With natural materials that echo its environment, this coastal home outside of New York City is so much more than another white painted space.
Home of the Week: ocean buffers weekend retreat from the Big Apple
Life on Fire Island can seem a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of Long Island, New York, but really it's a journey of just 61 kilometres. For the interior designer Joey Horton and his friends, the weekend starts with a short ferry ride from the mainland, and the trials and tribulations of the week pale into insignificance.
After renovating a friend's beach house a few years back, Joey now goes there most weekends between March and November to relax. "As you make the hop over on the ferry you feel like you're being transplanted into another world," says Joey. "We're on the most glorious beach, but we're just a matter of miles from Manhattan."
While weekends at the "Maison Mer" are now carefree, the first year of visits was not quite so easy for Joey due to the rigours of the renovation. Built in 1992 and purchased by the owners four years ago, the cedar-sided property wasn't quite the stylish pad that it is today. "When we got it, it had all this gunky carpet, really acrylic-y," Joey recalls. "And the walls were dark wood. It was very gloomy and sad."
Determined to lift the place from its 1980s-style time warp, Joey set about lightening the walls with white paint. "I know it sounds like a cop-out: 'Oh, another white house,'" he smiles. "But there's a twinkle and a brightness that comes out of the white. Even when it's dirty it still looks fresh."
To temper the extensive use of white, he added some contrast with hardwood floors and broke up the large surfaces of earthy terracotta tiles with seagrass rugs.
Everything, including the furniture, had to be delivered by barge.
"The barge drops things off on the community dock," explains Joey. "There's no guard and there's no signature required. And you don't know when things will arrive. It's like, 'Hey, did a table come in for me today?'"
When a new delivery is discovered, it's driven across to the beach and walked over the sand dunes to the property. "It's not fun," Joey admits.
This logistical issue influenced Joey's furniture choices - he made some very careful selections. "I wanted good quality furniture because it's a one-way trip here," he says. "I like to buy the very best things for the basics and fill in the rest afterwards."
And the "best things" are at the centre of the open-plan living area, assembled in front of sliding glass doors that open out onto a deck and lead the eye out over the ocean: cocktail tables, feather-soft sofas and chairs and horizontal mirrors that reflect the expansive views of the shoreline and sea beyond.
The deck is the transition zone between the comfort of the house and the natural beauty of the shoreline, and it offers the best of both. The pool and hot tub offer plenty of opportunity to soak or swim away the worries of the working week, while comfortable outdoor sofas and loungers encourage relaxation. Prevailing winds and strong currents mean that the island's dunes are in a constant state of flux, so the pool was built above ground. "My friends had an in-ground pool," says Joey. "And one day it just washed out on the beach."
The property's proximity to the ocean and the natural environment clearly influenced Joey's furniture and accessories. A lime-washed wooden coffee table, which looks as if it could have been carved from driftwood, displays a large bowl of ornamental starfish. Plumes of dune grass sit elegantly alongside natural wicker chairs and baskets; the carefully selected vases, pots and finishing touches are all in shades of warm neutrals.
Balinese hotels also inspired Joey's scheme, and his treatment of the space ensures a feeling of contentment. "I like to use all-natural materials as much as I can," he says. "And the distinction between inside and outside is quite blurred, so you really feel at one with the world."
Indeed, you do. It's the sort of place that, once you're there, you never want to leave - and as soon as you do, you're aching to go back.