When Sara Oswalt of Purveyor Design first walked into this sprawling 1960s East Hampton house, it had been meticulously renovated but was bathed in coastal blues and nautical nods—a fitting theme for a beach retreat but perhaps an overly obvious one. A weekend home for a couple in their 40s, the five-bedroom, five-bath house had all the makings of an idyllic Long Island summer home: a shingled exterior, a pool house, two fireplaces, and tons of natural light; it just needed a push in the right direction.
Despite the enchanting setting, an extensive renovation process had left the couple disenchanted and they needed a fresh pair of eyes to make the space feel like a home in time for their newborn’s arrival. That’s when they called on Oswalt to help infuse their home with a warm and layered feel. “The idea was to create something that felt beachy and casual but elevated and different and wasn’t afraid to mix,” the designer told Domino.
To step away from the coastal theme that swathed the home, Oswalt focused on creating a space that effortlessly mixed Scandinavian vintage modernism, Japanese hints, and traditional elements. “My early main focus was to warm the place up because all of the whites and blues made the place feel very cold. Instead, I focused on bringing in warm hues and softness.” Ahead, the designer shares her top tips for layering history into a home.
Step Away From Cliches
A beachside home doesn’t need to be filled with starfish accents and boat anchors. While the house already had a shingled exterior and lots of blue accents, Oswalt worked on infusing the space with warm colors and vintage pieces. “I struggled with finding a way to remind the guest that they were at the beach without using clichéd beach house things,” she told Domino. “We wanted a colored sofa, and I desperately wanted to stay away from blues since they were already in most of the house, so we ended up going with pink.”
Add Lots of Soft Textures
To warm up all the blue hues in the house, Oswalt brought in tons of soft furnishings and textured pieces. “The first thing that I bought was the custom Berber rug made for the master bedroom and added things from there. My client jokingly asked me afterward how many pillows they now had throughout the house, and it made me laugh. I think it was upwards of 60,” she remembers. “The house needed warmth, which ended up coming through textiles. The main focus was on bringing a soft texture to the space.”
Introduce Vintage Pieces
After soft furnishings, Oswalt focused on bringing in vintage pieces to make the home feel more collected. Luckily, her client already had a few key pieces. “My client had a secondhand never-used custom tufted sofa that he found at a consignment store in the area,” she says. “He also had several vintage finds, my favorite being the Broyhill dresser that we placed in the reading room.” To finish off each room, the designer brought in a ton of small accessories and ceramics to tie it all together. “I am a huge sucker for little things. I came from a career of styling photographs first, so I have to admit that I am different than most designers in that way.”
Layer a Large Space Until It Feels Cozy
One of Oswalt’s biggest challenges was the great room. “It was very vacuous, so it was a challenge to take the layout and turn it around to make work.” Being in the center of the home, the room is often used as a walkthrough, but it still needed to feel cozy despite the large space. “I really didn’t want to leave it empty-looking but also wanted to let the architecture and wall panels shine,” she says. The designer started with the pink sectional and added window treatments, rugs, and Japanese-inspired Palecek chairs upholstered in a Pierre Frey cream fabric.
“My client jokingly asked me afterward how many pillows they now had throughout the house, and it made me laugh. I think it was upwards of 60.”
Pay Attention to Lighting
Other than the eye-catching pink sectional, one thing that’s a constant throughout the home is a selection of great lighting, starting with a Noguchi pendant that the client had already purchased. “We hung it in a way that lets the ceiling glow at night and brings your eye up.” She layered the room with a Le Klint–inspired accordion standing lamp that she found on Chairish. “It has a Scandinavian flair but with a hint of Japanese and French.” That said, her favorite items in the house are the pair of Lostine leather sconces that flank the master bed, proving that great lighting really can transform a room.
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