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Tour a Photographer’s Montauk Hideaway

Tour a Photographer’s Montauk Hideaway
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There is only one look in Prep decorating: Not Decorated,” declares Lisa Birnbach in her 1980 tome, The Official Preppy Handbook, which is to say “nothing is consciously coordinated, but everything works together through a successful marriage of utility and excellence.” A comical take, yes, but it does sum up the look of Matt Albiani and Ron Brand’s Montauk, NY, hideaway. Behind its shingled exterior one finds a collected mix of nautical nods arranged with a level of nonchalance that lends every vignette—from a trio of postcards tacked above a table in Williamsburg green to a ceramic spaniel lamp beside a silver tray—its own form of haphazard perfection.

Albeit a rental, the house possesses the character of a home that’s been lived-in and well loved. Matt, a photographer, and Ron, a real estate broker (together they also co-founded the home goods store Mate Gallery), rented it as a weekend retreat from life in New York City. Now, six years in, they’re still on a lease, but have added a number of objects (and a few coats of paint) to better suit their taste. “We’ve been lucky enough in that the owners have let us have carte blanche about making improvements,” says Matt, ”and I’ve learned that it’s really about what you surround yourself with, not necessarily the house per se, that makes a place special.” Sound words for anyone with a lease—and he adds that it doesn’t take much effort to make a space feel like your own. “You need a good eye, but it’s not that hard to make your mark with smaller, impermanent touches.”

Outside, a gravel path leads to a slate porch. Styled with an old tree stump, an anchor mat, and a brass lantern, it hints at the nautical charm found within.

Outside, a gravel path leads to a slate porch. Styled with an old tree stump, an anchor mat, and a brass lantern, it hints at the nautical charm found within.

A string of old buoys provides a pop of color against the exterior’s weathered shingles.

A string of old buoys provides a pop of color against the exterior’s weathered shingles.

Matt has been frequenting Montauk for the past two decades (and with Ron since they met in 2011). “It’s a special place,” he says, “and though it’s changed a lot since I first started visiting, it still manages to retain pockets of what it used to be.” A melting pot of local characters and weekend visitors, it’s the kind of place where “the surfer, the fisherman, the local drunk, and the investment banker all still live at the same bar,” Matt says. “It’s not precious. There’s still a saltiness here, and we’re drawn to that.” Such a description sheds light on why the area’s made its mark on popular culture too. Quint, the character played by Robert Shaw in the movie Jaws (one of Matt’s favorite films), was based on Frank Mundus, a shark hunter who lived nearby. Eothen, the 30-acre compound that once belonged to Andy Warhol, is also in the neighborhood.

Made up of brambled dunes, sandy beaches, and seaside cottages like that of Ron and Matt, this small town on Long Island’s end is a fitting place for anyone who craves escape. Read on for the full home tour below.

The living room’s preppy mix is anchored by a vintage dhurrie rug and a secondhand sailfish. “Good vintage is getting harder and harder to find,” says Matt. “The craft and care that old things were made with is an important thing to have in a home, I think. They just make it feel special.”

The living room’s preppy mix is anchored by a vintage dhurrie rug and a secondhand sailfish. “Good vintage is getting harder and harder to find,” says Matt. “The craft and care that old things were made with is an important thing to have in a home, I think. They just make it feel special.”

All-American Style

Matt’s photographs make reference to “leisure time” in a way that parallels the decor of his home. Open his personal portfolio and you will find shots of freckle-faced lifeguards with sun-bleached hair, shadowy silhouettes of polo horses, and barefoot friends piled into the back of a doorless jeep. Collectively they speak to an idealized past of endless summers. And it’s a past not all that dissimilar from Matt’s own. He grew up outside Boston, and his family made a habit of visiting cousins in Nantucket every summer. “That sense of escape and island living Nantucket offered was very intoxicating to me,” Matt says. “If I had to pinpoint a connection between my work and my life, those summers would be it.”

Cut to him and Ron spending time in Montauk lounging on the sunroom’s wicker chairs with Ray LaMontagne on repeat and the sea just steps away. In a movie, it’s the scene you hope never ends—a couple in repose surrounded by the things they love, the things they collected together. “There are so many fond memories in this house,” says Matt. “Having people over, lighting a fire, playing bingo on the lawn… That’s what gives a house life, that’s what makes us happier than anything else in the world.”

A captain’s chair draped with sheepskin creates a cozy corner next to the living room’s fireplace. Behind, a built-in bookshelf lined with thrifted treasures reads as an open-air cabinet of curiosities.

A captain’s chair draped with sheepskin creates a cozy corner next to the living room’s fireplace. Behind, a built-in bookshelf lined with thrifted treasures reads as an open-air cabinet of curiosities.

At the bottom of a staircase hangs a captain’s portrait, a pair of antlers, and a framed Montauk flag.

At the bottom of a staircase hangs a captain’s portrait, a pair of antlers, and a framed Montauk flag.

In the sunroom, a wicker sofa and chairs are lined with shibori cushions. The shark is a nod to one of Matt’s favorite films, while the industrial floor lamp adds heft, height, and a sense of scale.

In the sunroom, a wicker sofa and chairs are lined with shibori cushions. The shark is a nod to one of Matt’s favorite films, while the industrial floor lamp adds heft, height, and a sense of scale.

American style is something that’s rooted in history, and I think it stems from New England, where our idea of ‘America’ was created.

— Matt Albiani
Surrounded by mismatched chairs, the well-used table in Williamsburg green is the kitchen’s colorful focal point. Behind, an Americana-inspired gallery wall features yet another captain, an odd plate, and a Revolutionary flag. On the floor, blue-and-white linoleum offers (an original) retro touch.

Surrounded by mismatched chairs, the well-used table in Williamsburg green is the kitchen’s colorful focal point. Behind, an Americana-inspired gallery wall features yet another captain, an odd plate, and a Revolutionary flag. On the floor, blue-and-white linoleum offers (an original) retro touch.

A stone mantel painted white hosts a ship in a bottle, a novelty mug, and artwork whose watery colors mirror the surface of the sea.

A stone mantel painted white hosts a ship in a bottle, a novelty mug, and artwork whose watery colors mirror the surface of the sea.

Rows of striped jars hold dry goods on a freestanding pantry made of pine. Simple, functional, and visually appealing, it’s a vignette that proves Lisa Birnbach’s point about a “successful marriage of utility and excellence.”

Rows of striped jars hold dry goods on a freestanding pantry made of pine. Simple, functional, and visually appealing, it’s a vignette that proves Lisa Birnbach’s point about a “successful marriage of utility and excellence.”

In the bedroom, a lamp made from a ceramic bust of a spaniel sits atop a Federal-style dresser in front of one of Matt’s photographs. The classic yellow raincoat is also his.

In the bedroom, a lamp made from a ceramic bust of a spaniel sits atop a Federal-style dresser in front of one of Matt’s photographs. The classic yellow raincoat is also his.

Beside a bed frame sits a nightstand unencumbered by a table lamp. Instead, a brass sconce shaped like a fishing lure was hung, making the most of a spare space on the white plaster wall. 
 

Beside a bed frame sits a nightstand unencumbered by a table lamp. Instead, a brass sconce shaped like a fishing lure was hung, making the most of a spare space on the white plaster wall.

 

Tacked to perfection: A photograph by Matt is surrounded by a loose arrangement of unframed images and memorabilia.

Tacked to perfection: A photograph by Matt is surrounded by a loose arrangement of unframed images and memorabilia.

There are so many fond memories in this house. Having people over, lighting a fire, playing bingo on the lawn… That’s what gives a house life, that’s what makes us happier than anything else in the world.

— Matt Albiani
A Queene Anne dressing table is paired with a spindle-back chair and a ceramic owl. A print from yesteryear depicting two surfers hangs next to the closet door draped in Fair Isle.

A Queene Anne dressing table is paired with a spindle-back chair and a ceramic owl. A print from yesteryear depicting two surfers hangs next to the closet door draped in Fair Isle.

The cheery guest room features twin beds and a ship light-turned-lamp shaded by a coastal scene. Quilts, in lieu of duvets, are in line with Matt’s affinity for handcrafted things.

The cheery guest room features twin beds and a ship light-turned-lamp shaded by a coastal scene. Quilts, in lieu of duvets, are in line with Matt’s affinity for handcrafted things.

Shop the look of Matt and Ron’s home→

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