Step Inside an Art Lover's Vibrant Shinnecock Hills Home
There will be sand. There will definitely be sand on the floors, so forget refinishing them and focus on the walls: That was the mandate for Elena Frampton, of New York City–based Frampton Co., who was charged with the interior design for this Shinnecock Hills bachelor pad. For her art-collector client, who is also an avid fisherman and golfer, “This is the place to get away from the city and from work, and having the air and space to relax,” she says. “But I wanted to create the opposite of the sterile, big white beach house.”
She had previously decorated the owner’s art-filled Manhattan apartment and “knew that when he purchased this waterfront house, it would be a blank canvas, so to speak. This home would be an opportunity to start a different collection, where works could be larger in scale and where we could be more bold with color.”
The renovation schedule was, ahem, “expeditious,” with an “in by Memorial Day” deadline. When the initial major reno was downgraded into a cosmetic refresh, Frampton realized that she “needed to increase the design factor, and art was the perfect way to accomplish that.” The project included stripping away an iffy mantelpiece and moldings “that were not aesthetically pleasing,” and generally “simplifying and cleaning things up,” thereby creating the intended blank canvas for the client’s art and furniture.
Frampton’s m.o. leaves little to chance—by design. “It’s all relative,” she says. “I’m not the kind of designer who picks one thing here and then another there over a long time. I like it when there is a master plan at the outset and we’re putting all the elements together.” She typically starts with a focal point—a painting, an extra-bold carpet, or a striking piece of furniture—and builds from there. “By being organized, you can be open to serendipitous moments, to happy accidents—something that’s a wild card but works perfectly.” Case in point: the living room’s metal patchwork Paul Evans chairs, which balance gracefully with a bold expressionist painting and two shapely sculptures.
Frampton, who studied art history while earning a B.S. in interior design from Arizona State University, has gallery-hopped in the world’s major cities, and it has served her decorating business well. “I’m often in galleries before shows even come about,” she says, describing her gallery-going as part of a more in-depth research process. “I might find an artist I love and wait for the right client to come about, which could mean two, three years down the road. There’s a little bit of matchmaking with clients that takes time.” Another reason art-loving clients gravitate her way, she says, is that she can help them navigate the tricky shoals of the art world. “Clients turn to me not only for the knowledge and creativity I bring, but also the ability to handle things for them. The art world can give off an air of exclusivity that often prevents people from feeling comfortable in it. We take the intimidation away.”
Clients are often drawn to the same artistic styles, she adds, pointing out that her Shinnecock Hills bachelor is particularly fond of Abstract Expressionism. Browsing for works to fill the home “was immediate and instinctual for him,” she recalls. “For me, the challenge was about satisfying his desires and making the collection more diverse. We worked in some cleaner-lined abstract pieces that were simpler and more graphic. We also varied the eras, mixing things from the ’60s and ’70s with more recent works.” For Frampton, the most satisfying aspect of interior design is being able to incorporate her knowledge of art history, the decorative arts, and architecture into a deeply focused plan. “Ultimately, that’s what is so exciting. It’s all about understanding how people want to live their lives.”
A version of this article appeared in the July 1 2017 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Mod Man.