Bellport, a one-traffic-light town tucked away on the south shore of Long Island, is anything but your average summer community. It’s neither sleepy nor scene-y—there are few tourists and even fewer McMansions, no packed pop-up outposts of New York City restaurants or clubs that take over from June to August. Instead, together with Brookhaven hamlet, the town’s more rural neighbor, it’s a rare haven of creativity, community, and laid-back tranquility.
“There’s a bicycle shop and an ice cream store, a ferry to the beach. People meet up at the library or the farm stand,” says Tricia Foley, a former editor at House Beautiful, Victoria, and Country Home whose new book about the area, A Summer Place: Living by the Sea, is out April 6th from Rizzoli.
Foley grew up in Northport, on Long Island’s north shore, and ended up with a summer home in Brookhaven after years of renting in the tonier Hamptons. When she decided to move out of New York City and settle there full time, she found and renovated a modern barn-style house with huge windows and views of the Atlantic Ocean. Foley’s fresh, sunlit home opens the book; the pages that follow highlight an array of homes in a variety of styles, all of which embody Bellport and Brookhaven’s spirits in different ways.
“Each one is so distinctive and beautiful to me, whether it’s a cutting-edge modern house or the little handcrafted Hobbit cottage complex that’s right down the road from me here,” Foley says, speaking on the phone about the inspiration behind collecting these domestic spaces for the project. “Each one reflects the personality and style of the owner. There’s no cookie-cutter style.”
On the modernist side, highlights include architect David Ling’s spare, contemporary take on a Cape Cod cottage with glittering views of the water, and a clean-lined compound designed by the Japanese master Toshihiro Oki. Traditionalists will appreciate Jai Imbrey and Bob Apfel’s shingle-style home with pale blue shutters, or fashion designer Chris Benz’s warm, colorful revamp of a cedar-shake Victorian. There’s also plenty in between—19th-century cottages with all-white living rooms and stainless steel kitchens, and Isabella Rossellini’s big red barn, lovingly updated by her friend Pietro Cicognani. Every garden photographed is bursting with life, more than a few are happily inhabited by children, dogs, chicken or sheep.
What unites each of these spaces—both indoors and out—is a sense of welcoming sophistication, each page an invitation to settle into a chair and grab a beach towel. “It’s a more casual lifestyle here, and the natural environment is really inspiring,” Foley says. That’s part of the reason it attracts so many people who work in design, fashion, art, publishing, and architecture. “People respond visually to the setting—it’s very serene, the landscape and the seascape are just beautiful,” she adds.
Since so many summer residents have moved there on a more permanent basis during the pandemic, there has been an even stronger sense of community—and a lot more people growing kitchen gardens or starting little backyard farms, Foley says, which adds to its unique appeal: “I mean, where else can you go to a nice dinner party and you come home with a box of eggs as a party favor?”