[Decor] Hamptons reborn
In the late 1980s, landscape designer Deborah Nevins created a garden in Southampton, New York, that still inspires awe in all who see it, with soaring copper-beech hedges framing roses and wildflowers.
The house on the property, however, was lackluster and awkward. The interior of the 1890s redbrick structure had devolved over time into a labyrinth of narrow halls and cramped rooms. When it went on the market several years ago, potential buyers were daunted. “People were intrigued by the land and the location,” says interior designer Steven Gambrel. “But they couldn’t see past the house.”
The eventual owner, a Manhattan financier, wasn’t for a moment intimidated. One of the first calls he made was to Gambrel, whom he had hired to redo four previous properties, including his Manhattan townhouse. As Gambrel says, “This client is not afraid of good design.”
The formerly dark foyer has been transformed into a dramatic entry with walls covered in wood blocks carved and painted to resemble stonework à la Mount Vernon. The space is almost Escher-like in its stark black-and-white pattern and repetitive geometry. It’s a graphic effect echoed in the kitchen, where the floor features gray, black, and white concrete squares, and the walls are lined in ebony ceramic tile. “I do love black,” says Gambrel, who used the color on window frames and walls as well the living room’s expansive plank ceiling. “Rather than making a space feel smaller, as you might expect,” Gambrel says, “it helps to define its outer edges, encouraging visual scale.”
Attention-grabbing hues are a leitmotif. Pine-green turns up on everything from carpets to upholstery to a malachite mantel. The shade reaches its pinnacle in the living room, where a sofa and a round tufted ottoman are covered in emerald fabric.
Red is also used to great effect, from a hall hung with black-and-white photos in matching scarlet frames and a crimson-carpeted cloakroom to an old-fashioned lacquered swinging door that opens to the kitchen from the jet-black butler’s pantry.
Upstairs, the master suite is reached via a dressing room outfitted sumptuously with a goatskin rug, vintage Maison Charles lanterns, and floor-to-ceiling cabinets painted glossy white with red trim. The rest of the suite is no less luxe, with elements inspired by world travels: an ebonized headboard whose shape is a nod to the architecture of Flanders, a 19th-century Chinese console, and bathroom vanities modeled on those in Claridge’s, the owner’s favorite London hotel.
Nevins’s lush formal garden—recently reconceived and replanted by Hamptons-based landscape architect Perry Guillot—still provides a breathtaking experience. But the house at its heart now more than holds its own.