A Hamptons beach is beautiful in a subtle way. It doesn’t confront us with dramatic forms or clamor for attention. Instead, it lulls us with its reliable rhythms, calming textures and quiet hues that shift softly from sand to sea to sky.
Not far from the shore in the hamlet of Wainscott, there’s a house with an equally gentle nature. Designed for a Manhattan-based family, it’s large but with a comfortable intimacy that belies its size. On the outside, it nods to its neighbors with wood-shingled walls and gambrel roofs inspired by the local vernacular. Inside, it celebrates the elegant simplicity of a few humble materials. “The emphasis is on what you use and how you use it—and whatever we do, we like to do it with two or three pieces of material,” says architect Howard Backen, who partnered with architect Loren Kroeger to design the home, which was built by Kevin Warren and later updated by construction manager Mathias Thoerner.
In this case, the architects and designer Brad Krefman used combinations of reclaimed wood, bluestone and beachy white wood planks to give spaces a sense of unpretentious luxury. The home’s first floor, which includes a large entertaining kitchen and a great room with areas for lounging and dining, is defined by warm, rustic finishes, including reclaimed European oak floors, whitewashed vertical wall planking and hefty, exposed beams that span the wood-clad ceilings. On the second and third floors, the paneled walls and ceilings are painted a soft white color, creating a lighter mood for a more casual kitchen, living areas and a handful of bedrooms. “Downstairs you do feel quite different than you do upstairs—that was the idea,” Backen says, “but they’re good neighbors.”
As for the interior design, “the clients wanted this home to provide a place to be more carefree; a real contrast to their more formal and structured life in the city,” explains Krefman. With that in mind, and with the clients’ collection of Asian furnishings and artwork as a guide, Krefman began searching for new and antique pieces that felt approachable enough for a casual beach house, yet fine enough to match the quality of the architecture. For the great room, he took cues from Belgian design guru Axel Vervoordt when selecting a linen-slipcovered sofa and armchairs to face the fireplace, and when giving other key pieces—including a Wegner hammock chair and surfboard-shaped solid-wood coffee tables—plenty of room to breathe. “The goal was striking that balance of the space feeling furnished and full, but still leaving a lot of room for the pieces to hold their own,” he says.
In the adjacent dining area, an antique Japanese tansu chest from the clients’ collection does just that while complementing the warm wood tones of a custom acacia-wood dining table and an antique French dressmaker’s table that functions as a sideboard, room divider and display area for beachcombers’ finds. Meanwhile, upstairs Krefman chose refined, comforting details befitting the seaside setting. Case in point: The monochromatic mix of linen-upholstered furnishings and pewter-gray bedding in the master bedroom, which defers to views of nearby Wainscott Pond and the sea beyond.
There and throughout the house, soft colors and textures feel perfectly at home amid their surroundings—which is no accident, as Krefman explains. “If you take a handful of sea glass and sand, you get this crazy range of neutrals, and always these pinks and blues. So, it’s like we took a handful of the beach and built a color palette around it.” It’s little wonder then that here, whether you’re inside or outside, there’s never any doubt you’re in a place designed to capture—and celebrate—the quiet beauty of the shore.