The Rogers Memorial Library Designers Showhouseat Chuck Scarborough's Southampton Shingle Style House
Swan Lawn, a magnificent Southampton shingle house on First Neck Lane, was the 1994 Roger Memorial Library Designers" Showhouse. With sweeping views of Lake Agawam and glimpses of the ocean beyond, the house and grounds made the Showhouse truly memorable. Furthermore, this showhouse was unique in that Swan Lawn's owner, NBC Anchorman, Chuck Scarborough, had undertaken a massive reconstruction of the original building including a new foundation. "The house was built slightly before the turn of the century, as a summer cottage," says Mr. Scarborough. "As time passed, porches became rooms, and new rooms were added on and broken up. For me, it's been a two year project to restore the house to what I believe was the original intent and yet to completely modernize it."
Mr. Scarborough offered the house for use as a showhouse because of his commitment to the goal of a new library for Southampton. "We were so grateful to Mr. Scarborough for his most generous offer," noted Dr. Donald K. Corwin, 1994 President of the Library Board of Trustees. "Finding a house suitable for a showhouse is a daunting and nearly impossible task. Those which are available are usually in terrible condition. To be offered a magnificent house which has been restored to perfection is an unheard of but wonderful opportunity. That Mr. Scarborough was willing to allow dozens of designers and thousands of visitors into his new house before he even had an opportunity to live in it is a testimony to his commitment to the community and to his good nature. "A showhouse is an enormous undertaking. Yet every time we told him about something we needed to do to make the showhouse a success, he always replied "Certainly, if it will benefit the Library." The Library has indeed been fortunate to have been offered such a beautiful house for our showhouse and to work with such a generous home owner."
All winter long, construction crews spurred on by Mr. Scarborough and his general contractor, Chris Dante, raced against the clock to get the house ready for the designers. The weather was impossible; record snow storms and freezing temperatures slowed progress. On February 19th and 26th, an army of renowned designers braved mud, slush and freezing temperatures to view the house and the spaces they hoped to transform. The house had been stripped to the studs and open to the weather; cold wind blasted through the windows - not yet glassed in. The screech of the construction crew's saws made conversation difficult. Saw dust and board fragments littered the floor. The original staircase and banister led to a second floor with no railing. There were snow drifts in the corners of some design spaces.
Several designers noted that this house is the "ultimate before picture - no walls, at all!" All asked serious questions about whether the house could possibly be ready in time for their work crews to start in early June. Yet none were daunted by the challenge of envisioning beautiful, summery sitting rooms and bedrooms, given only a bare outline of the walls to work with. They were excited by the possibilities. "The views are breathtaking. The location is incredible. The house epitomizes what many of us love about living in Southampton, "enthused designer, Gail Green, who has a house nearby and who has participated in several Rogers Memorial Library showhouses. Seeing the potential of an awkward nook whose major architectural detail at the time was a cinderblock chimney flue, Ms. Green envisioned a Mediterranean library with a marble mosaic floor.
Noel Jeffrey who was at the time creating a library for the Kips Bay Showhouse in New York and redoing his own new house in Sagaponack saw beyond the piles of lumber, the snow drifts in the corners and the gaping holes in the walls where French doors would one day be installed, imagining a cool, serene summer living room opening to the porch and to the wonderful view of Lake Agawam. "The excitement of doing a showhouse, " he says, "is in the possibilities, in the images that a particular space begins to stimulate in the mind's eye. The Kips Bay space is small. I saw it as a refuge from the City, elegant yet intimate, warmed by soft luxurious fabrics in shades of champagne and soft greens with accents of brown and red. I even used wood-slat venetian blinds to further close in the space. The Scarborough living room, by contrast, is spacious - nearly four times the size of the library at Kips Bay - and airy, open to those fantastic views. I immediately saw elegant parties on hot summer evenings with guest drifting from the living room to the porch and out onto the sweeping lawn. This epitomizes the appeal of the Hamptons in the summer to those of us who seek a refuge from the City!"
Imagination is everything to a designer. Hethea Nye, who has a house in East Hampton, an Ralph Harvard of R. Brooks Ltd. were inspired to bid on the porch overlooking Lake Agawam - a space which was not yet constructed when the designers came to see the house and existed only on the plan. They could "see" a charming porch filled wicker, colorful fabrics, and plants - the perfect place to sit on a hot summer afternoon, chatting with friends - in a space which was nothing more than a sea of mud.
In addition to Gail Green, four other nationally-known designers who have houses in Southampton and Water Mill participated in the 1994 Showhouse: Sig Bergamin, Tom Britt, Josef Pricci and Norman Michaeloff. Other designers include Anthony Antine, Lars Bolander, T. Keller Donovan, Glen Gissler, Patricia Healing and Daniel Barsanti, Kenneth Hockin, Eugenia Au Kim, Diane Kovacs, Jeffrey Lincoln, Brett Nestler, Brian Murphy of Parish-Hadley, Florence Perchuk and Teri Seidman. Wonderful summer gardens were created by Edmund G. Hollander, Sharon and James Lynch and Eva Growney.
Michael de Santis, Charlotte Moss and Gary Crain, all of whom designed at the previous Showhouse at Red Top Farm, once again served as the Design Committee. Mr. Crain who was renovating a house in Water Mill for his personal use, believes that the showhouses sponsored by the Rogers Memorial Library are among the most prestigious in the nation, attracting top designers and substantial media interest. The previous year's showhouse, for example, was featured both in the Washington Post and on CNN's internationally broadcast "Style with Elsa Klensch."
The proceeds from the showhouse, the eighth which the Library has sponsored, goes to the Library's Building Fund. Monies raised from past showhouses have been used to purchase land for the much needed new library and to pay for architectural, engineering and other site development costs.