Asked by her client to review a typically mundane South Hampton ‘50s saltbox because “the last designer they talked to said they would have to add on to make the house anything,” Ms. Cohen approached the renovation in exactly the opposite manner. To refine the small building footprint, precise architectural gestures were used with a series of finely calibrated moments make the space more gracious and welcoming. Architectural acts were bold in concept but not in actual construction work; such as capturing the car garage to add a hyper modern sunroom/den along with a powder room and laundry. Reconfiguring one side of the house’s roofline to manipulate the space into a sensational master suite saved the north side of the house from remaining an un-useful attic space. This inner sanctum of bedroom and master bath is reminiscent of a Hampton’s beachscape in all its elegance and minimalism. The only square footage actually added was a tiny 4X4 corner as an addition to the front entry, oddly an essential piece of real estate to make an actual vestibule. All these refinements make for a crafted, articulate result rather than bowing to the bigger is better theme, which is more prevalent in the Hamptons.
The function of the plan and the accompanying finishes are impressive. The Jack and Jill bathroom, an invention of the American post-war housing boom, was outfitted in handsome walnut Duravit vanity cabinets and neutral finishes. The master bath, with its expansive skylights, might be mistaken for a conceptual art installation due to its evocative marble countertop in striped ethereal hues. Finally, Ms. Cohen uses wallpaper like a museum curator, hanging an iconic Knoll pattern to punctuate the dining/media space.
Each room in the house was sculpted via a palette of watercolor blue of varying saturations. Fabrics were culled from the greats of modernist textiles, Maharam’s Quatrefoil pattern in blue and Knoll classic Sway pattern in sea shades. The blue on white “beach” scheme runs from a soft cotton candy sky in the girl’s room to an immersive David Sutherland Park Bark wallpaper in the powder room. This intellectual inquiry as to what are the true colors at the beach belays the sophistication that surpasses the usual nautical curse of the average beach house. Out of the corner of your eye, in almost every quadrant of the house, is a burst of colorful expression and delight; this serves as Ms. Cohen’s painterly gift to the client.
Ms. Cohen’s hidden strength is her ability to choreograph a seating area. Whether it is a formal living room or the ultimate hang out spot, each space has the right amount of distance, intimacy and dare I say intrigue to make the arrangements inviting. Each conversation, because it really looks like a fine chat can be had, has an elegant side table ready for duty and all tête-à-têtes are regulated to a sumptuous area rugs. Habitants in Ms. Cohen’s world only work through deep discourse.
By Annie Coggan