Have you ever been to Fire Island? The long, thin island is only about 90 minutes from New York City, but it feels a universe away. No cars are allowed; people stroll the wooden walkways in bare feet; fox and deer meander along the sand dunes. Here, in collaboration with the Maryn, Alex Bates and her husband Andrew Hoffman show us inside their cottage…
On falling for Fire Island: We’re really old, so my husband started going there to visit friends before we met in 1892 [laughs]. We then started renting houses together. We rented in the village of Saltaire and fell in love. Then, almost 30 years ago, this house became available. You know instinctively when you walk into a place, you fall in love with it?
On the town of Saltaire: There’s not much here — a grocery store, a tennis and sailing club, a library, a fire department and a town hall. The young woman who runs the library program is a kindergarten teacher. She has created new programs for kids and it’s becoming the core of the community.
On island life: You come out here and there’s nothing to do. It’s a sanctuary. I’m usually knee deep in the garden. I have different gardening playlists, depending on the mood of my week; and we blast the music and rip out weeds.
On the perfect paint: The inside of the house is all Fine Paints of Europe White 0001. I’m nuts about paint. It’s a pure white, not toned in any direction like a painter’s white. We painted the floor, ceiling and walls the same color. We used the high gloss, so when the light comes in, it bounces all over the room. You feel like you’re in a tiny little ship.
On collecting: Our collections are taking over right now. We organize shells and stones by color. I comb the beach for oyster shells. We have a basket of antlers that deer have shed in the front yard.
On hosting friends: We have lots of spontaneous dinners with other families in Saltaire. You walk across the walkway and say, ‘Did you have dinner yet? We’re having a party.’ People just walk over and through your door. My husband spatchcocks chicken or roasts fish. The local fishing boats deliver directly to the dock so you can get scallops, lobster and cod. Plus, we make corn on the cob, of course.
On the key to a comfy bed: My husband and I have contradictory points of view: his preference is for a harder mattress, and I want something softer. At the height of summer, when it’s crazy hot, we don’t have AC, so it’s just a light cotton throw.
On bedtime reading: Andrew is a mystery reader — especially Swedish authors like Henning Mankell. I’ve been reading Paul Hawkin’s Drawdown, which is about solutions for climate change. He’s one of my heroes; I’m geeking out about his work right now. My all-time favorite book is No Ordinary Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin, about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. It talks about these amazing slumber parties they’d have with Winston Churchill at the White House.
On waking up: Early morning is my favorite time. I like to pour a cup of coffee and start my day on the back deck listening to nature. There are so many birds and butterflies at sunrise.
On late stays: We are diehard and stay here as long as possible. We have to get out before the pipes freeze, which is usually just before Thanksgiving. We had a snow storm one year on November 15th and it was incredible being in the house while the snow was falling. It was so beautiful, like being in a snow globe.
Thank you so much, Alex!
P.S. More house tours, and vacation photos on Fire Island.
(Photos by Marta Xochilt Perez for the Maryn. Produced and art directed by Michelle Adams for the Maryn. Photos republished with permission.)