TIM McKEOUGH, © 2018 New York Times News Service
Growing up, Nicole Negrin spent most weekends at her family’s vacation house in Cold Spring, New York, where she liked to hike in the hills, stroll the charming streets and take in the picturesque beauty of the Hudson River. But by the time she was in her mid-20s, Negrin, now 31, found her interests lay elsewhere. “I wanted to be closer to the beach,” she said.
So she took on the responsibility of creating a new family compound, with advice from her mother and grandfather, and focused her attention on the Hamptons. In 2014, Negrin toured about 40 houses before settling on one that seemed ideal, in Wainscott, New York, a hamlet in East Hampton. She liked that the 2,600-square-foot, four-bedroom home was close to most of the places she wanted to be — about a 10-minute drive from Sag Harbor, Bridgehampton and the centre of East Hampton, with Montauk just slightly farther afield. She also found the angular structure of the house, built in 1989, strangely appealing, with its sloping ceilings, skylights and oddly shaped windows.
“I was never really into modern architecture,” Negrin said, but “when I saw this house, I really loved it. It’s a really happy house, with amazing light.”
Never mind that the outdated bathrooms, shell-patterned wallpaper, orangy hardwood floors and fireplace surround finished in pebbles made it feel tired.
“It just needed an update,” said Negrin, who had lived through several family renovations and could see through the problems to the potential. “We were more excited than stressed to take on a project.”
Negrin, who was then working as a lawyer at Ralph Lauren, bought the house for $1.5 million in February 2015 and rented it out that summer while she began to devise a plan for the renovation. Back in Manhattan, she looked for an interior design firm and stumbled upon one close to home. A neighbour was having his apartment renovated by Hernandez Greene and, based on his recommendation, she decided to meet with the firm’s partners, Katrina Hernandez and Joshua Greene. When Negrin learned that Hernandez and Greene had also once worked at Ralph Lauren, it seemed like kismet.
As Greene put it, “People who work at Ralph Lauren kind of get each other.”
Negrin, who has since left the company to join her family’s business, American Fixture & Display, began working with the designers in earnest in early 2016, with the idea of creating a bright, beachy house with a palette of soft, neutral colours. Construction started that March.
“We wanted to stay with the architecture of the house: clean lines, simple, nothing too fussy,” Negrin said. “It was a wannabe postmodern house,” Greene said. “The living room had a ton of volume and was all very geometric and angular. We just wanted to pare everything down and make it more modern and clean, with a better choice of materials.”
They whitewashed the wood floors, replaced the windows and mouldings, and hung solid interior doors in place of the old hollow ones. They gutted all three bathrooms, installing expanses of white marble. They resurfaced the fireplace with unfilled travertine. Because Negrin likes to entertain both family and friends, she was concerned the four bedrooms might not be enough space for guests. So Hernandez Greene designed a large built-in sofa for the family room, with cushions roughly the size of twin mattresses. By day, it functions as a lounge area; at night, it can sleep up to three people.
The front door was painted bright turquoise — Negrin’s favourite colour — and the plain-glass sidelights that allowed passers-by to see into the house were replaced with bottle-glass windows that offer privacy without blocking sunlight. Finally, the designers added rugs, linen draperies and light-coloured furnishings upholstered in indoor-outdoor fabrics for carefree living. The interior renovation was completed in June 2016, in time for Negrin to use the house that summer. Then, in spring 2017, the designers tackled the front yard, eliminating part of a circular driveway to make a straight approach, replacing the front steps and adding simple grasses. In total, the changes cost about $250,000 and delivered exactly the sort of getaway Negrin wanted.
“I get happy every single time I’m driving out there,” she said. “I walk in, and it’s just super-relaxing vibes.”
Featured Image: Daniel Gonzalez/The New York Times