For Andrea Stark, the same principle of generosity that encapsulates her gracious entertaining spirit also served as a guiding force when it came to the creation of her Hamptons home. A devoted philanthropist, Andrea has been a longtime chair of such causes as Citymeals on Wheels, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, and Tri-County Animal Rescue, on whose behalf she regularly hosts events. Along with her husband, John, who is the second-generation president of Stark, his family’s 83-year-old textiles company, she is fully enmeshed in the design industry. So when it came time to imagine interiors for the new-build, modern barn house that the couple purchased in 2018, clearly just one interior designer wouldn’t do.
Fortunately, Andrea happens to have two dear friends who were happy to assist her with her vision for a beach house that melds breeziness with collection-worthy furniture and eye-catching contemporary art.
“Philosophically, I think people should not work for friends,” says Penny Drue Baird, the author of four books on decorating and a longtime friend of Andrea’s. “But there’s a beauty to working with someone you know extremely well.”
Ilene Wetson, who was Andrea’s maid of honor and who worked for the architect Peter Marino for more than a decade, calls her friend and client “very, very courageous and adventuresome” when it comes to design. “She likes the idea of layering and making it better and moving things around,” she says.
Both Baird and Wetson have contributed to past homes for the Starks in places as varied as Manhattan; Palm Beach; Stowe, Vermont; and Vail, Colorado. In each case, Andrea has expressed her own hands-on ideas, and this Hamptons endeavor was no exception. For more than 20 years, the couple had owned a getaway in the area built by architect Addison Mizner and filled with chintzes and toiles, courtesy of Baird. With an eye toward a newer and sharper structure, they bought this mid-construction property that promised light and youthfulness. “I wanted a house that was modern and relevant, but comfortable,” explains Andrea, who has four grandchildren between her daughter, Ashley, the creative director of Stark, and her son, Austin, who works at Stark and is also a filmmaker.
Wetson came on board while the house was still being built to help with feedback on floor colors, lighting, faucets, medicine cabinets, and bathrooms (all of which are in Caesarstone for practicality). With her guidance, the Starks began to furnish the space with pedigreed midcentury and Scandinavian furniture, punctuated with modern and contemporary art by names like John Baldessari, Rob Pruitt, and Sterling Ruby. The foyer has a pair of Guillerme et Chambron chairs; just behind them hangs a joyful pink Donald Robertson drawing—executed on the back of a pizza box—that Andrea picked up on a whim while shopping at Bergdorf Goodman. In a hallway hangs a blue-and-red geometric painting by Neil Williams, one of a pair that Andrea purchased for $400 apiece a few years back on West Palm Beach’s South Dixie Highway antiques row. (Works by Williams now go at auction for easily 300 times that amount.)
The ground floor features four flowing social spaces. While on a 2019 trip to the Paris design fair Maison & Objet, Andrea asked Baird to help outfit these public areas. Baird grounded the light-filled living room with two custom semicircular sofas covered in dual tones of the same nubby textile; a trio of vintage droplet-shaped brass-and-glass cocktail tables; and a silver Stark carpet to finish the space. (Unsurprisingly, all of the luxuriously cozy fabrics throughout the home are from Stark brands like Scalamandré, and John hand-selected each and every Stark floorcovering.) A playful Gilbert & George painting hangs in the library, with its custom mohair sofa and black leather chairs found in a shop on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. Meanwhile, in the sunroom, Andrea invites friends for rounds of canasta in a space anchored by a Roger Capron ceramic cocktail table.
Upstairs, where there are five bedrooms, relaxation reigns. Austin’s room has a driftwood four-poster bed, a pinstriped carpet, and surfboards for a cooler vibe, while a guest bedroom has a silver textual artwork by Rob Wynne, an Edward Wormley bench, vintage Marge Carson nightstands, and faux bois ceramic lamps from the antiques dealer Glen Leroux, whom Andrea met and befriended at a design fair at New York City’s Park Avenue Armory.
Yes, nearly every facet of this Hamptons house is a testament to Andrea’s inability—endearingly so—to separate the business of design from the deeply personal act of creating a living space. After all, what is a home if not a place to share with the people you adore? “I love my friends and family,” says Andrea, who currently counts Palm Beach as her primary residence. “I wanted a place where the world would seem calmer.”
This story originally appeared in the September 2021 issue of ELLE DECOR. SUBSCRIBE
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