BEIGE HAMPTON: This month’s record rainfall has been a fairly dreary kickoff to the summer season, with many East Enders spending more time inside their homes than on the beach.
But Hampton Retreats, a company launched this year by real estate entrepreneur Brad Zackson, has improved the appearance of some homes in the New York resort area by hiring interior designer Carlton Varney to put together a package of all the amenities one might find at a luxury hotel, such as Frette linens, Ecru and Avancé bath and body products, and colored candles and scarves of Varney’s own design. Considering the homes represented by Hampton Retreats have a minimum value of $1 million, with weekly rents starting at $6,000, a little good taste shouldn’t be out of the question.
Still, the proposal took Varney by surprise, considering as president of Dorothy Draper & Co., the oldest established design house in America, he is known for having designed Jimmy Carter’s White House, The Greenbrier and The Fairmont Hotel, and was Joan Crawford’s decorator for 20 years. Providing a tasteful design package for homes he has never seen, where the owners lock their belongings up in a closet for the summer, was an unusual request.
“I never thought this would happen,” Varney said. “Brad came to me and wanted me to provide the same look as you would get in a hotel. To me it was far out. None of these houses are designed in a Dorothy Draper scheme. Each one is different and I’m not a beige person. They come to me for magical color. My natural is a watery turquoise blue.”
But Zackson is spending money, buying reams of Frette sheets in every size from twin to a California king, neckrolls and European square pillows for the beds, even the blankets, placemats and napkins, which will be delivered by trucks to the various homes — whether the traditional shingled beach houses or modern day McMansions —and picked up again for cleaning and service the next week.
As Zackson often told Carter on decorating decisions, “I’m not into the politics of this. I’m only the decorator.”
Varney avoided the topic of whether the kind of clientele Hamptons Retreats would be targeting would really appreciate his level of taste.
“I don’t want to get philosophical,” he said. “I think from the point of view of taste, there isn’t good or bad, there’s only taste. Somehow, your decorator has become a label. It’s a talking point like a Valentino dress. Decorators have become like labels, and that gives you entree.”
Besides, he said, the only thing one really needs for a good weekend in the Hamptons is “the right partner.”
“It’s never any good without the right partner,” Varney said. “Somebody, for which no other reason, who is enjoyable. Forget the money part, just make sure they’re fun.”
POETIC HARDWARE: Inga Sempé, a rising French talent in industrial design, finds beauty in functional objects, be it a doorknob or a potato peeler. One of her most talked-about designs is a “brush” bookcase designed for Edra: a metal frame entirely covered with synthetic bristles through which one slides the hand to get the books.
“I wanted to make something that is open and closed at the same time,” said Sempé. “It’s perfect for people who are disorganized.”
She’s also winning raves for a pleated lamp she did for Cappellini. Sempé, whose work is on exhibit through Sept. 14 at the Museum of Decorative Arts in Paris, was born with creativity in her blood and has already won a prestigious young designer award from the city. Her mother is an artist and her father, Jean-Jacques Sempé, is known for his illustrations, having created many famous covers for The New Yorker.
CASTING COUCH: Vladimir Kagan’s sleek and sculptural furniture designs have seduced the likes of Marilyn Monroe, Gary Cooper, Tom Ford, Donna Karan and Giorgio Armani. But only now, at 75, has the German-born, New York-based Kagan truly cracked the tough French market.
Furniture retailer Roche-Bobois recently asked him to play guest designer. The result, unveiled recently in Paris, is a curvaceous couch with a removable wool cover, and a glass coffee table. Both will go on sale for $8,600 and $1,968, respectively, at most of its 148 European stores and its 35 U.S. stores by the end of the year.
But what to put on the table? Why, the designer’s new autobiography, of course. Kagan said he expects to finish penning “The Complete Kagan” later next year.