When Your Dining Table Snaps in Half, It’s Good to Have Vintage Dealers as Your Designers
A Hamptons beach house made sleek.
Published Apr 1, 2023 1:02 AM
We may earn revenue from the products available on this page and participate in affiliate programs.
There’s no scenario in which completing a house in the midst of a global pandemic is easy, but when it’s also your first interior design gig—as it was for vintage furniture dealers Nora O’Neil and Jordy Murray—there’s an inevitable added layer of chaos.
“Doing this project felt a bit like lighting a match,” explains Murray, adding that there were no floor plans or renderings. “We had a printed pamphlet from the listing agent that we would draw on with a Sharpie.”
Luckily, the duo—aka Friends of Form, the name of their Greenpoint, Brooklyn, showroom—was able to make the best of a turbulent situation, cutting lead times with custom pieces and vintage finds and, most important, keeping calm when things became dire. “We have high expectations for both craft and communication, which occasionally, it seems, means making adult men cry,” Murray adds cheekily.
The project began in May 2021 when their client, also a friend, asked the pair to design his newly purchased home in Southampton. It had to be ready in time for summer, a mere 12 weeks away.
The modern ash black farmhouse was a brand-new build, but the interior still required a few renovations, including stripping back the floors, rearranging electrical for overhead lighting, and installing new window treatments. “The urgency for New Yorkers to go east [that season] was absolutely frantic,” Murray recalls. At the time, the demand also entailed labor shortages, construction nightmares, and, of course, endless delays. So, Murray adds, “everything had to have a backup plan.”
Now, in its unwavering serenity, it’s hard to envision this Long Island getaway as once the site of undue mayhem. O’Neil refers to the style as “an alternative to the East End aesthetic”—in other words, a coastal feel imbued with soul. The entrance leads to a 1970s oak bench by Peter Danko, and above it, a geometric painting, one of many pieces in the home from the client’s mother’s gallery, Artbaena, in Mexico City.
In the living room, the clear heart of the space, a series of lofty George Nelson pendant lamps hangs above a playful array of textures, shapes, and styles, setting a sophisticated tone that’s carried across the home. An expansive maple and suede twin table set designed by the Friends of Form studio sits along the window. Next to it, a seating nook composed of a two-piece vintage Bellini Camaleonda and safari chairs juxtaposes a curvy cloudlike sofa.
But for O’Neil and Murray, the first thing they see isn’t the serene space but the turmoil of what went into getting it there. For example, that groovy sofa is a custom piece from Portugal that was made in the 1920s but recently reupholstered. The duo was shocked to find out that due to its size, it couldn’t be delivered directly to a residential home. At the last minute, they had to find a warehouse that could receive it immediately, along with six handlers to move it in. Thankfully, it eventually found its place.
Other items didn’t have the same fate. O’Neil recalls shippers carrying in a borrowed table and watching the 12-foot-long face snap in half during installation, less than a week before guests were set to arrive. “It was horrifying,” she admits. So they quickly turned heel, scouring their showroom for a piece that could be a temporary stand-in for the two long tables that would eventually take its place.
Despite it all, the house came together almost seamlessly, largely in part because the two were able to do what they do best: furnish an entire home with the vintage treasures they’ve spent the last five years collecting. Although it’s work, the hunt remains a passion. “I really loved creating small narratives for each room,” O’Neil shares. In the primary bedroom, for instance, a drawing from the 1970s hangs above an olive bed, flanked by two burly vintage wood side tables that help set the groovy scene. Adorned in various hues of green and brown, the entire room is a calming array of earth tones—a perfectly transportive sleeping oasis.
They reflect on the entire experience with gratitude, with Murray calling the situation “baptism by fire” and saying now they’re easily prepared for the most unhinged of future scenarios. But what’s next on the docket looks to be a bit calmer: a few new interior projects, a studio transition to Manhattan, and some exciting collaborations. “We learned to embrace functionality and prepare for the worst,” Murray concludes. “I want to do it 10,000 more times.” We’ll be here, watching.