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December 2008


FEATURES

S is for Seasonal Greetings
by Sarah Firshein
Photographs by George Ross

ONE EAST HAMPTON HOME IS DECKED FOR GRACIOUS LIVING AND YEAR-ROUND COMFORT

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Visitors walking through the French doors of Tom Samet and Ross Meltzer's bucolic Colonial can plunk themselves down in any number of soft places. From the foyer, they glimpse the library to the left and a family room to the far right—each coaxing a moment of repose with cushy chairs and ample light. Straight ahead, another set of French doors leads to the backyard courtyard and an expansive outdoor seating area. There, a dramatic antique urn sits on a Bluestone slab that extends from the periphery of the pool, as if floating on the surface of the water.

The couple plants this urn seasonally: beautiful white Agapanthus in summer and evergreens with festive lights in winter. It's one of many elements that eschew the whole idea of an "off season" throughout the house, which Samet, an East Hampton-based interior designer, describes as "resort architecture—a style you'd see in Bermuda or Harbor Island." When the couple stumbled upon the property last year, they saw past the pink, frilly interiors and imagined a home suitable for year-round living, one that indulges their love of symmetry, textured, supple materials and refined sense of casual-chic.

To give the floor plan a more open design, the designing duo installed French doors "everywhere," Samet says, "so that public rooms have more access and open to the courtyard. Previously, there was only one way in and one way out." They knocked down walls, put second doorways in the kitchen and library to create a flow from room to room and raised three of the six interior rooflines to a uniform 14.5 feet. "We really wanted to increase the flow of the house," Meltzer says, "so people could continually walk through." Lively dinner parties, ranging from eight to more than 100 guests, have proven these efforts successful.

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The designers aimed to maximize natural light, adding two oval windows to the south side of the house while carving two skylights into the kitchen. Sunlight now bounces off the wide, walnut-stained floors that replaced what was formerly orange tumbled marble. Certain walls that were once flat sheetrock live on as fresh semi-gloss beadboard.

Such renovations provide the airy backdrop characteristic of so many summer houses in coastal towns. What differentiates Samet and Meltzer's home, a stop on this year's East Hampton Historical Society's Holiday House Tour, are the many ways in which it's poised to work for all seasons.

Textures play a large part in the decor—and decorum. Samet learned from his mother, a Carolina native, that there's a proper time and place for each fabric. In winter, wool carpets are rolled out and straw ones are tucked away; heavy bedspreads and chocolate-covered faux-fur throws replace wispy linen duvets in the bedrooms.

There's interest in the way the couple renders heavier wool fabrics in light, taupe-y hues throughout the home, and how materials of different weights are meant to intermingle. "There's the light colors of the paint and wallpaper with a mix of mohair, some wool fabrics, some linen and burlap," Meltzer says.

Splashes of burnt orange offset the home's neutral palette and perk up the colder months. "It gives it life and wakes it up, and it's actually very soothing," Samet says. Two stone lamps with orange shades, along with a woven-basket coffee table, imbue the living room with "strength, texture and a rustic feeling," he adds.

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Other year-round elements add function: When the couple renovated their bright, spacious kitchen, they installed a 36-inch stove with six burners and an oven large enough to roast a Thanksgiving turkey. Adjacent to the garage is a space designed for wet bathing suits in summer and snow gear and boots in winter; in the garage, there's a long closet for cross-country skis and another that holds beach chairs, blankets and umbrellas. The beach closet also stores firewood in winter— "so you don't even need to go outside," Samet says.

When braided together, the interior details set the stage for, well, nothing more grandiose than making yourself at home—cozy throws and eye-pleasingly symmetrical conversation groupings. "Everything was very carefully picked to give a feeling of the more informal, casual and comfortable," Samet says. "When I walk in, it just makes me want to have people here or hang out with the dogs and just relax," says Meltzer. He describes their second home in Palm Beach, where they also spend time on and off during the colder months, as "a bit more formal."

On chilly nights, Samet retires to the library, a space illuminated by various lamps and white, fiberglass-grasscloth walls, and rifles through the tomes stacked in the floor-to-ceiling bookcase. Curling up in one of the comfy chairs, he dives into the sort of story he particularly enjoys, autobiographies. "The house just makes you want to settle there in winter," he says. "It's glamorous and refined, but in a very casual way."

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