Beach Fantasy

I originally scanned these images in September of 07.

I have always wanted a beach house.  For someone who doesn’t like to go outside, I really like to be at the beach.

This house spoke to me from the first time that I saw it – and calls again each time I run by it in my files.  There are some really lovely pieces of furniture here, but it is still beachy and relaxed.

This cottage is on the beach in East Hampton; it was built by Sara and Gerald Murphy.  

You probably know that the Murphys made summer in the Riveria chic, by some accounts invented sun bathing, were the inspiration for the Divers in Tender is the Night and on and on.

Wealthy and generous, they were gracious hosts and it seems they were less interested in gathering the glitterati of their day around them so much as their magnetism drew others into their orbit.

Chafing by the confines of New York society they moved to Paris and traveled about Europe with their three children.  They returned to New York so Gerald could take over a failing family business, the well-known leather goods store, Mark Cross.

The youngest two children, both boys, died young, but their sister Honoria (seen here at age nine dripping in diamonds) lived a long life and continued to summer on property that was originally her grandparents’.

I believe the home pictured in the top seven images is “the Pink House.”  It is the only home the Murphy’s built and they originally named it “the Little Hut.”  Honoria gave it its later name.

The Murphys built the house on the property of Sara Murphy’s family estate in the 1950’s.  Sara and Gerald eventually had the “big bad house” (as Gerald called it) torn down as they could neither rent nor sell it.  Before building the Little Hut they renovated the dairy barn and christened it “Swan Cove.”

I’ve given a hint of what a golden couple they were.  There is tons on the web, books and magazines to keep you busy for a summer if you choose.

One book, Living Well is the Best Revenge, was titled from a favorite Spanish proverb that Gerald quoted.  But his daughter’s interpretation is a bit different than the assumed one, “It was really that my father would seek the simplest thing, like the shop that had the nicest peaches.  It didn’t mean spending a lot of money necessarily.” 
I think the essence of that sentiment is what draws me again and again to this house.  That and the unbelievable light.
The top seven images from House Beautiful, August 2006 design by Valerie Smith.  Photographs by Miki Duisterhof and Don Freeman.  The bottom five are from House and Garden February, 1992.  The image second from bottom is Gerald at Yale; the last is his interpretation of a feed bag for Mark Cross.  Other pictures of the home before it sold appear here.
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25 thoughts on “Beach Fantasy

  1. Funny, I was just looking through this issue the other day while in the studio looking at back issues of HB. The cover of the beach balls always drew me to this issue as well! Thanks for the history behind the home.

  2. * Thank you for a lovely & VERY INTERESTING read just now~~~ immensely enjoyable! (And I always appreciate your writing style!)~

    Linda in AZ

  3. Its such a delightful space. From the minute I saw the beach ball canvas, which seem to take shape again high in the ceiling, in metal form, I was drwan. Once you mentioned Mark Cross it gave me a chuckle. My mother was/is such a devotee of their bags all over 35 years old but still perfection.

  4. My favorite part of this post turned out to be the last paragraph. I'm so happy to learn a different interpretation of the quote and that feed bag is wonderful.

  5. What a great post. The beach is a special place, the sound of the ocean seems to slow life down. The houses pictures are beautiful,my favorite is the last picture of the leather bag.
    Living well is the best.

  6. I too would love to have a beach house. Living at the beach is so easy and relaxing. UNFORTUNATELY my husband hates sand, the heat and anything else that pertains to the beach. Looks like it's the mountains for me!

  7. That's what I love about your blog:
    I am European, came only 15 years ago to this lovely country and I learn and catch up on the hidden culture and people I would have never heard of otherwise.
    Thank you!
    Have a beachy weekend!

  8. The beauty of simplicity with attention to detail. Great post. Time and again, recently, I'm being reminded to focus on the details of life…this is just one more attention getter.

  9. A perfectly charming house. And a lovely and quite moving history. I bet when the Murphys lived there it had a bit more pizzazz and intellectual/artistic messiness. But would I turn down an invitation for a week-end? No, not at all. I await the current owners' call.

  10. well this post speaks to me, of course. I love seeing how others approach beach living.
    And POD, seriously? you don't like to go outside?…why did that make me laugh! I think you need to not live in the midwest where after Labor day you pretty much have to be in AC in order to survive.

  11. Staying in heavy air conditioning during the day is perfectly OK at our very "wawm" southern beaches. Before dinner you might find a shady place in the sea breeze or by the pool. From dinner on, if the wind is blowing the bugs away, that "warm oven" moist temperature feels mighty good: In cotton clothes, holding cool drinks, moving very slowly if at all, with friends/family carrying on, while the children are running safely amok. Good gracious, I hope things are that good in East Hampton.

  12. Mrs. Blandings,

    Ah, a subject close to my heart — Sara and Gerald Murphy. I initially learned of them from Easy and Elegant, another devotee who I think would be in agreement that the definitive work on them is to be found in Amanda Vaill's "Everybody Was So Young." A wonderful book.

    And the label "Golden Couple?" Attributed to Donald Ogden Stewart, a friend and awe-struck admirer, who some 50 years after meeting them wrote,

    ”Once upon a time there was a prince and a princess: that’s exactly how a description of the Murphys should begin. They were both rich; he was handsome; she was beautiful; they had three golden children. They loved each other, they enjoyed their own company, and they had the gift of making life enchantingly pleasurable for those who were fortunate enough to be their friends.”

    A worthy pursuit any one of us would love to make claim to.

  13. A few weeks ago I read a bio of the Murphys, and thought how sad it was that they lost their children so young.

    Beautiful house – of course, they made beautiful homes wherever they lived.

    (it was, in fact, the same book that eaesthete mentions above,"Everybody was so Young")

  14. My most favorite of days at the shore are the gray ones, where the waves crash and the seagulls live and the children don hoodies, kites and anything to keep the boredom at bay. I love a beach house for the soul of it…the light and the musty, salty brine of it all.

  15. I love the Murphys, especially L.W.I.T.B.R.
    But let's not gloss over that Gerald was depressed and closeted. Not a perfect couple, but a fascinating one.

  16. Aaron – surely the repression and depression go hand-in-hand. You are right, of course, not all sunshine and roses, but a refreshing perspective on handling the details as you work around the elephant in the room.

  17. A charming post on a unique family. I am a huge F. Scott Fitzgerald admirer and anyone that inspired his characters educes my interest.

    How do we really know their history or "his story". If I were to see the beauty and form in their home for what it is – a tranquil space, where love could flourish, then perhaps conjecture would fall away.

  18. Of course, Mrs. B. I didn't mean to suggest otherwise. I'm a gender-queered pansexual myself, though thankfully not repressed. So many of my favorites of that era were though, especially Waugh and Forster. Money, taste, glamor, wit and repressed sexuality, makes for good lit.

  19. I understand that during their tenure it was done in early Americana, an interest of the Murphy's. Want to feel more American? Move overseas for awhile.

    Your post is beautifully written (as always) and has my head in the clouds. DOS's comment should be required reading each morning before breakfast. I've printed it out to frame for my desk.

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