A Sprawling Shingle-Style Home in Wainscott Takes on an Artful Air
There was a moment when Nathan Thomas, a senior designer at New York–based Bruce Bierman Design, knew that his latest project in the Hamptons was going to be different. “From the outside,” he says, “it has all the traditional details you would typically see, like cedar shakes and crisp white trim.” But this quintessential Hamptons exterior, he adds, didn’t necessarily jibe with the eclectic personality and laid-back lifestyle of his clients. So, turning a blind eye to the façade, Thomas injected unexpectedly elegant, yet earthy elements throughout the interior spaces, creating a design scheme to match his clients’ tastes while simultaneously providing a calm refuge from the hubbub of the city.
Thomas’s clients—Mara Landis, along with her husband and three boys—struck Hamptons real estate gold when they purchased their spec home on Town Line Road in Wainscott. Within walking distance to the boys’ grandparents and also close to many friends, the location couldn’t have been more ideal. What’s more, the property came with a vast outdoor space where Landis, an enthusiastic vegetable gardener, could grow fresh produce in raised beds. (She cooks nearly every summer meal from the garden’s enormous bounty.)
In addition to gardening, Landis says, she has “two passions: my business and design.” The former, Nutmeg Aspirin, is a holistic healing website that allows users to share what works for them in the world of alternative medicine. “I am so conscious about how I live my life, from what I put in my body to keeping my thoughts positive,” she says. “What I value is a reflection of me, and that is exactly how I wanted the house to come together.”
Accordingly, she and Thomas worked side by side on every detail of the home. Choosing fabric wasn’t limited to one or two options, for instance; rather, there were hundreds in the mix, and it took months to pick the right combinations. “Nathan was really patient with me,” Landis recalls. “I needed to create a certain energy within the home, and to do that, I needed to be an overly active participant.” When it came to the family’s impressive collection of avant-garde and emerging art, Thomas left well enough alone. “I started thinking of the home as their East End art gallery,” he says. “The truth is, there’s so much wall space, it’s easy for them to display pieces in and out of rotation whenever they want to. My job was to work the furnishings around them. The evolution of the rooms began to unfold organically.”
In most instances, the designer thought bigger and bolder—and in the case of the living room sofa, completely custom. “It’s an off-white 17-foot curved sofa with no pattern, and it needed to be set apart,” Thomas says. “So we had it upholstered on-site with a single run of fabric, meaning there are no seams. It’s rare and unique—and exactly what that space needed.” Other eye-catching details include a petrified-root cocktail table that not only complements the scale and shape of the sofa, but speaks to the clients’ interest in all-natural materials. In fact, Landis insisted that everything from rug pads to cleaning supplies be chemical free. For that reason, Thomas adds, “there are a lot of unfinished-wood pieces in the home. We really wanted to celebrate natural beauty, even in the furniture.”
Another daring change: removing the dining room and replacing it with a custom bar and lounge area. Even though the Landises live in their own crunchy granola utopia, kicking back with cocktails and conversation with friends and family remains at the top of their summer priority list (Landis’s husband often tends bar). “They don’t entertain formally,” says Thomas, “so this room was meant to have a lot of personality.” After designing nearly 20 iterations of the bar to get it exactly right, he and Landis both say it is their favorite room in the house. “We shared every decision together, and Mara was very hands-on,” Thomas recounts. “That’s a rare occurrence on most projects, but for us, it was a lot of fun. Mara really put her heart and soul into it, and I was just the proprietor of calm.”
A version of this article appeared in the July 1 2017 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Cool & Classic.