This Brooklyn couple is filling their North Fork home with family, food and love

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It was the summer of 2020 and Julie and Tom Eschbacher were feeling confined in their Brooklyn two-bedroom with their nine-month old, Miles.

The pandemic-weary new parents sought refuge on the North Fork, a familiar spot after spending time out east in their 20s.

What they found, with new infant in tow, was a different experience than the days of winery-hopping and fancy sit-down dinners.

Instead, they found sunshine and long summer days; the perfect backdrop for new family memories like sunsets at Bailie Beach, cider donuts from Wickham’s and the Greenport carousel.

“The North Fork offers so many experiences we’d never get in Brooklyn,” Julie said. “With two young kids, we can visit a beach, farm, oyster stand and winery all before naptime.”

The Eschbachers, both of whom work for large tech companies, got serious about purchasing a second home last year, realizing that the North Fork was an escape, but also a familial hub, with both sets of grandparents close enough to visit.

“It was our first time looking at real estate on the North Fork. And it all moved so quickly,” Julie recalled.

Tom & Julie Eschbacher with sons Miles and Noah. (Credit: David Benthal)

They came out for a weekend trip and crossed their fingers that it would be the last time they’d have to check into a hotel. They were house hunting on a picture-perfect summer day, touring four homes before ending at a three-bedroom, 1.5-bathroom home within walking distance of Love Lane that had just been listed.

Greeted by curtains blowing in the breeze, a pitcher of water on the table with freshly squeezed lemons inviting them to imagine life in Mattituck, they knew they’d have to make a quick decision.

“We immediately fell in love. It just had this awesome energy,” Julie said.

Since moving in last fall, the couple has been hard at work making it feel like home while also honoring its rich history.

At the closing, the couple received a box of treasures revealing some of that history: journals detailing parties and family gatherings held in the home, postcards and love notes between Hattie and Chub Gildersleeve, the original owners of the 1901 home.

“It’s so special to have that history,” Julie said, explaining that they also hear anecdotes from their neighbor, a member of the Tuthill family and distant relative of the Gildersleeves.

A photo of Hattie and Chub in the backyard standing against the original garage now hangs in the couple’s office.

“It was taken right after they built the house, when they were having their first baby. We loved that, especially as we started our own family,” Julie said.

The original garage still stands in the backyard and the couple is hoping to one day turn it into a guest cottage for family and friends.

In the meantime, they’re enjoying their newly planted roots on the East End, particularly their proximity to Love Lane.

“There are some weekends that we just never get in the car because everything’s right there,” Julie said. “It’s our happy home.”

A week after closing, their son Miles turned 1 and, one week after that, they learned that baby No. 2, Noah, was on the way.

“We needed the house to make sense for young kids, but I also didn’t want to sacrifice on style,” Julie explained. “I think we’ve found a good balance.”

Since becoming North Fork homeowners, the Eschbachers have learned that owning a home is wildly different from apartment living and have taken on some fun DIY projects, updating fixtures, keeping original knobs, hardware and cabinets while updating other parts of the home with modern touches. They’ve been documenting the journey on their Instagram page, @tuckedouteast.

Here’s a look at some key projects they’ve taken on:

OUTDOORS

First up on their list was to clean up the outdoor space and landscaping. “We spent a lot of time doing that,” Julie said, adding that it was a welcome project since they don’t have a yard in Brooklyn.

They hired a landscape designer to help give the yard a makeover and added a fence and basketball hoop. A beautiful Japanese maple tree from the backyard was relocated into the spotlight in the front yard.

The couple also discovered a nearly 100-year-old fig tree in the backyard.

“It’s so fun,” Julie said. “My son loves to go out there, pick them and eat them right off the tree.”

SUNROOM

The original home featured an open front porch that, a few generations later, was enclosed. But it still wasn’t a four-season area, so the Eschbachers focused on making that space a bright, welcoming extension of their home that’s livable year-round.

“It’s definitely the center of the house. It’s where we get to chat with our neighbor. My son Miles is obsessed with the firetrucks so he’s always poking out the window wanting to see the firehouse.”

It was the biggest renovation project they took on, but adding 300 square feet of interior space means more room for the family.

“Here, you’ll feel like you’ve truly escaped the city,” Julie said.

KITCHEN

“We already loved so much about the kitchen, from the farmhouse sink to the cozy breakfast nook that looks on to our neighbor’s bustling birdhouse. We installed a custom floating shelf above the stove to add both form and function. The open storage is convenient for grab-and-go-serving while also allowing the kitchen to feel a bit more ‘us.’ ”

LIVING ROOM

Owning a historic home is dreamy and romantic — but also not for the faint of heart. While doing the front porch renovation, they discovered there was no foundation underneath the living room.

“That was a fun surprise,” Julie said.

Though headache-inducing, the work is done and the family room feels both livable and luxe, thanks to kid-friendly slipcovers.

dining room

Layout meets lighting in this focal point of the home. “Good food is our hobby. Even the little ones have insatiable appetites,” Julie said. “We’re excited for lots of great memories and meals to be shared around this table.”

WORK FROM HOME

A small room off of the dining room was an afterthought, but the Eschbachers realized it was the perfect footprint for a home office that’s private enough for remote workspace, an essential these days, but also feels connected to the rest of the home.

NURSING

Wallpaper is an affordable way to add a ton of personality to a room. For the kids’ bedroom, the couple found a fun, coastal-inspired wallpaper design that features beach huts and seagulls.

House hunting on the North Fork? Here’s some advice from Julie and Tom:

Tom: The North Fork is such a hot market right now, buyers with open minds are more likely to find their way in. We had a short list of musts and were flexible on everything else. ?

Julie: Old homes have great bones and can be a canvas for adding your personal touches. You’ll be surprised by how quickly a bucket of white paint can modernize a home and make it feel new again!