The Laundress Co-Founder Gwen Whiting Invites You Into Her 1920s Cottage
In Bridgehampton, Gwen Whiting gives her dream home a sparkling finish.
Many people have a vision of their soul mate from an early age. For Gwen Whiting, who co-founded the company The Laundress, the plant-based, eco-friendly line of cleaning products fetishized by style-conscious neat freaks around the globe, and knows a thing or two about manifesting, the path to personal happiness couldn’t have been clearer. “My life goal,” she says, “was to have a house in the Hamptons.” Whiting achieved her happily ever after through years of hard work and scrupulous saving while she was living in a 350-square-foot rent-controlled apartment in the West Village.
Before starting The Laundress, Whiting worked as a senior designer for Ralph Lauren Home. During this time, she often visited her boss, mentor, and good friend Ellen O’Neill, who had a home in Bridgehampton that often doubled as a location for photo shoots.
“The story of my home is one of goals, growth, and love,” says Whiting, who took it as a sign that her new house, a classic 1920s charmer in Bridgehampton Village, came with two sets of washing machines. “The previous owner had a beautiful slop sink set up on the back porch. For her, it was for pottery, and for me, it was the hand-washing suite. The house was something I could start with, but also grow with.” Having collected items for years from Ralph Lauren, as well as antiques and family treasures (including a few pieces from O’Neill), she didn’t have to buy a single stick of furniture, only mattresses, when she moved in.
Whiting’s stars also aligned fortuitously when she met her husband, James Dale, when he was newly arrived from London to New York and taking his first trip east on the Long Island Rail Road. The couple, whose welcome mat bears the portmanteau “Whitingdale,” married in 2016, and not long after, Whiting undertook a renovation that would turn the house into a sanctuary of soothing energy, peace, and joy, not to mention the most beautifully appointed laundry room in the Hamptons.
The home’s original footprint and façade have been retained, although the structure is now double in size and also includes a new pool and pool house. “The history and charm are still there,” comments Whiting, who sold The Laundress in 2019 and now has a consulting role, “but the open layout makes it feel updated and modern.” Her partner in crime: John Hulka, a dear friend from Ralph Lauren and the architect of The Laundress store and offices. “John was used to my calling at odd hours,” Whiting recalls with a smile, “as I’d FaceTime him from a basement hardware store in Paris and ask how many knobs I needed for the cabinets.”
The design palette, which can justifiably be described as clean, is as pleasing as a crisply pressed white cotton shirt. “Every floor and wall in the house is white,” Whiting says jokingly. “I am very close with my painter.”
The white lacquer on the floors, developed from a special formula including boat paint, came to Whiting via her chum Paul Ebbitts, another Ralph Lauren compatriot. Whiting and Dale’s love of cooking and entertaining have made the central open kitchen a focal point, with warm unlacquered brass details and taps from Aston Matthews in London, sparkling copper pots on open shelves, and a gleaming Lacanche range. And peppered throughout the home are “the small luxuries,” as Whiting calls them, “everything I’ve collected and just loved.”
It’s a treasure trove, to be sure: vintage Baccarat ashtrays, a whimsical set of family-heirloom watermelon dishes acquired with coupons from a Wisconsin grocery store (complete with a recipe for marshmallow fruit dip), and a delicate china tea set from her Aunt Eno.
A romantic English countryside vibe prevails, from a luxurious tub in the main bedroom to climbing fragrant roses on the pool house, with natural motifs being an essential component of the decor. “I was drawn to beautiful bird prints from Bennison and Scalamandré, since we greatly enjoy all the bird life in our yard, from cardinals to hummingbirds,” says Whiting. “And we have kumquat trees flanking the dining room, which we have managed to keep alive since the day of our wedding.”
Creature comforts of the non-organic kind include the new wellness center in the basement, which boasts an infrared sauna, a steam shower, and a workout center. And an adjacent room contains dual home offices where “Meg,” Whiting’s bust form for draping that she has had since college, holds court. For Whiting, it seems, you can take it with you, no matter what your destiny might be. “I lived in the house for a while before deciding on its next incarnation,” she muses, “and now I’m stepping away and taking some time to see what comes next.”
The print version of this article appears with the headline: Squeaky Clean.
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