Tour a Whitewashed Southampton Home
Makeup mogul Sue Devitt has given glowing skin to Cameron Diaz, smoky eyes to Uma Thurman, and any number of enhancements to Madonna for the pop icon’s infamous image transformations. But three years ago, when planning the renovation and decoration of her 1940s rambler in Southampton, this master of shading and blending vibrant color chose to stick to mostly white.
“As an artist, you have to withdraw to find inspiration, and to some degree, I need to be deprived in order to create,” says Devitt, an Adelaide, Australia, native who began her career as an assistant to makeup maestro François Nars before going solo and launching her own makeup line in 1999, which is now sold at 400 venues worldwide, including Barneys New York, Harvey Nichols, QVC, the W Away spas, and the Ritz-Carlton hotels.
With success came real estate, and in 2009, after living in a shingled cottage in Sag Harbor for ten years, she purchased her new Southampton home, which sits on a quiet one-way street close to the beach, its crisp exterior and simple green plantings barely hinting at the subtly transporting experience Devitt has created within. “I hope there’s nothing ordinary in this house,” she says. “Because if there is, please point it out and I’ll have it removed immediately!”
When it comes to decor, Devitt might hold back on color, but she lavishes the senses with texture. Her sisal carpets are wool-blend (i.e., splinter-free), wall coverings have the feel of sea grass, the ceiling of the outdoor meditation room is lined with imported African thatch, and in the kitchen, an island of poured and polished concrete glistens “like a calm lake at the end of the day.”
Light is in abundance here. Devitt busted open the “little old granny flat with the best bones” by adding 16 French doors and 24 windows, flooding the interiors with sunlight in a way that recalls Southern California or the South of France (Devitt has spent quality time in both locations). Even in the cooler months, a double fireplace open to both the kitchen and the living room confers a cozy glow.
Mementos of international travel, both for work and for pleasure, take Devitt into the mind-set of getting away from it all. Among her favorite pieces are two patterned Masai warrior shields that adorn the living room walls, a praying monk statue from Burma, and a carved Indian chest in the foyer. Three African skateboards bought on a roadside in Tanzania have been lined up above the fireplace for a casually sculptural effect.
The serene backdrop allows Devitt to focus, undistracted, on what is most important to her during her free time—playing tennis, inviting friends over to cook (“Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian . . . dishes that have a spicy or flavorful quality”), and meditating daily. She has collected many Buddhas over the years and dispersed them throughout the house, including a seated Thai Buddha in the meditation room and a standing Buddha from Myanmar in the garden.
“I love to sit and just observe things,” Devitt says, adding that one of her meditations involves simply appreciating the quiet beauty that she has created in her home. “As a busy New Yorker running a global company, I don’t want to bypass those moments.” Even so, Devitt took care that her predominantly white home didn’t fall into bohemian-luxe clichés. Forgoing typical white floors, she opted for a deeply hued combo of walnut and espresso. (“No surprise there,” she says, “the shade was a custom blend!”) And instead of a clear crystal chandelier above the dining room table, she went for sleek black cast iron. “I just wanted to rock it out a little bit. There’s got to be a little bit of glitz somewhere, a tiny bit of sexy. Actually, a lot!”
A version of this article appeared in the September/October 2012 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: A Girl Names Sue.