At Home with Chuck and Ellen Scarborough

Chuck and Ellen Scarborough
Chuck and Ellen Scarborough. Photo credit: Barbara Lassen

“The accumulation of family experiences over the years makes this house our home,” says venerable NBC anchorman Chuck Scarborough of the Southampton home he shares with this wife of over 20 years, Ellen Ward Scarborough. “I’ve had this house over two decades. When I think what makes it a home it’s the parties with the kids when they were teenagers that we all survived. My daughter Elizabeth had her wedding here. Really, it’s the memories embedded in the walls that make a house a home.”

It is within the very walls, now painted white and hung with large paintings and with an aqua accent wall in the dining room, that Chuck has bonded with the property since purchasing the estate in the 1990s, just a few short years before he and Ellen married. Originally built in the 1880s, the home, with its bold black and white patterned painted floors, sits graciously on Lake Agawam with wrap around porches that open to a view of the Meadow Club and St. Andrew’s Dune Church, where his daughter was married in 2012. After the wedding, the bride and groom walked back to the house, accompanied by family and friends, for a reception. “This was one of the original homes on the pond…it was built on locust posts that rotted over time,” explains Chuck. “Over the years owners added porches that became rooms, and more porches that became more rooms and so forth until what we have now. The center part is original.” One of the first projects was to deal with the instability of the main home, which was sinking and unleveled. “We jacked it up and added a new foundation and basement.”

Inside Chuck and Ellen Scarborough's Southampton home.
Inside Chuck and Ellen Scarborough’s Southampton home. Photo credit: Barbara Lassen

“I oversaw all of the renovations,” Scarborough says during a tour of the property that also includes its original carriage house, as well as an auxiliary garage built in the 1920s, both of which have been extensively renovated. On a perfect summer afternoon the broadcaster, who has over 30 Emmy awards to his credit, proudly shows off the flower boxes on the garage. “I love carpentry. Making things with my hands.” He constructed the beautifully trimmed flower boxes on the garage and carriage house, both sets overflowing with bright pink and white flowers. The charm of the moment is not lost on the broadcaster, who laughs and says to his wife, “I’m just showing off my window boxes again.”

“He’ll be a carpenter when he retires,” jokes Ellen, who later declares that he’ll never retire. “He did all the rough carpentry in the master bathroom.” Chuck explains that, over the winter, he “got hooked on renovation shows and just attacked it.” He admits “perhaps I watched a few too many episodes of Property Brothers on lazy Sunday afternoons.” While it takes the pros on TV an episode to do a full renovation, the Scarboroughs were stymied both by contractors’ schedules and by shipping delays that held up the project, still under construction. “The mosaic floor held us up. You know, you can’t move until the floor goes down.” He admits that “this makeover was a lesson. I’ve hit my limit. I like working with my hands and it was a learning experience.”

Now they turn their attention to the interior design, where Ellen’s discerning designer’s eye comes to the forefront. “Ellen’s the designer,” Chuck says proudly, standing in the foyer where a black staircase curves to the second floor and a grand piano waits for a tickle of the keys. While neither play, they have had guests and local piano teachers do the honors.

Inside Chuck and Ellen Scarborough's Southampton home.
Inside Chuck and Ellen Scarborough’s Southampton home. Photo credit: Barbara Lassen

Stepping down into the living room it is the sheer scale of the room that first gains one’s attention. Two overstuffed aqua sectionals on either side of the room anchor the space, its open design perfect for entertaining. A round banquette in the center of the room separates the spaces while bringing the room together. Windows and doors open to the covered porches and line the room on two sides, allowing plenty of light throughout the day and a view of the pond in the evening. Built-ins showcase part of Ellen’s extensive collection of art and design books while a well-curated selection of tall vases and objects d’art are deftly placed throughout. No space has been overlooked, yet it is neither fussy nor overdesigned. The home is well-considered and reflects the infectious sense of humor and elegant sense of style of its occupants.

Ellen’s eponymous antiques shop in Stamford, Connecticut, focuses on European pieces collected in her travels, and she’s brought key pieces to her summer home in the Hamptons. “There’s nothing like Paris. It’s so fun. You can go to flea markets there, and then for mussels and champagne. You can’t do that in the Midwest. I’m from there—so I would know.” The well-travelled antiques dealer has traveled the world over for chairs and chaises, paintings and porcelain. Yet, when it came to designing her Hamptons home, the Chicago native says, “I’ve spent the last 15 years bringing over containers from France but now mid-century American is fun.”

Touches of whimsy are sprinkled throughout the home. In the living room a small bust of a sailor girl sits atop an end table, while in the mudroom artistic fleur-de-lis and musicians are painted on white cabinets. In the den, with a large red sectional couch and zebra patterned rug, old photos of Chuck’s parents rest upon a black occasional table with painted playing cards. The outdoor dining table is a mash-up of a base Ellen found in her travels and a top created at V.A.V. Classics, a custom auto body shop in Southampton. Scalamandré’s famous zebra race across the red wallpaper in the office, where one of Chuck’s favorite photos of the home at dusk is tucked neatly in a closet waiting for the perfect spot on the wall. Pointing out these elements, lest they be overlooked, Chuck says, “They’re just so fun!”

The white-on-white eat-in kitchen boasts a collection of copper pans, hung just so, along the white tiled wall overlooking the bluestone rimmed pool and patio. A towering wrought iron piece might hold fruit on any given day while a collection of white case glass above the wet bar showcases the elegant simplicity of Ellen’s keen aesthetic. In the dining room Ellen shows off green and blue case glasses from the 1960s that would have been the perfect set dressing for Mad Men. Now neatly tucked in a gold trimmed white cabinet, she says that they “use them all the time when entertaining.” A glass-topped, gold-footed table, enlarged from the original, anchors the room. Pointing downward to the black painted wood floor, Ellen notes, “The floor will be white soon.”

Inside Chuck and Ellen Scarborough's Southampton home.
Chuck and Ellen Scarborough’s Southampton home. Photo credit: Barbara Lassen

Passionate animal lovers, the Scarboroughs have opened their well-dressed home to various charities over the years, including Quogue Wildlife Animal Rescue and Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation as well as the Ellen Hermanson Breast Cancer Foundation. On the day of our tour, as we took note of the black-and-white canvas awnings and the white wicker furniture, deer leapt over the white picket fence by the pool. A seagull quite contentedly perched on the chimney enjoying the view. Waterfowl of all sorts cavorted in the marshy apron of the pond squawking to one another. Perhaps it’s the view or perhaps it’s the feeling of being in a nature preserve that makes the Scarborough residence the perfect setting for this year’s Gimme Shelter Animal Rescue summer gala on Saturday, July 11. Both Chuck and Ellen are honored to host this year’s event, which Chuck says begins with “several days of chaos to get the tent set up before about 250 people come for the party.”

Founded in 2011 by Sagaponack resident Michelle Neufeld Montak, Gimme Shelter Animal Rescue has saved over 2,000 dogs to date. The Scarboroughs’ beloved dogs Arthur and Emma were two such rescues, and that makes Neufeld Montak family in their eyes.

Now friendly and very well adjusted to family life in the Hamptons and Connecticut, both dogs had big obstacles to overcome. Emma, now about 6 years old, was found on a roadside in South Carolina with two puppies. The puppies were quickly adopted as she lay there in shock. After her rescue, Ellen, heartbroken over the situation, tells a sweet tale of her mothering instincts. “She took two baby rabbits to foster. She had them right on the front porch with her. We took them to the Quogue Wildlife Rescue Center.” Arthur has been a project for the past two years, explains Chuck. With various health concerns it looks like there will be a few more years of TLC ahead, putting thoughts of fostering more dogs on hold for now.

“Michelle is such a devoted animal lover,” explains Chuck. “Lots of her saves are from kill shelters in the South. She set up a network of foster homes and vets for each foster family. There is no actual shelter.” The funds raised at the summer gala and over the course of the year pay for transportation and veterinary costs for each dog. Each dog is spayed/neutered, microchipped, vaccinated and given medical attention before being fostered. As there is no brick and mortar shelter the dogs are fostered until permanent homes are found. The vetting process to be a foster parent is quite extensive. The Scarboroughs say that Michelle works earnestly to find a good fit for the dogs in such dire need. “She is in the trenches,” continues Ellen, ”She’s right there one at a time with each animal.”

Between party planning and a nightly broadcast, the couple enjoys dinners at Silver’s in Southampton (“a mainstay,” declares Ellen), as well as at Pierre’s in Bridgehampton and Robert’s in Water Mill. They make the rounds at various antiques shows in the summer and are “always looking” for new finds for the house. Most of all they cherish spending time at Munn Point on Peconic Bay in Southampton. Overlooking Billionaire’s Row on the ocean, Chuck muses of the view, “We drive down Meadow Lane with the dogs. When you walk down the boardwalk it’s just tranquility.”

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