Sometimes you just want to get away from it all: not in a camping, backwoods sort of way, but in a more cocktail-sipping, sun-seeking kind of fashion. It was precisely this type of escape a New York family sought when they purchased a vacation retreat on Fisher Island as a respite from their hectic life in the city. Home to free-roaming peacocks, it captures the allure of a secluded island, but it also has all the luxury amenities of an exclusive resort. “It never feels crowded, and people really appreciate the privacy and security,” the wife says. Set on the farthest point of the island, their condominium overlooks miles and miles of ocean. “It’s our happy place,” the wife says. “It’s where we go to decompress.”
Originally weighed down by heavy traditional details—dark wood-coffered ceilings, an ornately carved limestone fireplace and a cumbersome built-in bar that interrupted the great room—the condo underwent a lofty transformation from Mediterranean to beachy chic thanks to New York-based designer Jen Going, who also designed the family’s summer home on Long Island. “Jen is so flexible and willing to listen to our ideas,” the wife says. “She created family-friendly rooms, so we never have to worry about sand from the beach.”
Although working on an island would seem like a dream, in this case, it posed some unique challenges. On Fisher Island, you can build only six months out of the year and subcontractors must arrive via barge, making preparation and timing paramount. Luckily, Going was able to work with one of Fisher Island’s onsite builders, Ryan Bleiweiss, who was “very communicative, especially since I was in New York,” she remembers, though she flew down every month to oversee operations
From the beginning, Going had one goal in mind: to open up the views. “There were so many things blocking it; so, it was wonderful to sweep it all away,” she says. The owners also asked for an expansive entertainment area, as well as comfortable guest rooms that offered privacy, making the vacation retreat as inviting as possible for their family and friends. To accomplish this, Going began by transforming an existing formal dining room into a guest room with a bath en suite. Next, she replaced a massive built-in bar with an informal dining area that becomes one with the living area. Above that great room, she placed lacquered-white coffers that reflect the natural light and turquoise waters below. “As soon as you open the door, you feel like you are literally on the ocean,” the wife says.
Keeping the emphasis on the panorama, expansive sliding doors open completely onto a balcony, essentially disappearing and expanding the 30-foot living area into an enormous entertaining venue. “This indoor-outdoor effect alludes to the home’s refined yet casual vibe,” Going says. For the furnishings, she selected low-profile pieces that speak to the owners’ low-key personalities. “The wife likes clean lines and is very pared-down,” she says. “So I wanted a cool, sophisticated apartment with pops of color.” The designer captured this casual elegance through a careful juxtaposition of pieces that blur the line between modern and earthy, such as the pairing of a reclaimed-timber console with a streamlined mirror in the foyer, a walnut farm table with mod white chairs in the dining area, and wooden swivel stools in the contemporary kitchen. Even the fireplace—newly dressed in composite stone—offers a complementary contrast to the casually wrought living room.
While the water views clearly inspired Going’s approach, they also influenced the palette, with touches of cobalt and azure blue in the area rugs, upholstery, artwork, and accessories throughout. Even the master bedroom is awash in the soothing, ethereal hue.
But nowhere does the color scheme come more to life than on the balcony, where shades of sea and sky continue as far as the eye can see. From here, the family waves to cruise ships passing by. With umbrella-accented drinks in hand, they kick back and relax just the way they imagined, in true vacation style.
—Heather L. Schreckengast