Bali-esque in feel, if not in fact, are the converted barn’s ebony-stained oak floors, dark wood beams and wainscoting, and walls washed in white. Furnishings in the living room and elsewhere are an eclectic compilation of antiques purchased on world travels, estate-sale and flea-market finds, and certain items that Francois just "happened upon" (like the barn itself) when not even looking. Examples include a pair of old post lamps that he found in a flea market in upstate New York. He turned the shapely fixtures upside down and hung them from the pergola just beyond the living room. The living room’s elegant marble-topped gilt console was plucked from a Palm Beach estate sale, and two rustic wooden stools next to one of the sofas were discovered at a Paris flea market.
Other serendipitous acquisitions are the dining room chairs. Francois spotted them while taking a tour of a furniture-manufacturing company in New Jersey. "The chairs were one-of-a-kind samples from a furniture maker in Europe," he relates. "The company I was visiting had purchased them with thoughts of putting them in a new line, but since they decided not to manufacture the chairs, they agreed to sell them to me. No two are alike, and this makes for an interesting dining room."
Hanging in the stairwell adjoining the dining room are two serigraphs, part of Francois’s large collection of works by French and Canadian artists, nicely set off by a new, but rustic-looking Adirondack-style railing.
Although he is not an interior designer by profession, Francois—who is corporate image director for Kravet, the New York–based fabric and furniture company—is no slouch on matters of style. At the very least, he is well-schooled on the subject of fabrics—their patterns, colors, textures, and weaves—as is clearly evident in his barn abode. In one room, a tiny den off the dining room, his fondness for beautiful fabrics is revealed by the presence of no fewer than 15 colorful patterns, all of which happily, and perhaps amazingly, coexist.
Again, Francois sings the praises of the South Pacific. "In Bali, people lavish their surroundings with gorgeous, fabulously colorful fabrics," he says, "and I decided to do the same in the den. Rather than dismiss the room because of its small size, I wanted to make it special." In casbah fashion, he framed the den doorway with double sets of draperies featuring four different silk fabrics.
In contrast to the den, the statement in the living room is more about simplicity than sumptuousness. Except for the artwork and the greenery outdoors, the serene room’s only color comes from a multihued Pakistani rug that grounds a pair of face-to-face sofas covered in tone-on-tone white damask. "The rug is totally not East Hampton," says Francois, referring, no doubt, to the fact that it isn’t sea grass or sisal.
Because his house is located in the village of East Hampton, not on the beach, Francois decided to create his own view of water with the addition of a new lap pool and an adjacent guest house that he designed to mimic the shape of the main house.
With many friends and business associates, Francois has no shortage of summertime visitors, and the pool house, perched right at the water’s edge, is everyone’s favorite place to stay. Inspired by memories of a hotel he once stayed at in Bali, Francois furnished the guest house with an old, ornately carved wooden bed and topped it with a tent of mosquito netting. There is no linen closet in the room, so he stores blankets, sheets, and pillows under the bed in antique leather suitcases from China. Because the pool house bath room is also used as a changing room for swimmers, he chose practical, water-resistant, no-slip flagstones for the floor.
Overnight visitors who fail to get first dibs on the pool house are by no means disappointed by the digs provided them in the main house. The guest room, one of two bed rooms in the converted barn, is a delightful, très French space embraced by walls padded and upholstered in red floral fabric. Francois describes it as "cozy, warm, and quiet as can be."
Francois’s own under-the-eaves aerie is no less inviting. It features its own sitting area furnished with a pair of antique leather chairs and ottoman and an outdoor balcony from which he can survey his beautiful and very special surroundings.
And to think that rollerblades and a real estate office is where it all started.