A Hamptons home with unexpected formal, English-inspired style
But the posh beach community’s unspoken dress code did not persuade New York City native Gloria Kirschner to forsake her own design aesthetic. When building her home 10 years ago, she chose an English Tudor style over the region’s conventional shake-shingle architecture. Inside, she opted for a more formal ambience than the usual Hamptons residence. Her home is tranquil, but the compelling palette might make visitors check a GPS to confirm they’re in the Hamptons, not a cottage in an English forest.
“I had lived in a beach house before,” explains Gloria. “I wanted this house to reflect my own tastes and visually nod to all times of the year, not only summer. This house embraces four seasons.”
To execute a plan that satisfied Gloria’s sophisticated and confident style—yet offered enough charm to serve as the setting for a laid-back weekend getaway—she hired Florida-based designer Jack Fhillips. His artistic vision, mixed with an ardent sense of -order, produced a home in updated traditional style that has its own personality yet blends well with the neighborhood.
Because the home is located just two blocks from the ocean, sand and sea would be the expected inspiration for its palette. Instead, Gloria and Fhillips took their color cues from her sylvan backyard, choosing a scheme that uses plenty of peaceful green.
“The house stands on its own architecturally and doesn’t fit into what’s expected in the Hamptons,” says the designer. “But it’s not as if we dismissed its surroundings. We just opened our eyes to the less predictable part of nature. Blue and white would have been a mistake here, since there is foliage everywhere around the house and it has so many windows.”
The signature grass green that pervades most rooms of the home is a dichotomous combination of zest and serenity. In the foyer, the vibrant green offers contrast to the bright white architectural moldings outlining each space. Green-and-ivory cotton toile forms graceful panels at the windows. Both the architectural details and the toile reappear throughout the house, providing a continuity that ties Gloria’s abundant collections together.
“Paring down is a state of mind and is not measurable by a defined number of things,” says Fhillips. “Gloria has so many art collections, so organizing them by putting like objects together was key to creating an environment that was calm and not cluttered.”
The two-story-high living room is a prime example. Its soaring architecture left ample wall space to create a gallery of artwork. But instead of an assemblage of different art mediums and forms, Fhillips selected one—oil landscapes—to enrich the room’s expanded perimeters and make a memorable statement. The landscapes enhance the arrangement of antique Continental furniture on a needlepoint rug without detracting from the view of showstopping gardens on the other side of the windows.
Used not only for window panels but also to upholster the walls, the green-and-ivory toile that serves as an emblem of the house’s design envelops the dining room. “Sometimes people think that repeating such a recognizable pattern from room to room is a cop-out,” says Fhillips. “But here, the backgrounds needed to recede so that the collections of artwork could grab attention.” Paired with an ensemble of an English walnut dining table and chairs covered in their original leather upholstery, an antique Steinway piano in the back of the room balances the substantial visual weight of the dining group. To add the distinguishing touch of glamour so welcome in a dining room, a chandelier of English Sheffield silver plate illumines the table.
With a scheme informed by photographs of a kitchen in an old English country house, Gloria’s kitchen has pine cabinetry crowned with dentil molding that echoes the architectural details of the formal rooms. A mahogany table and antique painted--bamboo chairs set the scene for a cheery casual dining experience. French doors lead to a beguiling patio.
Upstairs, Fhillips eschewed the toile that was a first-floor staple, opting for a sportier look in the master bedroom, with stripes on the bed skirt and window treatments.
Now, a decade after it was built, the house has come into its own. “We didn’t buy furniture at showrooms but acquired it at auction houses,” says Fhillips. “That’s what gives this house its unique look—Gloria’s commitment to the traditional sensibilities she loves and my vision to turn them out in a way that is fresh and right now.”
And for Gloria, the house is not only where she retreats for peace, but a welcoming environment for her visitors.
“The Hamptons are becoming more of a place where people want to be any time during the year,” says Gloria. “There’s relief in knowing that my guests feel welcome to visit for any occasion.”
Photography: Robert Brantley
Jack Fhillips Design, 2611 Mercer Ave., West Palm Beach, FL 33401-7415; 561/659-4459, jfhillipsdesign.com