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Hamptons Life

Feb 4, 2019 5:32 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Creating A Space That Brings The Outside In

Lightweight, and partially transparent, seating in the west wing of the living room allowing for a seamless transition from the indoor to outdoor experience. CHRISTIAN HARDER
Feb 4, 2019 10:09 AM

By definition, interior design and decorating is inherently focused on creating an experience that is separate from the outdoors. It’s principally about securing a sanctuary—a place to be comfortable when the rain begins to fall or the temperature has dropped a bit too low. But when the interior that you’re working with also happens to enjoy the waterfront—perhaps the most coveted East End location—it’s important to celebrate what lies beyond the walls.

Make sure the waterfront is visible and appreciated year-round; not just when you’re out on the veranda.

Before thinking about the easily movable components like furniture or art, consider the more complicated details like window position and floor height. Should you have the luxury of changing the windows themselves, opt for larger single panes of glass at positions that command the best water view, and take careful note of any mullions—vertical bars between the panes of glass. I’ve often been in homes that have stunning ocean views, but they are ruined by harsh vertical or horizontal window components placed directly at eye level. Consider if you or your guests will be standing or sitting by a window, and if you must have mullions, choose their positions wisely as to not interfere with the best situational view.

As for floor heights, elevating just a few inches can make a significant difference in expanding the visual field occupied by the water from a person’s point of view. You have likely already seen this trend in many new waterfront homes that have been designed with this in mind: principal living spaces and the master suite on top; and guest bedrooms on the bottom. By raising a floor, or even relocating certain rooms to higher up alternative rooms within an existing framework, you may find some unexpected pleasant surprises.

With furniture and lighting, it’s wise to choose positions that allow the bulkiest elements like sofas and credenzas to be near walls that are either perpendicular to or opposite the primary water view. Of course, it’s also never a bad idea to orient the most comfortable, and therefore primary seating, such that it faces the best view. Any item that is near a viewpoint window—if it must exist and subsequently blocks the window—should be low in height and as thin in profile as is reasonably possible without sacrificing function. For instance, backless benches can be used instead of accent chairs. Wireframe or bentwood chairs can be placed instead of heavy upholstered seating, especially if you already have a comfortable sofa to lounge on elsewhere. Still, remember to leave some standing room as well by the windows so people can appreciate the water from multiple positions, not just when sitting.

For materials, employ natural and grounded elements like wood, grass and linen. For dining tables, opt for a glass top, which can actually reflect the water outside when viewed from the right angles.

With colors, it’s worth considering those that complement the natural landscape outside. If you’re on the ocean, consider beige, white and light blue. If you’re on a pond, consider green or navy. Obviously, surges of a saturated color like fire engine red tend to command a bit more attention, which can detract from the appreciation of what lies outside.

Finally, for the finishing touches like art and accessories, it’s often tempting to employ a nautical theme, but people are probably already aware that the home is on the water. It’s best to steer clear of too many thematic elements, and find other ways to express your personality or that of your client. This is not to say that a single fiberglass shark model or handwoven fisherman’s knot will immediately destroy a space, but it is to say that you should probably be focusing on the view outside, not just the objet inside.

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