BY STEPHANIE MURG | August 16, 2013 | Culture
Jennifer Mabley of Mabley Handler, her firm with husband Austin Handler, says, “This property feels like an old Southampton estate. It’s unusual for Bridgehampton to have a house of this style.
Mabley and Austin Handler.
In the front entry of the Mabley Handler–designed home, an Anthroplogie Louisa settee, upholstered with watercolor-inspired swirls of linen and cotton, pops against the white walls and main staircase.
The backyard is a sports paradise for the couple’s two sons, ages 10 and 12. Beyond the pool is a sunken tennis/ basketball court.
Color, drama, and excitement come together in a guest room, which vibrates with saturated peacock blue and lime green hues.
The expansive kitchen area “evolved slowly, because the tangerine color was really a commitment,” says Mabley.
The blue and white living room, accented with geometric prints, is grand yet comfortable.
Summing up a home in a single word can be tricky, but Jennifer Mabley and Austin Handler don’t hesitate. “Color,” say the husband-and-wife team almost simultaneously, when asked about the starting point for the grand yet breezy Bridgehampton retreat they designed for New Yorkers Liz Elting and Michael Burlant and their two sons, ages 12 and 10. “The foundation of this house is the use of bold color, but in the right places,” says Mabley. “The balance is challenging, and a lot of it is a matter of on-site nuances and making sure not to overdo it.” Their brilliant balancing act extends to layered materials, assured mixes of solids with geometric prints, and subtle yet soothing seaside references that combine to create a fresh, spirited take on Hamptons chic.
Elting and Burlant first called on Water Mill–based Mabley Handler when they were deliberating between two Hamptons properties. “Even before we retained the design firm, Jennifer was prepared, at the drop of a hat, to take a look at the different homes, give her opinions,” says Burlant, an executive director at the commercial real estate services firm of Cushman & Wakefield. “And we really took her thoughts to heart.”
The family ended up on Halsey Lane, with a newly constructed home set on 2.5 expansive acres. “We love the centrality of it. It’s near the ocean as well as the town on an extraordinary piece of land,” says Elting, the cofounder and co-CEO of TransPerfect, a language and business solutions company. “And it’s great for the kids,” adds Burlant. “They were the biggest motivator for us to be here in the Hamptons and to pick the house that we did. There’s plenty of space to play outside and the house is sizable but doesn’t feel too big. It’s cozy and very homey.”
Making a seven-bedroom home with a grand approach and soaring entryway feel cozy is a design feat in itself, and one that Mabley and Handler accomplished in less than four months, armed with plenty of local finds (and finishing touches) from the likes of Mecox, Rumrunner Home, and English Country Antiques. After a carefully orchestrated single-day installation that ranged from backyard sod and furniture to kitchen appliances and linens, the family moved in last summer, just in time to spend the Fourth of July testing out the pool, tennis and basketball courts, and basement screening room—as well as breaking in their cobalt-blue living room and cheerful open kitchen, which pops with tangerine accents.
“Many of our clients come to us because they’ve seen the soft, serene, relaxed interiors that we often do,” says Handler. “But it’s always nice when you come across a client who wants a relaxing house but doesn’t mind having a little bit of fun with color and pattern.” That willingness emerged gradually, through discussions that soon came to focus on color. “Liz has a lot of style,” explains Mabley. “And when we discovered her appreciation for color, we ran with that.”
The front door opens into a sea of white and blue, anchored by a large, bordered carpet and a pair of Anthropologie Louisa settees upholstered with watercolor-inspired swirls of linen and cotton. The view through to the dining room reveals an airy space where the table for 14 takes center stage against a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling windows flanked by a pair of large abstract canvases by New York– and Southampton-based artist Mark Humphrey.
Beyond the dining room is the showstopper of a living room, where cobalt and navy blue and white mix with silvery accents, bleached seashell flourishes, and jolts of geometric draperies and pillows. “I was never a blue person,” says Elting, who has long favored purple. “But Austin and Jennifer converted me. I love the use of blue in the house.” The color scheme turns to subtle tones of grays and blues in the boys’ shared bedroom, with nautical accents.
As a complement to the azure tones throughout other parts of the home, a tangerine hue brightens up the kitchen. Elting became excited about incorporating orange after seeing the Mabley Handler portfolio, which includes the orange pool lounge they designed for the 2010 Hampton Designer Showhouse. “We got to know orange very well from that project, and now it’s definitely one of our go-to colors,” says Mabley, who unified the expansive space with touches such as custom bar stools and Brooke cotton flatweave rugs from Madeline Weinrib. “It’s amazing how much the color does hold the space together,” the designer adds.
Directly off the kitchen is the den, a shelf-lined nook that mixes gray-washed paneling with soft purple tones, in ikat-patterned pillows and throws. “It’s one of my favorite rooms because it’s such a comfortable place for the family to gather and watch television or read,” says Burlant. An inviting sectional unfolds beneath an antique silver leaf Mainstay chandelier, a playfully angular wrought-iron design from Currey & Company.
Up the front stairs, and past the large abalone-inspired work by artist Dana Volkert, is the master bedroom, where more of Elting’s preferred purple plays off of softy shimmering grasscloth wallcovering from Phillip Jeffries. Burlant describes the effect as equally “peaceful, regal, and calming.”
The four upstairs guest rooms range from subtle grays to bold oranges and blues, including a light-flooded chamber at the far end of the house that mixes shades of blue, turquoise, and lime green, complete with bed linens and draperies in Trina Turk’s bewitching Blue Peacock zigzag ikat.
Now the family is focused on making the most of every moment they spend in Bridgehampton. “This place gives us an opportunity to really enjoy friends and meet new people in the Hamptons,” says Burlant, who is eager to put the basement’s wine-and-cheese-tasting table to good use. “It was a spectacular feeling to walk in the front door and see the final version of everyone’s collaborative vision. We felt instantly at home.”
photography by eric striffler