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October/November 2007


FEATURES

Diamond in the Rough
By Mollie Magill
Photographed by Bärbel Miebach

AN ARTIST TRANSFORMS A TINY CARRIAGE HOUSE INTO AN ENCHANTED COTTAGE

[Image]

After spending 10 years using her 1900s Water Mill farmhouse as a second home and studio space, Manhattan—based artist Susan Zises decided the upkeep on the old home had become too much to handle. After the charming property quickly sold, she told herself not to jump back into the real estate game. "I thought, 'Take the money and invest it. Think this through,'" she reflects. Yet within two weeks, Zises, an antiques—lover with an eclectic eye, was ready to start on a new project. "I was looking for something quirky that I could play with, but I wanted a place that I didn't have to worry about."

She came across a listing for a modest 19th—century garage/carriage house not far from her previous residence. It was close to the homes where her three grown children and five grandchildren often spend summer weekends, and was within walking distance from town--two attributes on her list of must—haves.

At the time, the dwelling was being rented to a family of fishermen who didn't maintain it well. The landscape was overgrown and, because of its location on a triangular plot bounded by three streets, noisy. The loft—like first floor was dark, with few windows, and had unattractive stained—wood flooring and junky furniture. The only highlights were the tall ceilings and an antique iron spiral staircase that led up to three tiny bedrooms and a full bathroom on the second floor. Zises, however, looked past the blemishes and realized the space was very much like what she had envisioned--a funky, down—at—the—heels retreat. "It had just the right amount of 'falling—apart.' It was easy, carefree and authentic," says Zises. She made an offer that day.

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