Add Personality To A Brand New Home - 27 East

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Add Personality To A Brand New Home

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A two-tone beige wall adds warmth to a crisp guest bedroom.

A two-tone beige wall adds warmth to a crisp guest bedroom.

An unusual fiberglass shark adorns this bedroom on Dune Road in East Quogue; note the careful colorplay between the warm hued bedding and cool grey walls.

An unusual fiberglass shark adorns this bedroom on Dune Road in East Quogue; note the careful colorplay between the warm hued bedding and cool grey walls. CHRISTIAN HARDER

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Interior Report

  • Publication: Residence
  • Published on: Mar 5, 2021
  • Columnist: Andrew Bowen

It’s a tale as old as the real estate industry: historic, or contemporary?

Do you want to live in a storied, 100-plus-year-old home with character and soul, or a pristine new construction estate with floor-to-ceiling glass doors that glide like a figure skater on ice? On the one hand, option A might subject you to a surprise foundation replacement rendering your home unlivable for weeks or months, but on the other hand, option B can leave you wondering why you even bothered escaping your Midtown Manhattan high-rise at all.

The truth is, though, that you can have your cake and eat it too. Let’s dive into what happens when you purchase option B, but decorate it like option A, transforming a glossy, brand new house into a thoughtful, personality-filled home.

Step One: Add Some Color to the Walls
 

It doesn’t have to be bold, saturated, or in-your-face. In fact, it can even be — and in many instances probably should be — shades of what many would consider to be off-white. The fact is, nothing screams “new construction” more than a complete dunk of “builder’s white” that is never painted over. (From experience, I can also confirm that there’s actually no such thing as “builder’s white” available for sale.)

To keep things simple, consider pale, warm and cool neutrals in varying tints and shades. Then mix in some colors with a bit more oomph in the rooms used less often, like a guest room, the study, etc.

Unless the budget is quite high, or an experienced expert is at work, overly saturated hues applied directly onto new construction sheetrock walls are often the perfect examples of good intentions gone bad. And of course, don’t limit yourself to just paint. Layer in wallcoverings, specialty finishes, etc. to your heart’s content.

Step Two: Incorporate Vintage Elements
 

This doesn’t necessarily mean that every piece needs to be decades old, but rather, that they definitely should not all be brand new. It’s impossible to replicate a true patina that only the aging process can apply — so bring in the walnut credenza from the ’60s, the Perriand dining chairs from the ’50s, and the Sonneman lamps from the ’80s. The imperfections, subtle discolorations, and wear and tear will definitely add, not subtract, value to the overall composition.

Of course, in a contemporary Hamptons home, these can and should be paired carefully with items made today. For these new pieces — with careful planning, and scale permitting — a mix is generally always better than a set: think sumptuous sectional sofa, custom silk rug, or rugged concrete cocktail table.

Step Three: Include Natural Materials
 

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with a tubular chrome table or a stainless steel countertop, an overabundance of Machine Age elements can rapidly develop into an overly sterile story. (Disclaimer: I also have nothing against an austere and clinical aesthetic — if done right. But that’s not what this article is about.) Instead, be sure to stir a cocktail of hardwood, rattan, (veiny) marble, and other materials wrought from Mother Earth to keep things grounded, warm, and romantic. These materials have been around, and used, for centuries, and are an inherent feature in historic homes that deliver the gravitas so many buyers yearn for. However, they need not be affixed to the studs to have an impact on the overall experience — loose goods are part of the whole, too.

Step Four: Pattern!
 

Gone are the days of strict solidity in fabrics, textiles and the like. Patterns are roaring back with a vengeance, with designs borne from bygone eras, and templates created in lands far away. There’s arguably no faster way to transport your new home back to a different time and place than by installing considered, studied patterns that were around (and in many instances, new!) when that 1850s cottage in Sag Harbor you didn’t buy was built.

Step Five: Plants
 

Obviously, these have been around long before historic homes, and will be around long after contemporary ones too; but there’s something undeniably critical in their inclusion, as the proverbial cherry-on-the-windowsill. By inviting not only natural materials, but the natural world, itself, into your home, you can birth an organic mise en scène of a scale otherwise unavailable through artwork and accessories alone. Ultimately, plants have an instantaneous dampening effect on the polished, sharp corners of new construction spaces: They soothe their otherwise perfect volumes with their unpredictable and riveting imperfections.

In the end, what historic structures often contain that new ones do not is a pinch of the unexpected, a dash of the off-kilter, and yes, unfortunately, sometimes a rotting subfloor that needs replacing. For those seeking to create an authentic sense of place in a new, move-in-ready house that is worry-free, be sure to look carefully at what came before — and pepper in some pattern and color for good measure.

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