Driving into Montauk, New York, feels like a movie scene. Winding cliffside roads lead to sweeping views of waves crashing on the small coastal town’s shores. Streets are lined with surf shops, old-time mom-and-pop stores, and buzzy juice bars and cafes. The air is heavy with sea salt and beachy breezes. But beyond the quaint village—which has in recent years been overtaken by Manhattanites in search of a glass of rosé and a good “romphim” sighting—is a surfing enclave called Ditch Plains.
In this small community tucked in the Montauk bluffs, teenagers zip down the road barefoot on their skateboards, hoping to catch early morning waves. People of all ages drive around with surfboards in the back of their vintage Broncos and order fresh tacos on the beach from an Airstream trailer dubbed the Ditch Witch. It’s a special place.
Power real estate broker Louise Phillips Forbes was swept away by this magical community a decade ago: “We were driving to Ditch Plains early on a summer morning to catch some waves and when we missed the turn, we ended up at Montauk Shores Condominiums,” she told Domino. “It was like a step back in time with the gated community, playground for kids, and family-friendly environment. We knew we had to be a part of it.”
For years, Forbes, her husband, Chris, and their two boys, Douglas (15) and Kenneth (13), tried to join the community. First, by renting a home for the first two summers, and eventually buying their own in 2015. The original lot was occupied by a mobile home that was promptly torn down. “There was no way to salvage the mobile home, so we elected to purchase a prefab home and customize it,” Forbes told Domino.
She called on the help of celebrity interior designer Cortney Novogratz to help infuse the cookie-cutter house with unique features and surf-inspired vibes. “Surf culture was my inspiration,” she adds. “We are a family of surfers, so our life is built around the beach. It was important to me to capture the warmth and essence of the surfing community, much of which is reflected in the artwork, fabric, and colors.” Ahead, the power broker shares the details that made her tiny prefab house feel like the dreamy surf retreat it is for her family.
“It was like a step back in time with the gated community, playground for kids, and family-friendly environment. We knew we had to be a part of it.”
Install Your Countertop Upside Down (Yes, Really)
“I kept the finishes pretty neutral, but I’m especially proud of my Absolute Black Granite countertop,” says Forbes. “I wanted a countertop with a very matte, non-glossy finish, which was difficult to find.” One day, while shopping for countertops, she saw the underside of a granite slab and exclaimed, “That’s it! That’s the finish I’m looking for.” She bought the slab on the spot and had the contractor install it upside down to showcase the honed, unfinished look. It was an unconventional decision that worked.
Collect Art That Reflects Your Lifestyle
Surfboards, Cuban art, and beach photography hang on every wall of the prefab home, giving the space a collected flair. “I already had many of the art pieces that are featured in my home,” says Forbes of her collection of surf-inspired pieces. “My favorites include two beach photographs from artist Debby Hymowitz and three paintings that my mother-in-law did for us.” A framed photograph of the family posing on the beach in a bright orange Bronco was the inspiration starting point for the entire home. “This family photo captures the essence of who we are as a family.”
Choose Finishes That Work for You
With two rambunctious boys running in and out of the house with sandy feet, Forbes needed the materials in her home to be ultra hard-wearing. “The charcoal cushions on the kitchen counter stools are made from the same material as wetsuits,” says Forbes. “They are so durable and uniquely incorporate elements of beach life. I purposely selected fabrics and furnishings that were relatively indestructible because my house tends to be the hub for all the kids, which I enjoy and treasure.” The light laminate floors were also chosen for their durability: “I was nervous about using a fake wood, but it looks great and it’s wearing well with all the foot traffic.”
“If you’re riding your bike or walking past our house at just the right time, you’ll probably hear me yelling from the backyard, ‘Hey, y’all, come join us!’”
Craft Clever Solutions Out of Small Spaces
“The biggest challenge was maximizing the small square footage and designing around functionality,” says Forbes. “We had to creatively segregate and define the spaces while keeping it conducive for entertaining.” Despite the prefab house’s limited square footage, it accommodates two small bedrooms, two bathrooms, and plenty of entertaining space. “My personal style is in my ability to connect with others, so it was very important for me to create a casual but curated environment where people felt warm and invited to come to hang out.”
Maximize Your Outdoor Space
Forbes’ favorite place in the house is actually outdoors. “I love the deck,” she told Domino. “We built a Maharam fabric-covered custom banquette that has a retro vibe I really dig. It’s the best spot for just about everything: morning coffee with my husband, afternoon naps, talks with the kids, and entertaining friends. It’s so fun to get the grill going and invite folks to join us for an impromptu BBQ. Each summer is better than the last.”
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