner, the vegetable patch in another,” says Nerenberg. “We’re always outside. I won’t use the indoor shower until November.”