When I heard that Sally Quinn is renting out her iconic East Hampton home, I was eager to see what Grey Gardens looks like today.
She and her late husband Ben Bradlee bought Grey Gardens in 1979 for $220,000. At the time it was in such bad shape that most of the prospective buyers saw it as a tear-down, but they were determined to restore it instead.
AOL Real Estate reports: “Quinn and Bradlee spent Augusts at the beach house. But Bradlee died in October at 93 and Quinn is planning to travel this summer, so the 10-bedroom, 6.5-bath house is being offered as a rental for $250,000 from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It also is available at $295,000 for one year or $225,000 for just July and August.”
Note: There are Amazon affiliate links in this post that may earn me commission.
The house was made famous by a documentary (Amazon affiliate link) that described its former owners as “Big and Little Edie Beale — high-society dropouts, mother and daughter, reclusive cousins of Jackie O. — thriving together amid the decay and disorder of their ramshackle East Hampton mansion.”
Bradlee and Quinn set out to restore its original classic beauty. Quinn said, “My goal was to have anyone who entered the house feel good.”
When they were renovating it, a neighbor told them Big Edie, who died several years before, had a message:
“I talked to Big Edie the other day. She wanted me to tell you how pleased she is that you have bought Grey Gardens. She wants you to know that she believes you will make the house as beautiful as it once was, and that she will be watching over you to make sure that everything goes perfectly and that this will be a warm and loving and happy house.”
Edith Beale and her husband Phelan bought the house in the 1920s, but he took off in 1934, leaving her without the means to maintain the property.
The story was told in a 2009 HBO film starring Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange (affiliate link):
The sets and exteriors in that movie recreated Grey Gardens in its 1920s heyday:
The shingle-style home was designed in 1897 by Joseph Greenleaf Thorpe, an architect who designed many of the Arts and Crafts-style summer cottages in East Hampton.
It originally stood on 4 acres. Today 1.7 acres remain with the property and it’s a short walk to the beach.
In a 2003 article for Town and Country, Sally Quinn said that when they bought the house, “The attic was filled, literally, to the rafters with broken furniture, old wicker chaises, antique tables, boxes of china and silver, trunks full of letters, baby pillows of handmade lace, figurines, crates of books — it was like finding a shipwreck and discovering unimaginable treasure buried among the detritus.”
“I was so overwhelmed,” she said, “and in such a state of agitation that I actually started smoking again. But discovering all these extraordinary objects made the whole prospect of renovating and decorating so easy.”
Update: The house went on the market and sold for $15.5 million in 2018. My “real estate spies” in the Hamptons tell me it’s currently undergoing another major renovation.
Visit Architectural Digest to read the 1984 article and see more photos by Peter Vitale.
Learn more about the history of 3 W. End in East Hampton, NY, at Grey Gardens Online.
For photos and rental information, check the listing held by Gary DePersia.
Larry @ Ocean State Home says
Beautiful. It’s impossible to recreate those old houses today. They just have that touch.
I just sent it off to my better half saying that I found a summer rental that’s a short walk to the water. If only…
Wow! What a fascinating story! It’s great to see that the home was able to be returned to it’s former glory rather than being torn down. Unfortunately, the rental price is just a bit too steep for my pocketbook. I would love to see the documentary about the two women who lived in the home.
Amazing. It does the heart good to see that wreck find another life. The Beale story needs to be seen to be believed.
I loved the original documentary and the movie with Drew and Jessica. Beautiful home. I can’t say I would want a sofa in my kitchen at all.
The descriptions of what it was like when the Beales were living there are pretty horrifying. Sally Quinn was really brave to take it on – and of course they sold it to her because she promised not to tear it down. A sad but compelling story. Sally did a fantastic job of it.
It was smart of “Little Edie” to make that a condition of the sale. Anyone else would have probably just bought it for the land. They really did do an amazing job restoring it!
I think it’s pretty neat that so much hasn’t changed since the 1984 Architectural Digest… that speaks to choosing classics and then using accent pieces to make it updated.
I just can’t get behind putting couches in the kitchen for 2 reasons. #1, as you said, I need a table, and #2, there’s so much grease and splatter in a kitchen… it just seems like a recipe for disaster (all puns intended).
I am in LOVE with the 2nd floor landing area. I WANT that.
Here is another interesting story about the house:
I hadn’t seen that one — thanks, Sandy!
What a charming house.
I don’t think I could get used to the idea of sofas or loveseats in the kitchen, especially with grandkids! I see the ovens, refrigerator and sink in the kitchen, but where’s the stove?
After reading this post, I watched both the documentary and the movie. It really is amazing to see how well this house has been restored and preserved.
I also looked again at the pictures of the kitchen, and found the stove! It’s on the right side of the refrigerator. It must have a downdraft vent, since it’s in front of a window.
Thank you for the story on Grey Gardens! I just texted other family members. We all saw the movies – the original documentary and the one with Drew Barrymore – and read the book. This was a delight to see. Wouldn’t it be such fun to take a right turn for one year and live somewhere extraordinary? I was recently determined that it would be Sweetpea Cottage, but Grey Gardens’ history would make it a contender. The question is Julia, after looking at all these different homes, which ones would you choose?
Good question! I would LOVE to spend a month in the summer here at Grey Gardens, but it would be too much for me to live with year-round. I think I could live happily in a small cottage like Sweetpea most of the time. It looks especially cozy for winter, doesn’t it? 🙂
Alicia G. says
Thank you so much for this post!! I have read your blog for quite a while (I don’t make too many comments :)) and I was so excited to see what I knew had to have been an amazing home at one time. As crazy as the documentary and the condition of the house was, I was so glad that someone cared enough to keep put it back to it’s former wonder. Thank you for your blog too…You do a wonderful job!! ~Alicia
Thanks, Alicia! I appreciate that. 🙂
i have been so intrigued with this home & it’s story ever since i saw the documentary & movie. what a grand old home with such history. i remember reading somewhere that sally said that even after all of the renovation & cleanup, on warm days you could still smell the essence of cat 🙂
Spectacular renovation! However, since kitchen fires are, unfortunately, all too common, having so much furniture with fabric on it in the middle of the kitchen, is a major fire hazard.
And not to get my nasty on, but with one out of five children in America living below the poverty line, I’m horrified by the lifestyles of one percenters–absolutely obscene. But that doesn’t cancel out the fact that this home is gorgeous.
Grey Gardens and the Beales have always fascinated me. Lovely post Julia. My mom moved a sofa, chairs and a big ottoman into the kitchen, and her table and chairs into the front room years ago. At the time everyone thought it was odd. It really is so much more practical. I sent her a link to your post and let her know she was ahead of her time 🙂
We’re definitely seeing people do this more often now! My friend loves having comfortable seating in hers. They either eat at the bar in the kitchen or in the dining room.
Alie B says
Regarding having cozy furniture in the kitchen….my uncle and aunt inherited the family farm after my uncle’s mom passed away a few years ago. The first thing my aunt did was to remove an old sofa which had always lived in the corner of the kitchen, next to the wood stove. The protestations caused by this decision could be heard for miles! Apparently my uncle’s family felt much the same as your mom, Hollie. 🙂
I was totally fascinated by the whole Grey Gardens story. So happy that this beautiful home was so thoughtfully restored. The Quinns also restored the gardens which had, no surprise, a grey theme. Just lovely.
Like Lynne, I have always been fascinated by the Grey Gardens story and Big and Little Eadie. I think I’ve watched the Drew/Jessica movie version about 4 or 5 times. It’s lovely to see Grey Gardens brought back to life with the dignity and character much deserving of the 3rd Lady of the story. Thanks for sharing.
Alie B says
This is an interesting story, and one that I’m not familiar with. I look forward to doing further investigation! 🙂 I’m curious to know why, if the Eadie’s couldn’t afford to maintain the home, they didn’t sell earlier, before it became so dilapidated. Beautiful old home! Interesting how little it’s changed in the 30 years since it was featured in Architectural Digest. Inflation is an incredible thing….what was the cost of the house in 1979 is now the cost of a 2 month summer rental!
Cheryl in Wisconsin says
Grey Gardens is truly a fascinating tale. I recommend to anyone who is not yet familiar with the story to watch the documentaries first, then the movie. It will give you an even greater appreciation of the superb acting efforts by Drew & Jessica.
I wish I had copious amounts of disposable income to be able to rent this for the summer. Ain’t happenin’.
jill palumbo says
I could move right in! But I can’t see having a living area in the kitchen……maybe if it was a huge country kitchen, having a small settee close to wood burning stove to warm up in the morning or the evening. I like a big farm table with chairs and benches and cupboards and all that in my kitchen.
What an amazing restoration. After watching Grey Gardens, it’s wonderful to see it brought back to its original beauty.
You know I love it when people save old houses, especially with history like this one. It’s a tad eery that Big Edie “spoke” to the neighbor. I got chills with that one! I guess it’s nice to know she’s happy though lol
I thought the same thing, Rue. It’s like, the bad news is that a dead person is watching what you’re doing to her house. The good news is that she approves of the changes you’re making. 🙂
HA! So true 🙂
Dana McDowell says
How perfect! I plan on watching that documentary tonight!
Barbara H. says
I have certainly gotten my house fix today! Julia, this is, without a doubt, my favorite post of any I’ve read on your blog. This house, the saving of it from the wrecking ball, the story of the attic treasure trove, the sensitive restoration – all spoke to me in a powerful way. I had heard of Grey Gardens, and knew of the documentary. But today I visited all the links, read all the articles, looked at every picture with longing to see it in person. This house is totally my personal style – love shingle style, love the eclectic decor, the roses, soft colors, the gardens, the little playhouse, the walled secret garden. My, oh, my…thank you!
I’m so glad you enjoyed reading about it and seeing the photos as much as I did, Barbara! This is one of those houses that I “fell down the rabbit hole” with and was fascinated to learn about. I love hearing from kindred spirits like you. 🙂
So does that mean that its 5k/mo from Labor Day to Memorial Day?
You eat at a table? What are you secretly French Canadian? It’s patriotic to eat in front of the tube all but three nights a year. Might just have to flag your site to HLS.
Uh-oh. I shouldn’t have let that slip, huh? 😉
Jason J says
Oh how I dream that white paint would have became an illegal substance! Sad to see everything painted..,including the wicker!
I know somebody always says it, but it looked better before.