The heat was on—work crews in matching T-shirts perched on ladders in withering humidity, and mountains of cardboard cartons demanding to be unpacked or hauled away—as the days dwindled before Saturday, July 23, when this year’s Hampton Designer Showhouse will open at a new, traditional home in Sag Harbor to benefit Southampton Hospital.
But Gideon Mendelson had already finished scrambling by Friday. His approach to the dining room—the showhouse room he’d been assigned to decorate this year—had been to make up a fictional client, a young woman with family memories and young children, he decided, and create “the opposite of a showroom,” a room with a sense of history and nostalgia.
From the latticing on rice paper walls, clearly visible even through a cabinet of vintage Italian glassware and Danish ceramics, to cowhide on mid-century chairs and leather on the ceiling above, “everything has a patina,” Mr. Mendelson pointed out, noting that there is scarcely a flat finish in the room. “I think what makes a room is the layers, the textures,” he said.
In an upstairs bedroom, Marie-Christine McNally was similarly striving “to bring that patina and texture into a modern space,” as were quite a number of the other designers.
Ms. McNally’s “biggest statement piece” is a carpet she designed to evoke old painted wood floorboards—whose creams and browns are repeated in textiles and a nubby bed throw, all bookended by black in the bath and closet—“a little bit sexy, a little mysterious,” was how she put it.
“Sexy” was the operative word in the master bedroom, the domain of Elsa Soyars. This space is dominated by blacks, grays and whites, with silver and a sort of mother of pearl thrown in—picking up on the flower on a Louboutin strapped high heel on a reclining woman, otherwise naked, on a bed in a wall photo, otherwise black and white. A nearby daybed swivels—“It’s a very sexy room, something I could be in myself, a little bit of a Chanel feel,” Ms. Soyars said—and on the other side hangs a black macramé hammock loaded with pillows.
To one side of the bed stands a planter—a black deer, in mid-leap, with greenery growing from its back—appropriate for the Sag Harbor area, said the designer, who went on to shoulder a white fur quiver that she said contributed to her “channeling from this organic feel.”
A quiver could well have come into play in the lower-level game room designed by Barbara Page, whose themes are “Game of Thrones” and “Winter is coming,” meaning that the future homeowners will want to have fun all year round in their new residence.
Ms. Page had secured the last crown for sale at Restoration Hardware—who knew they stocked crowns?—and, although her room was not yet finished, had already integrated many touches, like the light fixtures and the legs of a table, that were highly suggestive of (if not outright made of) antlers, horns and feathers. One focal point of the room is a backgammon table, with a surface of shagreen, or stingray skin.
Also downstairs is a bunk room designed by Julie Dodson. This involves a clean lineup of three single beds, each with a tent-like canopy over a red velvet headboard and a picture of a rabbit like a character in “Alice in Wonderland.” The room is playful, but not necessarily in the style of children’s sleepovers. “She wanted this to be for everybody,” said John Shaka, installation manager at the showhouse.
Dark brown and white or cream prevail on the second floor in a guest bedroom by Mikel Welch Designs.
“I just wanted to stick to myself,” said Mr. Welch, who described his room as “light, clean and airy,” a welcome antidote to the sensory overload of New York City.
An Eastern theme hews to the “Zen happy place” he wanted to create—a 19th-century headboard, once a set of doors opening to who knows where, that originated in Pakistan. Transporting it from his Chicago supplier in eight pieces had been “nerve-wracking,” Mr. Welch said.
The dark brown faux beams on the ceiling had been a design risk, he said, noting that they are lightweight and can easily be removed or painted, and were a lighter touch than a drop-down lighting fixture, a more obvious choice, would have been.
Among the spare number of pieces are a night stand from India, a bench from China, and a pine chair that rests near an Amy Donaldson abstract that he said she created with paint, sand and shrimp shells, using her hands.
“Texture is the big key,” said Mr. Welch, like so many of the designers.
Texture comes into play, as well, in the first-floor living room designed by Melanie Turner—with its Swiss cheese, cream-colored curtains, a basket weave on furniture pieces, and an enormous book of Annie Leibovitz photos, the page open to a portrait of Elton John.
Mr. Shaka described the room as comfortable and serene—which it was, and so was the great room designed by Kate Singer Home. Older and newer pieces are mixed here, and a denim-ish light blue as well as white and cream are the colors. A bottle of rose sits on a corner table looking toward the pool, as it must.
Michael Del Piero’s upstairs guest bedroom also uses creamy colors—along with a nubby crocheted cover on a table next to a spindly metal-postered bed made by “a guy who makes Harleys,” the designer explained.
A chandelier, created by an artist who’s a welder, incorporates found metal and vintage crystals into a flower form.
The intimate corner room is accessed through its own little zigzagged hall, adorned with a large round vintage mirror from Germany. “It’s a private respite,” said Ms. Del Piero.
Creams and muted hues aside, more extreme color can also be found at the Designer Showhouse—in particular in an upstairs master sitting room by Defari Interiors, where peacock blues, salmon and feather-like patterns have been incorporated into a surprising number of surfaces and fabrics. Here, too, is a lattice pattern like the one in Mr. Mendelson’s dining room, which also echoes a basket weave found in other rooms.
“It’s thoughtful, a different take,” Mr. Shaka said of Diane Guariglia’s design work.
Color was so important in Steven Stolman’s first-floor powder room that he even installed a roll of pink toilet paper. Dominating the tiny room are peel-and-stick wallpaper made of a painting by a friend, as well as an elaborate, bauble-like chandelier.
Among the other designers, too numerous to name them all, are Mabley Handler, Kyle Roberts, Wolf Interior Design, Elle Cole Interiors and Liliane Hart Interiors.
Built by Bodenchak Design and Build, the 10,200-square-foot-house sits on 3 acres and is on the market with Saunders and Associates for $5 million.
A $225 gala preview cocktail party from 6 to 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 23, will kick things off, and then the general public can tour the house from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Sunday, July 24, to September 5 for $35; children under 6, infants, strollers and pets will not be welcome.
For more information on the showhouse and to purchase tickets, visit hamptondesignershowhouse.com.
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