Glen Cove Classic

Near the Long Island town where he grew up, third-generation decorator Jeff Lincoln takes on a project that feels right at home

I knew I would kick myself for suggesting to the editor of this magazine that I write the copy for this story. Before becoming a decorator, I was a journalist, and I thought it would be fun to write about my own project. But I forgot that writing is hard work, as is decorating. As Dorothy Parker famously remarked, “I hate writing, I love having written.” Her adage could be amended to “I hate decorating, I love having decorated,” and still hold true.

Sure enough, I’ve temporarily put my business on the back burner to do some research at the Locust Valley Historical Society. My mission is to dig up some information about Meadowspring, the neighboring Gold Coast enclave (technically part of Glen Cove) where the home on these pages is located. The house was built in 1923 by Mott B. Schmidt, the well-known Gatsby-era architect who designed homes for many leading New York plutocrats of the day. And the place does not disappoint. Designed to riff on various English styles, it has wonderfully proportioned rooms and superb architectural details that are rarely seen in the McMansions of today.

The furnishings avoid the trap of undisciplined
eclecticism so common in today’s decorating

The seven-bedroom, six-and-a-half-bath house is essentially one room deep, so sunlight pours in from all sides, making it a happy and cheerful home. My clients are close friends who work in the real estate business, and they know how to collaborate with a decorator—they’re good at communicating what they like and smart enough to let me get on with it once a plan has been hatched. Since this is one of three projects I’ve done for them over the years, I had already earned their confidence.

I usually like to kick things off with a bang, starting at the front door, and in this case it came courtesy of a striking damask wallpaper from Cole & Son. Its bold scale makes it equal parts historical and contemporary. On the wall I hung a trio of prints by Robert Mangold, thereby underscoring the classic-meets-modern leitmotif of the house’s design. The foyer opens onto a larger reception area, where I had my very talented painter Yefim Tsisin glaze the walls in a custom stripe, picking up and continuing the colors from the wallpaper. A fabulous table from Niall Smith, the prominent New York dealer, dominates the center of the room, with a quartet of Billy Baldwin dining chairs arranged around it and a Richard Serra abstract painting providing vivid contrast. The chairs have casters and can be pulled into the adjacent den whenever additional seating is needed; inside this chocolate-brown-glazed room, generous upholstery from George Smith, including a huge ottoman, provides a soft, seductive foil for the graphic punch of a suite of black-and-white photos.

The house is essentially one room deep,
so sunlight pours in from all sides

In the dining room, also located off the foyer, I introduced a lighter palette, starting with Scalamandré’s classic bamboo wallpaper. A set of Josef Albers prints hung randomly around the room à la Jeffrey Bilhuber continues the theme of combining contemporary art with traditional pieces, such as a Swedish dining table bought in Los Angeles and a French painted sideboard from New York’s Objet Plus Antiques. As with many of the furnishings selected for this project, they are characterized by neoclassical styling, in keeping with the home’s architectural detailing. This approach is intentional, to avoid the trap of undisciplined eclecticism so common in today’s decorating.

Designed to riff on various English styles,  
the house has superb architectural details

The living room is the home’s pièce de résistance. I painted its magnificent wood paneling a chalky white—giving it a clean, crisp, modern feel—and designed a huge custom wool flatweave area rug from Shyam Ahuja, which holds the large space together. Steven Jonas fabricated some exceedingly comfortable sofas and club chairs that make the room both cozy and inviting and a delight to look at. With plenty of space for circulating during cocktail parties, the room is intentionally spare and carefully edited, so as not to detract from its great bones and the beautiful light that cascades through the windows. Like all good decorating, I’ve learned, it’s what you leave out that’s as important as what you put in.