About five years ago, a young New York City couple—she’s a real estate executive, he’s a bond trader—decided that they wanted a beach house on Fire Island, a narrow spit of land off the southern coast of Long Island where he had spent his childhood summers. They found an architecturally undistinguished wooden cabin that was built sometime in the 1950s and whose greatest asset was its location high above the oceanfront. It measured only 1,400 square feet, which didn’t seem adequate for a couple with two young sons. They bought it with the idea of making radical changes and, if necessary, tearing it down and replacing it.
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