When Jane and Michael DeFlorioset out to build their dream house in the Hamptons, the last thing they expected was a series of twists and turns straight out of a Hollywood disaster movie. First came the fire. Then came the flood. The only thing missing was the brimstone.
The kitchen chairs are by Palecek, the pot rack is by Urban Archaeology, the vintage tole chandelier is from Etsy, and the floors are oak.
It started innocently enough. In 2004, the Manhattan couple purchased a small home in the historic center of East Hampton. They became attached to the neighborhood, with its rows of maple and sycamore trees, Shingle Style homes, and local library. Then they had twins, and their weekend home began to feel cramped. With their infant sons in tow, they began searching for a bigger house, but nothing clicked. "That's when I knocked on my next-door neighbor's door and asked, 'How are you doing?'" says Jane, a fashion executive. "And also, 'I'd like to buy your house.'"
The master bath's custom copper tub has fittings by Lefroy Brooks, the sink is by Kohler, and the vintage chandelier is from Wardall Antiques; the floor is by Lido Stone, and the walls are painted in Benjamin Moore's Arctic Gray.
To her amazement, the woman accepted her offer practically on the spot, but then "she lawyered up and turned it into a six-month negotiation." When buyer and seller at last came to terms, Jane and her husband, a private equity investor, began assembling their design team. Their first call was to the interior designer Celerie Kemble, with whom they had successfully collaborated on the design of their Manhattan townhouse, which was published in Siweb in 2011. Hamptons builder to the stars Ben Krupinski (whose clientele includes Billy Joel and Martha Stewart) was enlisted to join the team, along with local architect Kirk Lehman.
The living room of Jane and Michael DeFlorio's East Hampton house, which was designed by Celerie Kemble. The sofas, by Celerie Kemble for Henredon, are upholstered in a Brunschwig & Fils printed linen, the cocktail table is by Yves Klein, the side tables are Kemble designs, and the vintage chairs in front of the faux-mable mantle are from Chariloom; the walls are painted in a high gloss by Fine Paints of Europe to match Pantone's Legion Blue, the ceiling is inset with a felt paper by Star, the midcentury chandelier is by Stilnovo, and the rug is by Merida. Artworks include, from left, a sculpture by Gavin Perry, a landscape by William Merritt Chase, and a digital photo work by Tapp Francke.
From their previous collaboration, Kemble knew exactly what to expect. Her client—who has a background in engineering and banking—came to the first meeting with an elaborate presentation featuring hundreds of images, blueprints, and color swatches to communicate her vision for her new home. What's more, she organized a personalized house tour, arranging visits to local homes to show the team precisely what she liked, with a stop at the legendary Grey Gardens. "She wanted her house to have idiosyncrasies and a spirit of old East Hampton," says the decorator.
The powder room mirror is by Made Goods, the sconce is by Visual Comfort, and the wallcovering is by Cole & Son.
The first order of business was to burn the neighbor's old house down. The two-bedroom cottage was offered to the local fire department for a training burn. Seven fire trucks and 30 firefighters showed up to mock-battle the deliberately sparked inferno. When the last embers died down, the design team began planting the foundation of the family's new home.
The painted wicker furnishings on the screened porch are from Mainly Baskets, with cushions of a Perennials fabric; the reed armchairs are antique, the cocktail table was found at an East Hampton garage sale, the ceiling fans are by Hunter Fan, and the cement floor tiles are from Wholesale Tile by Aguayo.
They adapted numerous details—such as the entry's wood-burning fireplace—from the homes they had visited. Grey Gardens inspired several design features, including the covered porch in front and the front hall, which was designed to be long enough to run a dining table in for large gatherings.
In the boys' bedroom, bunk beds by Pottery Barn Kids are dressed in bedding by Sferra; the wallpaper is by Ralph Lauren Home, the rug is by Dash & Albert, and the ceiling is painted in Benjamin Moore's American Cheese.
Kemble admits she was concerned when Jane showed her a palette for the new home's colors. Tired of the ubiquitous Hamptons scheme of blue, white, and gray, Jane envisioned a bolder scenario of cream, teal, mustard, red, and brown—and absolutely not a drop of white. "It was like being told not to use my favorite words," Kemble says.
The dining room chairs are by Massant, and the cushions and tablecloth are of a Rogers & Goffigon fabric with tassel trim by Samuel & Sons; the wallcovering is by Fromental, the trim color is Pantone's Tibetan Red, and the vintage chandelier is from D & G Antiques.
Nevertheless, she accepted the challenge and tweaked the colors in a more nuanced direction. The dining room was coated in cranberry lacquer, the master bedroom enveloped in blond grass cloth, and the living room walls coated in glossy paint in a hue that hovers in the sweet spot between green and blue. No expense was spared as Kemble commissioned bespoke Fromental wallpaper for the dining room, brought in handmade concrete floor tiles from the Dominican Republic, and ordered a custom copper tub for the master suite that was "big enough for all of their friends." Meanwhile, the couple made several art purchases, including a landscape by William Merritt Chase.
The front entrance; the door is painted in Benjamin Moore's Narragansett Green.
The house was completed in November 2014, in time to be listed on the official East Hampton House & Garden Tour. "I remember thinking, I'm really done," Jane says. "Fast-forward to February, when our house manager called to say, 'I think it's raining inside your house.'" A pipe had burst in the attic, unleashing a torrent that ruined 80 percent of the interior, including most of the wallpaper, ceilings, millwork, and wood floors. "I won't say there weren't tears," says Jane. Fortunately, the Chase painting was unharmed.
The family room's sofa and club chairs are by Celerie Kemble for Henredon; the ottoman, by Bunny Williams Home, is covered in a Moores & Giles leather, the early-19th-century Louis XVI-style armchairs are upholstered in a Shyam Ahuja cotton, and the artwork over the mantel is by Mallory Page; the walls are painted in Benjamin Moore's Pleasant Valley, a grass cloth by Jeffrey Michaels covers the ceiling, the curtains are of a Bennison fabric, and the abaca rug is by Rosenfeld Carpet.
Where others would have despaired, the ever-practical Jane instead called her insurer and got the green light to have everything redone, along with a budget for a summer rental. Kemble was game. "We killed ourselves," she says. Sure enough, by September, the DeFlorios' dream house was ready for its sequel. Even disaster movies can have happy endings.