Anthony Baratta Puts His Trademark Spin On a Classic Hamptons Beach House
When longtime clients of Anthony Baratta purchased property in the Hamptons for a summer vacation home, they immediately contacted the design dynamo to help them create a suitable manor for their large family. Working with architect Ernest Schieferstein, Baratta and his former partner William Diamond concocted an imposing home with two gambrel-roofed wings separated by ample public spaces. This being the East End, cedar shingles were the natural choice for the exterior.
“The vogue for Shingle Style cottages comes and goes in the Hamptons,” says Baratta of the material that one sees more often than not in this neck of the woods. Despite its nod to tradition, the home boasts a surprisingly contemporary appeal, with more sizable rooms, each flowing into the next to encourage the easy summer lifestyle that any true beach house should accommodate. “It’s not a historic replica, but a 21st-century home, with an established style that I tried to emphasize in a modern way."
The clients’ directive from the get-go was to include expansive spaces for entertaining, with elegant finishes (standard procedure for Baratta) and a more reserved color palette than the decorator typically applies. His clients also wanted to see the adjacent pond from as many vantage points as possible. Those views of the still waters, and the ocean nearby, informed Baratta’s process as well as the foundation for his color story: Gray-green blues used generously throughout, accompanied by sandy beige where appropriate.
For a house by the sea, blue is almost a given, and it happens to be Baratta’s favorite band of the color spectrum. “I use every shade and iteration of blue,” he says enthusiastically, noting that his affection for it is purely intuitive. “I do think people look good in blue rooms, though it’s trickier to tame the color than it might seem. Getting the right blue can really take some effort—we must have used ten different samples in the living room alone!”
High drama is a focal point here, with the living room serving as a prime example. Two mantels fabricated of Georgian Baltic pine lie at either end of an enormous beamed hall, an innovative gesture that ties together the very large space. “There is nothing better than a room with two fireplaces,” Baratta opines. “It’s a great template for creating two separate seating arrangements.” That the double-height room is bathed in soft blue, with a finish of white in the stretch to the ceiling, is no surprise. The home draws from 18th-century early American residences, with Baratta citing influences from both Colonial Williamsburg and Monticello, as well as from master revivalists such as McKim, Mead & White.
Baratta further sets the stage with pedigreed antiques and certain design conventions of the period, like the compass motif stained into the bare wood floor under the turret in the stair hall (an elegant staircase spirals off it to the upper rooms). This space—and others in the house—were reconstructed during the building process to accommodate a handful of showpiece antiques. “We designed the stair hall around an enormous grandfather clock,” says Baratta, who adds that the dining room also required revision after he and his clients returned from a buying trip to London with a nine-foot-long sideboard. “We needed to widen the niche in order for the piece to fit inside it.” The recessed area is now covered in antique Delft tiles (a detail Baratta admits lifting from a Stanford White house in Smithtown).
While his clients were well equipped on the furniture front, Baratta still found it difficult to find the perfect piece for every space. “One of the challenges of furnishing a home of this scale,” he explains, “is locating older items that are big enough for newer, larger rooms.” The solution? When a space was lacking, Baratta simply made something to fit. Clients often ask him for custom designs; here, these take the form of everything from sofas to fabric to pillows to tables, the latter of which are reproductions created by the designer and built by master craftsman Thomas W. Newman.
But of all the challenges faced in the construction and design of the home, Baratta found that reining in his customary ebullient use of color, a daunting proposition, was easier than he had thought—and oddly satisfying. “It wasn’t easy for me to give up the whole range of warmer colors,” he says, “but something told me it was the right thing to do. This house is extremely peaceful. What could be better than blue?”
A version of this article appeared in the June 1 2014 issue of Hamptons Cottages & Gardens with the headline: Tradition With a Twist.