Reds, Whites, and Blues Dominate—But Don’t Shout USA—At This Creative’s Vacation Home
Nothing is matchy-matchy in Lizzie Fortunato’s thoughtful space.
Published Aug 23, 2023 1:30 AM
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Tom Petty may have taught us that the waiting is the hardest part, but no one understands that better than a homeowner. Particularly jewelry designer Lizzie Fortunato and her husband, Peter Asbill, who put in an offer on their Bellport, New York home—and then, thanks to paperwork, waited an entire year for the deal to be solidified. “We told ourselves that if something else came up on the market, we’d bid on it,” Fortunato says. “Different things would come on and off, and we just really never felt compelled to shift course. This felt like our house, and we were going to stick it out.”
Maybe it was the shingled exterior, which was still in great condition. Or that the one-and-a-half-level 1924 house was just 55 miles from their Brooklyn apartment. Or that it was malleable, unlike their rental in the city. “This home is a manifestation of how I want to live,” she says. “This feels like our real home, even though we’re not here all the time.”
Once they could finally call it theirs, Fortunato called upon her childhood best friend, Kate Towill of Basic Projects, for some renovation advice, which resulted in transforming the kitchen into a mudroom, and a porch into the primary bedroom. The most noteworthy change, though, was tearing down a wall to make almost the entire first floor open-concept, a challenge that involved adding a header to avoid a structural column that would break up the space.
Surely, after the renovations, the home would be ready to go, right? Turns out decorating was a process, too—but one that Fortunato was happy to do to avoid big-box stores and fill her home with pieces that have personal meaning. Take the kitchen island. She was on the hunt to find a vintage draper’s table, a surface normally used for measuring and cutting fabric, that she could repurpose as such. The only problem? Most weren’t built at counter height. “My husband cooks a lot, so I was adamant about finding one that wasn’t too low,” she says. Then during a late-night scroll on Jayson Home, she stumbled across a 1800s-era French version with the perfect dimensions. The store was able to ship it, but because of COVID, it couldn’t carry it inside, and so it sat on the lawn until her contractor could bring it in. Now it’s the piece that everyone gathers around—and where Fortunato and Asbill’s toddler daughter moves the baskets on the bottom shelf so she can play underneath.
The patchwork chair and ottoman in the sitting room? It’s custom Studio Sam Klemick. Made-for-you pieces always take time, but Fortunato’s email to the designer sparked a 10-month back-and-forth about the design and upholstery, which features a vintage kantha cloth that Fortunato had found on a sourcing trip to India.
Similarly, the floral chandelier over the dining room table was an Etsy find—but at the time, the pandemic had sent everyone into lockdown, and the seller wasn’t able to go to the post office to send nonessentials. Fortunato just had to keep in contact with them and wait it out. In fact, the house was mostly finished when it finally arrived.
Luckily, other things were immediate pleasures, like the Alexander Calder bicentennial tapestry hanging in the living room. Fortunato inherited it from her maternal grandparents and until now had been keeping it rolled up in a closet in their Brooklyn home. “It was honestly one of the first things that we hung on the walls, and a lot of the other blankets and pillows emerged because we leaned into a lot of reds and blues,” she says. Like the rest of the home, it’s Americana without feeling like the Fourth of July—beachy without veering into tacky territory.
Some choices Fortunato sped up all on her own. She had considered saving the tiles she bought in Morocco for a future pool, but knowing that it could easily be a “10 years down the road” project, went ahead and lined the primary bathroom’s backsplash with them. (The vanity cabinet? It’s made from a kitchen one they removed.)
Upstairs, Fortunato filled the three bedrooms with furniture her family had in storage or were getting rid of, and she primed and painted Etsy headboards to give them some character. She didn’t fret over their design too much, because, well, in a house with as many gathering spots as this, you’re not spending much time in the bedrooms anyway.
No matter how long it took for it to come together, Fortunato says it was all part of the process, and even her mom and in-laws have since purchased properties nearby to be closer. Although, she admits their home is the ultimate hangout place: “Even though we have the smallest of anyone’s houses, people often always end up at ours because it’s just really fun for gathering.” Something that was definitely worth waiting for.