You guys! I’m so excited because as of 3pm yesterday, my heartmate and I officially became the owners of a house. Whaaaaaaaat! I straight up can’t believe it has finally happened as it has been a dream of ours since we graduated from university almost a decade ago. I have so much that I want to tell you about the house, the buying process and, most importantly, our makeover plans for our new home. Let me back up and start from the very beginning (yes, I sang that aloud Julia Andrews style!).
I’ll me start by saying: we’re not leaving New York City! No, siree! We both love the city and our apartment far too much to say goodbye. We’re calling this the ‘weekend house’ but I’m sure we’ll be out here much more than just weekends because a) we love it, and b) there’s so much more space for both work and play! Doing design photo shoots in a small one-bedroom apartment in the city is, well, a challenge, so it’ll be nice to have more space to work and live in. Throughout the post I’ve included some of the inspiration images I’ve captured of beautiful home exteriors throughout the Hamptons and Nantucket over the past few years, to give a sense of how we hope to transform the exterior of the house. Click through after the jump to read the full story and get the lowdown on our new home!
We knew that we wanted to put roots down on the East Coast both financially and emotionally. After all, it’s stomach turning when we think how much money we spend in rent every month, and we wanted to start investing money into property for our future. It’s crazy that our mortgage payment is only a third (!) of our monthly rent payment for the Manhattan apartment. The reality is that buying in the city was off the cards for us because we couldn’t afford to buy anything suitable for our needs in terms of location, size etc. Plus, in all honesty, we kinda wanted to buy a place outside the city first so that we could enjoy both city and country life. I always say that leaving NYC feels great and coming back home to the city feels even better! I’m sure my fellow New Yorkers will be nodding their heads to that: the feeling of excitement about leaving ‘the Island’ for a trip is palpable, trumped only by the feeling of hope, optimism, excitement and comfort that fills up inside of me when I see the iconic NYC skyline every time I drive back across one of the city’s bridges. To have a regular tonic from the fast pace of NYC life is very exciting. I recognize how fortunate we are to be able to do so, but that’s not to say we haven’t worked our backsides off to be able to do so, either! 😉The house is in a small coastal village on South Shore Long Island, NY and is called Bellport. It’s about twenty minutes or so from Southampton and an hour and twenty minutes from Manhattan. I fell in love with Bellport (read more about the village here) before we immigrated to America (two years ago this fall – it’s gone so fast!) after I discovered my now friend and realtor, Howie Guja, on Instagram. A longtime resident of Bellport, Howie was sharing such evocative imagery of the village and I instantly fell in love with the colonial, beachy-vibe of the town. Once we moved to America, I took my heartmate to see the village and he too fell in love the friendly, unpretentious and laid-back vibe. And so our decision was made: we wanted to buy in Bellport! This was about a year ago to the day. Then we hit a road block.
You might remember from my blog post about the process of trying to secure our first rental apartment in Manhattan when we originally moved to NYC? Well, essentially, when you emigrate you loose your credit history from your country of origin. So, despite at the time being almost thirty years old with great credit in the U.K., the U.S. banks, lenders, rental and cell phone companies and so on all treated us like we’d just graduated college and had no credit history. When we explored buying in Bellport around this time last year it was clear that unless we were cash buyers it would be incredibly complicated and highly unlikely we could buy without much more established U.S. credit history. We felt so frustrated because we had the funds to make it work (and, really, we had the credit history too!) but all the banks said that without at least two years of U.S. tax returns it wouldn’t be possible to get a mortgage. We were back to the drawing board!By the time we received our Green Cards in October last year I had built up a strong credit score here in America and we knew we were in a stronger position. The only thing standing in our way was the lack of U.S. tax returns for my business, so once I submitted my first U.S. tax return in April we were set. However, we thankfully managed to find a mortgage broker that specializes in overseas/expat buyers and they managed to get us pre-approved for our mortgage in February, which was when we put the offer in on our house!
We found the property online but as I knew Howie and wanted him to be our realtor we reached out to him to arrange a viewing of this house, along with some others that he knew of in our price bracket. I honestly can’t recommend Howie enough if you are thinking of buying in the area, his service was second to none and he helped us with the buying process every step of the way. One of our main buying points was that we wanted a two-story home and not a ranch-style property. A lot of the two-story colonial style houses in Bellport are on the larger size and were out of our budget. However, this adorable four bed, two bath extended Cape Cod cottage was literally perfect in terms of size and budget. We loved the look of it online, but when we pulled into the driveway for the first time in Howie’s car I remember looking at Toby and we both knew it was right from that moment. Thankfully, when we looked inside we only loved it more.We put in an offer and after a short negotiation we agreed with the seller on a price. That was back in February so the whole process of buying the house took around three months. In New York the house only comes off the market once you have exchanged contracts, so even after we had put in our offer and it had been accepted, another buyer could have come along and offered a higher price or been a cash buyer. It was such a nerve-wracking three weeks or so because we had fallen head over heels in love with the house and knew that finding another property that checked almost all the boxes, was located within the village (village residents only have access to a private beach on Fire Island called Ho Hum, which is reached by boat across Bellport Bay – this was a huge draw for us!), and for it to have been within our budget was extremely unlikely. Thankfully, it all worked out and we felt so lucky! In fact, the property was owned by a hoarder until 2014 when it was bought by a flipper who renovated it into what the house is today. However, the flipper has over a hundred properties on Long Island and listed the house in the wrong town for the first two weeks it was on the market, so people looking to buy in the sought-after area of Bellport weren’t seeing it in listings. We think this – coupled with the fact the weather was awful with lots of snow storms etc. for the month long period of time between when we our offer was accepted and before we exchanged – is one of the reasons we managed to secure the property. It’s been fun to see the property in the depth of winter with snow on the ground, through to now at the start of summer where the trees are alive with verdant color.The house is an extended Cape Cod cottage and was built in 1952. It’s currently a four bedroom, two-bathroom home and we plan to open some of the spaces up and turn it into a more spacious, luxury three-bed weekend home. I’ll be sharing renders and floor plans for every space in the house in the coming weeks as we’re renovating the whole property from top to bottom starting now! I didn’t want to share everything today because this post is already super long and I thought it would be fun to take it space-by-space with you guys.What I can tell you is that I’m partnering with my friends at One Kings Lane to decorate the living room, dining room and master bedroom suite! I couldn’t be more thrilled to be working with their team as I’ve admired the work and product assortment of OKL for many years. I’m designing the space alongside Sally, who is one of the designers from The Studio at One Kings Lane. This is the brand’s interior design service which helps customers with the design of their space, whether you have no design ideas at all through to spaces where you have a vision but would like a second opinion/need help executing your ideas. The first consolation with a designer in The Studio is complementary and I highly recommend it if you are considering a design project. Excitingly, the brand are opening their first brick and mortar location in a 19th-century former library space at 11 Jobs Lane, Southampton, NY this weekend. As our new house is close by to the store, it’s going to be great to get up close and personal with the OKL product, as well as meet with Sally at the store as we continue to design the space throughout the summer. I can’t wait to share the process with you all! Here’s to the ups and downs of a renovation. Let the transformation commence!As I’m not sharing the interior plans today, I thought it would be fun to at least tease the plans to the exterior and front yard. There’s also a very sizeable backyard area but I’ll share our plans for that in the coming weeks. The rendering a little further up shows a mock-up of our plans for the exterior and front yard, and I’ve annotated a picture of the property here to demonstrate our vision: we plan to cedar shingle the entire exterior of the property; landscape the front yard and plant hydrangeas along the front side; change the front door (the current one is awful!); paint the windows black; and pea gravel the driveway. I’m so excited, you guys! This is going to be such a transformation and after years of decorating with the restrictions of a rental I’m excited to be able to dive in head first and pick everything down to hardware and faucets etc. Oh, and if you read this far, thanks for sticking with me!
Yay! Congrats Will + Toby! This is wonderful news. Bellport is so cute; we can’t wait to see how you transform this sweet house!
@Lauren – Thank you, we are so thrilled! Bellport is adorable and we feel so lucky to own this cute little home. Excited to start (and share!) the renovation!
I’m so excited for you! I grew up in a cedar shingled cape and a half, and I worked in Bellport for a while – such a sweet town! Can’t wait to see how it goes!
@Annie – Oh, how lovely! They are such charming little homes. Glad you loved your time in Bellport. Everyone here is so friendly!
Whoop Whoop congratulations to you and Toby. To me there is nothing as exciting as buying a home and making it your own. I wish you fun and I’m looking forward to all the posts. I hope I get invited one day. Ingrid and I could come over together ?? So super happy for you guys.
@Yvonne – Thank you! We are so so excited and can’t wait to decorate it! We would love to have you and Ingrid to stay! xx
Congrats Will and Toby! I can’t wait to see the makeover.
@Laurence – Thanks! So excited to share the renovation process with you!
Awwww, that is just the right house for you guys!!! Pretty, charming and darling, just like you guys. ? I cannot wait until you’ll be showing the home tour of this stunner! So happy for you both (and a tad jealous too, haha)!! Congratulations on being homeowners, I’m sure you’ll transform this house into a beautiful home. ?
Hugs, Inge x
@Inge – Thanks so much! I am so excited to start the renovation process and share the progress room by room! x
Bellport is wonderful!!! We drove through there just last weekend after a visit to a kitchen design client of mine. We also drove through Eastport which is a great area. We live in Huntington, just north of the village. My client lives in a quiet, bucolic part of Hampton Bays. AND, as part of that trip home we came upon the END of Dune Road in Westhampton where we then went off roading at the beach!! Will, you must somehow use or rent a 4 wheel drive and take a trip there if you want an ocean beach with no one nearby via this trail (and there are others)! So thrilled that you appreciate the wonderful area this part of the south shore is – the food, the vibe, the honest beauty of the place. So happy for you both!!
@Susan – Oh, how wonderful! We are actually at the car dealership right now about to get a 4×4 so maybe we should take it off raising this weekend! 😉 Thanks for your lovely comment!
Oh my gosh, so over-the-moon happy for you guys! This place looks like an absolute dream and the story of how it came to be proves it was fate for you to find this place. You’re going to be so very happy here I can tell xx
@Kate – Thank you so much! We are so thrilled and it just feels like home already! xxx
I am so jealous of you two. Can’t wait to follow along on the renovation…I know it will be amazing. Again, congratulations on your new home.
@Harry – Thank you very much! We are so thrilled and I am so grateful to have you following along with the renovation! 🙂
Congratulations you guys!!!! Buying a home is totally nerve-wracking–glad it all worked out. It sounds magical! Looking forward to following your journey through this renovation process!!!
@Chris – Thank you so much, sweet guy! We are so thrilled and can’t wait to share the renovation process! 🙂
ADORABLE!!!! LOVE IT!
And gave you meet my friend Anthony Santelli at OKL?? He styled my Pelham house for my This Old House cover!!
So very excited for you guys!!!!!
@Lynn – Oh, how fun! I remember how gorgeous that looked! Thanks for all your sweet support xx
Congrats Will! How exciting (and I can’t wait to follow along with the renovations). After many years in NYC, we too wanted to balance country/city life and fantasized about it for a very long time. For us it worked out to live in the country and work in the city, but both bring us so much joy. I can totally relate to feeing jazzed every time you see the skyline. Never, ever gets old.
@Nichole – So excited to share the full renovation process! Love to hear how much you enjoy splitting your time between city and country. Thanks for sharing your experiences.
Wow, what fantastic news guys. I’m so happy for you both. I really can’t wait to see what you will do with the place given full control and no restrictions. Exciting times. Good luck!!
@Stacey – Yay! Thank you so much! We are so excited to share the process with everyone!
YAYYYYYYY – this is such amazing news! I am overjoyed and can’t wait to see all of the amazing things you will do to this lovely property! Congrats Will + Toby!!!
@Jenn – Wahooooo! Thanks so much, we are both so thrilled and feel so lucky. Can’t wait to share the whole renovation process right here, too!
OMG! I love Howie and I think Bellport is perfect for you two!
@Carly – Right?! Howie is one of the sweetest guys we’ve ever met – we feel so lucky to have had him as our realtor! And, yay, so glad you love Bellport because obviously I love your aesthetic! 😉
@Ladd – Thank you so much!
Amazing!! congrats you two!!! Can’t wait to watch you work your colorful magic on it! xo
@Cassie – Thank you so much! We are thrilled and can’t wait to share the renovation process! xx
Congrats! Cant wait to see what you both do to it 🙂
@Alex – Thank you so much! Excited to share the reno. journey! x
This is so exciting!!! Congrats on the home ownership! Can’t wait to see the finished design =)
@Joanna – Thank you so much! We are thrilled and can’t wait to see our vision come to life! 🙂
So happy and excited for you and Toby!! Congratulations, star!
@Sarah – Thank you so much! 🙂
Howie is the best! So happy for you both! We love Bellport and can’t wait to see you and celebrate!
@Ana – Thanks so much, Ana! We agree, Howie (and Bellport) rocks! x
Awesome news, Bellport is great. welcome to Long Island!!!! Hit me up if you need any info.
@Chris – Thanks for the warm welcome, delighted to be here!
welcome to home ownership!! so excited for you, and for us — to see what you do to your new place. it’s the best feeling in the world to finally be able to decorate and remodel any way you like!
also – you probably already did this, but if you are able, add your home owner’s insurance and your property taxes into your monthly mortgage payment and have it deducted automatically from your bank account each month. i also pay a little over each month so that i pay off the mortgage a bit faster. just something i learned, but in case you didn’t know. 🙂
@Victoria – Yay, we are so excited! Thanks so much for the tips, I really appreciate it. Love following all of your amazing home updates. That guest bedroom you did – love! x
Aww! Massive Congratulations Will! Such a beautiful house 🙂 So great to be able to put your own personal touch on a house too. We have just moved into do’er upper and its very exciting so I can totally relate!
@Rachel – Yay! Thanks so much, we are so in love with this little home and can’t wait to renovate it. Hope your renovation is going well, too!
So happy for you both Will. Can’t wait to see what you do to the place. And, well, looking forward to a visit too (ahem) xx
@Carole – Thanks so much, lovely! Can’t wait to have you and the girls out to stay for pool and beach time just like at the wedding! xx
This is huge news!!!! I have lived following your journey and this is just another beginning!!! I can’t wait to see the transformation! All my love for you two!
@Marc – Thank you so much for your lovely comment! Can’t wait to share the transformation and renovation journey with you! 🙂
Congratulations! ? I’m veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeery happy for you guys! It’s a lovely home and I’m already excited to see the transformation. Thanks for sharing! ??
Congrats on being homeowners ??
@Kent – Thanks very much!
Omg WILL!! Words can’t even explain how over the top excited and incredibly happy am I and for you guys! This is so wonderful friend. I’m dying to see the inside and I just know once you get your hand still on it it’s going to be all kinds of perfect!!! Congratulations sweet friend!!
@Shavonda – Awww thank you! We are so thrilled and excited to be starting this homeowner journey! Let the renovations commence… can’t wait to share the process!
So excited for you, Will! I grew up in Westhampton Beach, not too far from Bellport. Love Fire Island!! Perfect mix of city and country.
@Kasia – Oh, how wonderful! Hope to see you out here one day! 🙂
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@Sarah – Thanks for the link love!
Very Happy for You! Its GREAT to have your own home! 🙂
Owner and CEO of KJSelections.com (Jewelry & Watches for Men and Women)
@Michael – Thanks so much, we are thrilled! 🙂
Such a charming home, and town. I can’t wait to see the transformation, congratulations to you both!!
@Susan – Isn’t it just adorable?! We love it there so much. Thanks for the kind congrats!
My partner and I have a weekend home in Bellport and found out about the village via Howie’s Instagram as well. We’ve been renovating our home for a few years (it’s over 100 years old) and will be finished soon. I’ve work with a great architect and contractor if you need a recommendation. Congrats!!
@Aaron – Your place sound amazing, I can’t wait to see it! Thanks for the offer of the contractor intro, too – much appreciated! 🙂
Congrats on the house will! I cant wait to see it when its all done!!
@Bella – Thanks so much! So excited to share the renovation journey!
So very thrilled for you, Will! Can’t wait to see the changes. Xo
@Carrie – Yay! Can’t wait to share the full renovation journey right here! xo
Ohmygoodness Will, I’m SO excited for you and Toby and to follow along to see the transformation.
It already feels so YOU! Even more so when the hydrangeas are in. YAY!!!!
@Kelly – Thank you so much, hun! We are so thrilled and can’t wait to share the renovation! And to plant the hydrangeas, of course! 😉
Sitting in the subway and reading this post – a truly Make you Smile way of going around the city☺️?? Congrstulations again and thanks for sharing it all x
@Maureen – Thank you so much for the lovely comment and kind congrats! x
Congrats, Will!! Your house is cute as a button and I can’t wait to see the outcome 🙂
@Matthew – Awww yay! Thanks so much for following along, I can’t wait to share the progress!
So darn excited for you because you’re living my dream and it’s such a beautiful dream!!! But also, and mostly, because you’re a wonderful person and deserve this in every way!!!
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Hi Will! Can’t believe I haven’t subscribed to your blog. Always love your posts and Instagram stories. So creative and fun! Thank you for allowing us to join you on your journey with your new home. Really looking forward to following the progress. Thinking about moving back east ourselves, and Bellport is a town we have considered. We’ll see…. Love your work. You really should have your own show. ? Have fun!!!
@Glenn – Thanks so much for following along, Glenn! Bellport is so adorable and totally unspoiled, I highly recommend it!