WHAT DOES A DECORATOR DO WHEN HER
CLIENTS WANT TO EXPERIMENT WITH COLOR
BUT ARE A LITTLE INTIMIDATED BY IT, TOO?
DESIGNER TARA SEAWRIGHT TOOK
THINGS ONE STROKE AT A TIME.
Click on any photo for a larger view.
TANGERINE DREAM (click photo for larger view)
FOR MANHATTAN-BASED designer Tara Seawright, the challenge of decorating the Sag Harbor weekend home of repeat clients was not so much replicating city life in the country, but reimagining what a waterside cottage might look like in the 21st century. The hard part was a fait accompli—she had already worked with and gotten to know her clients intimately. "The house was shorthand!" says Seawright. "I had done a classic apartment for this couple in the city and upon purchasing this charming property, they brought me on again, and I had a strong sense of where they wanted to go. It was really a breeze."
Having earned their trust while working on their NYC apartment, Seawright convinced her clients to take baby steps, coaxing them to introduce color into their more casual Shingle-style weekend retreat. Buckets of white paint brightened up the walls and floors throughout. A singular exception to the all-white paint scheme is the kitchen ceiling, which was treated with a cheery coat of bright yellow. "There wasn't any room to have fun in the kitchen decorating," says Seawright. "It's a Pop Art kind of color, sort of a play on the old-time lemon-yellow kitchen. They were hesitant at first, but they finally came around to loving it." Other spaces got their shots of color in the form of touches here and there: pillows, shower curtains, art and accessories. The vibrant hues, which seem even brighter against the white, help achieve just the fresh, modern sensibility that Seawright sought.
Despite the cottage's English country exterior, the interior more closely resembles a loft. Rooms flow from one to the next; in each, an unobstructed view of the bay is the main goal. The entrance to the house—once the garage but renovated into habitable space by the previous owner—is now the library. That lack of a foyer or mudroom creates a sense of informality that Seawright latched onto. "I turned it into a library because it had a fireplace, and that to me begs for books. I think a lot of people fantasize about coming out in the winter, even if they don't imagine walking in here and having a blazing fire going."
BEDROOM EYES (click photo for larger view)
The wife, who formerly owned a clothing boutique in New Orleans, has a strong sense of style and intimate knowledge of the fashion world, and sought to include these sensibilities into her weekend home—in fact, she bought the cutting-edge Kartell dining chairs purely on a whim with that very purpose in mind. "I actually appreciate that sort of direction," notes Seawright, adding, "That was the spark of inspiration. I like to encourage my clients to say or dream whatever they want and then I come in and make it happen."
Moments of throwaway fun, such as the kitchen ceiling or sequined throw pillows, are part of the vocabulary Seawright developed to create a personality for the house. Elements such as Lucite, chinoiserie and, of course, floral prints appear throughout the space, but nothing is too precious. The clients aren't slaves to fleeting trends, and if they eventually tire of a certain look, they won't worry about it. "It's like a cocktail party, and you're going to buy a dress or a great pair of platforms for it, not a day-in day-out outfit to pick up the kids in," Seawright says. "You can be relaxed in this environment and yet still be chic."
‘I APPRECIATE DIRECTION FROM MY CLIENTS, A SPARK OF INSPIRATION,’ SAYS SEAWRIGHT.
‘THEY CAN SAY OR DREAM WHATEVER THEY WANT, AND THEN I COME IN AND MAKE IT HAPPEN’
The transformation from city interior designer to country decorator was a seamless fit for Seawright. And this casual bungalow seemed like a natural step forward in her clients' tastes, almost an extension of their tendency toward contemporary city style, but tweaked for the weekends. "I like a fun, fashionable environment," Seawright says. "Maybe not every day, but for the weekend or a summer it's great. When you walk into this house, you know you're on vacation."