by Courtney M. Holbrook
What is home but a sanctuary from the outside world? A place where owners can find comfort in the familiar tropes of personal life?
At the annual Hamptons Designer Showhouse, the idea of creating a home is a task given to a slate of interior designers who make their portion of it what they will.
Opening to the public on Sunday, July 24 (with a special Gala Preview Cocktail Party Saturday, July 23 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.), this year’s six-week Showhouse is on Scuttle Hole Road in Bridgehampton and each participating designer has been given a space to design however he or she chooses.
“I’m a fan of taking a story — a concept — for a room,” said Gideon Mendelson, an interior designer for the Mendelson Group. “Working on [the ShowHouse] allowed me to be creative, to think about what I wanted to give a family that would live in this area.”
Mendelson’s space is the back staircase and second-floor landing of the house. Despite its small dimensions, Mendelson appreciated the challenge to “really take charge of the design.”
“With a Showhouse, you can be absolutely creative, even if it’s difficult,” he said. “You can create a theme that’s completely yours, not determined by an individual client.”
Theme flows through the entirety of Mendelson’s design. In his vision, a narrow staircase and non-rectangular landing have been transformed into a concise work of art centered on the notion of aviation.
“When I looked at this space, I immediately thought of this idea of taking flight,” Mendelson said. “You leave the stairs for this landing pad, where people can come together to relax.”
The “landing pad” is Mendelson’s name for the second-floor landing. He was inspired by the term itself, where “landing” meant “aviation theme,” and “pad” meant “a place to chill out.” The staircase “ignites” the owners up to the landing pad, where they can relax in an environment that combines comfort with exhilarating beauty.
It was important to Mendelson that the aviation theme be present, but not so much as to overwhelm. The grass cloth wallpaper on the stairwell has pale green and yellow tones, but for a touch of originality, Mendelson drilled solid gold metal-heads into the wallpaper.
“It’s actually pretty subtle,” he said. “But if you look closely, it’s almost similar to the exterior of a plane.”
On the wall of the stairwell is mounted what seems like a not-so-subtle allusion — a giant propeller. Yet, the deep rich color of the wood and smooth curves of the sculpture make it invitingly subtle.
Once the viewer steps up to the landing pad, they may be surprised by the emphasis on comfort that shines through the soaring concept. The round, low-to-the-ground easy chair is pale green and deliciously soft. The low white sofa next to the rectangular desk and white ottoman is vintage flair with family coziness. It’s as though a set from “Mad Men” jumped into the Hamptons and invited grandparents and children.
“Honestly, that’s what I imagined for this space — a family coming together,” he said. “Maybe a grandmother reading to her grandchild.”
That theme of family is carefully arranged in the space. On the light green chair sits a copy of “Le Petit Prince” by French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. On a coffee table across from the white sofa sits a Scrabble board. Even the family accessories maintain the aviation theme; “Le Petit Prince” was chosen for its themes of “enlightenment through exploration,” according to Mendelson. The words on the Scrabble board spell out “propeller,” “aviation” and “terminal.”
For the adults in the room, the art keeps with the sky-high theme. One photograph show a man about to alight from a tree, his arms outstretched as though he were flying. Other photographs show a woman departing from a plane, and a man in an ancient, almost cyber-punk aircraft.
“It’s just this constant evolution of flight that you see in this space,” Mendelson said. “This space is an ensemble, it tells a story, it has a plot.”
In line with the space’s collection of family comfort with aesthetic singularity are the shapes used throughout the room. Mendelson worked with round and X shapes; the round chair and lamps coincide with an X-shaped ottoman design and an X-shaped ceiling lamp. Individual lamps on the ceiling have round, hard metal circular formations; when the viewer looks up, they appear as “lights on a tarmac, a runway,” according to Mendelson.
Mendelson, however, still insisted that the space was suitable for typical Hamptons living.
“I deliberately chose colors that would also reflect a sort of beach aesthetic — teal, blue-green, chartreuse — it’s a calm palette,” he said. “You could easily see this space as suitable for a fisherman, as well as a pilot.”
Mendelson continues to work at his Manhattan-based design firm, and spends summers in Sagaponack. But he looks at the Showhouse experience as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
“I was able to tell this story — offer this idea of mine to other families … There’s a lot of eye candy, something’s there for everyone,” he said.
The Hamptons Designer Showhouse (1224 Scuttle Hole Road, Bridgehampton) is open daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 24 to September 4. Admission is $30. Proceeds benefit Southampton Hospital. Tickets to Saturday’s preview start at $750 for two. Call 237-1475 to reserve.