When designer Susan Anthony, firm partner Maureen Wright and architect Arthur Fraser completed work on a new vacation house for a big family in Southampton, passersby were so impressed by the design that they mistook it for an original and praised the beautiful renovation. Never mind that the house it replaced—one from the 1960s that kept flooding—was of a completely different style. But the new house just looked so…indigenous.
“At first, they wanted something modern,” says Anthony, but low-slung houses don’t exactly provide sweeping views of the surrounding beauty. The solution was to draw from the style made popular in the area in the early 20th century by the prominent New York City firm McKim, Mead & White, which designed the Brooklyn Museum, the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C., and a number of East Coast mansions, including the 1927 Sands Point masterpiece that inspired The Great Gatsby.
Fast forward to recent years in the Hamptons: Evidence of trademark stylings in this house includes dual access; a barrel-vaulted hall; an elaborate staircase rising to a skylight; window seating; and crown moldings and nooks and crannies throughout, such as the powder room under the stairs with its door concealed in the paneling.
The site influenced the layout of the house. “It’s a corner property with views of a pond and the ocean from the second floor,” says Fraser, who oversaw the construction of the project alongside Anthony. “This was critical to the location of certain rooms, especially the master suite, which has views of both.”
Because the original house was torn down, care was taken to preserve the lot’s native greens. “We moved quite a few of the large trees,” says landscape designer Tor Bono, noting Japanese maples and willows that surrounded the previous house. He also planted perimeter classics such as hydrangeas and added spherical boxwood near the pool.
The most important requirement of the new house was that it should be able to accommodate a large extended family for casual entertaining. Living areas are situated on the ground floor, with wraparound porches that extend the space for optimum lounging. Says Fraser, “The house is wrapped in porches to provide passive energy benefits while the large windows and a central skylight allow for lots of natural light.” The kitchen is relaxed, with barstools at a wood-topped island for come-and-go meals. Off the family room is an indoor porch, where the man of the house likes to sit if he is working so he can have some privacy but not be completely secluded from the fun.
The clients had more detail-oriented requests, too. He wanted quarter- sawn oak flooring; she wanted high ceilings and moldings. Anthony not only sourced molding styles from old McKim, Mead & White blueprints, but she also found the company the firm originally used in order to really “use their language” in the design of the new house.
Anthony had worked with the residents before, so she instinctually knew that the color palette must be beachy and warm and cozy—yet what she calls “tongue-in-cheek” in parts, too. The dining room, for example, features a classic table and chairs, but the upholstered polka-dotted backs and the lime green hue that pops as an accent on the seats, the draperies and the edge of the rug add jolts of playfulness. In the living area, blues and whites were influenced by artworks hanging in the room, and the master suite is dressed in hushed hues of rust, pink, pale green and cream.
“Everything had to have a nice hand,” Anthony says of the chenilles, cottons, linens and stonewashed fabrics throughout. “Anything we put on furniture had to feel good against the skin and be durable with dogs and kids.”
With the design now complete, the house is bursting with activity. “They’re fun-loving people,” says Anthony. “Kids are running around; dogs are barking; people are cooking. It’s alive—that’s the kind of house it is.” On the porch, a swing that’s never empty rocks as though it has been there for generations. And noone would believe it to be any other way.