By Rachel Marlowe
The fashion designer and her husband spent a decade visiting Montauk before purchasing a home in the area in 2017. Now the pair, along with their three children, retreat to the far East End to slow down and enjoy the rhythm this oasis affords them.
Since launching her eponymous line in 1998, Ulla Johnson has become the go-to designer for joyful prints and sculptural silhouettes imbued with a modern, feminine sensibility. During the week, the native New Yorker can be found at her Brooklyn rowhouse with her husband, Zach Miner, and their three children. But come the weekend, the family decamps to the East End. The couple had been visiting Montauk for nearly a decade before buying a place of their own in 2017.
“We were drawn to the great sense of openness that exists here,” says Johnson. “The sky, the sea, the surf, the wildness of being at the very tip of Long Island.” After searching for several months, the pair fell in love with a modern hilltop home offering views of both the ocean and the bay. “It was a bit of an impulse purchase,” she says. “It was so unique to find something designed at that time, in that area, that had so many details that spoke to us: the clean lines, the wraparound windows, the green roof fully in bloom.”
When it came to renovations, Johnson turned to interior designer Alexis Brown, who had worked on their Brooklyn home and designed several of Johnson’s retail spaces, and landscape architect Miranda Brooks, who also created the garden in Johnson’s most recent venture, a Los Angeles flagship boutique in West Hollywood. “We wanted the house to be a weekend oasis from the city, to be relaxing and laid-back but still feel tactile and layered and uniquely our own,” says Johnson. “It is a gathering place for our friends and family and for the collections and treasures we have gathered together through the course of our travels. Each detail has a memory and a story embedded within.”
While in Montauk, Johnson’s rhythm presents a stark contrast to her day-to-day life in the city. “The agenda here is always not much at all,” she says. “We read the paper, spend time outdoors hiking or biking or surfing in the summer, have cozy fires in the winter, and host dinner with friends.” To that end, the one room that is conspicuously absent is an office. “The sound of 'Montauk office' makes me shudder a bit,” she says. “I do have to work here on occasion, but usually that means setting up in the dining area or by the pool. I’m endlessly inspired by the natural world, and the garden and birdsong and sound of the infinity edge waterfall in our pool is so peaceful. It’s certainly a space of creative meditation and inspiration.”
You’re more likely, however, to find Johnson in her cutting garden. “I worked with Miranda to plant it very informally, so things feel quite wild and free. Every weekend we return and something new is in bloom—tulips, fritillarias, and daffodils in the early spring, followed by peonies, dahlias, wild roses, hydrangeas, and Japanese anemones, and hellebores in the winter,” she says. “I am always arranging bits and bobs throughout the house, and it gives me great joy.”
At 29 years old, Tayla Parx has many credits to her name: lauded actor (The Broadway musical Hairspray, the Spinning Gold biopic); Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter for hits such as Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next"; and the brains behind her burgeoning music empire, Taylamade Inc. The native Texan brings the same level of ambition to her "homestead" in the Hamptons, which includes a DIY chicken coop and a music studio housed in an old Airstream.
CULTURED: Tell us about your home music studio, which is housed in a vintage Airstream on your property.
Tayla Parx: I’ve always wanted a camper, and when I was looking at properties, this one already had a 1978 Avion camper. It was honestly meant to be. It’s a place of solitude. My L.A. property has become a place for so many amazing creatives to record their projects in the studio and all that, but this place is meant to recharge whoever steps in.
CULTURED: You refer to your home here as the dojo. Where did that come from, and how would you describe the vibe you were going for?
Parx: I’m influenced by Japandi style. A mixture of that and the idea of wabi-sabi has allowed me the opportunity to find beauty in simplicity, which aligns with the way I like to live here. A dojo is a place to learn, observe, and re-center. I’ve had so much fun experimenting with maximalism and Art Deco in the past, but designing this home has been an incredible creative exercise. Most times an album describes where I am in life, and I know that looking back on this property, I’ll have a very similar feeling.
Photographer Sophie Elgort has spent most summers (and lots of temperate weekends) in the Hamptons since she was born. A few years ago, she and her family bought their own home and have been continuing in the tradition of easygoing entertaining, where there's always room for one more at the table.
CULTURED: Did you have a heavy hand in the design of your home?
Sophie Elgort: No, it's an old house that had been recently renovated while still keeping a lot of the original unique design elements. One of the reasons we bought it was because we loved the design as it was. We actually bought it furnished, too. I didn't want to deal with designing and furnishing a house from the ground up. We have a lot of art, so all the art is ours, and little by little we've replaced the furniture. I also added a swing set that I got at a garage sale, and I have lots of other things I want to do with the property, but for now, it's slow going.
CULTURED: Do you entertain much? If so, what's your go-to meal and style of hosting?
Elgort: I love to entertain, and I'm pretty casual about it. I'll invite 10 people for dinner and not worry about what the meal will be until an hour or so before. I usually do the cooking myself. We put out bottles of wine and glasses for people to help themselves, and we usually have kids and adults together. One of the things I grew up with was mixing generations, and it's something that has stuck. There's always music, candlelight, and an element of chaos that I hope makes people feel at home. I try to enjoy myself too, of course.
New York Sunshine designer John Margaritis is a longtime Hamptons resident who's quick to credit his family for shaping his career trajectory. A testament to his collaborative nature, his new home and studio are intended to be places for experimentation for all makers who'd like to join him there.
CULTURED: You have worked all over the world. Why was it important for you to make the Hamptons your home base?
John Margaritis: When I was younger, all I wanted to do was be in Manhattan. But now that I'm a bit older, I've realized that I want the change of pace offered out here, and I embrace it. My family is here, and being close to my dad's cabinet shop is important because that's where we develop my ideas and bring them from sketches to physical form. We built a shop for my dad, and in the same structure above, I have a white-walled studio and gallery space to display what I'm working on. We need a lot of space for our tools and machinery. The shop allows us to make projects to scale, and the studio allows us to display them in a large, clean space outside a sawdust-filled work setting. I want people I respect to be able to come out here and collaborate with my dad, work with me, and use the space to get creative. I would like to invite people who might not otherwise have the access to machinery and space.
CULTURED: What were your inspirations, from an architectural and design standpoint, for your home and studio?
Margaritis: This property sits on a hill, which most people think is undesirable. But my dad had the vision to build his shop inside the hill, which is how they used to build potato barns out here. There was a lot of what we call "talkitecture," which means no blueprints and a lot of sketches on napkins and a certain amount of yelling at each other at the dinner table. Design decisions were really made on the fly, which is how I like to work. My aesthetic is very minimalist, with clean lines and a lot of concrete and wood. Donald Judd is one of my favorite artists, and seeing his home and studio in Marfa, Texas, inspired me a lot before we started building here.
The co-founder of Aqualille, a hand-painted wallpaper company, finds inspiration in her idyllic surroundings—as well as in the circuit boards of her iPhone. Her Bridgehampton home is always abuzz with family and friends, gathering for a casual pool party or beachside bonfire or a more formal dinner party where performance art is always a possibility.
CULTURED: Your company, Aqualille, makes beautiful hand-painted wallpapers. Where do you find inspiration for new designs and patterns?
Talia Oringer: Nothing interesting happens if you stick only to what you know, so I try to dive into unfamiliar territory every so often, and usually that is where the best inspiration lies. I am drawn to various artists and art forms, from contemporary to old masters, sculpture and architecture to technology, and I enjoy using that breadth of eclecticism to steer new designs. Some of the most incredible gardens I have ever experienced are in the Hamptons. Many of the floral references and hues in our botanical designs are inspired by those very gardens.
CULTURED: What is your favorite space in your home?
Oringer: Wherever my family is. Even if that is in the garage, among four pinball machines and a collection of outdated car seats, I'm there! The media room is also a favorite. It is a multipurpose space in the chicest sense in that it is where we work, play games, entertain, hang with the kids, watch movies, and even have late-night dinners by the bar.
After 13 years of working as an interior designer, the Swiss- and German-raised tastemaker wanted an outlet to present her own design aesthetic, a blend of contemporary and vintage, refined and rustic. Her gallery, Monc XIII, is a platform to experience Esch's textured approach, which is a reflection of her own Sag Harbor home.
CULTURED: Have any new furniture or accessories designers landed on your radar lately?
Natasha Esch: We have just launched a line with ceramic artist Mathilde Martin for Monc XIII. She does beautiful vessels, both as sculptures and for flowers. This summer we will also feature a new Belgian furniture-design firm, Alinea, which makes amazing travertine tables.
CULTURED: Describe your favorite space in your own home and why you like it.
Esch: It's probably my kitchen, which basically looks like my kitchen at Monc XIII. I love to cook, and food is very important to me. I love eating and gathering, whether with my family or with friends. I love shopping mainly at farms when I am out here. The Green Thumb Organic Farm and Amber Waves are two of my favorites. Stuart's Seafood Market in Amagansett has the best key lime pie I have ever tasted, and I buy it often. I love the Wainscott Seafood Shop, and their prepared ceviche is something I am addicted to. I also love our living room. It's a very unusual space for a Hamptons home—it is a double-height space, so the volume and light are just lovely.
A former fashion stylist and editor—and a granddaughter by marriage to style icon Babe Paley—Charmaine Burden knows the importance of a good fit. This summer, the Bridgehampton-based author and entrepreneur launched Hello Tailor, a bespoke service that offers luxury alteration and sartorial advice in the convenience of one's home.
CULTURED: Is there a space in your home where you feel most creative?
Charmaine Burden: I love my vegetable patch. I feel so inspired watching what I've planted grow. I love being out there with my pugs.
CULTURED: What was the impetus for starting your new company, and why does now feel like the right time?
Burden: I started Hello Tailor out of my own frustrations with getting my clothes tailored. My pile of alterations was huge. I had to take in my son's pants to be hemmed. My husband's beloved worn jeans had a giant hole. Every option for tailoring required taking clothes someplace, bringing my family members, and then picking it all up again. I thought, Why isn't there a service that comes to you, pins things, tailors them, and delivers it all back? There was a need for this service, and I will be Hello Tailor's best customer. I have to have almost everything I buy tailored—hemmed, taken in, let out, a lining added, a hole in a coat pocket mended, pockets taken out....
CULTURED: Where do you shop locally for the perfect frock?
Burden: I love Tenet, in Southampton and East Hampton, and Hampton Flea + Vintage.
New York and Southampton-based lighting designer Nathan Orsman's client list—including Ina Garten, Stephen Colbert, and Oprah Winfrey—means a little limelight is as much of an occupational hazard as fluorescent overhead bulbs. The Australian designer worked in tech before moving to New York, where he started his eponymous firm in 2005. Since then he's become known for his precise balance of light and shadow in homes across the Hamptons, including his own.
CULTURED: How was designing the lighting in your own home—are you an easy client?
Nathan Orsman: It was a fun process. We maintained some of the original lighting layout, simply replacing the bulbs with Ketra bulbs, which can mimic daylight and candlelight and change color. We completely changed the lighting in other parts of the house, which allowed me to use some of my favorite fixtures and get creative. For example, for the powder room, our studio made a custom 360-degree linear LED pole that stretches from floor to ceiling, which is one of my favorite details in the whole house.
CULTURED: You are so in tune with the subtle nuances of light. Do you find it true that eastern Long Island has the most glorious light?
Orsman: We definitely have exquisite light out here. Especially in September, when the sky is incredibly crisp, there is a quality that cannot be described in words. My theory is that it has something to do with the two large bodies of water on both sides of Long Island. I think it has influenced me by making me more conscious of how lighting can create that beauty and that moment that is difficult to describe but is somewhat perfect.