HC&G Celebrates 20 Years of Decorating

Jeff Lincoln reflects on the art of interior design.

I got my first taste of the Hamptons design scene in 1988, when I was invited to participate in the prestigious Rogers Memorial Library Decorator Show House in Southampton. That year, the event took place at Keewaydin, a magnificent shingled 1890s mansion on Halsey Neck Lane. English country decorating ruled the day, and one of its masters, the legendary Mark Hampton, did the baronial foyer.

One Saturday before the show opened, I watched in amazement as, shirtsleeves rolled up, he hung artworks salon-style along the staircase. The walls had been sheathed in a dazzling new pale yellow finish by the venerable painting firm Simonson & Baric. At the time, it was revelatory; today, it’s a ubiquitous look commonly known as stucco Veneziano. Whenever he drove a nail into the surface, I cringed. At one point, he caught me spying on him, and I promptly scurried to the back of the house, where I was doing a small room in the Swedish Gustavian style.

Today, a more modern palette holds sway on the East End, although no single type of decorating will ever define the Hamptons. Its architectural styles are too varied and compelling, as are its residents. Internationally respected architects have descended on our shores to display their worldview, and equally well known art collectors have arrived, along with their cutting-edge aesthetics. My own shingled Southampton cottage has barely changed and still continues to please me, but I’m also exhibiting design and art pieces a few blocks away at my gallery in a converted 1890s power plant. The times change, and so do people with them, but some things, like good decorating and good taste, remain the same.

The print version of this article appears with the headline: The Art of Interior Design.