Kristen Farrell on the house’s front porch. LENA YAREMENKO
Gently curved roof gables are a nod to the late architect Francis Fleetwood. HARRIS ALLEN
The house stands on three acres at the end of a long gravel driveway off Sagg Main Street. HARRIS ALLEN
The pool house contains a lounging area, kitchenette, bath and steam room. LENA YAREMENKO
The living room features quiet neutrals, a theme used throughout the house. LENA YAREMENKO
Kristen Farrell and son Joey in one of the barns. LENA YAREMENKO
Kristen Farrell’s imprint on the Hamptons cannot be ignored.
For 18 years, while serving as an executive vice president of the Farrell Companies, one of the largest luxury homebuilders in this neck of the woods, she has been a part of the building of over 400 houses. This distinction is multifaceted, as such overwhelming success also came with a sidebar — the plausible claim that Farrell companies (and others) contributed to the overbuilding of the Hamptons and a certain architectural sameness that speaks for itself, along with certain over-the-top sensibilities.
All of this culminated in 2009, with the McMansion to end all McMansions, a 27,000-square-foot Bridgehampton behemoth called “Sandcastle” that Kristen, her then-husband Joe and their three children called home for some years. With massive rooms and amenities such as a squash court, rock climbing wall, bowling alley and private baseball diamond, it went on and off the market and was aligned with names like Jay-Z, Beyoncé and Justin Bieber. The Farrell marriage ended, and Sandcastle finally sold in 2021 for $31 million.
Kristen’s journey to the world of high-end residential home building started, ironically, not too far from the kitchen. The daughter of a heavy construction equipment salesperson and raised on the North Shore of Long Island, her early career days found her as a lobbyist working with national corporations on the local and state level. Ultimately, she formed her own company, with names like Entenmann’s and Kraft General Foods as clients. In 1997, she moved to the Hamptons full-time to join Joe in the construction of their first spec project, a modest house literally behind Southampton appliance retailer P.C. Richard & Son. “I furnished it from Costco, and we lived in it until we eventually sold it,” she recalled. And so their gypsy-like storyline began: building, moving in, selling, rinse and repeat. Over time, she and Joe built Farrell Building Company into a major player on the exploding landscape of extravagant getaway houses. The company itself also exploded, eventually encompassing not only single-family residential real estate and construction, but also rental communities and commercial and self-storage projects throughout the New York Metro area and South Florida.
Shortly following their 2017 separation, Kristen left the company and immediately started working as an independent interior designer, a natural given her breadth of experience in not only decorating and staging, but specifying fixtures and finishes along with the thousands of details that are involved in the entire homebuilding process.
“When you move 12 times in eight years, you learn from your mistakes!” said Farrell, who recently decided that the time was finally right to put all of her ventures, from design, décor, renovations and new builds to real estate development, under one roof, Kristen Farrell & Co. Beyond the vagaries of reality television shows, this pursuit is woefully shy of hands-on female leaders, yet Kristen was undaunted, explaining, “I’ve eaten more than my share of garbage can pizza with tradesmen. I’ve spent countless years in construction trailers, making hundreds of decisions daily. You need a lot of humility.” She continued, “On the development front, I will now work on one unique home at a time that I will either build or renovate and market when it is finished and furnished.” That declaration has resulted in her very first solo project, right smack in the middle of Sagaponack Village.
To the Kristen of today — “My old life is no longer who I am,” she says — Sagaponack Village represents an aspect of the Hamptons that needs to be preserved and protected. “It’s a small enclave that honors the farm culture and the open vistas … I’m not a believer in modern houses in this community,” she said.
She found the definition of a distressed property, a large abandoned and overgrown trophy home that had the distinction of being the first property in Sagaponack to ever meet foreclosure. It spent 13 years in litigation and had become the property of a bank. She succeeded in purchasing it independently. “You get a feeling about a house even before you can consciously identify what’s drawing you in. [This house] gave me that feeling,” she said. She is extraordinarily articulate and speaks comfortably from the heart.
Not far from her Bridgehampton residence that also is home to her three children and the family’s golden retriever, Johnny, (her true escape is actually an Airstream trailer) the house is by no means small and sits on three serene acres along with two contemporary barns, although it was so dated and neglected that it had to be basically rebuilt. Originally designed by architect Todd Nagy in keeping with the Francis Fleetwood style, it honors traditional elements. “Nothing feels too far away or too big,” Kristen said. “The finishes are quiet and transitional.” Amazingly, the entire project took only eight months from start to finish, unheard of in these days of agonizing delays and the supply chain issues related to the pandemic. Sag Harbor builder Eric Hagermen, whom Kristen has known since he was 17 years old, served as project manager.
Kristen furnished the house (“It is properly furnished, NOT staged!” she says) in appealing neutrals and contemporary art, a nod to her oldest son, Joey, who will enter his senior year in integrated design at Parsons School of Design in the fall. In a further evolution from the onetime leading member of a firm known for houses infamous for their indulgences, her focus has shifted to the more grounded aspects of residential design, notably the mudroom. “I obsess about mudrooms,” she says. “It’s an essential space, if you’re fortunate enough to have one. The Hamptons are unique in that you’re moving through your day at an intense pace. A house has to function in that capacity.”
Beyond the daily grind of running her own show, albeit with help from powerhouse director of operations Flora Veitch and a largely female team, Kristen is also deeply committed to solving the issues surrounding affordable workforce housing. “As a year-round resident, I am working on a concept that I hope will be part of the solution in our townships.” If anyone can do it, Kristen Farrell can.
One fine body…