A Spir­ited Cot­tage Es­cape

Where Jenna Bush Hager Gath­ers with Friends

Veranda - - CONTENTS - IN­TE­RIOR DE­SIGN BY Traci White PHOTOGRAPH­Y BY Tara Donne PRO­DUCED BY Rachael Bur­row STYLING BY Frances Bai­ley WRIT­TEN BY Ellen Mc­gauley

Jenna Bush Hager builds on her Long Is­land home’s lin­eage as a wel­com­ing sum­mer re­treat for fam­ily and friends.

The To­day show star and mother of three hap­pily adopts the pool­side party tra­di­tions of her week­end re­treat, in­still­ing warmth and wel­come with ef­fort­less, heir­loom style.


ush­ers her girls across the gravel lot of a farm stand on Long Is­land’s woodsy North Shore, one they’ve vis­ited a hun­dred times be­fore. The girls clutch but­ter cook­ies (treats from the owner) as they climb back into their 1980s Pon­tiac sta­tion wagon. Bush Hager’s car­ry­ing sweet corn and bu­ratta, Se­quoia Alpine toma­toes and just-baked bread—any­thing that looks fresh for an easy sum­mer sup­per with neigh­bors. Some of these gath­er­ings are planned, the pool­side ta­ble set. Oth­ers spring up like af­ter­noon rain­storms, as day slides into evening and a crowded pool means ev­ery­one is stay­ing for din­ner.

It’s a rou­tine the To­day show co­host and for­mer First Daugh­ter has on de­light­ful re­peat in her world out­side Man­hat­tan, where she and her hus­band, Henry Hager, pur­chased a home for their grow­ing fam­ily (Mila, 6; Poppy, 4; and son, Hal, who was born in Au­gust). They’d spent five or six sum­mers rent­ing in the area and had fallen in love with the North Shore’s two-sec­ond ham­lets and mel­low vil­lages, “its mom-and-pop stores and cof­fee shops where ev­ery­one knows each other,” says Bush Hager. Plus, it’s an easy drive to the city, where they both work.

They weren’t in the mar­ket to buy—not un­til a cot­tage tucked be­hind a thick stand of tall red cedars, dog­woods, and ferns went up for sale and beck­oned with two magic words: open house.

“I in­her­ited this habit from my mother: We go to open houses for fun,” says Bush Hager. “She has an in­cred­i­bly strong sense for de­sign—i think she was an

ar­chi­tect in a dif­fer­ent life—and we both love to look at a space and imag­ine what it might be. She al­ways says when you visit any house, there’s a feel­ing you get.”

For Bush Hager, it was fa­mil­iar­ity. The drive­way is a slim, brush-lined path that takes its time. “There was some­thing about it that re­minded me of Texas, of be­ing out­side. Even this close to the city, there was a re­mote­ness to it,” she says. Then there were the bird­houses, which were ev­ery­where. “I come from a long line of bird­ers. My par­ents bird for fun, and my grand­mother Jenna was a nat­u­ral­ist. She would teach my sis­ter, Bar­bara, and me about birds, rocks, every con­stel­la­tion in the sky.”

The back­yard was big. She imag­ined her kids run­ning bare­foot across it, the veg­etable gar­den they’d plant, head­ing back down that long drive every af­ter­noon in the sum­mer. Less hus­tle, more put­ter­ing.

The next day, she brought Henry to see the four-bed­room cot­tage, which had been in­hab­ited by just one owner (the cou­ple who built it lived there un­til they passed away). They walked the long en­try hall stretch­ing from a bed­room wing to the kitchen and fam­ily room and stood in the sunny great room that con­nected it all. They mar­veled at an open-air pool­house, with its charm­ing lat­tice­work climb­ing the walls, all orig­i­nal to the home.

“You’re right,” Henry told her. “This feels like us.” Af­ter­wards, the two talked it over at a lo­cal cafe, and an older gen­tle­man ap­proached their ta­ble. “He said he’d been friends with my grandpa,” she re­calls. “We men­tioned the house, and he knew it well. ‘They get the best birds,’ he told us. It felt so serendip­i­tous.”



In some ways, it had to, or it never would have gone fur­ther than that open house. “Jenna in­her­ited her mother’s eye for de­sign and is drawn to things with char­ac­ter and a his­tory she can trace,” says Dal­las-based de­signer Traci White, whose own his­tory has in­ter­twined with Bush Hager’s for nearly two decades. The two were col­lege room­mates at the Univer­sity of Texas, and they’ve since col­lab­o­rated on a num­ber of projects, in­clud­ing out­fit­ting the cot­tage.

They be­gan by comb­ing through pieces from both the Bush and Hager fam­i­lies: In came a late-20th­cen­tury sofa from Bush Hager’s side, which they mod­ern­ized in blue vel­vet up­hol­stery and pretty tas­sel fringe. A pair of wing­backs re­cov­ered in an In­dian em­broi­dery fab­ric came from Hager’s fam­ily, along with a ma­hogany side­board. The pres­i­dent’s paint­ings—tex­tu­ral land­scapes of Maine’s rocky coast and stat­uesque birds—brighten the walls, as do na­ture prints that once hung in the White House. They were part of a se­ries Mrs. Bush com­mis­sioned while her hus­band was in of­fice, de­pict­ing an­i­mal and plant life found at Camp David. When the cou­ple bought the house, Mrs. Bush went through and pulled those shar­ing na­tive com­mon­al­i­ties with Long Is­land.

The house, too, had gifts to be­stow: In the base­ment, the cou­ple found a pair of fan­ci­ful painted chairs that now re­sides in the en­try hall and a beau­ti­ful cache of iron out­door fur­ni­ture.

“Jenna and her mother en­joy con­sid­er­ing pieces in­di­vid­u­ally, in find­ing beauty in what’s there,” notes White. “It’s never about ‘new, new, new.’ ”

The cou­ple did, how­ever, over­haul the kitchen, re­plac­ing appliances, cab­i­netry, and fix­tures, and giv­ing it a greater sense of open­ness. “There’s some

thing about this place—maybe its farm stands close by—that makes me want to cook more, en­ter­tain more,” says Bush Hager.

This sense of ease plays out nearly every week­end in the sum­mer and, in many ways, picks up where the for­mer own­ers left off. Older lo­cals tell of the count­less pool and cock­tail par­ties they at­tended there, likely seated in the same iron fur­ni­ture or min­gling in the pool­house. Its lofty vaulted ceil­ing is to­day home to, of course, a fam­ily of birds. Their nests peek out from the painted beams, and when the rain pours in the sum­mer, Bush Hager and her fam­ily join them. “There’s some­thing mag­nif­i­cent about sit­ting un­der there with your friends and kids watch­ing the rain,” she says. “You’re out­doors and you’re bare­foot. It’s how Henry and I grew up, and it’s what we want for our chil­dren.”


Bush Hager (op­po­site, in her fam­ily room) sets an en­chant­ing pool­side scene, lay­er­ing block-printed ta­ble linens (Amanda Lin­droth) over vin­tage iron gar­den fur­ni­ture. Glass­ware, Juliska

Bush Hager’s 1980s Pon­tiac sta­tion wagon is sim­i­lar to one her par­ents drove when she was a child. A fire­clay apron-front sink (Rohl), glazed tile (Water­works), and brass fix­tures (Fer­gu­son) up­date the mid­cen­tury kitchen. Paint, Wedge­wood Gray by Ben­jamin Moore

Sap­phire vel­vet up­hol­stery (Donghia) and tas­sel fringe (Sa­muel & Sons) re­fresh a clas­sic sofa in the liv­ing room. Arm­chair fab­ric, Mor­ris & Co. Vin­tage cof­fee ta­ble, Baker. Egret paint­ing, George W. Bush

A vin­tage col­lec­tion of iron seat­ing (a wel­come gift from the pre­vi­ous own­ers) is out­fit­ted in Peren­ni­als fab­ric.

Henry Hager with daugh­ter Mila (6)

The front door opens to a broad en­try hall con­nect­ing two wings of the cot­tage. The walls are cov­ered in an abun­dant wood­land print (Scala­man­dré), and the floors are painted a fresh blue-green (River­way by Sher­win-wil­liams) with a sage bor­der (S1a1y4brov­oekr­saanged­bay Ben­jamin Moore).

FAR LEFT: Mila (6) and Poppy (4) help them­selves to sweet bar-cart of­fer­ings like lemon­ade and grape­fruit juice.

BE­LOW: Bush Hager en­cir­cled the pool with wicker lanterns (Amanda Lin­droth) to il­lu­mi­nate sup­pers af­ter sun­down.

LEFT: A pair of in­quis­i­tive owls painted by Bush Hager’s fa­ther graces a wall along­side a tall wing­back chair, re­cov­ered in an In­dian em­broi­dery (Zof­fany), from Hager’s mother. Drap­ery fab­ric, Lisa Fine Tex­tiles

LEFT: Henry re­freshes glasses of rosé for friends around the ta­ble. TOP: Fresh sea­sonal dishes like black sea bass tacos, corn and av­o­cado salad, and pavlo­vas with Youngs Farm straw­ber­ries are served buf­fet-style in the pool­house, where charm­ing orig­i­nal lat­tice­work climbs the in­te­rior walls.

LEFT: Por­traits by Texas na­tive Natalie Er­win hang over the girls’ twin beds, each dressed in linens by another Longhorn de­signer, Bai­ley Mccarthy (Bis­cuit). ABOVE: Bush Hager sets the ta­ble with a fa­vorite col­lec­tion of earth­en­ware, a set of pink Bordallo Pin­heiro cab­bage plates. Charg­ers, Aerin. Flat­ware, Juliska

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