It can be challenging to spot a diamond in the rough, but Sophie-Claire Hoeller and Timothy Holley have a keen eye. "It wasn’t love at first sight by any stretch of the imagination," confesses Sophie, remembering when she and Timothy first saw this 1950s cabin in East Hampton. "But we were somehow both immediately able to see the place’s potential." After scooping up the home, the duo spent the better part of a year doing much of the renovation themselves, ultimately planning to rent it out on Airbnb while they weren’t there.
However, 2020 had other plans in store: Just as they wrapped up the major stages of the revamp—"We basically gutted the place," explains Sophie— their workplaces, and much of their surroundings in Brooklyn where they live, shuttered in March of 2020. With nowhere to go and nothing to do, the couple went full-time at the Hamptons property, adding finishing touches to the home.
The house is estimated to have been built at some point during the 1950s, and had been remodeled with an addition at some later point. It was a "hoarder’s paradise," says Sophie, half joking. Clutter and dust cramped every corner, and peeling brown linoleum flooring ran throughout.
The spatial arrangement of the original home was a little funky; it had a tiny living room and kitchen, but a huge primary bedroom. To introduce a more balanced floor plan, the couple removed nearly all of the interior walls to start anew. The layout now features an open kitchen, dining, and living area, a larger and more functional bathroom, an area for a home office that could later become a second bathroom, and two appropriately proportioned bedrooms. Built-in closets and additional shelving also went in, and the deck outside was replaced.
Though the couple hired out for electrical work, framing, and drywall, performing the demolition and installations themselves was no small feat. "I have less than no experience doing any sort of renovations or DIY," says Sophie wryly. "I don’t even have the patience to pick up a creative hobby."
Shop the Look
Tim was a bit handier—he did everything from installing the toilet and bathroom tiles, to building several pieces of furniture: side tables, built-in benches, the dining room table, the headboards for the bedrooms, shelving, closets, and more.
The couple’s vision for the renovation was to create a space that felt fresh and warm, but still modern and beachy. Although the house isn’t next to the beach, its location in the Hamptons, along with the duo’s love for the water (and Tim’s surfing habit), served as inspiration for the decor and furniture. "We wanted it to feel like you could open the front door and see the ocean," explains Sophie.
Artwork thoughtfully placed throughout the rental is another element to appreciate, thanks to Sophie’s mother, who’s a gallery curator. A Vincent Gallo hangs in the reading nook, while a Thomas Locher is in one of the bedrooms. The aerial beach shot in the dining room adds a personal touch: It’s an image of Sophie and Tim’s post-wedding brunch on the beach in nearby Montauk.
Despite the setbacks of the pandemic and unexpectedly spending so much time in the cabin, their shared vision and collaborative spirit made it easy to move forward. They enjoyed spending time working towards a common goal, but they’re still not done: Currently, a 200-square foot shed in the yard is set to become an office and guest room.
The Surf Cabin is available to rent on Airbnb.
Homeowners: Sophie-Claire Hoeller and Timothy Holley / @thesurfcabin
General Contractor: Patrick Brabant Construction
Get the Renovations Newsletter
From warehouse conversions to rehabbed midcentury gems, to expert advice and budget breakdowns, the renovation newsletter serves up the inspiration you need to tackle your next project.