This Couple Made a Deal: They’d Buy the Country House If He Could Have a Backyard Office
In between the two is a dahlia-filled paradise.
Published Oct 19, 2022 6:34 PM
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Before Pamela Berick closed on her cottage, she had backed out on her fair share of deals. “My husband and I had been looking for a mid-century modern home for years, but they were all these massive cantilever houses that were buckling in the middle,” Berick, the cofounder of Collab Society, explains. (During one tour, the architect even recommended tearing the place down and starting over from scratch.) Upon abandoning the hope of a 1960s bungalow in the Hamptons, she narrowed their search down to Bellport, New York (they wanted to stay within a 60-mile radius of their primary home in Brooklyn). When they walked into a local real-estate office, one of the agents said he had something but noted “it’s not for everyone”—it’s on the tiny side. “It’s a two-bedroom, kind of,” says Berick. But the manageable fixer-upper’s English-style thatched roof and plenty of acreage were what ultimately sold them on it.
“It appealed to this fantasy I had of being in the country,” says Berick. The fact that the 1970s home didn’t need any structural work done was another plus. The previous tenants had taken good care of the property, so Berick could focus most of her efforts outdoors ripping out the bamboo. “I didn’t realize how invasive it was,” she says. The stalks had grown so wild that they completely hid one of the porches.
Inside, Berick layered on the white paint, with the exception of the now-pastel pink bedroom. “I started with so many coats,” she says. Not only do the white walls reflect light onto the living room’s towering vaulted ceilings, they spotlight the couple’s bold art collection and punchy fabric choices. Scattered around the home, you’ll find a variety of Svenskt Tenn textiles in the form of window seats, throw pillows, and even an armchair (one of the few pieces of furniture that’s swathed in a pattern).
“There’s just such a lovely color palette in the prints, and they’re floral yet funky,” Berick says. “I never want to lean too stuffy.” To cover up all the wear and tear left over from previous residents (the house had most recently been a rental), they painted the floors a cool gray.
After uncovering 4 extra feet of ceiling space in the bathroom and hallway upstairs, Berick collaborated with Ottoline de Vries, the founder of London-based Dutch design house Ottoline, to create a custom version of her In the Ponds wallpaper for the transitional area. The print is color-matched to the Joseph Frank curtains hanging in Berick’s kitchen. “Because it’s a tiny house, I wanted it to all flow together,” she says.
Part of the deal with her husband when buying this property was to build him a separate home office in the backyard. “I promised him a space, but I think I’ve co-opted it now,” she says, laughing. The shed, purchased from a local builder, has just enough square footage for a desk and a daybed—a surface that Berick’s four Chihuahuas take over when the sun appears in the early afternoon.
“The main house is so open-concept, which we love,” Berick says. “But my husband and I would end up taking calls from the twin beds in the guest bedroom or even the bathtub.” Now there’s a designated zone to retreat to when either of them has to hop on an important call (they trade off on meeting-filled days).
In the area the unruly bamboo had once conquered there’s now a plot of beloved dahlias. “I told myself when I moved in that I would stick to grasses and ferns—no flowers,” she says. However, with the opportunity to expand, Berick couldn’t help but take after her family, a long line of gardeners. “It surprised me,” she continues, “how much information and know-how I’ve retained from being in Michigan with my grandmother.” Berick planted nearly 1,000 bulbs in the spring of 2020. “I feel like it’s an extension of decorating for me,” she says. Turns out painting walls is just as satisfying as pruning her new rosebushes.