It's no secret that the Hamptons is the place to be, but does where you rent or but still matter? A panel of local experts weigh in.
Waterfront properties will always be among the most desirable in the Hamptons. Large glass openings allow light and spectacular views of Moriches Bay into this clean contemporary home, a series of rectangular boxes offset with contrasting materials—durable white Azek and dark weathered oak. “All these materials are modified to withstand exterior conditions along the ocean,” notes Quogue-based architect Stuart Disston.
Seven Hamptons power players—top real estate brokers Susan Breitenbach and Patrick McLaughlin; architect Stuart Disston; Hamptons housing developer Steven Dubb; Southampton Arts Center’s director of programming, Amy Kirwin; entrepreneur and luxury moving planner Pamela Muller; and interior designer Shannon Willey—discuss the ever-evolving personalities of the East End’s neighborhoods amidst a changing cultural and real estate climate.
How relevant is location now that areas once considered marginal have become desirable?
Pamela Muller: I was thinking about that, because 25 years ago I bought my house north of the highway. It was one of the biggest houses on the street. Now it’s one of the smallest, and that area has become very desirable because of the land and the horse farm.
Susan Breitenbach: You made a good choice there. I think on the ocean, you can’t really go wrong because there’s so little of it. But we’re seeing a lot of higher trades all over.
Steven Dubb: One thing I keep hearing brokers say is there are no bad neighborhoods in the Hamptons. They’re all very different. [There are] very expensive homes going into areas that, a few years ago, were pretty vacant and not developed at all. Part of that is the Peconic Land Trust Tax, which has helped elevate our property values because they’re creating a scarcity of land and protecting the value of the aesthetic of the Hamptons.
Patrick McLaughlin: There are almost no bad locations in the Hamptons, but the prime locations, like oceanfront or close to a village or a main street, are always going to be the most important. Ultimately, it comes down to where the buyer is and what they want, because the Hamptons offers so many different types of living. Some buyers may consider Bishops Pond [in Southampton], which is on the edge of the village, an undesirable location because they want to be closer to beaches or closer to Main Street. But other buyers looked at Bishops Pond and said, “This is great, I’m in the village.” It’s just a five-minute drive to Main Street. The answer is really in the eye of the beholder.
Breitenbach: A lot of my customers bought in Bishops Pond, but they didn’t go there as much for the location as for [the neighborhood] you created. So that location is okay, but it’s really not about the location; it’s about the lifestyle there, the people there.
From left: Patrick Mclaughlin, Amy Kirwin, Susan Breitenbach, Shannon Willey, Pamela Muller, Stuart Disston, Steven Dubb.
How do you advise people where to go when they want to come here but aren’t intimately familiar with the area?
Shannon Willey: When I’m advising people, I [ask] do they have kids, what is their lifestyle, are they willing to drive to places they really want to spend time at, do they want to deal with traffic, etc.
McLaughlin: It depends on how familiar they are with the Hamptons. A lot of people come out here and they have friends in a certain village or town, so they have the tendency to want to go where their friends are. For someone who’s brand-new, I would say rent for the first year, get accustomed, learn the lay of the land, and see where you feel comfortable. Each village has its own culture and nuances. And I think everybody has mentioned traffic in one way, shape, or form. It’s really changed the way you live out here.
Muller: Do you find that East Hampton is considered the most prestigious?
Amy Kirwin: People always ask that—which Hampton is more prestigious? They all think East Hampton is more estatelike, Southampton is more of a formal hedge kind of thing, and Bridgehampton is more rural. Some people love it like that.
McLaughlin: Sag Harbor is a little more bohemian, so to speak.
Located in Water Mill, another area that continues to be well-regarded, this new contemporary barnstyle home—with over 5,000 square feet of living space, plus a pool house and detached garage—is listed by Patrick McLaughlin of Douglas Elliman for $3.595 million.
Years ago, the towns had their own distinct personalities. Do you think that has been diluted, or do they still exist?
Stuart Disston: Southampton used to be very different than East Hampton—the shops, the restaurants, everything. I think it’s diminished. Maybe it’s the Starbucks effect. I don’t know, but you see globally that London really isn’t that much different than New York anymore. It’s the globalization of the world. I don’t want to bash Starbucks, but in most of the villages, you see very similar stores and shops.
Muller: I don’t think it’s the same for Amagansett or Bridgehampton, though. There’s not as much shopping in those towns. It’s much more mom-and-pop.
Willey: A lot of people who are in Amagansett used to be in Southampton. They’ve moved a little bit because I think Amagansett is more of what the Hamptons used to be like 10 or 20 years ago.
This classic estate garden, part of a turn-of-the-century “cottage” belonging to a client of Pamela Muller’s NouvelleView, is on one of the most prestigious streets in East Hampton—a location that has always been and continues to be prime, she says.
What about Montauk?
Disston: I spent a lot of time on the beaches there, and for a few years the changes going on there seemed scary, with the nightclubs and everything. [But] a lot of people my age want to live in Amagansett and Montauk.
Dubb: I love going out there in the late season and surfing, spending the weekend.
What is your favorite area in the Hamptons?
Willey: Peconic Bay for the sunset.
Disston: Anywhere on the beach in Montauk in the off-season.
Dubb: I’m obviously partial to the Quogue area. I recall going down for a picnic in early October, harvest moon, on Sagg Main Beach, and everyone was set up with these little bonfires and they were setting out little lanterns.
Muller: Maidstone Club. That area is beautiful. When I drive there and get to that point, my heart always lifts a little bit.
Photography by: PHOTOGRAPHY BY TRIA GIOVAN