A hobby in the Hamptons
There’s a ghastly sameness to the interiors. Except perhaps Weinstein’s, where there was a TV beside the stupidly placed bath.
I’ve found a hobby, and I need you to know how great it is. I’m not even going to bother with a build-up, that’s how terrific this is – and, frankly, I’m devoting every spare waking minute to doing it (adding up to a daily average of eight minutes). It’s this: looking up real estate in the Hamptons. Scream, right? I’m not exactly sure where the Hamptons is or where it ends. It seems to be a network of pretty, coastal suburbs with either dully obvious names (East Hampton; West Hampton; Bridgehampton) or reminiscent ones (Montauk and Sagaponack, although I imagine any resident indigenous people were hurried along quite some time ago).
What I can tell you is that crazily rich New York women tend to spend their summers there while their executive husbands toil in the sweltering city. These guys come up at weekends for pool parties, cocktails and doubles tennis. They conveniently leave again at daybreak each Monday, while their wives downward dog on the breakfast terrace with their private yoga instructors.
There’s something quite avian about this arrangement. One bird does all the hard yards beyond the territory, toiling for worms, while the other peacocks around close to home in a strangely redundant status display. Redundant, because everybody else is as rich and as leisured as they are. They’re birds of a feather, hard to tell apart.
There’s no apparent privacy in the Hamptons: from what I can tell, the mansions are too extravagant to be screened by a simple fence. Often nothing stands between these vast, shingled, beachfront homes and the open sea.
Privacy isn’t the aim, anyhow. That’s why Gwyneth is always hosting parties – I mean, branding opportunities – in her Hamptons orchard. What’s the point of living like this unless other people see you living like this? Anyway, the houses. Squeak! There’s a surprising rate of turnover, which makes this such a satisfying hobby. On occasion, I might see the same mansion reappear in the listings as little as a year later. It seems fortunes can turn on a dime among the mega-rich and there appears to be no shame in it, as realtors will rattle off who previously sold the property to whom, in the way of a dog breeder identifying pedigree.
Harvey Weinstein, for example, just sold his 9000 square foot homestead in Amagansett (nope, me neither) for the knockdown price of US$10 million. I know, that might be a bit of an icky thought, but there’s nothing that sugar soap and elbow grease can’t wash away; besides, you should see this place.
To be honest, it looks exactly like every other Hamptons mega-mansion, which means there are gables and wainscots, bay windows and follies; sweeping lawns, an in-ground pool, fussy conservatories and sash windows. It’s symmetrical and predictable, all these Georgian windows and maple floors. The entire Hamptons are very Jackie Kennedy, who seems to remain the arbiter of ultimate chic in America: beautifully white and featureless, while tightly hysterical underneath.
Still, the hobby never gets dull. As I scroll the pictures, the more convinced I am that can identify whichever stylist dressed the house for the photos. There’s a ghastly sameness to the interiors that gives me the home décor heebie-jeebs.
To be truly Hampton, you must have matching pairs of lamps with gingham wing-backed armchairs either side of a fireplace. You must set a pair of occasional chairs in contrasting upholstery perpendicular to two opposing sofas. You won’t be able to move for wooden barley-twist lamps and twiggy-legged furniture of the kind favoured by Hamptons matriarch and former felon, Martha Stewart. These imply class, even if you have none.
There’ll be a cinema, a wine cellar, and a claw-foot bath in a stupid place. There’ll be no distinguishing characteristics in any of these homes, except perhaps Weinstein’s, where there appeared to be a TV beside the stupidly placed bath. This tells you everything you need to know about the man (tack-o-rama), and his court case hasn’t even started yet.
I find it comforting that the obscenely rich appear to have no more taste than the rest of us. They outsource the creativity of their homes to interior designers so rigidly in thrall to a set of rules that you could exchange one designer for another, one address for another.
Don’t we, further down the food chain, do the same thing, with our identical spot-decal walls, Kmart bed linen, dipped-leg stools and tribute Eames chairs? When was the last time you went to someone’s house and thought OH MY GOD, FLAMINGO WALLPAPER, ARE THEY OUT OF THEIR TINY MINDS?
Actually, scratch that: extravagant wallpaper, often featuring wading birds, has made a comeback, and everybody’s buying it. We’re birds of a feather, whether we nest in the Hamptons or Hataitai. We flock together.