By Michelle Trauring
Twenty interior designers and their crews stuffed inside a 13,000-square-foot manse in the heart of Water Mill could be the set of drama, tension and a cutthroat edge that rears its ugly head as they race to finish their assigned rooms before this weekend.
That is not Holiday House Hamptons.
The showhouse, which opens its doors on Saturday, is not a hotbed for collaboration by any stretch of the imagination—each designer works independently, after all—but the last month hasn’t been brutally competitive among them, either. They go so far as to help their neighbors with installations, lending a safety pin here or Windex there, and there is an overall sense of camaraderie.
At least so they say.
“Of course, everyone knows I have the best room in the house,” interior designer Wesley Moon dished in a recent email, before bursting into cyber giggles. “Hahaha! Kidding! The fact is that design is super subjective. As long as I feel I’ve done my best, nothing else matters. Some people will like my room, and others won’t. The goal is for the right people to like my room, which is also subjective.”
“So the only measure is how happy I am with what I’ve done. And I’m quite proud of it. It’s exactly the mood and vibe that I hoped for.”
Originally, Mr. Moon had his eye on a room on the home’s main floor—“I thought it would be better exposure,” he said—but Holiday House founder Iris Dankner had other plans in mind for the invitation-only showhouse, now in its third year in the Hamptons and its tenth in Manhattan.
Instead, she assigned Mr. Moon a large, second-floor bedroom suite on the front corner of the house. After seeing the huge swath of windows, he said he easily reconsidered.
His starting point was a Pierre Frey wallpaper, “Mauritius,” a fresh palm tree print in sepia tones to play off his theme, Palm Sunday. It is a rather cheeky interpretation of the holiday that incorporates his two favorite things, he said: relaxing weekends and tropical locales.
“I believe the color scheme is hugely important in the success of my room. I wanted to achieve the feeling of a sophisticated tropical location that you can’t quite pinpoint. It’s all in the mix,” he said. “It’s not from one time or place, but more of the recast, vague memories of colors and items that infused my childhood. It’s chic-ly retro, but very contemporary at the same time.”
The aqua drapery—a China Seas linen from Quadrille—makes a big statement and drives the color scheme, and a collection of artwork culled from a number of galleries, including local names Kathryn Markel Fine Arts and Quogue Gallery, gives the room a certain edge, he said.
“One of my favorite pieces is an installation of 20 bronze, glazed ceramic bubbles by artist Stacy Cushman, which you encounter directly ahead of you when you enter the space,” he said. “They appear to be floating up from the corner of the room and immediately you know that this room has a sense of humor.”
For any interior designer, one of the real dangers of any showhouse is getting carried away, Mr. Moon explained. Creativity, with a healthy dose of editing and restraint, is key, he said.
“It’s a fine line. You want the room to be memorable, but you still want it to be chic. Too many designers pull out every trick in the book in a showhouse, causing good ideas to get lost in a sea of good ideas,” he said. “Hopefully I avoided that.”
Mr. Moon’s bedroom is one of five in the manse, which opens with a foyer and main entry way designed by Maddux Creative, inspired by the Cornwall coastline and its remote rugged cliffs and wide sandy beaches. HB Home’s living room is natural and classic, with a hand-painted sisal rug to create the feeling of beach-raked sand, and West Chin Architects & Interior Designers’s kitchen is graceful, elegant and romantic with dark colors and delicate accents, coupled with a playful outdoor pool area.
“It was our first choice because the kitchen has always been the center of my house growing up, and in my adult life, as well,” Mr. Chin explained in a recent email. “My family loves to cook, eat, and share conversation and laughs around the kitchen. If you are in the Hamptons, you basically just want to be with friends and family, inside and outside, and our two favorite places would be the kitchen and the pool area.
“The approach was to create a room that was the ‘it’ room. Outside of no bathroom, one does not have to leave this area,” he continued. “You can eat, drink, cook, swim, tan, lounge and fall asleep under the stars or on our loungey couch.”
The outdoor infinity pool is not the house’s only perk. The expansive home, which is listed for $18 million with Douglas Elliman, is complete with a dramatic garage-turned-man-cave by Barbara Ostrom & Associates—featuring large graffiti murals by Torrick Ablack—a private dock, an adult game room by Mabley Handler Interior Design, and a rooftop tennis court.
The court is easily the first of its kind on the East End, Ms. Dankner reported, and quite possibly Long Island. And who better to design it than Venus Williams’ firm, V Starr.
“With the Olympics happening in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, we wanted to draw off the vibrancy of the Brazilian culture,” Ms. Williams said in a statement. “The ‘Olympics in Rio’ roof deck will feature bright pops of color reminiscent to the city. We drew inspiration for this from a colorful pattern in my athletic apparel line, EleVen.”
Both Carmiña Roth’s inspiration and her invitation from Ms. Dankner to participate in Holiday House Hamptons came to her while on vacation in St. Barths.
“I immediately knew I wanted to do a room inspired by that particular trip,” Ms. Roth said in a recent email. “Needless to say, I found inspiration everywhere around me.”
She approached her large bedroom, bathroom and veranda as if it were a suite in a luxury boutique hotel—“A dream of mine since I can remember!” she said—and strived to use materials that would only be available on the island.
The Phillip Jeffries lacquered wallpaper on the ceiling reminds her of its “indigo, starry nights,” she said. Sisal is the floor covering seen throughout the island. And the uncanny arrival to St. Barths—either by boat or a small plane that must land on a 2,000-foot-long runway that dead-ends into St. Jean Beach—is depicted inside the bedroom by a Paul Manes painting of an airplane hovering over a live-edge plank bed, with a photograph of a Sagaponack beach by Tria Giovan on the facing wall.
“I was just joking on Instagram the other day that it takes a village to install a room at the Holiday House,” she said. “My vendors have been so incredibly generous with both their products and time to support me in this endeavor. So many of them physically showed up to help me with the installation and it felt like a party—not unlike a day in St. Barths.”
Ms. Roth added, “Unlike many showhouses that I have visited, this one actually feels cohesive. With very few exceptions, someone could buy the house, along with its contents, and live happily ever after, playing tennis on the roof and drinking rosé all day.”
That sense of unity between the rooms was deliberate and planned, according to Ms. Dankner, who added that the Holiday House Hamptons almost didn’t happen this summer.
“It was March and we hadn’t found the right place. I said, ‘I don’t want to just settle for any spec house. We can miss a year,’” Ms. Dankner said during a recent telephone interview. “But in April, we found a spectacular house and we had two months to pull it all together. Out here, it’s the best house we’ve done so far.”
Overall, the designers have trended toward simplicity, she said, with a color palate revolving around blue tones, light fixtures in bronzes and golds, and an overall organic feel throughout the house.
“Everybody gets along really well and everybody was helpful, but I definitely know there is friendly competition,” she said. “Everybody wants their space to be best.”
The third Holiday House Hamptons, presented by HC&G, will open with a White Party on Saturday, June 18, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at 100 Crescent Avenue in Water Mill. Tickets are $350. The showhouse will be open for general admission from Sunday, June 19, through Tuesday, July 26, on Thursdays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Fridays through Mondays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are $35, which includes an event journal. Proceeds from all ticket sales will benefit The Breast Cancer Research Foundation. For more information, visit holidayhousedesignshow.com. For information on the house listing, visit www.elliman.com/long-island/100-crescent-avenue-water-mill-south-xuawvud.