LET THE SUNSHINE IN!

A newcomer to the Hamptons real estate scene brings an Amagansett cottage into the light

As a girl growing up in California in the 1990s, Amalia Graziani, the founder of Noor Property Group, loved to watch her serial-renovator father blow out walls. Today she ascribes her confidence in the building trade to that formative experience. Certainly, it emboldened Graziani to try her hand at residential wall-bashing and other stereotypically male pursuits. Before the advent of HGTV, home renovation was widely considered a man’s game. But the success of celebrity designer-builders like Joanna Gaines and Leanne Ford has changed public perception and encouraged other women to follow in their footsteps.

Count Graziana among them. For the last several years, she has been slowly adding properties in the Hamptons and in upstate New York to her small but exquisite real estate portfolio of houses she buys and renovates. It began as an experiment, in 2016, with a cottage on a leafy street, south of Montauk Highway, in Amagansett. By all accounts, the place was destined for the wrecking ball. Low ceilings, wall-to-wall carpet, small, inefficient windows, and a warren of close, dark rooms made the house feel claustrophobic. The amount of structural work to be done was daunting, to say nothing of the cost of land in that choice location. But Graziani, who has an M.S. in real estate development and architecture from Columbia University and is an MBA candidate at NYU Stern, had a pretty good sense as to what she was in for. More to the point, she saw the property as a strategic purchase with strong potential that would serve as a design lab and eventually generate rental income. She made an offer.

The renovation took a year, during which time she raised the ceiling, a move that both gave the place height and airiness and style, as it revealed the contours of the pitched rooflines. To highlight that feature, she installed on the ceiling of most rooms white bead board overlaid with decorative timber beams which in turn play off the new wide plank oak floors. Her other inspired idea was to replace small windows with runs of French doors. She also transformed a high-ceilinged garage into a wood-paneled sitting room with a lodge-like feel thanks to the discovery of structural ceiling beams which she exposed and clad in pine. Over the big stone fireplace she created a window through which light pours in year-round. 

By the end of the gut renovation, she’d expanded the 2,800-square-foot structure to 3,300-square feet. When it was time to decorate the place, she adhered to a palette of neutral beiges and sand tones and furnished it with pieces from local retailers and Restoration Hardware.

When Graziani took on the renovation, she was working in data science, writing research studies for big companies. She thought the Amagansett cottage would be a one-off project, but she enjoyed the creative process so much that she found herself eager to repeat the experience. Thus, she established Noor Property Group. To date, she has completed a second renovation in the Lazy Point neighborhood of Amagansett and has been working on the transformation of a run-down yet beautiful commercial farm in upstate New York.

While the redesign of houses is hardly an all-male profession, the building trade itself is dominated by men; any woman who deals with contractors must learn that guild’s codes. Graziani, who is thirty, is no exception. ‘As a younger woman in this field, I’ve heard a very wide range of comments and have had to contend with sexism,’ she says. ‘It doesn’t seem to matter whether you’re smiley or stern-faced, it’s always there.’ Her strategy? ‘Research. In my experience, the most successful negotiations hinge on that extra bit of information and planning.’ 

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