Grey Gardens

Posted by Suzi | May 29, 2012

In no particular order here is a list of things that spring to mind when I think of Grey Gardens.

Cats. 300 in total. Not to mention the handful of racoons, who inhabited the eccentric 28-room East Hampton mansion alongside its reclusive socialite owners, mother-and-daughter, Edith Beale and Edith Bouvier Beale. AKA Big Edie and Little Edie.

The colour grey. The house was called Grey Gardens because of the colour of the dunes, the cement garden walls, and the sea mist

Mould. In 1972 the place was revealed to be so far gone that the local authorities threatened to evict them for violating building and sanitation codes.

Ghosts. The exact quantity is unknown but apparently the house was haunted by a couple of old men.

Hence why it is little mystery that the infamous story of Jackie Kennedy Onassis’ weird-but-wonderful cousins has remained a fashion inspiration- not an interiors one. Turbans and ‘messy chic’ being easier to pull off than a rotting/gray/spirit-infested house.

But flicking through an old Architectural Digest, I’d thought I’d share these images of the revamp by Sally Quinn- who bought the place in ’79. Staunchly saying: “All it needed was a lick of paint,” it’s an amazing bit of renno inspiration. I love her use of the billowing Hampton’s wild flowers and the below quote from her husband, Ben Bradlee, still vice president of The Washington Post, made me laugh.

“In all my life, including years reporting about slums from Washington to Casablanca, I have never seen a house in such dreadful condition: attics full of raccoons and their droppings, toilets stopped up, a kitchen stove that had fallen into the cellar, a living room with literally only half a floor, grounds so matted with devil’s walking sticks and other thorns they were impenetrable, a large walled garden which was so overgrown it could not even be seen.  Over everything hung the knee-buckling smell of cats and cat excrement.  Whole rooms had been abandoned when they filled-up with garbage…After ’Big Edie’ had passed away, and ‘Little Edie’ was forced to sell, she would only pass it on to someone who would not tear the eyesore down.”


 For the full Architectural Digest article, click here.



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Sydney Interior Designer, Suzi Boyle, Editorial branding, Interior Sourcing in Sydney and London