In the world of interior design, having complete free rein on a project with a seemingly endless budget is about as rare as a unicorn sighting. In the real world, constraints of space, time, money, and client requirements make most residential design feel more like a master class in project management than a masterpiece in creative expression. Many designers live in the hopes that this type of project will fall on their desk one morning. For Hamptons-based designer Tamara Magel, this wild fantasy arrived on a silver platter in 2015, with the proposition of a collaboration with real estate developer de la Motte Schult to design and furnish the interiors of a turnkey Sagaponack property—from the lighting fixtures to the flatware in the cupboards. Such is how the world operates in the U.S.'s most expensive zip code.
Over a year and a half went into this labor of love that turned an empty lot on Sagaponack's desirable Hedges Lane into a 12,600-square-foot, 11-bedroom, and 12-bathroom estate. Other than the physical constraints of the house's structure, no client brief had to be accommodated. Needless to say, the world of residential interior design doesn't get much better: "We basically came up with everything from the kitchens to the bathrooms to even the silverware and plates," Magel told us. "Basically, it's a house that you can purchase and move right in for the summer—no work required." Trust us, it doesn't get much better than this Hamptons dream-come-true property.
The project was perfect for Magel, who prioritizes texture over color and pattern in all her designs—making her style very eye-catching but also real estate–friendly. Through a combination of rich textures from shearling to linen, she was able to achieve a balance of timeless elegance that was understated and relaxed. "The living room is my favorite," she tells us. "There are two pairs of vintage chairs in there. One of them is from Hans Wagner, with leather headrests and striped seats. The other ones are two comfy Artek chairs, which I had reupholstered in shearling. And I mixed these with a Restoration Hardware sofa." An all-white palette seamlessly blends the differents styles into one luxurious and coherent whole.
"The art is a statement piece by Mel Bochner from his Blah Blah Blah series, which I love," says Magel. "The developer had an art collection that we were able to use, which made a huge difference in the space. I also designed the fireplace from scratch. I had been waiting years to make it—it had just been sitting in my inspiration photos. The stone is a rare form of Calcutta gold with a lot of black and creamy yellow in it. The marble fireplace is my absolute favorite thing. I would live in that room with nothing else in it," she laughs. Having no client to veto her wildest dreams, the designer was able to bring her vision to life and include her favorite pieces, like Apparatus's Arrow chandelier.
In the kitchen, Magel continued the neutral theme throughout, paying special attention to the different textures in the space. "I always use natural stone. I never use synthetic man-made counters, it's just not my thing," she says. "The kitchen counters are Calcutta gold marble, which I mixed with white painted brick tiles from Waterworks. It gave the space a lot of texture. I also never do upper cabinets on the back wall because I always want my range hoods to stand out. I did a custom metal hook with hammered finishes so I could give the space a more rustic feel. It's dressy and casual at the same time."
Playing with contrasts and textures, Magel was able to create an inviting and layered feeling using just a few neutral tones. "I knew the kitchen was going to be all white, so the breakfast table needed to be a huge piece of dark walnut," she says. "I lightened that up with chairs from Homenature that have a woven canvas seat and put sisal on the floor. I also added the Apparatus light with the big round bulbs which made the space so interesting. I wanted to get a light that didn’t compete with the kitchen fixtures."
Magel may be drawn to light and bright interiors, but the dining room was the one space where she opted for something with more of a dramatic flair. "To me, the dining room was a little jewel by itself to the right of the entryway when you walk in, so I decided to go dark," she explains. "I did dark, almost black, Phillip Jeffries grasscloth on the walls, and then I carried through the bricks from the kitchens in a dark navy paint for the room's little niches." In the carved nooks, the designer set up a fully stocked bar for easy entertaining.
"I didn't want to make the room too dark, so I did a big white slab for the tabletop, and I added my signature shearling chairs," says Magel. "I love those—most of my clients end up ordering them." Many of the pieces in the space—from the dining table to the buffet— are all custom-made, giving the house an exclusive flair. "I like to make things custom and have them fit perfectly in the space. I love being able to use the woods that I want and have them tainted the way I want it—this one was a whitewashed oak."
One of her biggest challenges throughout the project was designing all 12 bathrooms. "Try to pick 12 bathrooms in four months—it was crazy," she says. "I needed to have them relate to each other but not be all the same. A lot of people out here do 12 bathrooms and they all look the same. I absolutely didn't want to do that. I don't get it. I love kitchens and I love bathrooms, and I would never waste an opportunity to create something by copying another one. So the guest bathrooms I kept white and very simple, but I still changed the marble or the stones I used."
The designer, who describes her style as chic, modern comfortable farmhouse, stepped away from her farmhouse aesthetic in a few spaces in favor of a more Scandinavian approach—namely in the master bedroom. "I really wanted that farmhouse look but updated with more modern cleaner lines, and I wanted it to be comfortable. And texture—my whole thing is texture because I don't use a lot of pattern, so I have to make the rooms look interesting in other ways."
"We couldn't have a wood-burning fireplace in the master bedroom, so we did a gas fireplace," adds the designer. "I'm not crazy about the super-modern gas fireplaces, so I wanted to go with more of a Scandinavian look—and that really translated into the rest of the room. We did the gray-painted ceiling mixed with accents like the Gubi sconces and a gray Swedish carpet."
In the junior master—Magel's favorite—the designer mixed large slabs of Carrara marble with a gorgeous streamlined farmhouse style tub. "In all the bathrooms I did the black metal doors for the showers. The secret is really in mixing textures: the metal with the stone and the wood vanities make this space feel clean but still layered and inviting."
Magel's second biggest challenge: striking the right balance between elevated and ostentatious. "The challenge is how do you make a $25 million house feel grand but not stuffy?" she says. "It's not my thing to be stuffy, and besides, it's the Hamptons—it doesn't need to be grand; it's casual here. I was really struggling with that in the beginning: How do I make this house feel like $25 million but still also feel inviting and comfortable?"
In order to layer the right mix of accessories for the space and give it that laid-back layered feeling, Magel started shopping early. "I was collecting things throughout the whole year for accessories. If I went to a flea market, I bought something. If I was online and I saw something, I'd buy it because there was no way that I'd be able to accessorize a 12,000 square-foot-house once I installed it. I had to have all that stuff showing up as I was going."
The guest cottage is a four-bedroom secondary house that's accessible from the main home via a glass-paneled passageway. "In the bathrooms of the guest cottage, I put a stand with a big piece of marble on it, and then I added a mirror with two skinny sconces on each side."
Magel's love for white and neutral interiors might be the perfect strategy for this turnkey beach property, but there's more to the designer's philosophy of color: "I like sophisticated rooms that you don't get sick of," she explains. "If you want a red pillow, you can throw a red or blue pillow in my room, it's not a big deal. But I don't like for those objects to be permanent because I personally get sick of colors after six months, and I don't want to see that color ever again. If you decorate with neutrals, you can just swap accessories. But for the bigger pieces that you have to live with for many years, I like to keep those neutral. And because I don't like the business of seeing pattern other than on a pillow here or there, I still really want to have that room mesmerize people through texture." As far as the MyDomaine team is concerned: mission accomplished.