In the 1840s, a farmhouse was erected in Bridgehampton, New York, a quiet agricultural community on the South Fork of Long Island. The builders relocated an old one-room schoolhouse from the main street of the village and turned it into a wing of the house, a common practice in the 19th century — why waste perfectly good wood?
The mudroom’s ceiling light is by , the 19th-century mirrors were found in Antwerp, the pine floors are from Heritage Wide Plank Flooring, and the door is painted in .
The house continued to grow over the decades, with additions in the 1870s and 1900s, until it became something of an architectural jumble, with an ill-suited Italianate cornice and porch columns. Still, it was a lovable jumble. Five years ago, a couple with three young daughters stumbled across a listing for the house on . The Manhattan residents already owned a weekend house in neighboring Sagaponack.
Awnings shade the back of the house.
“We’d always been enamored with the idea of finding an idyllic farmhouse,” says the wife. “But we didn’t plan on moving. My husband said, ‘Over my dead body are we buying another house.’ Then we drove to see it the next day, and within 24 hours, we had put in an offer.” It was clear, however, that their new purchase needed to be gently coaxed into the 21st century. Through mutual friends, the couple became acquainted with the family who had, until recently, owned the house for three generations.
In a bathroom, the ceiling lights are by , the walls are painted in and the window frame is painted in ; the wooden ship artwork was found in Europe.
“It hadn’t really changed much,” says the wife. “Same layouts, same floors. The only change they had made since their grandmother’s day was to add interior designer, who has worked on dozens of homes in the Hamptons, has also owned six cottages in nearby Sag Harbor. He embraced the farmhouse’s mix of architectural styles.. Back then, they would use chamber pots.” The couple soon realized that they didn’t have a clear sense of how to make the house function for their family. Enter . The husband and wife, who both work in the hedge-fund industry, met Gambrel when he did a project for one of her colleagues. The
The dining room’s chairs are covered in and fabrics, the 18th-century pendant light is French, the curtains are of a fabric by and the trim is painted in .
“It’s a quirky house, and I didn’t want to lose that,” he says. “The 18th-century schoolhouse wing is an important part of the history of the area, and I wanted to maintain its spirit.” Nonetheless, the house had to be largely reconstructed from the foundation up. Gambrel enlisted , an architecture firm based in New York and Atlanta that builds and restores houses while respecting a project’s local vernacular, from materials to colors.
The kitchen’s marble sink has fittings by , the cabinetry is painted in , and a collection of 1930s Bea Evan paintings found in Europe are in new frames by .
In the end, says Gambrel, “every single thing was replaced except the interior staircase and railing. But it looks like the same building on the outside.” In fact, it looks immeasurably better. The inappropriate Italianate details have been jettisoned.
In the master bedroom, the bed is upholstered in an linen and dressed in bedding with a quilt, the sofa is covered in a fabric, and the chair and ottoman are upholstered in a fabric; the side tables by are from , the chandelier is from the 1940s and the 1973 screen prints are by .
A new wing wraps around two sides of the building and encompasses the living room, master bedroom and a screened porch. The formerly choppy interior has been reconfigured to comfortably accommodate a contemporary family of five.
The guest room in the poolhouse contains a bed dressed in , a Swedish painted chest and a rug by ; the matchstick Roman shades are custom.
True to houses from this era, the rooms feel intimate, with low ceilings. “It’s not a grand home,” says Gambrel. “It’s rambling and charming.” At the beginning of the endeavor, Gambrel walked the clients through his own Sag Harbor residence. “My husband and I fell in love with its cozy elegance,” the wife says. “We wanted that vibe, and Steven gave it to us.”
In the living room of a weekend home in Bridgehampton, New York, designed by , the custom sofa is upholstered in a fabric, the same linen is used for both the curtains and the armchair, the Thebes-style caned stools are vintage, the cocktail table is by and the abaca rug is by ; the ceiling is painted in , with beams in .
A custom sofa in the living room is upholstered in a , the side table is by , the chest is a 19th-century ship’s cabinet and the French still life is from the 1930s.
For their living room, Gambrel chose a palette of pale neutrals. “It’s old Hamptons,” he says, “Sand and biscuit and oyster and driftwood, dry and not shiny. The room is meant to look like it’s always been there.”
The family room’s custom furnishings include a sofa upholstered in a fabric, a tufted sofa in a weave, a leather ottoman and a pair of armchairs covered in a linen blend; the 1950s cerused-oak side table and 19th-century copper lantern are French, the curtains are of a fabric and the wallpaper is by .
A lofty family room now occupies the schoolhouse wing, which has a similar color scheme but is accented in bursts of green and blue that complement the garden outside the window. give the room a younger, hipper feel.
The laundry room’s washing machine is by , the seagrass hamper is from and the marble wall tile is by .
A pair of run-down buildings in a corner of the yard posed a challenge. “One was a potting shed with a huge tree growing out of the middle,” the wife says. “The other was a garage that was so rotten with mold, I wouldn’t let my kids near it.”
On the covered porch, the dining table and benches are of New Zealand teak, the rattan sofa by has cushions in a , and the pendant lights are from ; the walls are painted in White, the ceiling in Silver Gray, and the window frames and doors in Black, all by .
Beside the pool, the awning is made of salvaged corrugated-and-wired glass, and the custom outdoor furniture is topped with cushions covered in a ; the pool surround and patio are of Kota stone and the topiaries are boxwood; the garden design is by .
The family installed a pool, as well as an open-air glass pergola for lounging that was inspired by a greenhouse-style dining pavilion the wife had admired at Stockholm’s Ilse Crawford–designed . The hardest part about working with Gambrel, the wife says, is the fact that the home is now complete. “When Steven leaves your life, you feel like a little bit of creativity slips through your fingers. I’m dying to find another project to work on with him, because he brings so much joy to the process.”
This story was originally published in the June 2017 issue of ELLE DECOR.