July 3, 2013 |
Jennifer Mabley and Austin Handler use a Hamptons palette of beiges, blues, greens, and grays in their interior designs and in their personal style.
Jennifer Mabley and Austin Handler’s move from Manhattan to the Hamptons in the wake of September 11 was the classic lifestyle reboot many New Yorkers dream of making. Georgetown-raised Mabley, who owned high-end furniture and fabric ventures in Soho, Tribeca, and Greenwich, Connecticut, and London-born Handler, a graphic designer who was raised in California, Manhattan, Ibiza and Riverdale, first started spending time on the East End while helping Mabley’s mother design her home in Southampton Village. “We came without any preconceived notion of what living here would be like, other than our love for the geography and architecture of the area,” says Handler.
In quick order, in 2002 the couple got married, got pregnant, and bought and moved into a small compound on Head of Pond Road in Water Mill that was once the home of East End painter Warren Brandt. They transformed the artist’s studio, a former horse barn, into the offices of Mabley Handler Interior Design, which sits just a few yards from the home where they’ve raised sons Colin and Wesley, now 9 and 6. “Moving out here was a leap of faith, but it became home very quickly,” says Mabley.
Celebrating 10 years in business this summer, she and Handler are busier than ever. The firm is designing five model residences and a clubhouse at the new Bishops Pond development in Southampton Village. On the charity show house circuit, they’re designing the great room at the first-ever Hamptons location of the Holiday House Showhouse, benefiting The Breast Cancer Research Foundation (open to the public June 23 through July 21 at 4 Fair Hills Lane in Bridgehampton) and a bedroom at the Ronald McDonald House of Long Island. The couple is also developing a line of Hamptons-inspired candles—and they’re just coming down from having installed six residential clients in their newly decorated homes in time for Memorial Day.
Although relaxed and easygoing, Mabley and Handler are sticklers for details. They enjoy working on projects from soup-to-nuts, from the landscape to the throw pillows. Clients walking into their just-finished homes for the first time might find a stocked fridge or even a pair of colorful Cruiser bikes, like the ones Mabley and Handler parked in the freshly combed gravel driveway of a client’s East Hampton home as a housewarming gift. “We get a sense of joy from making clients very happy,” explains Handler.
Creating calming spaces for busy clients is another Mabley Handler trademark. Their aesthetic is comfortable, stylish, and serene, with a preponderance of soothing pale blues and grays. “We call it ‘Sophisticated Beach’ or ‘New Hamptons Style,’” says Mabley. Ten years on, she and Handler are finding that their signature look now registers with the public. “We’re surprised when people say, ‘That’s so Mabley Handler,’” marvels Mabley. “But it’s nice when they acknowledge we have a style that’s our own.” 34 Head of Pond Road, Water Mill, 726-7300
photography by eric striffler