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July 1, 2010


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FEATURES

IN LIVING COLOR
By Alejandro Saralegui
Photographs by Miguel Flores-Vianna

INSIDE THE VIVIDLY PAINTED ROOMS OF HIS CIRCA-1740 HOME, CELEBRATED EAST END ARTIST ROBERT DASH CREATES A STUNNING BACKDROP FOR HIS COLLECTION OF ART AND OBJECTS

Click on any photo for a larger gallery view.

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“I'm not a ‘dreck-orator’” isn't the kind of line that will make Robert Dash a lot of friends in the D&D Building, but uttered in his Sagaponack lair it makes for a good laugh. His house and garden, known collectively as the Madoo Conservancy, vie with each other for attention. The gardens are world renowned for their plant combinations, idiosyncratic pruning and brightly hued hardscaping. But the interiors of the historic houses are little known.

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In the warmer months, Dash resides in the summer house, a barn constructed in 1744 from salvaged shipwreck beams and added to in the years following his purchase of the property, in 1967. The barn, with the painting studio and living room, is a double-height wonder reimagined for modern living. The studio portion has floor-to-ceiling windows on two sides, offering views of the garden. The living room walls and ceiling are a deep rose, almost watermelon or coral, providing a lush backdrop for his treasures. (Dash describes the color more succinctly: "Bordello—it's pure sex," he says.)

DASH IS PARTICULARLY DRAWN TO A DEEP
ROSE, ALMOST A WATERMELON OR CORAL,
BUT DESCRIBES THE COLOR MORE
SUCCINCTLY: “BORDELLO—IT'S
PURE SEX,” HE SAYS

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Take a sharp left at the end of the room to a suite of historic structures—found on the property—that Dash joined together over time and wrapped around a courtyard garden. The long hall has become the garden library, with more than 2,000 volumes that will one day become the nucleus of a landscape research and study center. The end of the library houses the dining area that Dash uses as command central. Around the corner is the kitchen, master bedroom and bath and a small guest suite, all in varying shades of aqueous blues and greens.

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The furniture and objets tell the story of a man born and raised in New York City who went on to become a successful artist and friend to many a boldface name. (Dash's paintings are included in the permanent collections of the Guggenheim Museum and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, among others.) The wood-frame settee and two matching chairs in the living room once belonged to his grandmother, who ordered them from a Philadelphia furniture maker; various pieces in the bedrooms are his parents' wedding furniture. "My mother asked a man who painted roses to paint these pieces—imagine that, a man who just painted roses!" Dash exclaims. The maid's dressers in the guest bath were purchased from Mary (Mrs. Chester) Dale for $5 each—"She thought I overpaid!" he says. Here and there are pieces of old pewter, crockery and artwork by Willem de Kooning, Alex Katz and Fairfield Porter, among others.

HERE AND THERE ARE PIECES OF OLD PEWTER, CROCKERY AND ARTWORK BY WILLEM DE KOONING, ALEX KATZ AND FAIRFIELD PORTER, AMONG OTHERS

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The collections continue in the circa-1840 winter house, another barn converted to residential use. The bed and spiral staircase in the open-plan space were designed by Dash; they're made from wood reclaimed from trees on the property felled by a hurricane. A suite of Lloyd Loom furniture once belonging to Dash's grandmother is now painted coral. "I think that the whole point of assembling these things is for night," says Dash poetically. "It is for winter, it is for visual nutrition. Summer doesn't need this, summer is for the out-of-doors."

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