Attracting a well-heeled crowd (fashion designer Ashley Olsen was recently spotted house-hunting here), and many of the world’s wealthiest investment bankers and real estate moguls, the Hamptons have been the luxury retreat of choice for in-the-know New Yorkers for decades. Come summer, many decamp to second homes in this exclusive corner of the U.S. East Coast. Located towards the eastern end of Long Island’s South Fork, the villages and hamlets in the towns of Southampton and East Hampton are made up of seemingly unending white-sand beaches and 19th-century wood shingle buildings flanked by hip restaurants, designer boutiques, and red-rope bars serving crisp rosé wine.
Attracted by a certain quality of light, influential artists have favored the area for centuries, so it’s fitting that one of the more recent cultural attractions of the Hamptons is the international contemporary and modern art fair Art Southampton, the fifth edition of which took place at the Nova’s Ark Project from July 7-11. Popular with summering New Yorkers, its a veritable who’s who of the art world’s elite – but this is just one in a long list of reasons why people are drawn to life in the Hamptons.
A perfect day in the Hamptons
“My perfect day out here involves taking bicycles across from North Haven to Shelter Island with friends on a beautiful sunny day,” says Comnas, who has a particular fondness for Shelter Island, an enclave located between Greenport and North Haven, where Brown Harris Stevens currently has the sprawling Grand Shelter Island waterfront estate listed, with an outdoor pool overlooking Gardiners Bay.
After riding through bucolic side roads you can follow Route 114 to Shelter Island Heights, where you will find Marie Eiffel – a French-owned general market with the most wonderful (and healthy) food stalls that sell everything from gorgeous salads to fabulous French pastries. “Nothing could be more pleasant than lunching outside on the picnic tables overlooking the boats in the harbor.”
We enjoy beautiful, white-sand ocean beaches, vast bays for sailing and swimming, open farm views, and gorgeous natural vistas
Then round off the evening with a drink on the terrace of the The Chequit before heading back via the restaurant at Sunset Beach on Shore Road. The iconic hotel is owned by renowned hotelier André Balazs, and at parties on the terrace his own brand of vintage rosé is always flowing.
Historical interest and charm
Another area currently enjoying a property boom is Sag Harbor, which has a distinctly maritime flavor, thanks to its history as a whaling port. Today, tiny boutiques and quaint restaurants and galleries are the star of the bay, as well as well-preserved 18th- and 19th-century architecture that once belonged to the whaling captains. If you're after a bite to eat, chef Maurizio Marfoglia's restaurant Doppo La Spiaggia, meaning "after the beach" in Italian, is the perfect choice. And vintage and antique shopping is great here, especially on weekends, when places like Sage Street Antiques spring to life. There's also rich pickings for fashion affishionados here, with a branch of Collette, selling secondhand designer threads.
Nothing could be more pleasant than lunching outside on the picnic tables overlooking the boats in the harbor
At nearby Bridgehampton, understated glamour can be found at Topping Rose House, a renovated 1800s mansion that was saved from ruin and reopened as a five-star hotel in 2013. The adjoining collection of rooms has a pool, cars to lend out to occupants, and an art collection curated by the Winston Wächter fine art gallery.
Exclusive addresses and a haven for artists
Further along the Long Island South Shore in Southampton you’ll find Meadow Lane, or as a survey by Property Shark found in 2012, the Hamptons’ most expensive street. Indeed, lined with private beaches and a helipad offering direct flights to Manhattan, Forbes once dubbed the strip Billionaire Lane.
My perfect day in the Hamptons involves taking bicycles across from North Haven to Shelter Island with friends on a beautiful sunny day
Of course, you can't come to the Hamptons and not take an art tour. Be sure to include the Parrish Art Museum, near Route 27 in Water Mill, which holds the largest public collection of works by William Merritt Chase, where there are also some 250 works by Fairfield Porter, a former Southampton resident and important American realist painter. By now you'll be ready for a drink. Comnas suggests a glass of pale pink rosé from Long Island’s own Wolffer Estate Vineyard.
What sells where, and why?
“A home in the Hamptons is likely to be a secondary home,” explains Aspasia, “and the market consistently proves to be resilient against downturns in the economy. We enjoy beautiful, white-sand ocean beaches, vast bays for sailing and swimming, open farm views, and gorgeous natural vistas.” In recent times, there has been a surge in $10 million-plus buyers, and properties marketed at under the $2 million mark are also selling steadily.
Each small village has its own unique selling point, and Brown Harris Stevens recently sold an East Hampton oceanfront property for $110 million. Its most expensive listing is currently the Briar Patch estate, a magnificent Georgian Revival waterfront property valued at $140 million.
“Some buyers will seek out historic village properties, while others choose horse farm country boltholes, oceanfront properties, or bayfront properties with a dock. There are many choices to suit a variety of tastes so activity tends to be spread throughout the entire area,” says Comnas.