Hamptons Tastemakers on the Home Trends to Know Now

Moderated by Michael Braverman | June 16, 2017 | Home & Real Estate Feature

An all-star team of tastemakers in real estate, home décor, and design weighs in on the trends that are coming, going, and here to stay.


“Increasingly, people are saying, ‘Well, I want something modern, but I don’t want it to look dated in 10 years,’” notes James Merrell, whose architecture firm designed this space.

Let’s begin with an in-your-face question: What’s hot?
Elsa Soyars:
One thing I see as a trend is a little bit of a California style. Out in our Hamptons, people are attracted to more of a relaxed, natural palette.
Frederico Azevedo: In landscaping, I see a complement to what you just said, [going] past midcentury [style]. Like, midcentury was very in until now for interiors. Then, past midcentury, we see the 1960s and ’70s, and even the ’80s are coming back now. Free-form pools are totally back.
Matthew Breitenbach: I think the whole buyer pool of the Hamptons is changing. They seem to really love the modern aesthetic, an open aesthetic. Traditional homes with modern interiors were hot for some years. But I feel the traditional has become oversaturated, and the new generation of buyers is into more of the modern design—straight modern as well, even at lower price points.
Scott Smith: We’re seeing more color being introduced to the kitchen. And 10 years ago, the dining room was sort of obsolete. Now dining rooms are coming back. In addition, we’re doing a lot more libraries. People want to have an escape from the main area of the house to a nice, cozy library with a fireplace, where they can watch TV or read a book.
Michael Schultz: I think it ties back to how the Hamptons have become a year-round community again, which is amazing. I mean, look at how busy it’s been. Restaurants open—there’s a pulse out here. The younger families are here every weekend.
Theresa Caccavale: We’re getting a lot more into the closets and keeping the rooms a lot simpler. You know, getting the dressers built into the closets, more minimal furniture. We do a lot of lacquer finishes and supermatte, too. Flat, clean, a little pop of color.

Are you seeing more patterned floors and terra-cottas or…?
It depends on the client’s vibe. I’m Portuguese, so I grew up with tile all around me, from God knows how many centuries ago. I see more painted tiles that are matte finish. They don’t degrade, and you can do an amazing backsplash or mud area, or a cool bathroom. In floors, I definitely see more limed finishes, like French oaks. Even natural. If you have beautiful oak, why cover that?

Matt, what kinds of changes have you seen since you last joined us here?
Matthew McGrath:
Well, we are more traditional, and our clients start out very traditional, but then we see they’re constantly pulling toward more modern things for the interiors. Even if they’re not ready to go ultramodern on the exterior, suddenly the whole inside of the house has a very modern feel.


Traditional and modern may seesaw back and forth as trends, but here they’re fused in a classic Hamptons cottage with a glass-enclosed second-floor master bedroom offering gorgeous views. Located at 3 Georgica Association Road in Wainscott, it’s listed by Michael Schultz for $8.75 million.

What specifically do you add to bring that to life?
A lot of clean lines. Square, not-so-ornate profiles, trims, and such. With the kitchens, two-tone. In one kitchen, you can even have three different finishes. It used to be that all rooms would almost match. Even vanities would all have a trend throughout the house. We’re now seeing every room being very different.

Do you see vintage pieces in the kitchen?
A little bit. More repurposing of items in bathrooms, turning them into vanities or things like that.
James Merrell: I think history is available to us. You can kind of do anything if you do it well and you do it in an interesting way. It could be colors, or it could be the lack of color. That’s a very personal thing. The people buying modern houses are probably, when they start to personalize it, going to do things the architects wouldn’t have liked. Not in terms of additions but in decorating and finishing.
MB: I agree with what you’re saying. As a broker, I ask people, “What are you looking for? Is it modern? Is it traditional?” Sometimes they don’t even understand what we consider traditional or modern. We know exactly what we mean, but, to Matt’s point, “modern” to a lot of people is a traditional house with a modern interior.
FA: I think trends fade, but style remains. Style has a starter value. It’s what people look for in all places they go. They are looking for a style to dignify themselves.
JM: Increasingly, people are saying, “Well, I want something modern, but I don’t want it to look dated in 10 years.”
FA: Style doesn’t date, but I think the ideas of clients have to be translated. Sometimes a client asks me for an English-style garden. What they are really talking about is just a natural garden that has nothing to do with the English style. I have to listen to what they want, even though they label it in the way they thought.
JM: A lot of young people who grew up with family houses out here want something different. A lot of traditional houses are being knocked down for modern ones. We have a history of architectural experimentation here, great successes and great failures to learn from. We’re tearing down the failures now.
FA: When I started working in the Hamptons in 1993, my oldest clients, like between their 50s and 70s, appreciated modern architecture. The young clients, like from late 20s to 40s, even if they bought a modern house, would say, “How can we make it a little bit more traditional?” But now, appreciation for the modern has come to the younger generation, too.


In this bedroom, Elsa Soyars creates modern drama with a Hornback embossed Madagascar wall-covering by Crezana and custom quartz lamps.

It sounds like it skipped a generation.
If you study the different generations, from selling or designing for millennials compared with baby boomers, there are patterns. Baby boomers are the original generation with the modern.

Are these generic trends or particular to the Hamptons?
It’s generic, yeah. Recycled materials are very in, too. Like recycled wood for flooring and walls—that’s something relatively new, like the past 10 years.

How has the eco-consciousness trend affected your design and building?
My customer asks. It’s one of the first things we talk about. We have sustainable materials, and people are more conscious of it. Whereas in the past, it was “Just make it look pretty. I don’t care what it is.” Now it’s less is more, and simplicity.

Is there a premium price for sustainable materials?
There really isn’t. We’ve incorporated them as our norm.
SS: For cabinetry, it’s less [costly]. We use a product called Green-Core, which is formaldehyde-free. It’s all basically reclaimed, recycled wood. They make plywood out of it. We do a lot of veneers, too. Floors used to be solid three-quarter oak.
MM: Floors now have a third of the actual wood on the surface.
SS: That’s right.
MM: It’s just from the tongue up. There’s material savings, even though the engineering and making the floorboard are expensive. They’re using a lot more recycled wood. They’re getting more usage out of it.
SS: You can put in particleboard, which everyone hates to hear, but flooring sometimes comes in particleboard, which is a formaldehyde-free product. Then they put veneer on top.


Two-tone kitchens are increasingly popular, as in this serene combination of whites and grays that Scott Smith designed for an Amagansett home.

I’m seeing not just wood finishes but, in building, a lot more sprayfoam insulation, certainly on higher-end houses. It’s much more about energy efficiency, because it gets in all the cracks and crevices.
MB: Whenever I show people relatively large houses, there’s always that time when you get into the basement and show them the boiler. These days, boilers are like the size of a suitcase. “This is heating the whole house?”
MS: They’re like 98 percent efficient. It’s amazing.
MB: A lot of it’s code-driven, so there’s sometimes resistance to codes changing. I think this is a community that’s leading the country in upping the energy codes.
FA: The landscaping, too. More people are asking for native plants. They require less fertilizer and less water, and they adapt well to the different kinds of weather we have. We’re developing a lot of landscaping—most 100 percent native plants.
TC: “Colorful native plants, colorful native plants.”
ES: Hopefully, deer-resistant.
FA: Exactly. They are more adapted to the environment, too. To all the predators.

Well, now that you’ve brought us up to date on what’s current, I want everyone to jump in and say what’s next. Are these trends going to continue or change?
It seems like the Hamptons has become a global brand, and we do have timeless Hamptons styles, like these farmhouses and things of that nature. You’re seeing the modernization of them a little bit, maybe a modern farmhouse, things moving in that direction.
ES: I think designing with awareness and consciousness. We are responsible to educate our clients on things that are good for them. When we’re purchasing or dealing with our vendors and learning ourselves, it’s a responsibility to share that information with our clients. It’s something called integrity, and I want to say I carry that with me.
FA: Yeah. The next—whatever we do, whatever style we go to, whatever trend it is—needs to be conscious and responsible to preserve the world that we have.
ES: Yes.
FA: To really have responsibility, and know the environment has changed and we are responsible for the world that we leave. As designers, we have to practice thinking about that all the time.
JM: Our connection with the outdoors and nature—and the world, as you say—I think is encouraging the outdoors to come within our houses. Have more open areas for the wind to blow through.
ES: So many people want rooms you can completely open, you know? It’s such an enhancement of Hamptons living, just a beautiful connection with nature.
JM: Exactly.


Our roundtable at the Watermill Center.

People are still heavily influenced in New York City by that loftlike space. That translates into much larger rooms in newer houses. I see large kitchens and then a large living room and almost like pocket doors that can be opened, so the space can feel continuous.
FA: This approach of the indoor and outdoor, like when you open a front door of the house and you can see outside, this is a very Hamptons style. Most of the houses don’t have rigid structures or formal vegetation. They have very organized spaces. It’s kind of like a tailored style, not a rigid style.
MS: I think the root that holds architecture to a certain degree is always going to be the landscape, the pure beauty of farms. We may venture out a little bit, but the Hamptons landscape will always keep the design pretty centered. FA: Remember, tree houses are the new trend.

Oh, really?
I had a customer who wanted one that looked like his house, like a little modern tree house.
ES: This could be a great meditation space. I like it!

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