Seeking Authentic Design In The Hamptons


Released this week, Anthony Iannacci’s coffee-table-caliber “Design in the Hamptons” ($75, the Monacelli Press), has assembled 19 projects—all conceived, built and decorated to maximize, but not overwhelm, their natural surroundings, according to publicity for the book.

The projects do seem to be more than eye candy for devotees of home design. The interior decorators whose work appears in the glossy photos often are constrained by confined spaces in Manhattan, making it difficult to fully express their talents, Mr. Iannacci said recently in a phone interview.

Tackling homes in the Hamptons, on the other hand, allows both designers and architects to “fully execute some of their ideas,” the author and publisher said. Yet each of the properties in the book has been carefully “curated” to showcase a strong sense of place as well as their talents.

Formerly an art critic, journalist and curator in Milan, Mr. Iannacci edits and art-directs books on design, interior design, and architecture and lives in New York and California. Even after founding Architecture/Interiors Press in Los Angeles, he remains close to the East End his parents exposed him to when he was a child and where he’s owned homes in East Hampton and Amagansett.

He said it was time for a follow-up to “Designing the Hamptons: Portraits of Interiors,” which was published in 2006.

“In built environment, the Hamptons changes with every new group of people that make it their home,” Mr. Iannacci said. “Culturally, we’re in a different place than we were in 2006, and I was hoping to reflect that in some of the choices in this book.”

The theme of “authenticity” resonates as the reader is transported from Southampton to Shelter Island to Montauk in this tour de East End. The introduction notes that not every project included is grand or completely “built out.”

“While not every homeowner represented in these pages is willing to accept the compromises to convenience and/or space that living in a truly historic converted barn requires, like the magical home James Topping created for himself and his menagerie of farm-animal pets, they understand that a palpable sense of place and a memorable space are what we fantasize about when we think of escape and relaxation.”

James Topping—Wainscott

James Topping’s Wainscott barn turned home proves that even in an area of excess, there can be restraint.

A descendant of some of this area’s original local settlers, Mr. Topping took a barn built in 1847 on ancestral Wainscott property and turned it into a livable space.

“He was more willing to accept some of the compromises that living in a historic structure may have come with.” Mr. Iannacci said. “He didn’t do a major architectural renovation.”

In fact, Mr. Topping chose not to expand the structure at all—instead, dropping the floor to get the necessary space for a living room.

Bringing in hand-me-down furniture, he maintained the integrity of the structure, while adapting his own living standards—even moving in with an ornamental Royal Palm turkey.

Tom Flynn—Bridgehampton

Winning Best-in-Show by stretching across the book’s cover, this prior 1970s bungalow transformed by designer Tom Flynn is a true ocean retreat.

The homeowners lived in a small residence on the property until they decided to knock it down and replace it with a house that was both comfortable and showed respect for the landscape. From the interior, one can see straight to the Atlantic.

“If you want to be on the ocean, there’s not a lot of vacant land,” Mr. Iannacci explained. “When a client or individual does that, they really get a sense of what the space has to offer them—what the land has to offer them—that’s an interesting phenomenon.”

Mr. Flynn resisted the temptation to build a massive mansion and instead constructed a modest home focused on function. “This is just an amazing beachside home that is really really really about embracing the indoor and outdoor environments,” Mr. Iannacci said.

Joe D’Urso—Springs

Highlighting the panoramic views of the water, Joe D’Urso sought to rearrange the massing of the interior structure along with Michael Haverland, who is also featured in the book, by dropping the kitchen floor so that the same view can be enjoyed as from other rooms.

When not looking out the window, Mr. D’Urso’s clients enjoy a carefully selected collection of works by exclusively local artists.

“It’s a very interesting way of infusing the property with a sense of place,” Mr. Iannacci noted. “It really makes you want to learn about each of those painters and each of those artists and say, ‘Oh, who is that? When did she or he work here? Where did she or he work? How interesting that this was and still continues to be a place where artists are interested in living and working.’”

James Huniford—Bridgehampton

At first glance, one might be deceived into thinking this property is traditional with its farmhouse table and rustic charm. However, the intricate details by James Huniford prove it’s all in the details—especially the giant No. 2 pencil hanging on the living room wall coupled with French antiques.

Mr. Iannacci explained that bits and pieces of farming tools have been incorporated into assemblages to reference contemporary art. “There’s a sense of history. There’s a sense of wonder. There’s a sense of pulling things together from different places,” he said.

Todd Merrill—Southampton

“Todd Merrill is an expert in collage, very much the way James Huniford is, but with a different focus,” Mr. Iannacci said.

Instead of subtle rustic yet contemporary pieces, Mr. Merrill’s furniture choices sit like museum exhibits in a light monotone home in Southampton. The home exemplifies the Hamptons 1970s fixation with Charles Gwathmey’s early work with intentional geometric designs.

“It’s a perfect envelope for his collection,” Mr. Iannacci said of the designer’s collage showcase.

Robert Stilin—Sagaponack

Combining the traditional taste of the Hamptons with light shingling and modern lines, this Sagaponack property by Robert Stilin “embraces the vernacular architecture, but pushed it to a different and more contemporary place,” according to Mr. Iannacci.

Even with amenities like a luxurious pool and guest house, the house exemplifies what the author calls a “sense of place.”

“The goal here was not to prescribe one way of living or one design style,” Mr. Iannacci explained. “The goal was to just show that there’s many ways of doing it.”

Jonathan Adler & Simon Doonan—Shelter Island

“If you go to a party and you pick out the person who’s the most interestingly dressed, they’re not going to look like everyone else,” Mr. Iannacci said of the bold choices made by Jonathan Adler, the designer, and Simon Doonan, Barneys creative ambassador-at-large.

“On some level all of these projects are pushing the envelope a little bit and creating environments that are not formulaic, are not what one would expect,” Mr. Iannacci said.

In the middle of the brightly lit living room adorned by eclectic furniture and a rope wall piece is a giant indoor fire pit. “If you’re invited over there and that thing is roaring, you’re going to remember it and everything that happens that evening is going to become a part of your memory of that place in such a specific way,” the author said.

Roman and Williams—Montauk

Infused with the ease of Montauk’s atmosphere, this project focused on living rather than extravagance.

The 1950s suburban-style home was stripped down to its structural elements, removing much of the Sheetrock and exposing conduit and wires.

“It’s kind of great in its simplicity—and that’s Montauk,” Mr. Iannacci sad. “It’s very much about the individual spirit. This is a lean-the-surfboard-against-the-house kind of place.”

The organic, almost un-renovated structure comes complete with a pair of wading boots next to the kitchen island.

“It’s not about polish or artifice,” Mr. Iannacci continued. “It’s kind of the earthy quality that is celebrated here.”

Tony Ingrao & Randy Kemper—East Hampton

One of the most unusual properties showcased in the book is Tony Ingrao and Randy Kemper’s outdoor living space in East Hampton.

“This is a major luxury to have all this beautiful outdoor space that’s been designed and planned and planted as if it were an important room,” Mr. Iannacci said, because of the brief season in which owners can enjoy it. “This isn’t San Diego, where you can use these outdoor living rooms every day of the year.”

Centered around a sunken living room, carefully maintained specimen plants ooze opulence. One barely notices a small cottage between the hedges.

Philip Galanes & Michael Haverland—Shelter Island

While additions are nothing new to the East End, the structure Philip Galanes and Michael Haverland added to a small cottage on Shelter Island presents a balance between luxury and need.

The clients required more living space, but instead of knocking down the original home after, chose a modern addition off the cottage with a grand fireplace made from local stones.

“Here again, it’s all about the exuberance of design and color creating an environment that’s going to be memorable,” Mr. Iannacci said about the striking furniture by Mr. Galanes. “A hot pink, leather daybed is not something you forget perched in the living room with these views of Shelter Island that are really spectacular.”

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