A New Water Mill Home Fashions Into a Rustic Beauty



In the family room, a vintage chandelier from John Rosselli & Associates hangs above a John Saladino-designed sectional, which is upholstered in a Romo fabric; the throw is from Serena & Lily. It all began with a barn. When nature-loving clients of interior designer Rinat Lavi found the ideal two-acre parcel in Water Mill to build their Hamptons dream home, it wasn’t the former potato farm’s towering century-old trees or proximity to the ocean that they were smitten with. Instead, the property’s 200-year-old barn captured the hearts of the outdoorsy Manhattanites most. “They were drawn to its rugged look,” says Lavi, who was tasked with transforming the barn into a multifunctional living area that would appeal to both adults and children. “We wanted the barn to be used like a big gazebo, a place for the kids to do art projects and somewhere for adults to hang out.” 

But after calling in barn restoration experts to assess its condition, Lavi and her clients were devastated to learn that it would be nearly impossible to preserve. “About 75 percent of the timber was rotted,” recalls the Israeli-born, Manhattan-based Lavi, who studied interior design at the New York Institute of Technology and also decorated the family’s apartment in the city. “We could have rebuilt it using the wood that wasn’t decayed, but it would have cost an astronomical amount of money to disassemble it and then put the usable bits back together.” After an exhaustive search, Lavi found New Hampshire–based Bensonwood, a company that specializes in building structures, including barns, using reclaimed lumber. She hired the firm to construct a new 25-foot-tall barn, on the same footprint as the original, and then called in a local contractor to add a wash to the façade to give it a more weathered appearance. (“My clients wanted it to be as similar to the original barn as possible.”) Lavi customized it by incorporating sliding doors on three sides to open it to the verdant grounds and added a loft that doubles as a children’s play space. Its whimsical staircase railing, constructed by local artist Mark Wilson, is made from twigs and branches.

A circa-1930s Colonial-style cottage, also located on the property, “wasn’t worth salvaging—it had tiny rooms and a horrible layout,” says Lavi, who enlisted Hamptons developer Joe Farrell to build the family’s five-bedroom, 6,500-square-foot home, complete with a dance studio and a spacious playroom. In the two-story family room, rustic accents include 100-year-old exposed wood ceiling beams salvaged from a train station, a floor-to-ceiling stone fireplace surround, and a vintage candelabra-style chandelier. Walnut planks line the walls of the study, and all the first-floor window frames are painted dark brown. 

To keep the brand-new home from seeming too “ye olde,” Lavi employed a mix of clean-lined Scandinavian and Italian furnishings upholstered in luxe fabrics. “I wanted to introduce a modern, clean palette while also bringing in classical elements,” she says, adding that in an effort to “stay true to the home’s Hamptons location,” she installed large glass doors in the family room (they open to the sea breezes) and fashioned a bright and airy kitchen, where glass and metal RH pendants hang above an expansive island. “These are the things you’d expect in a Hamptons home. You can’t ignore the fact that it’s a beach house.”

The former garage, located next to the barn, was replaced with a roomy pool house with sleeping quarters, a kitchenette, a living area with seating pieces from David Sutherland and Room & Board, and a fireplace. And salvaged wood planks from the original barn found a new home after all: Now they line a far wall. 

Even with their cozy compound complete and updated with creature comforts, Lavi’s clients are still more likely to be found spending the bulk of their time outdoors—whether strolling the landscaped grounds and vegetable garden, hanging out in the treehouse (it comes with a slide), or napping on the Dedon daybed suspended from a mammoth oak tree. “It feels like a summer camp,” says Lavi. “Everyone’s always outside, enjoying what’s there.” 

A version of this article appeared in the July 15, 2017 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Rustic Beauty.

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Designer Spotlight

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Karen Wells Design
Karen Wells Design creates professionally finished, uniquely beautiful interiors. Interior design, furniture design, interior architecture, project management, space planning, and curating collections are our specialty. Each project brings a fresh aesthetic based on the clients tastes, idiosyncrasies, and how they want to live. Interpreting each space for its functionality, refining it through the use of color, texture ,light, art, and furniture proportions allows KWD to create environments called home.

Karen Wells Design

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Builder Spotlight

M&M Custom Homes
M&M Custom Homes is recognized as one of the premier home builders in the Hamptons and throughout Nassau County. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, we provide a superior client experience—creating exceptional value with state-of-the-art construction and unsurpassed design.


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Garden Spotlight

Gardeneering
For thirty three years, every design we create stems from our holistic approach to landscape gardening. Beginning with developing the best possible soil, our attention branches out to address all facets of a project with similar focus. Whether it's hardscape or quality of plant material, the installations are of the highest order -- as is the quality of our estate maintenance services. Every effort is made to blend the client's vision with the aesthetic aspects of the house and property -- ultimately, to create an organic realization.


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Kathryn’s Flower Gardens
Kathryn’s Flower Gardens is committed to providing exquisite cutting gardens, container plantings and unique and heirloom varieties of vegetables, fruits and herbs, all grown right outside your door. Inspired by the agricultural heritage of the east end, Kathryn’s was created as a sentimental tribute to the owner’s young daughter. Led by a team of experienced horticulturalists, the firm’s sole focus is on providing boutique and personalized containers, flower and vegetable gardens. Located in Sag Harbor, Kathryn’s Flower Gardens is a subsidiary of Summerhill Landscapes.


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HARMONIA INC Creative Landscapes and Fine Stonework
HARMONIA INC was founded out of a profound passion for creating complete landscapes and gardens that co-exist in harmony, with the natural settings that grace each property. Harmonia will design and install a customized landscape complimentary to your visual desires, and your personal lifestyle. “ Our work is a reflection of how you will want to enjoy your property for years to come.” Harmonia Inc is a full service design, installation and maintenance company, beautifying the Hamptons every day. 631-537-9672

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