LuAnn de Lesseps breezed into her Sag Harbor home after a car ride from Manhattan that took hours longer than expected. She set her bags down on the wide-planked wood floors of her sun-soaked kitchen and took a deep breath.
"Isn't it a gem?" she said. "I love this house."
De Lesseps, who also goes by the name of "The Countess" and stars on Bravo's "The Real Housewives of New York City," last year bought the 2,500-square-foot home (which has been featured in this season of the show) and started settling in "fairly quickly."
The mother of two had her sights set on Sag Harbor long before she moved in.
"I was at Steve Gambrel's house," de Lesseps said, referring to the interior designer who lives just across from her, overlooking Upper Sag Harbor Cove. "I looked out at that view and asked him if he wanted to sell." He didn't.
About a decade later, she was having lunch with a Realtor friend who mentioned a new listing in just that spot. De Lesseps said she asked to see it that same day and put in an offer that week.
The three-bedroom, three-bathroom Greek Revival house was built in 1835, according to real estate records. It has three fireplaces and sits on about a third of an acre. The wide-plank flooring is left natural on the first floor and painted white on the second. The property includes a heated artist's studio, which de Lesseps' teenage son, Noel, has claimed, and a dock on the bay.
De Lesseps says she hasn't made any structural changes since moving in.
"There's so much charm here, such character," she says, adding that she was told it once belonged to a ship's captain. "The floors are slanted in some places, the doors creak."
She says she is planning a renovation in the fall to add a new master bedroom on the second floor with a bay window facing the water, a cathedral ceiling and a walk-in closet -- the latter of which is the only thing she said she misses about her old home in Bridgehampton, a more than 6,000-square-foot, six-bedroom barn-style house on 2.2 acres that also appeared in many "Real Housewives" episodes over the years.
The house was sold to developer Joe Farrell, who tore it down and is rebuilding. De Lesseps says she's happy she'll always have those episodes to look back on.
In her new place, de Lesseps says she has spent about $25,000 on new furnishings from Restoration Hardware that have a lighter, more modern feel than her old pieces, choosing a mix of rustic wood and industrial metal-style pieces. One is a salvaged pine dining table in her kitchen that can seat 16.
The spacious and sunny eat-in kitchen is de Lesseps' favorite room, and she says she tried to decorate it to encourage people to gather there. A red leather chair in the corner and a small white settee do just that.
Throughout the house, de Lesseps mixes antique pieces she inherited from her former in-laws -- she is divorced from Count Alexandre de Lesseps, an investment banker and descendant of the family responsible for the Suez Canal -- such as a Louis XIV chest and a Turkish rug from the 1800s recently appraised for $125,000, she says. "And we walk all over it," she says.
Her decor exudes her personal touch -- from portraits of herself when she was a model in Milan to framed artwork and large canvas paintings done by her son, Noel, and daughter, Victoria.
Hanging on her walls are also two large portraits of sea captains who docked their ships in Sag Harbor, part of a series by local artist Sabina Streeter.
De Lesseps said she plans to spend as much time as possible in the new house. "There's a happy vibe here," she said. "It just feels light."
HOUSEWIVES IN THE HAMPTONS
Bravo may document their lives as they live, work and play in New York City, but many of the housewives past and present call the Hamptons home, too:
Ramona Singer, a cast member for all seven seasons of the show, owns a 7,000-square-foot house in Southampton that she and her husband, Mario, bought in 1995, property records show. Singer made the six-bedroom, six-bathroom house available to rent this summer, according to real estate listings.
Bethenny Frankel, who returned to the show this year after a three-season hiatus, bought a house in Bridgehampton. It was featured on the show this season.
Jill Zarin, a former cast member, and her husband, Bobby, own a four-bedroom, five-bathroom waterfront mansion in Southampton.
Kelly Killoren Bensimon, who was once also part of the cast, sold her East Hampton house in 2012. She attended de Lesseps' 50th birthday party in Sag Harbor in May.
And though they don't own homes in the Hamptons, current castmates Carole Radziwill and Kristen Taekman have been guests at de Lesseps' new digs.