Everyone relaxes before dinner

It's the Sunday after Sam Sifton’s glowing review of The Dutch ran in The New York Times. The new downtown-casual American restaurant has been packed since the second it opened—“A-list in the extreme,” Sifton calls it. Now my husband, chef and co-owner Andrew Carmellini, and his partners, Josh Pickard and Luke Ostrom, are taking some very well-deserved time off to celebrate. It is a perfect East End day—hot, sunny and clear—and we are headed for dinner at Robin Standefer and Stephen Alesch’s Montauk beach house.

  »Recipes: Try these delicious dishes from the Dutch

Robin and Stephen are better known as the design team Roman and Williams, and they are the creative force behind The Dutch’s layered, relaxed but sophisticated vibe. The couple’s beach house is down an unmarked drive off one of the last unpaved roads in Montauk. As we pile out of the car, a man with a short board appears, dripping wet, barefoot. “Hey, welcome!” says Stephen, back from an afternoon surf. We walk in through the open wall of an airy, high-ceilinged studio (where Stephen drew the original sketches for The Dutch), up the stairs, past a couple of guest rooms (marked “A” and “B”) and into the cool, dim living space. Here are low leather sofas and chairs, cabinets full of curios, well-worn plank floors and a really good sound system. Greenery presses against the windows. One end of the room opens completely to a deck with a dining table and a wooden settee covered in Moroccan pillows and buffalo skins. There are no screens, no sliding doors: The real wall is formed by trees and elderberry bushes.

“Stephen surfs, and I garden,” says Robin. At first I think she’s talking about the vegetable garden, where the current crop includes sage, kale, tomatoes, zucchini, artichokes and radishes. But actually, Robin means she “planted” everything: the archway we walked through, the plants pressing at the windows, the walls of greenery. She taught herself. “I’m a New York City girl,” she says, “and this was my first opportunity to get my hands in the soil.”

The house is personal, but it also showcases the designers’ knack for creating places that are at once easy-going and meticulously crafted (other examples of their work include the Royalton, The Standard and the Ace Hotel in Manhattan, a slew of high-end home and commercial projects). Their work is all about detail and depth. Nobody feels required to sit up straight in their spaces. You lean in and listen and talk; you lean back and relax.

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