Hidden Hamptons: LongHouse Reserve

East Hampton Sanctuary Celebrates Art and Nature

LHR by Paul Aizaga

One of the most beautiful and peaceful hideaways in the East End is the LongHouse Reserve in East Hampton. This remarkable 16-acre sculpture and botanical garden is the creation of weaver and textile designer Jack Lenor Larsen, who lives on the property. Though Mr. Larsen’s distinctive home—inspired by a 7th-century Shinto shrine—is not open to the public, visitors are welcome to stroll his idyllic grounds (described by some as “magical”), and take in the diverse assortment of plants and trees, as well as over 60 contemporary sculptures.

Larsen first opened the Reserve in 1991 as an exemplar of living with art in all forms; its mission, to reflect world cultures and inspire a creative life. The thoughtfully designed environment embodies his belief that experiencing art in living spaces makes for a unique learning experience. The gardens, consisting of natural and cultivated plants and trees arranged in visually stunning landscapes, are themselves an artform, offering various backdrops for the sculpture installations. One of LongHouse’s many highlights is Peter’s Pond, a tranquil spot featuring water lilies and lotus plants, as well as bullfrogs, turtles, and other wildlife.  Another is the Larsen-designed Red Garden, a striking study in heightened perspective. Plant life within the many gardens and along several picturesque paths range from sturdy redwoods to exotic tropicals to waving grasses. Among the Reserve’s permanent sculptures are John Kuhtik’s Fly’s Eye Dome (based on an idea by Buckminster Fuller); Yoko Ono’s Play It By Trust, a monochromatic (white) interactive chess set; and Dale Chihuly’s striking blown-glass Cobalt Spears. There are also magnificent works by Sol LeWitt and Willem de Kooning in addition to other outdoor structures.

On view this summer in the Pavilion is the special exhibit SURF CRAFT: Design + The Culture of Board Riding. Curated by surf historian Richard Kenvin, the exhibit features 45 surfboards built from the late 1940s to the present. From obscure Japanese and African bathing boards to hydrodynamic hulls made in Southern California, SURF CRAFT presents the historical evolution of an artform that exemplifies functional design. Making their debuts in the sculpture garden this summer are Chinese artist Sui Jianguo with the installation Legacy Mantle (Mao Jacket) and acclaimed American artist Kiki Smith with Women With Sheep (Three Women, Three Sheep). Also new to the garden are works by Takashi Soga, Grace Knowlton and Ronald Bladen.

The Reserve is open to guests throughout August, Wednesday through Saturday, from 2 to 5 pm. Tune in to the garden highlight tour narrated by Larsen on your cell phone as you walk the grounds and contemplate the natural and man-made beauty. Special arrangements can be made for group tours, making LongHouse the perfect place for that special late summer gathering of family or friends.

In addition to visiting during its open hours, there are other ways to enjoy the Reserve. Sign up for a relaxing Sound Meditation session with Jim Owen, held on the main lawn on Saturday mornings throughout August. Or take a romantic Twilight Tour, conducted on Aug. 17th and 24th by members of the LongHouse Garden Committee. Limited to groups of 15, these leisurely strolls of the property at dusk are a lovely way to end your day or begin your evening. (133 Hands Creek Rd., 631.329.4299)

(Photo Credit: Paul Aizaga)