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A Fashion Designer's Home in the Hamptons
Dennis Basso, a couture fashion designer who has dressed the world’s most beautiful women, lavishes every corner of his Hamptons retreat with blue-and-white splendor
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“Dennis absolutely lights up a room. He’s larger than life,” says interior designer Kenneth Alpert of Dennis Basso, his friend and client for 35 years. “If you wake up in a bad mood, you should call Dennis. He’s like a vitamin B-12 shot.”
An eye for glamour and unflagging energy have made Dennis Basso a brand name, with a 10,000-square-foot flagship store on New York’s Madison Avenue and boutiques around the world. In his 30-year-plus career, Dennis has dressed many of the world’s most famous and beautiful women in gowns and furs, including Elizabeth Taylor, Glenn Close, Jennifer Lopez, and Sofia Vergara, whose ample curves are accented by one of his furs in a recent Vanity Fair cover story.
In addition to his couture, the fashion designer has a bridal collection, a line of ready-to-wear, and even home accessories—including sumptuous faux fur throws sold on the QVC shopping channel. (A TV natural, Dennis appears regularly to present his collections.)
An Alexander Calder watercolor hangs in the living room.
Photography: Tria Giovan
Produced by Bonnie Maharam
Interior designer: Kenneth Alpert, KA Design Group, 595 Madison Ave., 16th Floor, New York, NY 10022; 212/223-0314, kennethalpert.com.
Area rug (custom, sisal, leather bound): Stark, starkcarpet.com.
Painting above mantel (“Blue Skies,” by Alexander Calder, gouache): Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, michaelrosenfeldart.com.
Chairs; coffee table; sofas (custom); mirrors; drapery: owner’s collection.
Chair fabric (discontinued); throw pillow fabric: Brunschwig & Fils, brunschwig.com.
Sofa fabric; hurricanes on mantel (“Wood Base Hurricane in Silver” #6821621710FY): Ralph Lauren Home, ralphlaurenhome.com.
White urns on coffee table (French porcelain, 1930s); blue-and-white vases on mantel (Ch’ing dynasty); lamps flanking mantel (antique French chinoiserie); floor lamp (antique, hand painted); glass beads on table (giant worry beads, Mikonos); blue-and-white dishes (vintage Chinese): owner’s collection.
Blue Sitting Area
Taking a break from this harried pace means heading to the Hamptons home in Water Mill, New York, that he shares with husband Michael Cominotto. Don’t expect to find either one lounging by the pool, though. Their idea of relaxation might involve hosting a dinner party for 40, an impromptu cocktail hour by the outdoor fireplace, or spiffing up guest rooms with bouquets of hydrangeas fresh from the backyard for their frequent weekend guests. “We love to entertain, and for us it’s not work. It gives us great pleasure,” Dennis says with all sincerity in his wonderfully deep gravelly voice. “One of my friends tells me the house has been coined Hôtel du Cap for the service we provide. And we do want to make our guests feel as comfortable as possible.”
Blue-and-white ceramics are displayed in an intimate sitting area between the living and dining rooms.
Lounge chairs; fabric; drapery: owner’s collection.
Round table (silver leaf bamboo tea-height table); side table (wrought-iron base from antique balcony, with limestone top); vases (Chinese Export porcelain and antique Delft pieces); lamp (antique); art (by Robert Motherwell): owner’s collection.
Carpet (sisal, leather bound): Stark, starkcarpet.com.
Dennis and Michael built their Hamptons home 17 years ago on a two-acre potato field, and have added to and renovated it over the years with the help of Alpert.
An antique 1920s secretary multitasks as a display case for blue-and-white dishes and also a place to pen a note.
While Alpert was the interior designer for the projects, he readily shares credit with Dennis. “When we did the kitchen, Dennis came to me with the inspiration. He wanted black-and-white checkerboard floors and a very white kitchen,” says Alpert. The gallery hallway was Dennis’s vision, too, modeled after something similar in a magazine.
“That’s what makes working with Dennis so great. You give Dennis a platform and he runs with it,” Alpert says. The designer focuses on selecting furnishings, fabrics, paint colors, and wallcoverings, and Dennis takes over accessorizing.
Three oversize Charles Edwards light pendants that Dennis found in London hang from the wood plank tray ceiling.
Cabinetry (custom, inset cabinet doors, brushed nickel hardware); exhaust hood; center island; black granite countertop: Central Kitchens, centralkitchenscorp.com.
Backsplash (white beveled oversized subway tile); checkerboard flooring (black and white marble): Shelly Tile Ltd. 212/832-2255.
Ovens; rangetop: Wolf, subzero-wolf.com.
Light fixtures over island (“Hanging Square Drum Shade Light,” large #HS.322.LG, custom): Charles Edwards, charlesedwards.com.
Bar stools: TK Collections, tkcollections.com.
Collection of blue-and-white Mexican pieces: Uriarte Talavera, uriartetalaveraus.com.
“For most of my clients I do it all, but not for Dennis. I get a room done and then Dennis opens up his closets, and the next thing you know it looks like they’ve lived there 100 years,” Alpert says.
Checkerboard marble tiles flow from the kitchen to a French-door-lined hall that leads to a back stairway.
Table (forged iron): custom.
Chairs: TK Collections, tkcollections.com.
Dining room walls are sheathed in horizontal wood planks painted white, a treatment that adds a casual feel to the beach house and provides a clean backdrop for the deep blue chairs and accessories.
Many furnishings are custom made, including a dining table that can be configured multiple ways to host any number of guests. “The table breaks apart and can become three tables that seat 12 or four tables that seat eight,” says Dennis. “We can bring in some additional round tables, and we have our own mahogany ballroom chairs. We’ve been able to seat up to 62 people in that dining room.
“We’ve done a lot of celebrating in this house—Christmases to engagements to birthdays to dinners for no reason,” he adds.
A pair of 1890s wrought-iron chandeliers hang above the custom table. Chairs are covered in a Nancy Corzine fabric. The Italian carved-wood dolphin plant stands date from the 1920s.
Table (custom); chairs; chair fabric; drapery; sideboard (custom, ebony and gold leaf vein, marble top): owner’s collection.
Chandeliers (mid-18th-century): John King Antiques, London, 011 44 207 730 0427.
Pedestals (Italian carved oak, 1920s): owner’s collection.
Lamps (ebony and silver, 1930s): Carlton Davidson Antiques, carltondavidson.co.uk.
Stemware (“Grand-Lieu”): Saint-Louis Crystal, saint-louis.com.
Dinnerware (1930s Tiffany): owner’s collection.
Candlesticks and silver (vintage): Creel and Gow, creelandgow.com.
An antique silver tea set sits beneath a painting by Jean Dubuffet.
Silver tea service (family heirloom); art (by Jean Dubuffet): owner’s collection.
Walls in the master bedroom and library are covered in grass cloth and raffia, giving the rooms a warm, cozy vibe. Arm chairs with faux fur throws sit in front of the fireplace inviting a sit with a good book, or maybe even a nap.
Chairs; ottoman: owner’s collection.
Chair-and-ottoman fabric; drapery; hurricanes on mantel (“Glen Plaid Hurricane in Brass” #6821621223EW): Ralph Lauren Home, ralphlaurenhome.com.
Faux fur throw: Dennis Basso Home, qvc.com.
Topiary (“Preserved Boxwood Tree Topiaries”): Restoration Hardware, rh.com.
Table (early 18th-century opium bed); floor lamp (vintage): owner’s collection.
Collection of coral and quartz: Creel and Gow, creelandgow.com.
Alpert used wall treatments to define the moods and roles of various rooms in the 8,500-square-foot house. Sand-toned raffia wallcovering provides a casual and textural backdrop for the Nancy Corzine “Watermill” bed and “Valmont Lounge” settee. French doors open to the pool deck.
Bed (“Watermill” #9018Q); chair (“Valmont Lounge” #2050): Nancy Corzine, nancycorzine.com.
Art behind bed: by Robert Natkin, robertnatkin.com.
Chinese garden stool: vintage.
Area rug (sisal, leather-bound): Stark, starkcarpet.com.
Bedside table; lamps: owner’s collection.
A departure from the blue-and-white palette of the rest of the house, the guest room has a more neutral palette with shades of brown. Four framed etchings hang above the brown linen headboard. The bed is dressed with crisp white linens with brown detailing.
A 4,000-square-foot two-story addition was completed in 2010 to create a spacious dining room, eat-in kitchen, butler’s pantry, laundry room, and three upstairs guest rooms. A gallery-like hall with French doors opening to the pool connects the new rooms. It also forms one leg of the house’s U-shape that embraces the pool and deck area. French doors in the living room open to the mahogany deck area, too, so guests can easily spill outside to enjoy the pool, ocean air, and the green lawn that rolls toward a tennis court.
Their first addition to the home though was an outdoor pavilion for entertaining (of course) with a sitting area grouped in front of a wood-burning fireplace, a bar, and a dining spot.
Two massive circa-1850 lanterns on each side of the outdoor fireplace were scored at a Paris flea market after a quick phone consult with Alpert. “We hadn’t even built the pavilion yet but we figured we’d find a place to use them,” Dennis says. “We sent an iPhone photo to Kenneth and he said, ‘They’re fabulous, go for it.’ ”
Guests often gather around the wood-burning fireplace in an area dubbed the “lantern lounge” because of the antique fixtures.
Sofas: Janus et Cie, janusetcie.com.
Chairs and fabric: Weatherend Estate Furniture, weatherend.com.
Carpet (“Darrin Outdoor Rug”/Navy, Beige #114392): Frontgate, frontgate.com.
Table (“Wright Cocktail Table” #07016-484); throw pillows (custom): Lorin Marsh, lorinmarsh.com.
Ceramic stool (“Classic Garden Seat”): Ballard Designs, ballarddesigns.com.
Coral-framed mirror on mantel: custom.
Wall lanterns (French, early 1800s); owner’s collection.
An overhang protects an outdoor sitting and dining area. The large lamps on the bar are from William-Wayne & Co.
Lamps on bar (from William-Wayne); fern (“Kimberly Queen Fern): owner’s collection.
When setting a table, Dennis artfully mixes new and vintage dishes, glassware, flatware, and linens—in his signature blue and white. “Even if we just have four people, the table has to be pretty,” he insists. In minutes, he can dress the terrace table (custom made in Italy with a blue-and-white ceramic top) with a casual combination of deep blue Tiffany chargers, Royal Copenhagen plates, Pottery Barn glassware, and antique flatware.
White wicker chairs surround the ceramic-topped table, which is just outside the kitchen. “This is our go-to table for dining when the weather is nice,” Dennis says.
Table (ceramic on stone base); chairs; chargers (by Tiffany); stemware (from Pottery Barn); flatware (Italian); placemats and napkins (by Josef Frank): owner’s collection.
Plates (“Blue Fluted”): Royal Copenhagen, royalcopenhagen.us.
“I’ve heard Dennis say he could set a table for 40 people in blue-and-white splendor without renting a thing—everything is theirs,” Alpert says. “With the table, he’s a magician.” The couple’s garage rivals any catering house, lined with shelves of dishes and tabletop accoutrements, all carefully numbered and categorized.
“I have a great love for blue and white, as you can see,” says Dennis, whose collections include Chinese export porcelain, Mexican Uriarte, Dutch Delft, and Denmark’s Royal Copenhagen.
A custom ceramic table made in Italy is set with Pottery Barn stemware, Royal Copenhagen plates, and Tiffany chargers.
Plants climb latticework on an exterior wall of the kitchen addition, adding greenery and softness to the deck space.
Planters (“Orangerie”): Walpole Outdoors, walpolewoodworkers.com.
Ferns: Kimberly ferns.
Deck landscape and flowers: Kim Jon Designs, kimjondesigns.com.
Settee: owner’s collection.
Fabric: Sunbrella, sunbrella.com.
Umbrellas: Thayer’s Hardware & Patio, thayershardware.com.
Homeowner and fashion designer Dennis Basso
The Sidecar, price available upon request from Moore & Giles [1-800-737-0169]
This beautifully crafted bar cart, The Sidecar by Moore and Giles, is a great way to store liquor, glassware, bar tools, and anything else needed to complete your own miniature bar. The cart, made of Virginia black walnut, birch, leather, aluminum, and brass, is wheeled to make sure the party can travel with you. Perfect for drink-lovers without the space for a full bar.