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Year-Round at the Beach: At Home with Two Stylish Women in the Hamptons

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Year-Round at the Beach: At Home with Two Stylish Women in the Hamptons

February 28, 2020

On a trip to Paris’s Maison et Objet, our co-founders Julie and Francesca crossed paths with Mona Nerenberg, owner of Bloom in Sag Harbor, NY, a cult-favorite shop filled with Swedish antiques and white ceramics (now in its 18th year). Noting that the Gardenista team had been to her Hamptons home to admire the deer fencing—Mona is married to landscape designer Lisa Bynon—she invited us back to take a proper look inside.

Mona and Lisa live in a 19th-century shingled house that came untouched—and with a falling-down fish market attached to the kitchen. The two met as students at the Parson’s School of Design and have a shared aesthetic that’s all about poetic objects, a black-and-white palette, and not a lot of stuff. Others may have been deterred by the the jungle of vines and colony of bats that had overtaken the residence, but they vowed to keep the gracious center-hall layout as is and approached the remodel as an unveiling .

Their friend interior designer Mark Cunningham, a former VP of creative services at Ralph Lauren, who had joined Mona on early buying trips for Bloom (and with Sam Hamilton co-founded the great SF design emporium March), stepped in to orchestrate. Working in close collaboration, each contributed key elements: Lisa and her crew extended the house’s beadboard paneling in strategic spots, Mona supplied Pierre Jeanneret chairs and apple matting from Bloom, and Mark pulled it all together, new two-story kitchen included. Join us for a tour of a standout Hamptons classic.

Photography by Björn Wallander, courtesy of Mark Cunningham (@marked_ny).

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Above: Thanks to a great deal of clearing and planting, the couple and their chickens now live surrounded by three acres of lawn, hedge, and gardens. The shingles and windows are original.

The house is in the hamlet of North Sea—the nearest beach is a quick bike ride away—and was built by a family in the Blue Book of the Hamptons. Mona and Lisa are only the third owners.

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Above: Double front doors open to a hall with a new pine floor and a grand stair cloaked in white: the couple used Benjamin Moore’s Super White throughout (one of our Architects’ Favorite White Paint Picks). Mona and Lisa sold their previous house fully furnished—”we walked out with our cats and our clothes”—so they started from scratch here, and Mark played a big role in the the hunting and gathering.

A Donald Sultan lemon drawing hangs on the wall here over a French bench—ticking stripes are just about the only pattern welcomed in.

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Above: The living room is furnished with a trio of upholstered pieces from Ralph Lauren Home that are typically occupied by Charlie and Sam, the cats, and Ruby, the dog. Mark says the wood coffee table from Démiurge is what made the room feel finished.

On the walls throughout, Mona and Lisa used Benjamin Moore’s Super White, one of our Architects’ Favorite White Paint Picks.

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Above: A bay window overlooks the garden. The Jeanneret teak Chandigarh chair is one of two from Bloom. The rug is Bloom’s signature apple matting, a woven rush so-named, Mona explains, because it was traditionally made in England by apple pickers during the off-season.
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Above: The neediest part of the house was the kitchen, part of which had to be ripped off when the crumbling fish market was taken down. Mark came up with the inspired idea of removing the kitchen attic and creating a two-story space. The paint-splattered floor boards were salvaged from the attic, which, for a time, had served as an art studio.

During the garden off-season, Lisa and her landscape team matched the existing beadboard paneling on the upper walls and ceiling. The room’s centerpiece is an old marble-topped ceramic artist’s table still chalky with clay. Mona tells us “I really don’t like much, in fact I hate just about everything,” but adds she’s ever on the lookout for pieces like the table.

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Above: A narrow pantry divides the kitchen from the dining room. A row of butcher’s hooks hang over a watercolor of a rock by Mats Gustafson. The butcher block table is French.
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Above: One of the things that Mona least likes is lighting—she says she prefers natural light and notes that she doesn’t sell any lights at Bloom. In the dining room Mark stepped up to this challenge with a pair of plaster chandeliers by Stephen Antonson—see The Master of Plaster. The antique English cabinet was made for a veterinarian—Mona bought it for her shop but didn’t have room for it. The Swedish stick-back chairs with original paint are also from Bloom.
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Above: On a buying trip to the South of France, Mark made the first purchase for the house: this 14-foot-long dining table. He came up with the inspired idea of hanging Mona and Lisa’s Astier de Villatte plates en masse: a traditional approach “given a fresh face,” he says, “and a great way to bring in another texture and a graphic quality  in lieu of art.” (Lisa did the hanging: “it looks really simple but it wasn’t because each plate is irregularly shaped,” says Mona.)

More Astier de Villatte fills the cabinet: a romantic vine-covered shed in the back of Bloom is devoted solely to the French ceramics.

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Above: The library shelves are stacked with Mona’s World of Interiors collection dating back to the magazine’s early years in the 1980s. A collapsible wallpaper tables stands by the front windows with a restored and bleached Jeanneret chair in front of it
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Above: Ray, from Michael Dweck‘s Montauk series, hangs in the library. (Dweck is one of a few who Mona represents locally.)
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Above: “I like to be surrounded by space and light,” says Mona of the all-white master bedroom. The cast-iron bed came from a local favorite antiques shop that’s no longer in business. (The vellum box under it holds an extra blanket.)
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Above: An antique chest from Bloom and an armchair from Ralph Lauren Home. The floor is painted in a high-gloss white enamel from Benjamin Moore.
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Above: The bathrooms required redoing, but this one has it original claw-foot tub, which Lisa restored with several coats of black paint. The fixture is from Waterworks. That’s another Michael Dweck photo hanging on the original paneling.
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Above: A guest room, also known as Mark’s room, carries on the black-and-white look to great effect with a boxspring in a ticking from Rogers & Goffigon.

In the years since the house was complete, Mark has opened his own NYC showroom, Marked, and been named to world’s best designer lists: “We were so lucky to have him,” says Mona, “Mark is in another league now.”

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Above: A glimpse of the elegant—and deer-proof—fencing that Lisa designed for the vegetable garden. Note the privet, trimmed to the exact middle of the diamond fencing.
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Above: See more at The Landscape Designer Is In.

When we come across a design store we admire, we often ask if we can follow the owner home. Here are three more shopkeepers with inspired homes:

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