A Family Turned This Barn into a Creative Abode

In Westhampton Beach, Arianne de Kwiatkowski turns a centuries-old barn into a family-friendly crash pad.
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Assorted pieces from Sister Parish, the family’s onetime decorator, and a canvas by Arianne de Kwiatkowski anchor a sitting area on the upper floor. Photographs by Hulya Kolabas.

Arianne de Kwiatkowski has lived in some of the most beautiful houses in the world, but it was an 1800s barn in Westhampton Beach that stole her heart. Part of a working farm and later a gentlemen’s club, today it is a beloved home where de Kwiatkowski and her family spend their quality time and feel most connected.

In 2010, while she was considering buying another, grander residence nearby, an inspector mentioned the barn, saying it was a diamond in the rough that she should take a look at. “I saw it and thought, How cool,” says de Kwiatkowski, who had grown up in Quiogue and lived everywhere from Switzerland to Lexington, Kentucky, and Los Angeles. “I wanted to return home. The barn had wall-to-wall carpeting and the air of beer parties with a bunch of college students. I thought it would be a fun, creative project for me and my kids.”

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A work by de Kwiatkowski’s brother Conrad hangs in the entryway. Photographs by Hulya Kolabas.

De Kwiatkowski doesn’t shy away from DIY, and the renovation process was literally hands-on. “I paint and caulk,” she reports. “We do everything on our own, which is really about the energy of this place. It’s my Hamptons chic—even though my nails are a wreck!” Traditional hostess gifts are typically a bottle of wine or flowers, but guests of de Kwiatkowski’s bring an antique door or help paint a mural. Despite the considerable repairs on the place, de Kwiatkowski stopped at moving or lifting and turning the structure. “Barns are built the way they are in order to take advantage of the breeze, and the cupolas circulate the air.”

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Vintage barstools from Kentucky sit at a French bar. The artwork behind the bar, an oil painting by Helen Hayse, was a gift from Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky, where Arianne de Kwiatkowski’s family once kept their horses. Photographs by Hulya Kolabas.

Some changes were indisputably necessary—de Kwiatkowski had to kick out a family of raccoons and update the kitchen—whereas others played up the fun factor, such as turning one room into a squash court and creating a climbing wall. In the soaring upstairs level, she has kept a row of cedar-clad bedrooms lining one wall opposite three matching bathrooms, which had been added in the 1950s when the structure was a gentlemen’s club. The grand plan for the main living space below: Paint it all white and fill it with an eclectic mix of family objects. “Everything here is about art and the furniture, including pieces from my parents’ homes,” she says. “It’s always changing and a constant work in progress.

“We’re all kind of artists in our own way,” she continues. Work by her daughter, designer and artist Anya Molyviatis, adorns the entry and dining wall; her sister Lulu de Kwiatkowski’s bedding, designed for Lulu DK for Matouk, adorns the beds; her son repaired a beat-up pool table and helped make a new backgammon set; and her own tailoring skills are often put to the test in a sewing studio upstairs.

An equestrian theme ties everything together, from old carriage stall doors to mementos culled from her family’s illustrious history. De Kwiatkowski’s father, Henryk de Kwiatkowski, was a celebrated aircraft broker who played polo and owned racehorses. Photos of his Belmont Stakes winners Danzig Connection and Conquistador Cielo hang on the wall, and his daughter has repurposed saddle pads throughout the barn as a sort of tribute. “I have an eye for finding another use for things,” comments de Kwiatkowski, who has ridden horses since her youth and still show-jumps today. “I hate throwing things away—at least things that have a history. I’m not hanging on to the past. I’m celebrating beauty.”

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A chest of drawers in the bar area. Photographs by Hulya Kolabas.

Other historic grace notes come courtesy of the legendary Calumet Farms in Lexington, Kentucky, which the de Kwiatkowski family once owned. These include pieces by their decorator, Sister Parish, such as a chest of drawers and notably a large area rug now adorning the upper level. If only rugs could talk. “A previous owner, Mrs. [Lucille] Markey, was the mistress of Calumet for 50 years and put Lexington on the social map—it was so beautiful and glamorous,” de Kwiatkowski muses. “Elizabeth Arden and Aly Kahn were there, and they all said, ‘Aly, darling,’ hence the name for their last great horse, Alydar.” After de Kwiatkowski’s family had sold Calumet, she returned for what became known as the “great eagle heist” to rescue a cast-iron eagle from a neglected building. Its regal wingspan now looms from a beam above the living room.

A former chicken coop on the other side of the pool has been winterized for year-round living, incorporating some reclaimed wood from the barn, but it’s the latter where de Kwiatkowski’s spirit is at its most active. “I feel like I am nursing this lovely place back to life,” she says. “The space is so grand and alive when my children and nieces and nephews visit, filling it up with joy and laughter.”

The print version of this article appears with the headline: Barn Raising.