A Shore Thing

INTERVIEW WITH JENNIFER SMOKLER, JENNIFER SMOKLER INTERIORS

Tell us about the background of this beach house. When did your involvement with the project start? This is a lovely piece of oceanfront property with spectacular views. The architect is Craig Arm of D+A Design & Engineering of Westhampton Beach, and he was also responsible for the hardscape and landscape that surrounds the house. He was easy to work with, and I was involved from the completion of the initial set of drawings, before any building started.

Because of the location, were there restrictions on the design? There were many restrictions, including FEMA flood zone regulations, zoning setbacks and setbacks from the dunes—all of these requirements affected the placement of the house. However, the clients were most interested in a home that would sit naturally in this wonderful setting. It’s a bit more than four thousand square feet of interior space on two levels, plus porches and balconies, and it actually came in under the square footage limits for this area. The clients’ main concern was that their home would blend in with its surroundings.

What were your clients’ other priorities? The clients are a young couple with three children under 9. They wanted a child-friendly house where sandy feet are just fine and the interiors don’t require a lot of maintenance. Basically they envisioned a comfortable space that lends itself to easy living.

The beach is an obvious inspiration for the design palette. Is that how everyone was thinking? This isn’t the first time I’ve worked with these clients. Like me, they like color and pattern in their interiors, especially the wife. On the other hand, they wanted to blend the outside with the inside, and not have anything detract from that amazing view. So we really stuck with a natural palette. The oak floors have a pale finish, like sand—no one sees what gets tracked in from the beach!

In choosing materials, how did you address the requirement for easy maintenance? We used high-performance fabrics wherever possible. In particular, we chose these coverings for the living room and den sofas, and no fabric on the dining chairs or kitchen stools. We also specified Caesarstone for kitchen and bathroom counters for easier maintenance.

This house has a lot of transparency—expanses of glass, cable railings—and the views are wide open. How did this guide your choices for major design elements? For the design of every piece, we always considered the view, and not blocking it. The open feeling and connection of the inside and outside were so crucial. I think you feel this the most in the master bedroom. The room palette is sand color, and you really feel like you’re floating in the dunes when you’re up there. It’s so peaceful.

In selecting furnishings, many designers start with a rug. Is that true here? I did start with a rug, which defines the living area—the kitchen, dining and living areas are one large space. It’s by Rosemary Hallgarten—her rugs are all hand-woven and organic. I had my eye on this particular design for a while, but it was originally done in silk and wool. We had it made in all wool to be less precious and easier to care for.

So you blended interiors and exterior, sleek and soft. What was the key to pulling everything together? There’s a very deliberate balance of warm and cool in these interiors. I think the Tucker Robbins dining table was the first piece of furniture we selected. The contrast of the warm wood finish and organic natural edge to the cooler modern architecture was very important to me. The table and chairs are lit by the very contemporary chandelier from Roll & Hill. We used this juxtaposition throughout. The living room floating wall cabinet was originally planned as a heavier built-in. I helped design it to look more like a piece of furniture and suggested the wood to add warmth to that side of the room. It’s made of a walnut veneer by Biefbi for Casa Mia, the cabinet maker.

White walls and lacquer paired with wood seems to be a unifying theme, although you managed to get some nice bursts of color in the mix as well—definitely the art is part of the contrast. How did you interject color into the design? The living room coffee table—by Yves Klein—was one of the bright accents for the design. I don’t generally do just a gray-and-white room, so that burst of bright blue really pulled it all together for me. The art was an existing collection belonging to the client. I had a description and a small image of each piece but never saw the art in person until the day we installed it, a week or so after the furnishings. Needless to say, I was thrilled with the choices. It was just amazing how everything fit into the spaces and brought the house to life. Especially the de Koonings in the living room!


RESOURCES:
Interior designer: Jennifer Smokler Interiors, Westport; 203-227-0477; jennifersmoklerinteriors.com
Architect and landscape designer: Craig Arm, D+A Design & Engineering, DPC, Westhampton Beach, NY; 631-767-6071; dastudiony.com
Builder: George Vickers Jr. Enterprises, Westhampton Beach, NY; 631-288-7070; georgevickers.com
Window treatments: Bradmor Corp. (to the trade); Brentwood, NY
Rugs: Rosemary Hallgarten, Fairfield; rosemaryhallgarten.com (living room); Eliko, New York City; 212-725-1600; elikorugs.com(others)

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