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Serene Retreats-John Jermain House Tour

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The sunroom of Susan Goldstein's North Haven home.

The sunroom of Susan Goldstein's North Haven home.



By Candace Sindelman

There are rare instances where sneaking a peak at a neighbor’s property can actually be considered a charitable act, but there are exceptions. On Friday, July 6, the public will have an opportunity to take part in a mostly self-guided tour of five homes in and around Sag Harbor with the proceeds benefiting the John Jermain Memorial Library.

One of the featured homes tucked away in a wooded area on Fresh Pond Road is the abode of Arlene Ollie Ball Dempsey and Bob Dempsey. Built in 1981, this light-filled country contemporary house exudes a playful quality.

A king size headboard made of barn-board has finally been found for the master bedroom, and the house is now a merging of memorabilia and objects from the couple’s past that meld perfectly with each other and are rich in history.

The “great room” of their house now features a total of 49 works of art, many of them arranged in a gradual slope going across one of the towering white walls. An Amish quilt is represented on another wall. Ball-Dempsey pointed to the one house image on the quilt that was different in the seemingly symmetrical design and explained how the Quakers would always add one imperfection to each piece as a reminder that “only God is perfect.”

A new addition to their home is the Bombay Room, thus named for the red and gold wallpaper that showcases elephants and giraffes and, the couple notes, their favorite beverage is the Bombay Sapphire Martini.

“This is our life,” Ball-Dempsey said. There is the photo on the wall that Dempsey thoughtfully retouched to say “Our American Hotel” instead of “The American Hotel,” the meeting spot for their first date.

A retired Navy captain, Dempsey’s rank swords hang over various photographs and works of art, among them a lighthearted sign that reads: KEEP CALM and DRINK MARTINIS that is illuminated by candles. And there is a piece of artwork of two lovers signed “always” in the bottom left corner that was given to them by friends.

“To be given art is so great, it’s just something so personal,” said Ball-Dempsey.

Pieces of aged wood taken down from the original façade of the house now serve as interior doors. Behind one is a revamped home office with new, eye-catching wallpaper that consists of pen and ink drawings of early chairs.

Outside, in the backyard, the porch overlooks a magnificent pear tree, a gift, given to them by Ball-Dempsey’s sister that bears white blossoms in the spring and red in the fall. Here, is a gorgeous spot where they can just entertain or relax.

“What’s good about the house tour is that you get to make your house perfect,” Ball-Dempsey said.

More than 500 strangers are expected to walk through the couple’s home during the house tour.

“We’re very pleased to be selected,” Dempsey said. “It’s an honor to be involved, we’re very proud of our home and we take joy in sharing it.”


Susan Goldstein’s House

Behind a set of gates on Ferry Road is a stunning contemporary home belonging to Susan Goldstein. The Gold LEED certified home is 6,500 square feet of airconditioned, occupiable space, not including the mechanical room which features an efficient geo-thermal mechanical/electrical system.

The original ranch-style house was devastated by a storm in October 2005 and was flooded 2-3 inches above the first floor. When it came to renovating, Goldstein deemed it was best to start off with a blank canvas, or in this case a green one. It took years, but the ranch would be transformed into a cutting edge, eco-conscience oasis.

“Everything needed to be torn down,” Goldstein said. “It needed to be renovated.”

She commissioned architect and engineer Dominick R. Pilla Associates for the project and decided she wanted something that was environmentally sound and responsible. It added years to the project, especially between waiting for permits and making sure everything met strict standards, but she says it was worth it.

“It’s been a labor of love. Lots of labor and lots of love,” she said.

“It was a lot like learning a new language,” said Goldstein when describing the process.

From bamboo floors, to soy insulation, to the reclaimed cypress siding, to all the plants being indigenous to the area and drought resistant, each detail was carefully monitored. The flat design of the roof enabled prime placement of the photo voltaic roof panels. The pool is heated entirely by solar heating and hot water is also controlled by solar thermal heating. The house also uses recycled rain water.

“There’s a lot of stone and wood in the house that could potentially make it seem cold,” Goldstein observes. “However, everything looks so beautiful, everything feels warm and comfortable.”

A waterfall was installed because of the homeowner’s affinity for the water.

“I love the sound,” Goldstein said. “I wanted to create a space for myself and friends, and use the piece to create a separation in the living room to create a sense of peace and quiet.”

“It’s all about using recycled, reused or reclaimed materials,” she said. The most notable was the use of two fallen cherry trees that were used to make an entire staircase, coffee table, benches and statues throughout the house. “It was like the trees became part of the house.”

Outside her residence is her front yard where, in the summer, liriope bloom under a glistening sculpture of two horses, a piece she commissioned from Robert L. Hooke. The sculptor was inspired by his time in England when he took notice of two mares that were sisters in a field.

“You’ll often see similar poses of horses nuzzling, or nipping at each other,” said Hooke;” but what really struck me was how the one had its head turned in towards the other, it was a more affectionate type of pose,”.

Goldstein’s daughter, a professional equestrian, has her room decked out in a funky black and white design and a dazzling shoe collection is displayed behind a glass case like museum artifacts.

An art deco chandelier, originally owned by her mother, hangs upstairs.

“She would also collect Asian art,” Goldstein added.

Sculptures by her son Darin can be found throughout the home as well as art work done by artists and friends such as Theresa Seran, Toni Weber and Tobi Kahn.

“I love being so close to town,” Goldstein said. “This has been the perfect place to raise a family.”