A Power Couple Resurrects a $28.5 Million Hamptons Mansion Near the Beach
(Bloomberg) -- Technically, the house that Chris Mitchell and Pilar Guzmán have put on the market in Bridgehampton, N.Y., was built in 1902.
But when they bought it in February 2019 for what Zillow lists as $7.1 million, “unfortunately it had been renovated in that perfect Shelley Long, 1987-era style,” says Mitchell, who was the chief business officer for Condé Nast’s culture division until January 2020. “They had all these ideas like ‘let’s have a red living room and a scalloped pink sink and a black bathroom and mirrors on everything.”
The previous owners, he continues, “took every part that was historically authentic out of the house and put in the plastic, hollow-core door version that still read ‘historic’ but was still every bit 1980s imitation.”
But Mitchell and Guzmán, the former editor-in-chief of Condé Nast Traveler and current co-founder of the social platform the Swell, were up to the task of resuscitating the building: They’d renovated multiple properties before, both in the Hamptons and in Brooklyn, and “loved the process from the beginning to end,” Mitchell says.
And so, with the help of Anne Sherry, an architect based in nearby Sag Harbor, the couple began a project to dramatically expand the home while reinjecting it with a patina of historical accuracy.
Now, almost exactly two years after they bought the old home, the new 12,000-square-foot, 10-bedroom house is complete and listed with Frank Newbold and Beate Moore of Sotheby’s International Realty for $28.5 million.
“Between now and when we sell this house, in my ideal world, something perfect will come on the market,” Mitchell says. “That way we can move on to the next project.”
The house sits on 2.3 acres on the corner of Quimby Lane and Ocean Road, about a three-minute bike ride from the Ocean Road beach. The original house on the property was built in 1700, but it wasn’t until the late 19th century that the inventor Edward Everett Quimby (whose genius for inventing things was shadowed only by his ability to patent those inventions) bought the lot and more than 30 surrounding acres and subdivided the land into a family compound.
Parcels were subsequently sold off, though the family retained several others for more than a century; last year a nearby house reportedly owned by the Quimby family sold for $11 million.
Mitchell and Guzmán’s house, in contrast, changed hands a few times over the decades, and was rented out, Mitchell says, to someone who “had some connection to SNL” and who, Mitchell discovered, had epic parties. The aerialist Philippe Petit apparently walked the roof line, and “John Belushi did illegal substances on the side of the pool,” he says.
The issue after buying the property, Mitchell explains, was “how do you take a house that has no ‘good bones’ and restore it to being a great house?”
The couple knew what they didn’t want. “Out here you see a lot of ground-up McShingles,” Guzmán says. “We call them ‘window catalogues,’ ” Mitchell adds. “It looks like they couldn’t decide what windows to use, so the entire thing has 19 different styles.”
Their solution, Guzmán says, was to “take our inspiration from the original exterior,” which was designed in the “cottage” style. “We added on a wing, and we said we want to make it bigger, but make it seem like it was expanded organically” over time, she explains.
To expand the house, though, they had to move it. So the entire cottage was lifted up and moved to the side; a full foundation was dug; and the house was laid out in a way that felt rambling without being overwhelmingly large.
“I think we’re pretty geeky students of the great architects of the time,” says Mitchell. “If you look at those houses, you realize you’re re-creating a little bit of quirk and mishmash: A few windows are tucked in and deviate from the others. Because if you don’t have enough idiosyncrasy the house looks like it was built recently, and if you have too much of it the house just looks weird.”
They didn’t start completely from scratch, though. Along with the existing structure, they unearthed, as they did the gut renovation, 30-foot-long pieces of timber that had been used as vertical supports; those were subsequently used as room ties and ceiling details.
The final product, while definitely not cottage-size, does indeed look like a rambling early 20th century weekend home, at least on the outside. The inside, though, is distinctly contemporary.
“We didn’t want something that felt traditionally ‘Hamptons,’ ” Mitchell says. Instead, the interior is “a nod to something that felt a little cleaner and a little more contemporary.”
The main floor has an open kitchen and family room, separate living and dining rooms, a study, guest suite, and covered porch. The second floor has six en-suite bedrooms, the third floor has two more along with an open landing, and in the basement there’s yet another en-suite guest bedroom, a game room, spa, home theater, and a climate-controlled wine room.
“When you’re building a lower level you have the ability to put in a wish list” of amenities, says Mitchell. “It turned out, fortuitously, that when people wanted to shelter, we were planning a lot of amenities that you could have on an estate that you don’t want to leave.”
It started, he continues, “as a nice to have, and then for a lot of buyers it became a need to have.”
Elsewhere on the property is a two-car garage and a separate studio building, a 20-foot-wide, 50-foot-long pool, a tennis court, and an “entertaining pavilion” alongside the tennis court that has discreet solar panels embedded on top. “They’re truly invisible,” Mitchell says.
The house has been furnished with a combination of contemporary and midcentury objects.
“I was just saying this to a friend of ours—it’s way harder for me to sell the furniture than the house,” Mitchell says. “There are so many pieces that I’ll never find again.” The furniture isn’t included in the purchase price. However, he says, if someone wanted to buy the home furnished, “we’d sadly part with it” for an additional sum.
Putting It on the Market
“I cringe at the word developer, or God forbid ‘flipper,’ ” Mitchell says. “To develop or flip a house is: How do I get in and out as fast as possible? But what we do is much more personal and sadly, stupidly, more expensive. Because we’re making every decision (for ourselves), and everything ends up custom.”
Still, he acknowledges that for the moment at least, he seems to be buying, renovating, and selling houses full time.
“I spent the first 25 years of my life in the media business,” he says. “If I can spend the next 25 years of my life doing something I love that’s entirely different, it would be a wonderful joy to look back and say, ‘You’ve bookended your life with two different careers that were really fun and rewarding in different ways.’ ”
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