A beach house renovation tends to include skylights for sunshine and transportive outdoor showers—not where to set a video call backdrop. For a London-based family with decades-old roots in the Long Island hamlet of Westhampton, though, creating a perfect pied-à-terre Stateside meant balancing work and play—it was just after the pandemic hit when work on the total makeover got under way. To get the job done, they tapped designer Jessica Gething to make the most of every inch.
“I have been coming out here in the summer since I was a child,” says the homeowner. “It’s a quaint little peninsula full of waterfront cottages built in the ’50s. I knew I wanted to own a place here so my kids could have the same experiences I did of running around barefoot and pulling up crab traps.”
Just because the location is out on the East End of Long Island didn’t mean the owners wanted the stereotypical Hamptons look of stark cobalt blue and white, however. “The shade we went with is a little deeper and a bit more nautical, and it has some green to it,” says Gething. “I had it run though the whole interior, because the ocean is right there; it can be seen through most of the windows. It gets a bluish tint anyway, which we wanted to lean into.”
But with every other wall white, vintage finds are spotted all over the house, tracing back to the owners’ native London and favorite spots across Europe and Morocco. “The rugs, the ceiling fixtures, the mirrors—it all adds character to the space and relates to their lives,” says Gething.
Concrete-like resin floors and reclaimed-wood ceilings in the main living space also sandwich the neutral palette with warm texture (and help hide the inevitable mess from sandy feet and wet swimsuits).
One thing you won’t find are those ubiquitous painted boards with phrases like Life’s a beach or Happiness is the sea. Gething knew the signage wouldn’t be right for this project, but she did bring in some subtle nautical features for the relaxed, ocean vibe long after the summer heat starts to fade. Think: grass-inspired lampshades, metal flush mounts above the kids’ bunk beds, bubble-like light fixtures, and a few branches of coral here and there.
“It’s a lot of ‘put everything in, take one thing out’” she says.
Like pretty much everything last year, the coronavirus changed the entire plan for the project. Early on they scrapped the idea of putting laundry units in one of the bedrooms in favor of setting aside space upstairs, where the washer and dryer can be tucked behind a closet door and out of sight. The closet is also outfitted with racks to dry a towel or swimsuit and storage shelves for any extra beach blankets. Between school and work schedules, creating an office-classroom hybrid—albeit a small one—was also at the top of the list. The kids use it for Zoom classes and school, and their parents check emails and keep calendars updated, so the monitor and desk take center stage on the upper floor, equidistant from all the bedrooms.
Back in London, the clients had undergone a similar renovation to their flat, including a custom kitchen from Plain English. In love with the quality, they commissioned Plain English to create a similar setup in Westhampton. Making the most of a massive picture window, which looks out over the water, the British kitchen designers worked outward from the view and kept all the natural light by adding open shelves running over the windows. “I got very lucky,” Gething admits. “We started the project right before lockdown first happened, and I got the orders in for these custom pieces just in time, so everything didn’t get totally held up.” Now that everything is finally topped off, the kids can go straight from school online to barbecuing on the deck and playing in the water.
I loved working with: Paul Pazera from Pazera Cabinetry. There were a lot of custom built-in elements, and his team made sure everything was installed on time and finished beautifully.
The nicest contractors I’ve ever met: Colin Bester and his team from R2Q Construction. We ran into shutdowns due to COVID at the end of the build, but they got the job done two weeks early so the clients could move in sooner.
Favorite online source: Lumfardo has a fantastic selection of vintage lighting, and we also love its contemporary collection, which we used in the kitchen.