[Decor] Hampton House with French accent
Even in the green, manicured depths of Eastern Long Island, husband-and-wife tastemakers Todd and Amy Hase can’t escape the influence of France. Not only does the designing duo’s popular Todd Hase line of furniture, lighting, and fabrics have a distinctly Gallic sensibility, the couple and their two young daughters spend each summer at Château du Jonquay, an elegant 17th-century manor house in Normandy they have lovingly restored, from towers to gardens. So it’s not surprising that, two years ago, when the Hases decided to construct a home in the bucolic New York village of Water Mill, they turned to France for inspiration.
Initially they didn’t intend to build a new house, French in style or not. Happily ensconced on ten acres in the nearby town of Bridgehampton, the couple had presumed that particular residence would be their home base until Ava, now 10, and Chloe, 12, were grown. Admirers of the Hases’ suave style, however, made an offer on the furnished 10,000-square-foot house the family couldn’t refuse. Few things focus the mind like relocation, and quickly a plan began to form. The Hases would find a smaller piece of land in the general area and construct a more practical but no less stylish replacement. “Todd is always up for a new project,” Amy says with a laugh, noting that he can’t visit any city without thumbing through its real-estate advertisements. “It was a new idea. Our kids were older, and it sounded fun.”
The wooded Water Mill property they now occupy is a more modest six acres. The white-shingled house Todd designed is 2,000 square feet smaller than their previous digs, with less grand, more intimate spaces whose scale is based on historical precedent. As Todd explains, venerable country houses in France often have rooms that are a reasonable 18 feet in length or width, largely because timber was milled in that dimension 250 years ago; he used that measurement as his architectural guide. He also studied the work of David Adler, a 1930s American architect who was influenced by historic European houses. Todd took inspiration from a tentlike construction at Villa Trianon, the Versailles getaway of legendary American decorator Elsie de Wolfe, to build a canvas-shaded terrace that stretches across the back of the home, doubling the family’s entertaining space during the summer months. The central section of the new house is primarily one room deep, which allows sunlight to stream in from both sides, in the mode of charming French manors known as lanternes. The old-fashioned style also addresses ultramodern energy concerns. “You just have to crack the windows and there’s incredible cross ventilation,” Amy says, adding that the smaller rooms and lower ceilings have resulted in energy savings in winter. Also, the scaled-down rooms were easier to decorate. “Relative to the house we sold, this one is a lean, mean fighting machine.”
Still, graciousness has not been forgotten. Since they married, 15 years ago, the Hases have slowly collected a choice array of antiques, largely French and Chinese in origin, and combined them with their company’s own complementary designs. Lest the Asian accents strike anyone as odd in such a Francophile house, Todd points out that French homeowners of centuries past incorporated Far East touches into their rooms as emblems of fashionable taste. In a guest room stands the Qing dynasty wedding bed that once dominated the newlywed couple’s 600-square-foot apartment on Manhattan’s Upper West Side—today the Hases’ children climb inside the elaborately carved and gilded piece to put on puppet shows. A large leather-top Napoleonic map table anchors the formal dining room, where the walls are clad in a Chinese-style de Gournay pattern. Louis XVI music chairs are placed in front of the playroom windows, their seats and backs upholstered in pink silk embroidered with a tulip pattern, a tribute to Todd’s Dutch ancestry. In the green-walled library—the color was copied from a paint seen at the celebrated Château de Groussay—objects mingle that span continents and cultures and have been gathered on the couple’s peregrinations, from an Empire daybed to a Chinese ceramic pagoda.
“Rooms are albums that provoke memories,” says Amy, as much a passionate traveler as her husband. “What you decorate with should remind you of a street you wandered down or an experience that made you happy.” Given the Hases’ life thus far, the rooms of their Water Mill home should be able to tell even more stories as the years go by. Unless, of course, somebody makes them another offer they can’t refuse.