A Home That Redefines The Meaning Of "Beach House"
Designer Jen Going crafts a modern Hamptons retreat without dipping into the typical beachy playbook.
Decorating a laid-back yet sophisticated beach house in The Hamptons would be a dream task for most. For Jen Going, it’s a calling card. The Westhampton-based interior designer has made her name mastering un-kitschy seaside style: a mix of earthy modernism, a touch of new trad, and just enough vacation house vibes to be every city dweller’s ideal weekend escape.
She applied such a treatment to the home of a New York couple whose 1980s contemporary less than a block from the sand in Amagansett was no longer meeting their needs or suiting their style. Having already completed a significant renovation by Bridgehampton architect Preston T. Phillips, that included a master suite expansion and the addition of a wood-lined media room, as well as a streamlined cedar exterior and standing-seam roof, the couple asked Going to reimagine the interiors to reflect the home’s new warm-modernist feel.
Once a retreat for family vacations, the house, Going explains, is now used mostly for casual entertaining, and as a getaway for the couple’s grown children and their friends. Not to mention the decor choices that were the peak of chic when they purchased the home in 1994 were in serious need of a refresh. 'The fireplace had been covered in blush-pink paver stones," the decorator reveals. 'And the living room walls were a minty green." Luckily, the era-specific finishes couldn’t detract from what the home did have, a gorgeous art collection, and some choice modern furnishings that set the tone for it’s new look.
"We wanted to keep it very casual and comfortable, but still have that level of elegance," says the designer. "The homeowners are art collectors. They’re huge music fans. They’re just very cool.” Dull and dated wasn’t going to work, of course, but neither would the typical East End staples of shiplap walls, sisal rugs and shell motifs. "Sometimes people out here want to go full-on ‘beach house,’ but you have to really balance that idea and not be too literal with it, says Going. Painting the walls a crisp white or sheathing them in a natural grasscloth enhanced the easygoing feeling the location necessitates, without relying on rope-wrapped furnishings and stray starfish.
Phillips had eschewed those stereotypes, too. By lining the media room and den in warm cedar paneling, he pushed the style toward eclectic midcentury, and definitively away from white-washed shabby chic. Going happily continued the trend, giving a Vladimir Kagan sofa pride of place in the living room, choosing curvaceous wood pieces that echoed the home's show-stopping staircase, and selectively adding to the clients' already impressive collection of modern artworks.
As the designer's updates manifested, the scope of the project continued to grow. The clients added the double-height living room, kitchen and dining area to the list of spaces that would receive a refresh, and Going jumped at the chance to create a cohesive look for the whole home. After a little convincing, the couple bid farewell to that pink stone fireplace facing, and the designer replaced it with metal panels in a bronze finish created by a local artisan. The luxe yet earthy surface is now undeniably the showpiece of the home, and has ended up being the owners' favorite element. Going recalls with a laugh,"They'll call me or text me to say, 'I just walked in and I still love it.'" Perhaps the only better marker of a job well done is that she's just signed on to redo their townhouse in New York City.