Alexander Design’s founding interior designer Vanessa Alexander takes est on a tour through her Surfside Montauk project; an eclectic, modernist-style holiday home on Long Island’s easternmost point.
Montauk, or ‘The End of the World’, as locals call it, is situated at the tip of the Long Island peninsula in New York State. Known for its stretch of coastline, Vanessa Alexander’s close friend chose the East Hampton village to be the location for her family’s relaxing weekender.
Julie engaged Vanessa after living in her home for two years – a contemporary glass building designed by esteemed New York architect Steven Harris and built-in 2010. Briefed to transform the sleek home into a warm and slightly ‘bohemian’ beach house, Vanessa has captured the ease of Montauk living through tactile layering, organic shapes and vintage pieces sourced from around the globe.
Vanessa Alexander mixed vintage pieces with new and custom-designed furniture throughout the home, like her custom dining table paired with a vintage tribal rug in the dining room. The dining table is an extension of the kitchen, constructed from the same materials as the island bench.
Waterproof plaster wraps the walls, ceilings, benchtops and splashback. “We specified this material because it looks like concrete, but with a much softer feel to it,” Vanessa says.
Vanessa and Revolution 4: Architecture consciously left the first-floor layout untouched. Clad entirely in glass on both sides, the pool, gardens and ocean serve as a backdrop for the interior design.
Vanessa sourced pieces from around the world to fill this unique home, including a vintage leather B&B Italia Camaleonda sofa from Morentz and a custom-designed coffee table by eminent designer Axel Vervoodt.
While the original home had what Vanessa describes as ‘amazing bones’, the fact it was designed for a couple with no children meant it needed some key alterations to accommodate for a family of four and a dog. “The clients are big entertainers and love to host their friends and family when they’re in Montauk. So the home needed to flexibly cater for entertaining day and night with both children and adults,” Vanessa explains.
The home is predominantly designed on a horizontal axis to make the most of the water views. Vanessa honoured this existing floorplan and layout on the first floor and diverted her focus to remodelling the kitchen. Together with New York architects Resolution: 4 Architecture, Vanessa replaced the dated kitchen with a streamlined oak and plaster iteration shaped by integrated storage.
This open-plan space opens directly onto the pool that runs parallel to the width of the building – a vital feature of the existing home that had to stay. The glass-encased staircase at the centre of the home leads up to the reworked primary suite upstairs and children’s and entertainment rooms below.
The woven pendant light by Australian fibre sculptor Harriet Goodall is one of homeowner Julie Rice’s favourite pieces. The primary bedroom overlooks the ocean, featuring an Ed Ruscha print and Society Limonta bedlinen.
It wouldn’t be a true Hamptons holiday house without an extensive guest retreat for when family and friends come to stay. Although the guest house was part of the original home, Vanessa explains there was a lack of flow, and it felt removed from the main house. As a result, the three-bedroom, three-bathroom guest house now has the same creamy, neutral tones and textures as the rest of the home, creating a seamless union between both spaces.
Vanessa and Resolution: 4 Architecture ‘activated’ the external courtyard between the home and the guest house overlooking the North Atlantic ocean, introducing a large outdoor kitchen, outdoor seating area and fire pit. “A lot of the activity now takes place in this elevated area – it serves as a bridge between both built parts and offers the perfect place to come and eat and relax together,” Vanessa says.
By working within the existing framework with an engaged team of collaborators, Alexander Design has maintained the original home and guest house’s architectural integrity while reshaping it for a growing family.
Vanessa continued the muted colour scheme into the guest house to create flow and ease of movement between both spaces.
Custom mirrors by Alexander Design in the bathroom.
Catering to one of the key elements of the brief – more outdoor living space – the design team created an outdoor courtyard with a lounge sofa, outdoor fireplace and vintage woven umbrella sourced from Europe.
The outdoor kitchen and dining area acts as a bridge between the main home and the guest house.