Introducing A New Column, StyleHampton, By Steven Stolman - 27 East


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Introducing A New Column, StyleHampton, By Steven Stolman

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An assortment of fabric masks, this summer’s essential accessory.

An assortment of fabric masks, this summer’s essential accessory.

Designer and author Steven Stolman

Designer and author Steven Stolman Rich Wilkie

Southampton’s Wyandanch Lane.

Southampton’s Wyandanch Lane. Steven Stolman

This Southampton living room, by the late designer Mark Hampton for his own family, still stands as a timelessly chic example of Hamptons style.

This Southampton living room, by the late designer Mark Hampton for his own family, still stands as a timelessly chic example of Hamptons style. Duane Hampton

Summer style matters.

Summer style matters. Steven Stolman

This Southampton living room, by the late designer Mark Hampton for his own family, still stands as a timelessly chic example of Hamptons style.

This Southampton living room, by the late designer Mark Hampton for his own family, still stands as a timelessly chic example of Hamptons style. Duane Hampton

authorSteven Stolman on Jul 2, 2020

Introducing A New Column, StyleHamptons

Just when you thought it was safe to open up your newspaper again, along comes a new threat: me.

Yes, it’s your old friend Steven, former designer, shopkeeper and one-time weekly columnist for this honorable paper. Back then, my mouthy irreverence got me into a little hot water. I thought I was being cute, but in actuality I was rather crass and presumptuous — the ultimate arriviste.

That was then.

I have learned a lot about responsible journalism over the past few decades. Am I older and wiser? Clearly older — a lot older — and I will try to convey as much wisdom as possible over this stranger-than-fiction summer.

We are going to discuss style. “You gotta have style,” opined the iconic fashion editor Diana Vreeland. “It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning.”

What qualifies me to write on matters of style, you might ask? The answer is not a lot. I’m not particularly stylish, having settled into a persona that wears the same old thing or a version thereof all the time.

But having toiled on Seventh Avenue, the retail landscape and then the world of home décor, I’ve been witness to many attractive and interesting people and places. I think it’s the ones that take your breath away and remain memorable in a good way that could be classified as stylish. After all, the way we dress or live or practice any of the arts of hospitality is inherently stylish, if it’s noticed, remembered and appreciated by others.

To me, style is a social pursuit. Doing things beautifully for others is both gracious and generous, whether it’s for just another individual or a whole bunch of people. Doing things beautifully for one’s self is, well, selfish. That kind of style doesn’t interest me.

What does interest me is what has always drawn me, and millions of others, to the Hamptons. I am not talking about the more scene-y aspects of a summer spent in this part of the world. I’m talking about what was here before the first Ferrari made its appearance on Main Street.

I’m talking about the glorious golden light that has lured artists for generations, and the magical combination of gentle countryside and beach. Why do our houses weather so exquisitely to a soft gray that matches the horizon where sea and sky meet? Why do our privets seem to balloon like storm clouds until they are tamed into precision by human hands? Why do our roads meander so gracefully past potato fields and forests, regardless of the traffic?

For all of these attributes, I do believe that others who are in awe of such an environment must also be sensitive to style. Otherwise, why would they endure the arduous crawl to get here?

This summer’s reentry to Southampton, where my husband, Rich, and I have just purchased our first-ever Hamptons home, has revealed less of a crawl than a rocket launch. Everyone is here — in the way folks usually bemoan August. I realize that circumstances beyond our control are responsible.

Let’s get it off the table now: I will not be using words like “unprecendented,” “challenging” and “out of an abundance of caution.” Like a lot of people, I have COVID-19 fatigue. I’m no longer interested in cute masks or Zoom cocktails or fun things to do while on lockdown.

Writing this column, therefore, hopefully, will be a part of my therapy until this nightmare ends. Can we talk about stylish stuff, really, in the face of a global pandemic? I certainly hope so. After all, hope has never gone out of style.

So the next time you’ve overdosed on the bad news, or run out of fingernails to bite, before it’s time for that first glass of wine, get yourself to an endless beach at sunset and find that house that matches the horizon. Locate a road where the trees form a canopy over your car, or a sweeping field that is edged by a wall of billowing privet. These images will be the building blocks of our future discussions of style — my style vocabulary, if you will.

Weathered shingles, dappled sunlight, the sweet smell of summer blooms — that’s my style. I hope that you will consider it.

Steven Stolman


What Does 'Hamptons Style' Mean In The Real World?

In the waning days of our South Florida seasonal life, amid open suitcases and iPhone notes of things to bring for a summer in Southampton, I made the mistake of taking a break one stormy, COVID-fraught afternoon to watch the Nancy Meyers film “Something’s Gotta Give” on Netflix.

Even though it was shot in 2003, its depiction of the idyllic Hamptons home is still pretty much the gold standard for coastal décor, what with its comfy, overstuffed slipcovered sofas, soaring, softly colored rooms, sun-bleached deck and beach beyond, and all of those goddamn flickering pillar candles and bowls of seashells or perfectly smooth beach rocks.

While by today’s tastes it may seem a bit dated, given the lack of that same quirky mid-century console that our parents couldn’t wait to get rid of, or a curiously complicated contemporary chandelier, or a museum-quality Danish-modern dining set, the interior still spoke to me.

I realize that while the exterior shots of the house are, indeed, of a charming, still-there Meadow Lane manse, the interiors were built on a Culver City, California, sound stage. In most cases, save for some of the window and door details, the film interiors had absolutely nothing to do with the actual house.

But who can forget that kitchen? That fabulous oceanfront bay window in the master bedroom, where Diane Keaton’s character, an accomplished playwright, pounded out her next hit?

And now, for the very first time ever, I have the distinct pleasure of creating my very own Hamptons home.

Oh, sure, there were a bazillion summer rentals over the decades since I first fell in love with Southampton back in the 1990s, along with countless stays in “Guesthampton.” But none of them was really mine, until my husband, Rich, and I closed on a little place in the village this past spring.

Since we had been renting it for a while, we were able to have the contents of our former New York studio apartment shipped out, giving us a start that I had hoped to complete by summer. But the pandemic delayed our migration from our home in Florida until just recently.

So, now what? What does today’s Hamptons home look like?

When it comes to interior design, I feel that there is way too much formulaic decorating going on. HGTV, along with many online home furnishings retailers, have seemingly turned everyone into an amateur interior designer.

Developers and contractors haven’t helped the situation, layering cliché after cliché on newly built houses or renovations. Since when is an expansive waterfall island in the kitchen or a sliding barn door leading into the master bath prerequisites for a meaningful life? When did closets grow to rival the size of garages? Why is everything so supersized in a world when too many have too little?

I don’t have to deal with some of those issues, save for the inequality of so much in this world, given the smallish scale of our new Southampton digs. But it’s a blank slate, and I have a statement to make: Even if the only people who get to see it this summer are just us, or a socially distanced few, it still matters to me.

You see, when I first arrived in the Hamptons, the look of the day was a layered, faded chintz American-version-of-an-English-country-house affair, as popularized by the legendary Mario Buatta and the equally legendary Mark Hampton. To this day, the living room of the First Neck Lane house that Hampton’s widow, Duane, and daughter Alexa and family call home, is still one of the most breathtakingly beautiful rooms that I have ever seen.

So, too, was the daffodil yellow living room of Betty Sherrill, owner of the august design firm McMillan. While memories of those spaces will forever inspire me, their formality wouldn’t be a great fit for the realities of our new home or the way we live.

The great decorator Bunny Williams, to me the designer’s designer, said that well-designed rooms should be like a salad — a little bit of this, a little bit of that — otherwise you end up with a showroom. I couldn’t agree more.

So I am thinking about those rooms, and another one in particular.

One of the most evocative Southampton spaces that I ever encountered was in the modest little Hill Street colonial that belonged to the late Nikky Amey. She was a woman of extraordinary personal style, a genuine eccentric, always dressed ala Martha Stewart in a man-tailored shirt over skinny trousers, with long white hair tied in a ponytail.

Her living room was white on white on white — white painted floors scuffed from years of guests and dogs, and a scattering of fancy French furniture transported from a previous Park Avenue life, also painted white. The only real décor was a faded portrait of her, drawn by her husband, Frank, that hung over the fireplace — also painted white — and a towering pair of caryatids, wooden columns shaped like female figures that seemingly supported the ceiling. She and her husband brought them over from Venice, where they had lived during the time when Frank, a concert pianist, was on a European tour.

In one corner, there was an upright piano that was entirely decoupaged with classical sheet music and magazine cutouts of flowers, all impeccably varnished and slightly yellowed with an otherworldly patina. Nikky did it herself.

That was Hamptons Style. It came from within, a place that no Wayfair click or vintage console could ever create.

So now, as I look at our thrift shop sofa, albeit freshly reupholstered in Belgian linen, and our own vintage console covered with framed photographs showcasing our life, I’m thinking about what I can bring to this new home that will impart those illusive elements of style that come from within. After all, carved Venetian caryatids aren’t the kind of stuff that you can find at HomeGoods or can order online.

I believe that things like that have to find you.

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