A Sweet Sag Harbor Saltbox Gets a Modern Makeover

Farrin Cary and Rylan Jacka's Sag Harbor Saltbox strikes the perfect balance of 19th century charm and modern luxury.Sag Harbor has come a long way since its days as a center of the whale oil trade. For more than a century after that industry collapsed, it was still familiar mostly to locals, sitting deep in the shadow of the splashier Hamptons due south. But the secret, as everyone knows, is out: The village has never been more popular, attracting the likes of weekend sailors, luxury shop owners, and stylish young families who find its charming intimacy and bustling-for-the-country downtown a perfect balance between too-small and suburban sprawl.

Farrin Cary and her husband, Sotheby’s International Realty associate broker Rylan Jacka, had wanted to raise their young daughters, Marinna and Amaya, in a small town with a supportive community. Sag Harbor’s accessibility—the girls can walk to the grocery store and the library—and abundant homespun personality presented the perfect mix of contemporary living without all the urban angst.

The San Francisco natives had dated a few times during high school, but went their separate ways after graduation. Years later, they met again at a jazz festival in Manhattan and rekindled their relationship. Jacka had moved to the Hamptons, and when things got serious, Cary followed suit, taking a job at Guild Hall in East Hampton. They have been residents of the East End, where Cary now works as an interior decorator, for nearly 15 years.

The first house they lived in was a 1980s McMansion in Bridgehampton, “but I needed an old house!” exclaims Cary, whose parents were antiques dealers. Both she and Jacka grew up in older homes and appreciated the patina that comes with age. “I wanted history, floorboards that were creaky. In an old house, you just feel more rooted.”

Sag Harbor, they found, was more to their liking. The couple’s infatuation with the village began in an 1817 home that Cary describes as a “jewel box,” similar to many of the town’s numerous saltbox-style cottages. They had renovated it, but the house was missing a few key elements for a growing family: There was no guest room, no home office, and no place for a pool—though admittedly, in a town with little acreage, pools are few and far between.

During the eight years they lived in the house, Cary kept her eye on a home located just around the corner—one that had room for a pool. “A woman had lived in it for a long time, and I would occasionally see her from my window,” she says. When the house finally came on the market, Cary and Jacka jumped at the chance and made an offer, though it took a year and a half for it to become theirs.

It was hardly move-in ready. The upper floor had been chopped into a warren of teeny bedrooms, and the bathrooms weren’t updated. But there were four fireplaces and beautiful floors underneath the carpeting, which was easy enough to take up. “The house seemed perfect,” Cary remembers.

They honored the home’s character by retaining its 19th-century integrity while giving it modern layers—installing arched entryways, opening up and revamping the kitchen to include a dining and sitting area, and creating four ample bedrooms and three baths. Gracing the façade is a glamorous, but not showy, blue-gray paint. “We didn’t want it to be just another Sag Harbor misty gray,” Cary says. The Jackas spend the bulk of their quality time in the living room, which is at its best, Cary reports, when bathed in the late afternoon light. “There’s no TV, and no technology, but it’s so pleasant being in the heart of the home. The house is far more luxurious than one with no intention behind it. It really feels ‘on purpose.’”

A version of this article appeared in the August 1, 2016 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Sweet Saltbox.