Design

How Lovely Is This Fire Island Cottage?

fire island house tour

Have you ever been to Fire Island? The long, thin island is only about 90 minutes from New York City, but it feels a universe away. No cars are allowed; people stroll the wooden walkways in bare feet; fox and deer meander along the sand dunes. Here, in collaboration with the Maryn, Alex Bates and her husband Andrew Hoffman show us inside their cottage…

fire island house tour

On falling for Fire Island: We’re really old, so my husband started going there to visit friends before we met in 1892 [laughs]. We then started renting houses together. We rented in the village of Saltaire and fell in love. Then, almost 30 years ago, this house became available. You know instinctively when you walk into a place, you fall in love with it?

PORCH
fire island house tour

fire island house tour

On the town of Saltaire: There’s not much here — a grocery store, a tennis and sailing club, a library, a fire department and a town hall. The young woman who runs the library program is a kindergarten teacher. She has created new programs for kids and it’s becoming the core of the community.

On island life: You come out here and there’s nothing to do. It’s a sanctuary. I’m usually knee deep in the garden. I have different gardening playlists, depending on the mood of my week; and we blast the music and rip out weeds.

LIVING ROOM
fire island house tour

fire island house tour

fire island house tour

fire island house tour

On the perfect paint: The inside of the house is all Fine Paints of Europe White 0001. I’m nuts about paint. It’s a pure white, not toned in any direction like a painter’s white. We painted the floor, ceiling and walls the same color. We used the high gloss, so when the light comes in, it bounces all over the room. You feel like you’re in a tiny little ship.

On collecting: Our collections are taking over right now. We organize shells and stones by color. I comb the beach for oyster shells. We have a basket of antlers that deer have shed in the front yard.

KITCHEN
fire island house tour

fire island house tour

On hosting friends: We have lots of spontaneous dinners with other families in Saltaire. You walk across the walkway and say, ‘Did you have dinner yet? We’re having a party.’ People just walk over and through your door. My husband spatchcocks chicken or roasts fish. The local fishing boats deliver directly to the dock so you can get scallops, lobster and cod. Plus, we make corn on the cob, of course.

BEDROOM
fire island house tour

On the key to a comfy bed: My husband and I have contradictory points of view: his preference is for a harder mattress, and I want something softer. At the height of summer, when it’s crazy hot, we don’t have AC, so it’s just a light cotton throw.

On bedtime reading: Andrew is a mystery reader — especially Swedish authors like Henning Mankell. I’ve been reading Paul Hawkin’s Drawdown, which is about solutions for climate change. He’s one of my heroes; I’m geeking out about his work right now. My all-time favorite book is No Ordinary Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin, about Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. It talks about these amazing slumber parties they’d have with Winston Churchill at the White House.

BACK DECK
fire island house tour

fire island house tour

fire island house tour

On waking up: Early morning is my favorite time. I like to pour a cup of coffee and start my day on the back deck listening to nature. There are so many birds and butterflies at sunrise.

On late stays: We are diehard and stay here as long as possible. We have to get out before the pipes freeze, which is usually just before Thanksgiving. We had a snow storm one year on November 15th and it was incredible being in the house while the snow was falling. It was so beautiful, like being in a snow globe.

BEACH

fire island house tour

Thank you so much, Alex!

P.S. More house tours, and vacation photos on Fire Island.

(Photos by Marta Xochilt Perez for the Maryn. Produced and art directed by Michelle Adams for the Maryn. Photos republished with permission.)

  1. Patti says...

    Are those fake tortoise shells and where on earth can I find me some?

  2. “No Ordinary Time” is an amaaaazing book that got me started on all kinds of history books (Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson is another favorite)

    • margaret says...

      ME TOO! Years ago I told a co-worker that I wished I could get into history books, but all I ever wanted to read was novels. And he said three little words that changed my reading life: “No Ordinary Time.” For the next 15 years, I read history almost exclusively – loved it. I’m back to novels now for the most part, but Doris sure did lead me to a lot of really great books!

  3. That looks like my idea of heaven. I’d brave winters there because I don’t think I’d be able to tear myself away…

  4. Melissa says...

    I wish I could be friends with Alex. :) her home makes me feel like she’s a kindred spirit. I love every single thing!

  5. Thank you for this. I felt as if I was there too!

  6. rachel simmons says...

    one of the most charming vacation homes EVER!

  7. fgb says...

    Oh my goodness, what a dream this place is!

  8. Sara says...

    I absolutely love all of the white, especially juxtaposed against the dark wood cedar (?) shingles. Lately I’ve been very sad that my babies are not going to be babies forever. Maybe I will envision all of that white in my own house to cheer me up ;)

  9. Pamela Decker says...

    Wow. That is absolutely my dream home. Just gorgeous.

  10. JILLIAN C CLEMMONS says...

    Would love to know where (and if) I could find that beach waves art piece in the hoop that’s showcased on the wall. It’s so lovely. Beautiful article. Thanks!

  11. suki says...

    Funny, yes, I love the cottage – it is definitely: THE dream, but her book suggestions have sent me down a Doris Kearns Goodwin rabbit hole and I am listening to her President’s Day presentation linked via the Events tab on her website.

    And now I would kind of love an interveiw or house tour with her, here! She is the kind of woman I’d love to see more of – really working to educate and expose powerful people to wisdom and healthy leadership.

  12. Anon says...

    I think usually you drain everything out before you reach a temperature when you’d be risking any standing water freezing

  13. J says...

    I have visited Fire Island before, but only briefly, and I always wonder how people live there get furniture delivered to their houses! LOL.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I think some houses are sold with the furniture, for this reason!

  14. Megan Flett says...

    Beautiful! Would love if she would share her gardening playlists …

    • Kaye Berman says...

      ditto!

  15. Kari T. says...

    I think this is my favorite all white interior ever, how Alex made it feel so cozy and inviting and timeless, it doesn’t read stark at all. Dream home, thank you for sharing.

  16. Leila says...

    So beautiful! This post made me feel so peaceful. My dream house!

  17. What a dream. The ideal summer house!

  18. Claire says...

    The only peek into Fire Island I have had was through an amazing book by Ann Brashares called ‘The Last Summer (of You and Me)’. It is a young adult book but I have returned to it many times even in adulthood. It’s a beautiful story of love and family and Fire Island sounds magical, idyllic, timeless. Highly recommend if you fancy a perfect beachy read this summer. xx

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      ooh that sounds wonderful!

    • Jane says...

      Ann owned a house in Saltaire so much in that book was inspired by village life.

    • Jessa says...

      I love that book too, great recommendation! I reread it most summers. It makes me feel that rush of teenage love and heartbreak all over again.

    • Melissa says...

      I just placed this on hold at my library! Thank you so much for the recommendation!

    • Kayla says...

      Yes, such a wonderful book! I read it every year!

  19. Barbara says...

    Be still my heart❤️

  20. Debbie says...

    I love the tower of books in the enclosed porch, and the very lovely white painted fireplace with the cozy fire burning. What a peaceful retreat and what a dream-like place to spend the summer. Thank you for sharing these lovely photos.

  21. Laura says...

    I spent a summer babysitting on Fire Island as a college student. I made practically zero dollars but it was worth it. What a beautiful, otherworldly place. I would run in the evenings after the kids were in bed and I have such vivid memories of the smell of the humid air and the sound of my breath and my feet on the pavement (these were the days of click-wheel iPods and HEADphones, so running with music was a challenge). Now that I’m a grownup and have kids of my own, I long for those hot, sticky, solo evenings. Having nothing to do by garden sounds like a dream.

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      oh, wow, that’s so poetic. sound like a dream. xo

  22. Meghan says...

    Oh, can she share her gardening playlists? I need good music to motivate me to do some intense weeding.

  23. Sharon says...

    “ We have to get out before the pipes freeze […]”

    So they just let the pipes freeze every winter, and then have the entire house redone every year, to repair the water damage?

    • Alison says...

      They probably turn off the water and bleed the pipes before they close the house for the winter.

    • Elizabeth says...

      I believe they drain the pipes so they can’t freeze. That’s what we do, anyway. “Before the pipes freeze” is shorthand for “before there is a chance of it getting cold enough that if we still had water in the pipes, it would freeze!”

    • Jenna says...

      You have to “winterize” the house before you leave, which means emptying the pipes! A plumber has to come out to do it, unless you are very handy. My husband’s family has a similar cottage on the coast of Maine that requires special pre-winter activities like so!

    • gk says...

      I’m curious about this, too.

      But I don’t think they let the pipes freeze – I’m assuming the house doesn’t have central heat (or cooling?) so they have to winterize the house / drain the pipes before they leave for the winter so they don’t freeze.

    • Stacey says...

      I believe that after the pipes are emptied, a type of anti freeze is used too. It’s a whole thing, and there’s no running water afterwards, so you winterize and leave before the first hard freeze.

  24. Lena says...

    Please tell us more about the wooden chairs on the porch with the unique backs

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I’ll ask her!

    • Lucia says...

      They look like vintage Cherner chairs to me.

  25. Kim says...

    Ugh, the dream! I spent a glorious twin nights at the ocean nearest me recently and it was so healing. Now I just need to figure out how to get back sooner than my next trip in September.

    This was delicious to read and see.

  26. Hanna Pederson says...

    This town sounds like a fantasy, and thank you for the book and author recommendations!

  27. trish says...

    This place is the epitome of pretty. Where they go when the pipes freeze? I’m sure their winter abode is just as special.

  28. Sharon says...

    This cottage is beyond stunning. What a dream!

  29. Sarah says...

    This is my house of dreams 😍

  30. Katie says...

    I just loved looking at these pictures. What an absolute dream.

    I suspect that whoever lives here would be a great subject for a beauty uniform too.

  31. Helene says...

    Such a lovely home! But I cringed at the shell collecting – tourists collecting shells at the beaches is harms the ocean ecosystem and sea life (even if everyone just takes one, that’s a lot of shells).

    • Annabelle says...

      I’d never heard this – do you have a link to more resources?

  32. MN says...

    Perfection. The best part of white paint, other than how it reflects and brightens, is that you never have to paint again.

  33. Naki says...

    This is so serene! Thank you so much! I went onto Maryn and totally lost there, true pleasure!

  34. Heather says...

    This place is pure magic. Wow- what a refuge from the hustle bustle. Love it!

  35. Samantha says...

    when can i move in? :)

  36. Caitlin L. says...

    OK this is my total fantasy beach house. SO SO beautiful.

  37. Alex says...

    I’m crying. Fire Island is my happy place. We left NYC a year ago for a different kind of beach in South Florida, but it’s not the same as that magical island.

  38. Nigerian Girl says...

    Gorgeous. I can see myself living here.

  39. Lo says...

    Such a lovely house—just scrolling through photos was so calming!

  40. Emily says...

    This cottage is an absolute dream!! I’d love to visit Fire Island someday. As a fellow fan, I liked seeing the Louise Penney book on their nightstand.

  41. Erin says...

    Completely amazing. Can you swim here too?

    • E says...

      you can! the beaches are beautiful.

    • Lisa says...

      Those photos from your trip look amazing. Just the kind of holiday I could use right now – hanging out, going to the beach, eating ice cream. It sounds incredible

  42. LL says...

    If I lived somewhere like this , I’d pinch myself daily . So beautiful. It’s calming just looking at these photos

  43. kate says...

    oh my gosh! can I move in with them – my idea of paradise

  44. Bobby says...

    Do you have a source for that exquisite round brass framed picture of waves? My house needs it. Badly.

    • Kat says...

      same! looks vintage or something though… gorgeous!

    • Capucine says...

      Same! Marine Edith Crosta does these, but I don’t know if that specific piece is by her. (Props to how beautifully that photo of it is lit and framed by flower branches, and the rest of the house – it could skew kitsch, but it does not, thanks to the triad of talented women behind it as artist/homeowner/photographer!)

    • Elizabeth R. says...

      You could Google porthole framea and put in a picture of the beach. Cool look-like a cruise ship.

    • Julia says...

      If I had to guess, I would guess it is Marine Edith Crosta, from her Lost at Sea series. They are miniatures, maybe 3-4″ across in vintage frames. I’ve never seen two exactly the same (often similar!) but she might do commissions. I would recommend joining her mailing list – they sell quick – so you can’t hesitate! http://www.crostasmithgallery.com/lost-at-sea

    • Narine says...

      Very little help, but a hint: I know I’ve seen the artist who created it somewhere on Instagram… the name is escaping me but yes it’s possible to buy her artwork, she’s somewhere out there!

    • suki says...

      Yep. My dream cottage too.
      There is another artist doing larger round sea paintings I just discovered the other day: https://www.tiktok.com/@amber_emmi

  45. I just Pinned the hell out of this post! Love it all!

  46. Maryn says...

    Seeing my [very rare, unique] name in a post is always a pleasant surprise! I remember your last post in collaboration with The Maryn and I had the same reaction—there’s a whole company named MARYN? MY NAME?! That I hardly ever see beyond myself?! Truly mind-blowing. This cottage is stunning, btw!

    • Chelsea says...

      Maryn is at the top of my baby name list :)

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      I love the name Maryn!

  47. Ramona says...

    So charming! Looks like a movie set! 🤍🎬

  48. Cynthia says...

    Beautiful house, and I like the picture of the deer on the beach.

  49. Emily says...

    This is so lovely; I could move right in! Alex has an incredible eye for beauty, simplicity and design. This is probably my favourite house!