An apparel exec dresses his new Georgian home in the Hamptons in impeccable style
Ken Wyse's East Hampton summer home resembles a bespoke suit, but without the buttoned-up attitude. Impeccably constructed, elegantly tailored, and tweaked to display handsome lines, the Georgian-style house is dressed for summer and weekend living. Rooms wear fresh white paint like crisp linen. Shots of black accessorize like a bow tie or pocket square.
In 2002, when Ken sold his residence and all its contents in Manhattan's West Village neighborhood, he was ready to take on the arduous task of building his weekend home. The president of licensing and public relations for Phillips-Van Heusen, Ken spends his days negotiating agreements for Izod, G.H. Bass & Co., Calvin Klein, and other brands, and was no stranger to the possible scenarios of a grand and ambitious collaboration with building professionals. He was, after all, a seasoned remodeler, having previously reworked a New York apartment and a small Greek Revival house in East Hampton.
Ken's earlier projects were to make the existing structures livable, but this one had his dream home waiting at the end of the proverbial tunnel. "This process was the realization of a lifelong dream," says Ken with satisfaction. "I always wanted to own a grand Georgian home, and I had reached a point in my life where I could do it."
A secluded lot was the blank canvas where Ken decided to establish his leisure roots. Backed up against a 17-acre nature preserve where polo ponies practice, the property provides a built-in stage show. Ken enlisted the expertise of architect Tony Greifenstein and associate Keith Boyce to draft plans for a traditional, one-room deep, two-story house. With a columned porch, symmetrically placed windows, and a grand center hall, the structure sported the hallmarks of classic Georgian architecture.
The interior, like the facade, reflects a similar sense of sophistication and pays close attention to architectural specs that include custom paneling, coffered ceilings, and oversized doors. A large center hall on the first floor is paved with black-and-white marble squares and runs the length of the house, forming its backbone. A combination kitchen and dining room is situated to one side, with the living room on the other. On the second floor, space is divided into a master bedroom, guest bedroom, bathrooms, and a den. "I call it an upscale loft," explains Ken. "It's large enough so there is a wonderful sense of proportion and airiness in each room, yet it doesn't feel so unsettling if I am there alone."
When it came time to furnish the house, Ken called upon his friend New York interior designer Larry Laslo, who's known for using neutral backgrounds that embrace whatever pieces he incorporates. Paying respect to the Georgian architecture without turning the house into a museum, Laslo's design scheme employs an unexpected assemblage of traditional and contemporary furniture.
As in fashion, where experts advise removing an accessory before heading out the door, Laslo was careful not to overwhelm the airy rooms with visual clutter. In the spirit of understated design, he made sure each space has a clean appearance by using an abundance of white paint in various hues. "The same white doesn't work everywhere in the same room, so we used several whites throughout the house," explains Laslo. "I like fine-tuning architecture by painting moldings and fireplaces a white that's slightly different from the walls so they are highlighted."
Except for the Louis XVI leather chairs and a couple of banana-leaf plants, the entrance hall is unadorned. Encased in an ivory, light-flooded shell, the living room is a lesson in symmetry, with each piece of furniture having a twin nearby. The single exception is the round antique table. The visual balance commands interest, leaving little need for more than a small sculpture on the mantel, a garden urn, and a few stacks of books to make the space sing.
The kitchen and dining area, outfitted with the essential appliances, table, and chairs, stars an Andy Warhol lithograph that adds bright color to a room with an otherwise simple palette.
Ken is overjoyed when he speaks of his dream home and the seamless process that made it work. "This house is extra-satisfying to me, knowing it was a collaboration between friends," he says.
Architect: Tony Greifenstein and Keith Boyce, Greifenstein-Boyce Associates, 9 Halston Lane, Coram, NY 11727; 631.736-4399.
Interior design: Larry Laslo, Larry Laslo Designs, 240 E. 67th St., Suite A, New York, NY 10065; 212/734-3824, larrylaslodesigns.com.
Photography: Tria Giovan
Produced by Bonnie Maharam
The seating areas of the living room, established by furnishings covered in white fabric, are interrupted by a centered traditional, round table.
Black-and-white marble tiles offer enough pattern to make the mostly empty entry hall interesting.
On the other side of the entry hall, the kitchen-dining room is well-edited with minimal accessories punctuating perimeters of white and stainless steel. "Everyone loves an eat-in kitchen, especially in a second home," says Laslo. "If Ken needs additional space for entertaining, he can easily set additional tables in the entry hall that we purposely kept bare."
An Andy Warhol Campbell's soup can lithograph hangs on the wall above a casual bench painted red. Hydrangeas picked from Ken's garden pop on the dark wood dining table.
In the master bedroom, a tufted linen headboard introduces contemporary lines. White bed linens with beige embroidery complete the ensemble.
In front of the fireplace, a pair of slipper chairs provide spots to read a book from the collection Ken houses in built-in bookshelves.
In the master bath, the mirror runs the length of the double vanity, with sconces and a round window cutting into the space.
The beautifully landscaped backyard is anchored by a swimming pool.
Ken (seated) with friend and designer Larry Laslo.