NEW BOOK SHOWCASES THE BEST OF DESIGN IN THE HAMPTONS
By Julie Earle-Levine | August 20, 2014
In the Hamptons, mega-mansions seem to dot the landscape in a crazy fashion — with treacherously high hedges offering only peeks of the sprawling, mainly Traditional-style homes set beyond.
But a new book, “Design in the Hamptons,” by architectural publisher and art critic Anthony Iannacci (The Monacelli Press, due for release Sept. 9), showcases 19 private homes by top New York architects and interior designers that challenge the traditional notion of Hamptons’ estates.
One is even a postage-stamp-sized cottage with extraordinary gardens.
Iannacci says the homes he chose to include build on a tradition of talented New York designers heading East to create retreats that are an antidote to life in Manhattan.
This new wave of designers has created “a treasure trove of residential design,” he says, that pays respect to the Hamptons’ fabled landscape.
“We’re in the middle of a huge building boom and it seems timely to showcase some of the ideas the designers are working on,” explains Iannacci, who grew up in New York City, going to his family’s beach cottage in Southampton. “There is not one way these homes invite people to live.”
Iannacci believes there has been a cultural shift in how Hamptons homes are being designed, built and furnished in recent years.
“There’s a renewed interest in modernist structures, with traditional references,” he says. “I think this idea of striving for an authentic Hamptons experience is different for everyone.”
For some, it means furniture plans in living rooms that are designed to foster intimate conversation, or having a picture window that shows off a favorite specimen tree. “It is not an off-the-shelf, chain-store version of nostalgia or a traditional environment,” says Iannacci.
Among his favorite homes is the cottage of Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper; it originally was part of the storied East Hampton estate of Lorenzo and Mary Woodhouse — patrons of the East Hampton Library, the Nature Trail and Guild Hall.
When the design duo bought the property in 2005, there were no gardens left, but they wanted to preserve the legend of Mary Woodhouse, and recreated them. The garden is now the equivalent of what might be a botanical garden in other towns.
“If you look at the lavish and expansive garden you’d assume the house would be 7,000 square feet with 10 bedrooms, but it is really just a cottage, an original carriage house of an estate that is no longer there,” says Iannacci.
The cottage inhabits the estate’s original garage, which Ingrao and Kemper enhanced with old barn beams and plaster walls. Their key design impetus, however, was to recreate those original gardens.
Indeed, they had previously sold a home in Montauk precisely because they couldn’t grow anything, since it was too windy.
“We’ve had a lot of experience doing clients’ landscapes, but this garden took us three or four years,” says Ingrao.
A smaller home doesn’t impact their entertaining since they use a walled-in garden with antique brick walls and a fountain as their main outdoor living space in summer. A shed adjacent to the main structure serves as an outdoor dining room. The pool is also surrounded by lush plantings to keep it from becoming the focus.
In contrast, the book showcases Todd and Lauren Merrill’s modern home in the Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, which was built in 1986. The designer and antiques dealer restored his Charles Gwathmey- and Horace Gifford-inspired house to its original, clean lines.
“When we bought the house it looked like an old-age home in Boca Raton,” Merrill says. “We had a curved tile backsplash that went up the walls and giant murals. One of the owners loved pink flowers.”
But the bones were amazing.
“It just needed to be wiped clean,” adds Merrill, who moved in to the home, which features bay and ocean views, two years ago.
The 9,000-square-foot house was in good condition, but Merrill says much of its architectural integrity had been diminished by its existing ’80s-style decor.
An existing spiral staircase, double-height gallery with catwalks and tower deck were obscured by superfluous elements such as extra trim, moldings and baseboard — much of which he removed.
Modal TriggerHamptons design
Today, “this home gives me tremendous space. I sell vintage 20th-century American and European furniture, so the scale and light is amazing as a design lab,” says Merrill. The house also allows him to feed his collecting addiction.
“A Zaha Hadid bench and a Paul Evans sculpture has been moved on, but a John Hopkins piece has stayed,” he notes.
Russell Groves, the architect and designer who is currently renovating his own 1970s ranch house in East Hampton, agrees that keeping it simple can be hard in the often-elaborate Hamptons.
For his client’s six-bedroom shingled East Hampton retreat, Groves kept the scale of what the house would have been in the 1800s. “That is what makes it unique and special,” says Groves.
Modern art and vintage accessories lend sophistication to the rooms, which feature classic details such as wainscoting and wood banisters.
Interior designer Suzanne Shaker collaborated with architect Cary Tamarkin for his family residence on Shelter Island. The home was built using old-growth cypress for both the interiors and exterior.
In the living room, Noguchi Akari pendants hang over a custom-built platform sofa — better to take in the expansive sea views. The clerestory windows are eased open with stainless-steel sailboat cranks that Tamarkin customized.
Shaker says life on Shelter Island is less hectic and less populated than the Hamptons — which now feels overbuilt. “We were both very, very aware of the landscape and lifestyle of the island and preserving and appreciating nature from the house,” says Shaker.
The husband and wife design team Roman and Williams — aka, Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch — brought personality to the suburban style 1970s ranch house in Montauk they purchased in 2006.
“Montauk and the Hamptons is a safe haven for us — a respite from the city where we go to recharge and where our creativity is at its highest,” says Alesch, who thinks of their home as “an unfinished summer camp.”
Key elements of the house have made their way into subsequent commercial commissions far from Montauk. For instance, exposed ceilings — from which the duo removed asbestos paneling, leaving
wires, conduits and ducts exposed — show up in the café Roman and Williams designed for Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, CA.
They removed the home’s sheetrock, which the couple feels is overused, and replaced it with tambour wood — the exact same kind they used over the beds at the Standard High Line hotel.
Flipping through the book, the message is clear: Size doesn’t matter, nor does following trends. What these envy-inducing, highly-personalized homes show is that the ultimate fantasy beach escape can be whatever makes someone happy.