Hamptons Edition Design

Inside Designer Kelly Behun's Private Hamptons Retreat and Rituals


Sarah Harrelson: Where is your favorite space to get your ideas flowing?

Kelly Behun: Anywhere from walking on the beach, riding my bike into town, or visiting friends for dinner. For me, the ideas flow when I see something that triggers me—in a good way. So the flow is most active when I’m in motion, seeing different things in succession, and then they evoke or connect to something else... like a branch that could be a door handle, a shell that could be a sink. Then I love being back in my little home office, which overlooks a grove of honey locust trees that create the prettiest dappled light through the window. It’s there where I like to pull together all the disparate thoughts into something more concrete, or at least that’s the goal.

Harrelson: What is your favorite room in the house?

Behun: Wherever my boys are, and by that I mean my husband and sons. They bring an energy to a room that even the finest decor cannot. There is nothing that compares to the vibe that the right mix of souls can bring to a room, and they are my three favorite humans. I love our conversations and the family dynamic and seeing the charming young men my sons have become.

Harrelson: What is your morning ritual?

Behun: I start my day with a tried-and-true mix of anxiety and guilt—with the guilt coming from feeling anxious in the first place. It’s a heady brew and jump-starts my mornings without a need for caffeine. I think it comes from being so busy, which is an old chestnut of a cliché at this point, because I don’t know anyone anymore who isn’t busy, and to be honest, the thought of not being busy is even more stressful. Waking up in the Hamptons, though, exerts a pull toward the serene.


Harrelson: Where and when do you make the time or space to be creative?

Behun: I know that some people are able to successfully schedule their creative work, writers especially, but I have never figured out how to do it myself. For me, it’s a window best left open, always.

Harrelson: Where do you like to entertain?

Behun: I love to have small dinner parties around the dining table I made some years ago. It’s still one of my favorite pieces. The table was inspired by the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx, and it’s meant to capture his unique way with nature. The table’s wood top is an organic, meandering shape. Over the years, I have found that it invites the people sitting around it to be at slightly unconventional angles, which in turn creates a looser, more convivial feel, and I really love that.

Harrelson: Does your mindset shift when you are in the Hamptons?

Behun: In the city, I marvel at the built environment, the almost man-over-nature aspect of it all and the "take your breath away" sweep of Manhattan’s grand skyline. Here in Long Island, I am reminded of the overwhelming beauty of nature, the realization that the ocean we are fortunate to be near could, without too much effort, just wash away everything we’ve built and amassed and are so impressed with, and that’s a powerfully humbling reminder. We are so lucky to be a part of the environment here—the ocean, beaches, bays, dunes, farmland, and woods. There is a remarkable variety to it all that makes this part of Long Island extremely special.


Harrelson: What’s your favorite recent addition to your home?

Behun: We are in the process of installing a beautiful Michael Heizer sculpture comprising a large boulder balanced improbably on two intersecting steel plates. My husband and I have been fans of his work since visiting his massive lifelong project, City, some years ago in Nevada. I have always found his work really poetic and powerful in its simplicity. It feels quintessentially American.

Harrelson: Do you have a piece of art or design that generates a lot of conversation?

Behun: We have a 14-foot-tall metal chair that we call the lifeguard chair in our backyard. I had conceived it to be more of a sculptural piece silhouetted against the dune, but it’s also functional and over the years has become a favorite spot that guests naturally gravitate to. It has simple ladder-like rungs that you climb to get up to the seat, and for those who take the journey, the reward is a gorgeous view southwest over the water.

While growing up, we used to spend time over the summers in Bethany Beach, Delaware, and I remember loving the simple white lifeguard chairs that dotted the beach at regular intervals. I especially liked how they looked when empty at dusk, when all the lifeguards were off duty. The lifeguard chairs were like beautiful lonely sentinels, and I guess that vision always stuck with me. I did a sketch and then had mine made by Gabrielle Shelton, a wonderful sculptor and metalsmith in Brooklyn.


Harrelson: Do you have a ritual that’s specific to your time at your Hamptons home?

Behun: Afternoon napping on my screened porch feels so nostalgic and restorative. We used to have a screened porch at the house where I grew up near Pittsburgh, and that was my favorite room in the house during the summer. It was filled with potted plants, wicker seating, and the biggest jade plant I’ve ever seen. No matter where a screened porch might be, it always takes me back to the one of my childhood. That’s what I adore about design: the power to evoke those memories from long ago.

Harrelson: What’s your favorite way to entertain outdoors?

Behun: There’s nothing like a beach bonfire with friends. I do a mean set up with rugs and cushions and a well-constructed fire to make it all look very impromptu, even though it’s not. We did one once where we dug out large, opposing curved benches in the sand and covered them with throws and rugs and pillows and had a big fire in the middle. There was a full moon, and it was altogether the most magical effect. Nights like that bring out the best in people and create memories that are etched somewhere deep forever.