Having previously restored a 19th-century Greek Revival estate in Nissequogue, Deb and Syd Dufton were confident they’d be able to create a magnificent homestead on the Cutchogue parcel they purchased in 2004. What they didn’t realize is that they would find inspiration at the most magical place on Earth.
“We loved it, but having a house from 1860 is a great deal of work and every little project turns into an enormous project,” says Syd, a technology executive.
For their new home, a sprawling Victorian home that sits on 8.9 acres on a tidal pond on West Creek, they wanted to achieve a historic look that would fit in with the Italianate homes they’d often admired while visiting the North Fork on weekends.
“We built it to look old on the outside, but inside it has all the luxuries of a brand new home,” says Syd, noting that the couple served as general contractors and hired Westhampton Beach-based architect Diane Herold to design the house, which took nearly two years to build.
During that summer vacation, the family toured the east coast, from Maine to Florida, making notes of the home styles they liked along the way. Charleston, South Carolina and Cape May, New Jersey won unanimous high praise.
At Disneyworld’s Main Street USA, they were struck by the Victorian/early 20th-century façade and the many color schemes, which reminded them of homes in Greenport.
“So, we decided on that look and feel,” says Syd.
Located at 13555 New Suffolk Avenue — and impossible to miss — this 10,000-square-foot blue-hued home features seven en suite bedrooms, six full and four half baths. There is a large foyer with a marble floor, 10-foot high cathedral ceilings, wide-planked, pegged hardwood floors and five fireplaces, including one outdoors on the porch. Much of the interior is painted in bold colors: deep blues and reds.
“We really think it brings an energy and a creativity to the house,” Syd says.
To enhance that old Victorian look, they had the lighting manufacturer who did the lighting for Disney World create the old Victorian sconces and chandeliers and added push-button electric instead of light switches, like those found in homes from that period.
“Even the stairs are low-rise, like in the old estates, and are very comfortable to walk up,” Syd says.
Borrowing from Charleston architecture, they included balconies that span the entire first and second levels and added French doors to all the bedrooms that open out into the porch and overlook West Creek.
Because the home is surrounded by water, with sailing, fishing, and clamming just steps away in summer, they put the heated 32-foot pool and hot tub inside for the slower winter season and added a water park slide and a radiant heated floor.
The top of the house has a cupola — accessible via the attic and offering spectacular views — similar to those found on many sea captain’s houses in Greenport, notes Deb.
“Some people call it a widow’s walk, where the women would go out and wait for their husbands’ ships to come in, hoping that they came back. We put that up there to be historically accurate.”
Twenty years after finishing the home, the Duftons have decided to sell, putting it on the market on May 15, 2023, for $4.75 million.
Calling the home, “one of a kind,” listing agent Sheri Winter Parker of Corcoran Group notes that it’s close to North Fork Country Club and has deeded beach rights.
“That area on the water is so spectacular every season,” says Winter Parker. “It’s just amazing and it changes all the time. They picked this just incredible spot to build their dream home.”
The Duftons say they didn’t expect to ever leave, but now plan to move to Nashville to be closer to their children.
“We created something we thought was forever, so we built it that way,” says Syd.
In addition to Deb and Syd’s older children: Michael, 27, who works for Major League Baseball and Riverhead Raceway and Jack, 25, who’s a fourth-year medical student at UMass Chan Medical School, their three younger children: Shelby, 21, and twins Ben and Sam, 19, are all members of Audawind, an up and coming country music band.
Syd and Deb didn’t even realize their daugh- ter’s talent until she sang the lead of Belle in her high school production of “Beauty and the Beast.” Before long, Shelby was taking professional voice lessons, and is now a senior at Dartmouth and the lead singer for Audawind.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, the band didn’t have their usual gigs: playing cover songs at wineries, Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett and other local venues.
“They were kind of getting bored just sitting here at home with the high school work. And Shelby was home doing online school,” says Deb, a writer/ event planner.
With so much time on their hands, Sam and Ben took online classes at Berklee School of Music and Sam built a state-of-the-art home studio where they started recording original songs.
The twins just completed their freshman year at Belmont University in Nashville, known for producing many country music stars, where Ben, the band’s songwriter, drummer, banjo, piano and harmonica player, is studying commercial music and songwriting and Sam, who plays guitar and produces the band’s music, is an audio engineering major.
Since Syd and Deb have been spending so much time in Nashville to help out with projects the band is working on and also serve as roadies, they decided to make Audawind the focal point of their lives.
“And we all took a vote and we decided we re- ally thought Nashville was wonderful,” says Syd. “That’s when we decided to sell the house.”
As determined as she is to move on, Deb still struck a wistful note about leaving.
“This is one of the most beautiful spots, I would venture to say, in the world,” she says. “We are going to miss it. We’re going to try to build the house to be similar, but there’s no way to get land as nice as this.”