Outstanding figures of the Victorian era: Southampton House of Jaime Giménez and Quinn Pofar

When Quinn Pofahl and Jaime Jiménez bought their 1885 Southampton home three years ago, one of the first things they did was saw off the top of one of the Victorian newels to see if the original architectural plans were inside. “I heard that they stored the plans to these houses in the hollowed-out post,” says Pofahl. “It turns out that’s not true.” After decapitating the ornate structure, the only thing Pofahl discovered was a bit of debunked Victorian architectural folklore.

There would be many more stories to unearth during the yearlong renovation of the house, which is in the heart of the village—an ideal spot from which to view the town’s popular Fourth of July parade. During one parade, they were sitting in the front yard when a man approached them and said he had grown up in the house—which had been in his family for nearly 100 years—and regaled them with stories about secret Prohibition-era cubbyholes. What’s more, well- known luminaries had stayed there, including Truman Capote, who wrote his last book, Music for Chameleons, on the third floor, and Andy Warhol, who was a frequent guest of the house’s second owner.

The couple had been visiting Southampton for nearly two decades when they spotted the village Victorian and immediately bid on it. “The owner told us there had been many great parties in this house,” remembers Jiménez, director of marketing at Baccarat. “And we said, Don’t worry, we’ll carry on the tradition!” Both Jiménez and Pofahl, the vice president of creative presentation at Ralph Lauren, love to entertain. And so, in addition to meticulously restoring the original crown moldings and reworking the heart-pine floors in a traditional herringbone pattern, they set about updating the kitchen and rebuilding its fireplace at counter height to provide a unique focal point. “Every room is conceived with entertaining in mind,” says Jiménez, “yet no matter how many times we tell people to go sit in the sunroom or on the terrace, they end up congregating in the kitchen.”

During the renovation, their biggest challenge was bringing the interiors into the 21st century. The previous owner had left his 1970s-era decor in place, including ivy and cabbage-rose wallpaper in every room. Initially they thought they would create a period-appropriate interior to match the house’s Victorian bones. But after reviewing the opening scenes of Gosford Park for inspiration and considering several large pieces of Victorian furniture, Pofahl says he took a different tack: “We wanted to make it feel young and modern while respecting the architecture and history of the house.”

Reimagining tricky spaces is easy for Pofahl, who spends his workdays dreaming up the sets for Ralph Lauren’s store windows. No task is too great: When the Range Rover Sport debuted several years ago and Pofahl was given an orange model for display, he had it sawed in half and stuck it in the window of the Polo Sport store on Madison Avenue. “This house was a piece of cake,” he says. “It’s like a side job, but it’s fun.”

To bring the rooms up to date, they got rid of the chintz wallpaper and the damask curtains, and painted most of the walls white. They added color with paintings and decorative objects, such as the oversize pharmacy sign found at the Brimfield flea market in Massachusetts, which they hung in the living room. “We shop a lot,” adds Jiménez, referring to favorite haunts like the East Hampton Antiques Show and antiques shops in Hudson, New York. “And if we have to store it, we put it in the basement or lend it to friends.”

Shopping with an expert set designer can be perilous—not only does the basement fill up quickly, but the decor changes constantly, and it gets expensive. On a recent trip to Hudson, Jiménez recalls one dealer discovering Pofahl’s professional identity, and soon the whole town was on high alert. “I thought, That’s it, we can’t shop anymore, the prices just went up,” Jiménez jokes.

One challenge they didn’t anticipate was finding contemporary uses for anachronistic spaces such as the turret. Originally built to show off the owner’s wealth, turrets today have little use aside from providing a great view of the surroundings. But the awkward area on the ground floor is a perfect fit for their grand piano. Upstairs in the master bedroom, the octagonal space holds a round dining-size table that doubles as a bedside table. And, on the third floor there’s a quiet reading area, complete with a view of the Fourth of July parade.

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