“My clients have always loved Shelter Island and its getaway atmosphere,” says interior designer Sara Story of the summer residence she recently completed for a New York-based professional couple with two young kids. “They wanted me to create a retreat for them, a relaxing place where they could spend time with their family and friends.”
For inspiration, Story did not need to look far. The coastal cedar-shingle home designed by architect Joshua Brandfonbrener sits three stories tall on a bluff above the ocean. When Story first came on board, ground had not yet been broken, but the natural beauty was ever-present. “Shelter Island has these lovely bands of vegetation from coastline to water’s edge: cedar groves, sassafras trees, beach grasses,” Brandfonbrener says. “My goal was to ease the house into the topography, and make it feel private, while maximizing the scenery.”
Most rooms, including the upstairs bedrooms, have ocean views. The principal level, which encompasses the kitchen, dining and living rooms, is also connected along the exterior by a 78-foot main terrace, overlooking the sea and creating an indoor-outdoor circulation loop. “I wanted the interiors to be very neutral and for the focus to be on the spectacular scenery outside,” says Story. “I took my palette from the sky, beach, water and trees.” The flooring is of white oak, complementing the casual chic beach décor. The walls are mostly a creamy hue with minimal moldings, serving as a backdrop to clean-lined transitional furnishings.
Seating is upholstered in comfortable fabrics with stain-resistant finishes. Patterns are used sparingly, either simple geometric variations or abstract organic shapes.
In the serene sand-and-shell-hued living room, silk area rugs add warmth to the floors, linen curtain panels subtly frame expansive window-walls and delicate sheers filter sunlight as needed. “The living room is a large rectangular space, so I broke it up by creating two separate sitting areas,” Story says. “The immediate family uses the more casual one centered around the fireplace. The other, which is slightly more formal, works well when they host social events.”
“I wove in metal accents, too,” Story adds. “Especially in a neutral space, you can create drama and interest with metals. Bronze, brass, iron and nickel can all be reflective.” Story also uses the material in her bold yet airy light fixtures, lending rooms focal points. Lacquered finishes are another way the décor’s quiet neutrality is countered.
There is a surge of saturated color by way of the lime green chair seats and curtain panels in the dining room, as well as the peacock blue wallpaper hand painted with a botanical theme. It works perfectly for more formal dinner parties at the beach. “For casual dining, I designed a perforated leather corner banquette in the kitchen,” says Story of seating in the practical wainscoted kitchen. “I also chose bluestone tile flooring for continuity with the outdoors, all fine with flip-flops or bare feet, and damp bathing suits.” In addition to the kitchen’s adjacent enclosed porch which overlooks the pool and pool house, other outdoor areas include the master suite’s private bal- cony and the patio directly beneath the main terrace, with its base block-pillars, which add visual separation between the downstairs den and guest suites.
“I created a lot of different ways to experience the captivating exterior,” Brandfonbrener says. “On the waterfront, there are modern window- wall openings with panoramic views, as well as balconies with linear stainless railings enhancing the sight lines.” Builder Steve Pryzby adds of the main terrace, “What made it special was the bluestone finish over the steel and cement arcade foundation. There’s even up-lighting in the floor for parties at night!”
The resulting house is harmonious in design and at one with its environment. “The homeowners are really happy,” Story says, adding, “They originally thought it would just be their summer house, but they now use it for all kinds of occasions year-round.”