This House Was Abandoned, Then a Designer Brought It Back to Life
After: In the living room, homeowner Tricia Foley added built-in cabinets and a new fireplace a bit higher up than the original (so it could be seen across the room)—plus buckets upon buckets of Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White, which now cloaks both the inside and outside of the home.Photo: Gieves Anderson
Old houses have always been an obsession of Tricia Foley’s. Her 2015 book, Life/Style, chronicled her restoration of an 1845 home and grounds in the town of Yaphank, New York, on Long Island. Just down the street is another home, built in 1820, that she renovated and lived in before that. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that Tricia’s most recent project dates back only to 1994. “I wanted something that had more space and light, because I had been living in 200-year-old houses,” says the interior designer, editor, curator, and historian, who is often juggling as many as five or six projects at a time. (At present: Chris Rock’s house, a book about a 19th-century woman, and an exhibit at the local historical society, among others.) She had been searching, fruitlessly, for another home to bring back to life and had nearly given up—but then a friend tipped her off to a “for sale by owner” sign stuck to the front door of a dilapidated house down the road in Brookhaven Hamlet.
Designed 23 years prior by local architect David Hatcher, the two-story structure had been sitting vacant, without heat or running water, for two years. Paint was peeling off the siding, water was leaking through the deck, and a number of pieces—doors, windows, sinks, showers—were simply missing from the puzzle. Mold and rust had set in everywhere. “I’m big on recycling, so it kills me not to be able to salvage,” says Tricia, who had to scrap certain original features that were well beyond repair. “But the roof was in good shape, and the floors were in good shape. It was made well.” Even the original layout, an “upside down” house with bedrooms below and common spaces upstairs, still made sense (and placed emphasis on a pretty stunning view of the marsh and bay it abutted). So Tricia set about doing what she does best: restoring it in a way that would make the original architect very proud.