I might have been an adult when we sold our childhood home, but, I cried like a baby. I couldn’t even let it go. As it was flipped, shown and renovated, there I was, telling contractors my dad had built it — could I take a look? I shuddered through its first renovation. Rejoiced to hear it would be “restored to the original.” Then it was razed. The Fryds freaked out. Karmic payback for developers, I guess. Such is the story of Miami Beach waterfront.
I thought of that house when I heard my TriBeCa neighbors Victoria Meakin and David Feldman were selling their 1832 historic Hamptons home after 17 years. With their two children grown, the sprawling 7,500 square foot home, carriage house and three acres felt a bit much. First, they lent it to the Hamptons Designer Showhouse.
We checked out the newly burnished rooms at the opening night cocktail party. Presented by HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) to benefit Stony Brook Southampton Hospital, designers Jamie Drake and Alexa Hampton were Honorary Design Chairs. Kendell Cronstrom is HC&G Editorial Director.
“It was a magical time and place to raise the kids,” Victoria said of those years at Ivy Lodge. “They were six and eight when we bought it. Their childhoods really unfolded here.” Bookcases hid secret doors. There was plenty of room for her sister’s family to visit. Toys were retired to a little room upstairs dubbed the Museum of Childhood.
“That was the hardest to let go,” Victoria said. “It was something out of the Secret Garden, with toys, books and wooden dolls. But, it’s now a beautiful mid century modern office. The designers did a nice job honoring the home’s original charm. It’s exciting — and very liberating — to embrace the change.”
That original charm was always the draw. “I grew up in a 1600s Dutch settlement house in Harrington Park, New Jersey, so, a house built in 1832 didn’t even feel so old,” Meakin continued. “When we found it, it was falling apart. It was a rabbit warren of tiny little interconnected rooms that didn’t make sense. You could see every bit of the evolution, frozen in the ’70s. But, we fell in love with its history and the beautiful pond in the back that looks like a Monet painting. And we were among those few hale and hearty with the stomach to rebuild from the studs.”
The GC in charge of the Showhouse, Paul Fried, of Hampton Restoration, also needed a hale and hearty stomach to do the required construction — bathrooms, kitchen, and more — in only four weeks.
“The finished place has a sense of continuity which isn’t easy when you have 21 designers working under one roof,” Fried told me. “The thesis was to have a common thread running through all of it, so the place would look cohesive and appeal to the largest market. We wanted it nice enough to sell the property but not so nice that the owners decided to keep it! From what I understand, they’ve already have two offers, so all that hard work paid off.”
“Funny what a small town it is that everyone knows there was a bidding war,” Meakin marveled. Neighbors knew the details almost as quickly as she did.
There are lots of reasons to want it. “There’s still a lot of supply chain issues and getting quality people is also a challenge,” said Fried.
“Can you work in Manhattan?” Ready to hire Isabel Orlansky asked. “I can barely handle Montauk,” he laughed.
The designers who made it happen: Amy Kummer Interiors, Baltimore Design Group, Barbara Ostrom Associates, Inc., Chad James Group, Collette Home, Courtney Sempliner Designs, Dee Ann Design, Donna Benedetto Designs, Elsa Soyars Interiors, Kim Tomasino Interiors, Laurie Duke Design, Leila Pinto Fine Art, The Lewis Design Group, LGC Interior Design, Mabley Handler Interior Design, Robert Brown Interior Design, Sea Green Designs, SilverLining Inc., Sloane Luxury Interiors with Sloane by Hand by Shaunali Nanda and Tiffany Eastman Interiors.
Supply was a big issue for Barbara Ostrom, as she redid the master bedroom. “I had to use everything that was in stock,” she told me. “For the double height ceiling above the master bed, I designed an eight-foot mirrored headboard. I used the new Anna French wall covering from Thibault, which won the Roscoe Award, the equivalent of the Oscars. Chris Mead of English Country Homes gave me a lot of the accessories. Christopher Guy, who did the mirror, only had furniture in different colors on hand. Luckily, Stark Carpet had a rug I could use with all the same hues. So it worked out.” The finishing touch? Showing decorator porn/middle aged women’s fantasy flick “Something’s Gotta Give” on the TV.
Up another flight of stairs, we were struck by a small, beautiful room, and the story that went with it. Shaunali Nanda of Sloane Luxury Interiors, who divides her time between New York and New Delhi, spent the pandemic raising money for the storied local craftsman she has worked with all her life. Her mother is a decorator and owns a quality furniture company in India.
Seeing those artisans stranded in New Delhi during the pandemic inspired Nanda to step up to the plate. “There were no trains, no buses, no money, no food,” she remembered. “They were holding their belongings and walking. They needed to be fed, to find work and returned to their families.” She created a huge campaign that got 2,000 home. Examples of their handiwork — block prints, papier-mâché, pottery, Kashmir crewel rugs — filled her room.
“The potter and miniature painters in Jaipur, the local village women who paint while breast-feeding, the master tailors stitching drapes, pillows and piping, all depend on daily wages to support their families,” she told me. “They do not leave their regions. Papier-mâché will always be made at the old city of Srinagar in Kashmir. For two years, some of them were not able to produce anything. They accepted those losses graciously. Now, they are coming back with smiles and wanting to work. This is for them.” Coincidentally, that room once housed Victoria’s Indian nanny. More Karma from walls that seemingly can talk.
All the home needs now is a shelter dog. Hamptons elite rescue them from kill shelters to fly private. Like Nanda, Elizabeth Shafiroff turned her heart and conscience into activism. Five years ago, she founded Global Strays to minister to animal welfare in indigent countries, first in South America and now Africa. She turned Global Strays fourth gala at Naia (at the Capri hotel) into a multi-generational party with a club vibe, raising close to $100,000. “We’re a fledging organization,” Liz told me. “And in the countries we serve, that little bit goes a long way.”
Ingrid Arneberg, Renee Amorosi, Janna Bullock, Eugenia Valliades, Randi Schatz, Jean Shafiroff, Georgina Bloomberg and Kim Renk were the host committee. “I love the energy at this party,” Karen Klopp told me. As did Liliana Cavendish, Robin Leacock, Henry Buhl, Rebecca Seawright, Lucia Hwong Gordon, Kate McEntee and Missy Hargraves.
Liz found her life’s mission the first time she looked into the eyes of an animal she saved from a kill shelter. She brought death row Pit Bulls home to mom and dad, to be coddled and loved.
Traveling through Central and South America she saw stray animals starving and a population too poor to help. “There were emaciated animals rummaging through garbage, that looked like they were dying of starvation,” she told me. “They were running around everywhere, even on the highways. Ten years ago in a Nicaraguan slum, I saw a dog tied up all day without food or water. It was so sick, it could barely move. I found its owners. They couldn’t afford to care for it and were grateful when I offered. I took it to a vet, saved its life and worked with a local rescue organization to find a home. That inspired me to start Global Strays, to partner with animal welfare professionals in impoverished areas.”
Liz’s mission keeps growing. “It’s also become about the pet owners and their communities,” she said, “to provide spay, neutering, veterinarian care and educational workshops for the next generation.” She recently found a program in Liberia, Africa, to emulate and support.
Last year, she bought a farm in Austin, Texas to live in with longtime love, Richard Ballard. There she can “connect with more animals, and how they relate to each other.” She’ll start with two goats from a slaughter house. “I promise not to hoard animals!” she laughs. If she does, she wouldn’t be the first. We’ll follow her menagerie — and Global Strays — as they grow.
Photographs by Lisa Tamburini (HC&G) and Patrick McMullan (Global Strays)