By Kate Youde
A stroll around the five-acre grounds of the Reifer family’s holiday home takes you places: perhaps into a bamboo or Buddha garden, past a koi pond and pagoda, or through 500-year-old doors into a temple.
Designed according to the ancient principles of feng shui, the Chinese garden is inspired by the Summer Palace in Beijing, historically a seasonal retreat for China’s imperial families. Yet this modern-day escape is more than 10,000km away in the Hamptons, the summer playground of affluent New Yorkers.
“It transports you into a different world,” says owner Jeremy Reifer, a portfolio manager for Man Group based in Manhattan, around 100 miles to the west.
With the distinctive property on the market — for $7m — Reifer is hoping another family will fall for its charms. “The more time you spend there, the more you understand the effect it has on you, and the peacefulness and the serenity and the beauty that you’re surrounded by while you’re there,” he says. “It’s the place we go to all year round because it has that impact on your wellbeing and on your perspective.”
The gardens were the brainchild of Reifer’s father, Stanley, a collector of Chinese art. He bought the land in Bridgehampton, Long Island, in 2002, and worked with his friend, the Chinese artist Jian Guo Xu, on the design. Local landscaper John Whitney brought their vision to life with an estimated 10,000 plant varieties including Chinese elm and dawn redwood trees.
Materials were imported from China, including rocks from East Lake in Wuhan for a sculpture in the front yard and blue porcelain roof tiles.
“It took about five years to complete the gardens and I think the results speak for themselves,” says Reifer, whose father passed the property to him in 2012. “It’s a really special, magical place.”
Reifer practises yoga in a building designed as a half-size replica (main picture, above) of the 15th-century Temple of Heaven in Beijing, a “one of a kind structure in the US” he says. The wooden doors, imported from China, date from the Ming dynasty, he adds.
His favourite spot, however, overlooks the split-level swimming pool, where two “soothing” waterfalls are surrounded by flowers for most of the year. A bridge connects the pool area with a pagoda, which the family uses for outdoor dining and overlooks a koi pond.
Other features of the garden include a poolside tea house with storage and a bathroom, and a sculpture garden, which includes representations of animals. A later addition of a Japanese rock garden references Reifer's experience of living in Japan for six years.
“The idea was to have all of these different environments that give you different kinds of stimulation,” he says.
The seven-bedroom house includes subtle touches reminiscent of the surrounding garden, such as a moon gate — a circular passageway popular in Chinese garden design — leading into the dining room.
The property, a 10-minute drive from the nearest beach, has served as an “incredible retreat” from the bustle of New York for Reifer, his wife Lisa and their two daughters. The girls are now of an age where they prefer to spend summer break at camp and the Reifers are seeking to buy something “a little bit more practical”.
He says the Covid pandemic has given the family “closure” about selling the house. “We were able to enjoy it and live there for an extended period of time,” he says. “I think we’re at peace with letting it go and having other people enjoy it and understand how special it is.”
Photography: Knight Frank