In A Never-Used Mansion, Gold-Leaf Doorknobs And Much More


On the market for $32 million, 101 Pheasant Lane, Southampton, sits on 1.94 acres, has three floors, nine bedrooms, 11.5 baths, 14,000 square feet—excluding the 60-by-30-foot Gunite pool and oversized, sunken tennis court—and is filled with limited-edition, handcrafted furniture, lighting, carpets, objets d’art and decorative accessories.

But it is the beautifully crafted gold doorknobs throughout that the award-winning Italian architect and interior designer Achille Salvagni, who created virtually every detail in the house, points out with a beaming smile. Typically bird, shell and fish forms, the doorknobs also surprise with variations like vertical gold rectangles made out of spaghetti pressed into clay.

Mr. Salvagni favors neutrals along with olive green and ancient rose as part of a “holiday palette” he uses for country homes to achieve a “light, sporty, joyful vacation look.” He pointed to an homage to the Hamptons in the foyer—a large silk carpet handcrafted in Tibet (all the carpets in the house are so made). It’s patterned as an old map of Southampton, with a woven “X” marking Pheasant Lane.

Above, a giant, wooden-framed bronze lantern is suspended down two and a half floors, his “largest” lighting design, yet. Once again eager to call attention to details, Mr. Salvagni notes that “every element of the chain was single-cast in bronze.

A nearby cabinet, a swirl of royal oak with a cast bronze top, is identified as “the most important such piece I’ve ever done.” The designer said he delights in using “noble” materials such as royal oak, 24-karat gold leaf, parchment and onyx.

Pheasant Lane was the last project taken on by fabled architect and Stanford White admirer Francis Fleetwood, whose May 2015 obituary in The New York Times referred to him as “the architect who transformed the Hamptons.” The more than 200 houses Mr. Fleetwood built on the East End for, among others, Alec Baldwin, Lauren Bacall, Paul McCartney and Calvin Klein exemplify what Mr. Fleetwood termed “homey grandeur,” a tribute to Shingle Style, which he called “the only truly indigenous architecture of the U.S.”

Mr. Salvagni never met Mr. Fleetwood, but he has been told, he says, that the Pheasant Lane house was one of the architect’s top 10 because of its “balances of volume,” meaning harmonies of unexpected spatial design. “Most Shingle Styles are banal, big, overdressed structures with a predictable central part and wings,” said the designer.

Master bedrooms in such estate houses are typically large, he said, but “once you go to bed, you feel insecure in such wide space.” In his bedrooms, a carpet covers almost the entire floor, and furniture breaks up the expanse while also “connecting” sections. Mr. Salvagni likes to “shape” a space before decorating it with his “one-of-a-kind bespoke pieces that mix styles” but serve the whole in harmonious design.

Art also abounds, but don’t look for abstract, and do expect the unexpected: a powder-room mirror that belonged to Pope Pius XI.

Mr. Salvagni’s atelier in Rome resides in a centuries-old former ironmongery where the craftsmen who execute his designs also do restoration work for the Vatican. His firm specializes in super-yachts as well as luxury properties, and one of the more unusual features at the Pheasant Lane estate is its clever embrace of land and sea in the lower level—a mix of functional adaptations with a nautical theme of portholes and model yachts that suggests the living style of his high-end clients, likely to be able to afford both magnificent country homes and yachts.

Mr. Salvagni said he takes pride in “going beyond owner expectations … an owner will talk about a goal, a mood, but it’s my mission to play the game, to negotiate, to cross over a bit, to augment the overall scheme, to point out how dull it would be just to follow certain plans or styles,” he said.

He pointed to different sets of chairs in a living room, one pair Art Deco from the 1950s, the other, Paolo Buffa Italian style. His mantra, he said with a smile, is “good taste with audacity.”

It’s ironic, therefore, that 101 Pheasant Lane, commissioned by restaurateur Tony Sbarro, was never lived in while under his ownership. It is being offered now “with every single item intact, including the linens,” Mr. Salvagni noted, plus the handmade pieces from his own collection and vintage items he picked up at auction.

Someone new is going to be happy and impressed.

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