HGTV’s Island Life comes to Shelter Island

Liss Larsen relaxing in the living room of her Shelter Island home. One of her photographs hangs on the wall behind her. (Credit: Annette Hinkle)

Liss Larsen relaxing in the living room of her Shelter Island home. One of her photographs hangs on the wall behind her. (Credit: Annette Hinkle)

Fans of HGTV might be somewhat surprised when they turn on the TV this Sunday evening to see a familiar locale featured on the screen.

“Island Life” is a program that profiles real people as they house hunt on the island of their dreams with a realtor and film crew in tow. Along the way, the subjects talk about their love for the location and visit some of the sites that make the place unique.

The show has highlighted a range of island dreamers by taking viewers to diverse locales — from Whidbey Island in the Pacific Northwest, to Nantucket off Cape Cod — while documenting their house hunting efforts.

And on Sunday, it will be time for Shelter Island’s close up.

Season 6, episode 6, is titled “Returning to Shelter Island” and it follows Liss Larsen, a former summer kid, as she looks to relocate here from the Boston area with her two sons, Ben, 13, and Oliver, 15.

The segment was shot in July and it documents Larsen traversing the Island with her friend and realtor Roxanne Briggs as they tour three Shelter Island homes on the market in the $650,000 to $850,000 range.

Spoiler alert: Larsen actually bought her Longview home back in 2015, a full year before the show was taped, so the outcome was a foregone conclusion by the time the “Island Life” crew came to town. The other two homes that Larsen and Briggs tour during the episode are on the market now.

The shoot took five days to complete and included side trips to the Ram’s Head Inn and Sylvester Manor to highlight various aspects of leisure living on the Island.

It also showed Larsen indulging her love of sailing aboard a friend’s J/111 and enjoying a ride on her dad’s motorboat.
Larsen’s father, Dave, was a key reason for her move to Shelter Island following the death of her mother, Nancy, in May 2012.

“The idea of coming back was about keeping an eye on my dad,” explained Larsen who has fond childhood memories of Shelter Island, where she and her family spent every summer.

“It was such an idyllic way to grow up,” said Larsen, a graphic designer and a photographer who explained that after her divorce, she began thinking about how she might return to the area.

When she was hired as Assistant Director of Communications at Ross School in East Hampton in 2013, things began to fall into place. Though Larsen initially commuted between the East End and Boston twice a week, buying the house last year made the transition complete, both physically and spiritually, and both her boys now attend Ross School.

“It was almost like my mom wanted me here,” Larsen said. “As soon as we moved here, everything fell into place. All the signs were there.”

When asked how the “Island Life” producers discovered her, Larsen explained that they found her through her realtor, Briggs. As a teenager, Larsen worked for Briggs at Punch, the children’s clothing store she owned in Sag Harbor and on the Island, and the two have remained close.

“Roxanne found the house. The reason I chose her as my realtor was our styles resonate so much,” Larsen said. “The energy of the house was right. It was turn key and just needed a couple paint adjustments and some freshening up. It was also in really good shape.

“I could clearly feel it was loved.”

 The light-filled kitchen of Ms. Larsen’s home is adorned in shades of blue, green, white and gray. (Credit: Annette Hinkle)

The light-filled kitchen of Larsen’s home is adorned in shades of blue, green, white and gray. (Credit: Annette Hinkle)

Larsen’s three bedroom, two bath shingled ranch home was built in 1981 and it has everything on her wish list, including an en suite master bedroom, a bright, sunny kitchen, a great deck, and a big yard for the boys. It also has a large living room where Larsen showcases her photography, and a separate dining room where this year she hosted her first Thanksgiving ever.

“We had 19 people, and I used all the leaves for the table,” she said.

Another bonus — the house is near the water, but not so near that Larsen has to worry about potential flooding issues.

“It’s very modest, inside and out, and feels like a beach house,” Larsen said. “One of my favorite things to do is get a cocktail and walk down Bootleggers Alley and watch the sunset on the beach.”

Now that she’s officially a Shelter Islander, Larsen has settled nicely into local life. She attends St. Mary’s Church, has joined ArtSI, and is involved in helping East End Hospice with Island fundraisers. She’s also sailing as often as she can.

But one of the most joyful aspects of her life here is the fact that her father can now spend quality time with her sons.

“My dad has a wonderful relationship with my kids,” Larsen said. “I’ll say, ‘Can you pick up the boys at the ferry?’ He’ll say, ‘I’m the luckiest guy on the planet, I get to hang out with my grandchildren.’

“He has such a positive feeling about them and is involved with my kids in a way he couldn’t be when we lived in Massachusetts.”

By the way, Larsen knows Shelter Island well enough to realize some residents will be uncomfortable with the publicity an HGTV show might generate and she’s quick to reassure Islanders who fear they’ll be overrun by newcomers as a result.

“The show is inspirational, not aspirational,” Larsen said. “I don’t want people to think that this is going to expose Shelter Island in a way that makes people want to move here.

“Instead, they’ll sit with a glass of white wine and watch it and do nothing. I want to be clear.”

“Returning to Shelter Island” premieres on Sunday, December 18 at 9:30 p.m. on HGTV.