Writer Sally Quinn Tells Us How She Restored Gray Gardens

The complete interview with Sally Quinn is featured in season 2 of Home Lovely’s haunted home podcast, Darkish Home. Take heed to the episode right here.

This content material is imported from Third occasion. You could possibly discover the identical content material in one other format, otherwise you could possibly discover extra data, at their website.

In 1979, author Sally Quinn and her husband Ben Bradlee of Washington Publish fame drove from D.C. to East Hampton to see a property that was “extra of a damage than a liveable house,” as she described on Home Lovely’s podcast, Darkish Home. It was so rundown, actually, that the true property agent refused to go inside and Bradlee walked out choking inside minutes (he has a cat allergy and so they discovered 52 lifeless feral cats across the property, together with some raccoon skulls on the porch), so Quinn ventured on alone within the balmy August afternoon to satisfy then-owner, Edith Bouvier Beale. The property in query? Gray Gardens.

The house was the topic of the well-known 1975 documentary, Gray Gardens, at which level it was already in a state of filth (and allegedly haunted), however was as soon as a grand property that represented the wealth of New York’s elite. The true stars of the movie are mother-daughter duo “Little” Edie Bouvier Beale and “Huge” Edie Ewing Bouvier Beale, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis.


preview for Dream Rentals
princess lee radziwill in her hamptons home

Princess Lee Radziwill poses in an undated 1978 photograph taken at her seashore home in Southampton, New York.

Newsday LLC//Getty Pictures

Two years previous to filming, the house was deemed hazardous and was nearly demolished by the city earlier than Onassis and her sister, Lee Radziwill, stepped in to assist with some repairs. Two years after the movie was launched, Huge Edie handed away, and it took Little Edie two extra years to lastly discover the fitting individual (Quinn) to revive Gray Gardens, as she refused to promote it to anybody who deliberate to knock it down—which might have been less expensive, in keeping with most specialists.

sally quinn young

Writer Sally Quinn throughout an interview with host Johnny Carson on September tenth, 1975.

NBC//Getty Pictures

So, on that fateful day, Little Edie gave Quinn a heat welcome, singing “‘welcome to Gray Gardens,’ as if it was some fabulous palace. She did a pirouette and stated ‘all it wants is a coat of paint,'” Quinn stated. In the meantime, Quinn added, “there was cat shit all around the partitions and the odor and filth had been unbelievable, however we each noticed it the best way it as soon as was.” Past the veneer of these unglamorous remnants, the house’s former grandeur was nonetheless apparent to Quinn.

“What would make me say, ‘That is essentially the most stunning home I’ve ever seen,’ when it was a rubbish pit? Generally I simply have these emotions—I am psychic,” Quinn divulged. She was decided, regardless of the protests of everybody she encountered. Her husband instructed her she was out of her thoughts, and her finest good friend and neighbor Nora Ephron staged an intervention to forestall Quinn from shopping for Gray Gardens. “I am shopping for it with my guide cash. And you recognize, you’ll be able to both be a part of this or not,” she instructed her Bradlee. Even the contractor stated, “‘You’ve got gotta tear it down. It will be rather a lot simpler and cheaper to rebuild,'” Quinn recollects. “However then it would not be Gray Gardens, wouldn’t it? It’d simply be one other home, or worse, a duplicate of one other home.”

grey gardens

Little Edie, at house in Gray Gardens on September 1, 1972.

Ron Galella//Getty Pictures

So Quinn purchased it for $220,000, and instructed Little Edie “she may go away it broom clear, or she may go away all the furnishings and every part in it,” Quinn defined. Little Edie opted for the latter, and when Sally ventured into the attic and “the tiny former maid’s room behind the so-called kitchen, [I found] them piled to the ceiling with antiques: wicker chaises, stunning linens, china… I’ve by no means been so excited. I even began smoking once more,” Quinn laughed. So started the restoration course of, which turned out fantastically. And psychic or not, she was proper about it being definitely worth the effort. What precisely did the adorning course of entail?

grey gardens

Kris Connor//Getty Pictures

Quinn started by imagining what Gray Gardens would’ve been like in its heyday on the flip of the century after which envisioning artistic methods to include these particulars into the modern design. “I discovered [inspiration] in an vintage journal that I ordered, so every part was of the interval,” she stated. (When unsure, go flip by way of some previous magazines!) And every part that could not be restored was duplicated to evoke the interval. For instance, “the curtains in the lounge had been nonetheless hanging however had been in shreds, so I took the material to a decorator to match them,” she stated. “I discovered each artisan that would restore every part that wanted to be restored. I had the wicker man, the silver man, the wooden man…”

patrick mcmullan archives

Patrick McMullan//Getty Pictures

The house was constructed within the early 1900s and had been lived in your complete time, so not every part was from the identical interval. “There was some stuff from the Twenties after which ’30s after which ’40s. So there was an eclectic mixture of stuff, which made it extra enjoyable. The furnishings [left in the house] was all previous, and never all of it was fabulous antiques,” she defined. One in every of her favourite finds was a cupboard that belonged to Little Edie and was crammed with all of those little tiny animal figures. “It was a glass menagerie with 4 or 5 cabinets in good form.” Quinn saved it locked within the examine as a result of individuals all the time needed to take out the delicate animals and play with them.

jackie kennedy as a little girl

Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis at 4 years previous along with her mom, Mrs. Janet Lee Bouvier, at their East Hampton house in 1933.

Bettmann//Getty Pictures

Quinn’s different prized discovery was really related to Onassis. “There was a picket crate within the maid’s room and it was addressed to Jackie Kennedy. It had by no means been opened and was nailed shut. We pried it open and there was a stunning sterling silver mirror with all types of filigree across the edges. It was an odd form with beveled glass within the mirror and a darkish sapphire blue beneath the silver,” she defined. It is one of many solely gadgets from Gray Gardens that she nonetheless has after she parted methods with nearly every part at an property sale when she offered the home in 2017.

Due to her, Gray Gardens was like a phoenix rising from the ashes, and the Bradlee Quinns loved it in all its authentic glory as a household trip house till 2017. The consequence was stunning and served as a mystical backdrop for her and her household for the higher of 4 a long time. To not point out, the house commemorates two fabulous ladies in American historical past. “I used to be simply so ecstatic. It was a dream,” she beamed. Might each beautiful previous house misplaced to time discover its very personal Sally to swoop in, see its potential (both with somewhat creativeness or precise magic powers), and put it aside from the wrecking ball.

Curious to listen to extra about Gray Gardens and listen to extra from Sally Quinn? Take heed to this week’s episode of our haunted home podcast sequence, Darkish Home, for unique ghost tales from Quinn and compelling insights about her many haunted houses.

Leave a Reply