A Mail Order Home In The Heart of Sag Harbor

Having summered in the Hamptons for over 30 years with her husband Ken and their children, interior designer Jane Schwartz loves the small town atmosphere of Sag Harbor and the surrounding area. Throughout her children’s early years, the family relished the opportunity to ride bikes into town.

Schwartz also appreciates the charm and wonderful quality to the older homes in the area. Ten years ago they settled into a home in North Haven that sits on a pretty acre of land.

Built in 1924, this charming farmhouse is one of the original Sears Roebuck catalog homes, which were sold as kits by mail order throughout the years in the early– to mid–1900s. Schwartz is proud to own one of these historic American homes, and reminded me these houses were shipped by rail to city lots and farms around the country. There are many of these homes out on the East End of Long Island since Sears sold approximately 75,000 home kits in that period. This lovely summer cottage has an old fashioned front porch and fits perfectly with the family’s lifestyle, allowing them to walk to Sag Harbor or across the street to the beach. Their recent renovation has given the house even more charm, while allowing it to blend into the current architecture of the neighborhood in a seamless way.

The Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog had been around since 1888 when owner Richard Sears first mailed out a flyer advertising jewelry and watches. He soon began to sell other wares and even groceries. The mail order concept was well timed since it allowed products to be sent to hard-to-reach rural areas during the height of the railroad industry. Mail order was convenient for homeowners and soon mail order shopping became Americans’ most popular mode for buying products.

The mail order catalog started to influence our interior design as well when in 1905 Sears featured wallpaper, fabric swatches and paint color sample books. From 1908 to 1940 the Sears catalog dedicated a Modern Home division selling building plans, supplies and home kits. The first home kit catalog contained 22 plans for homes of moderate size, and soon expanded to offer supply specifications and materials, but not until 1916 did the company launch the first full kit for sale.

The kit included the entire house, with numbered parts and a detailed instruction manual, and even the paint and nails.

Although not the first company to create the mail-order home, Sears took the concept nationwide and expanded it to a large enterprise. During the “Roaring Twenties” Sears showed over 100 house models and a variety of summer cottages as well, many of which can be seen today on the East End.

Schwartz’ Sears and Roebuck home was featured in last month’s issue of This Old House magazine. Examples of the additions are featured in the article “11 Ways to Give Your Home a Personal Stamp.” In the current (June) issue of This Old House the Schwartz’ front porch is featured on the cover.

While keeping the integrity of the home in place, Schwartz made a few additions and renovations. When refurbishing the sunroom, Schwartz matched the doors and windows to the existing ones to blend with the current architecture. The new arched window offers fuller views of the family’s English garden. “I enjoy gardening and relaxing on my porch while reading Dan’s Papers,” says Jane Schwartz.

Schwartz’s interior design business is based in New York, but she has managed projects in the Hamptons, the North Fork, Westchester County and Connecticut. Schwartz likes to work on old houses because she enjoys the classic architecture, as well as the good quality materials such as windows, moldings and floors. She likes to decorate with a classic framework, bringing in an eclectic mix of modern and antique pieces. Active in the design industry on the East End, this summer Schwartz is working on the Holiday House Hamptons committee. janeschwartz.com

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