June 12, 2017
'Out East' by Jennifer Ash Rudick Tours the Stunning Houses of the Hamptons and the Stories Behind Them
Jennifer Ash Rudick's compendium of beautiful interiors with stories to match, 'Out East: Houses and Gardens of the Hamptons,' hits shelves this July.
by New York Spaces photographer Tria Giovan
NYS: What drew you to writing about the homes and gardens of the Hamptons in your new book, Out East?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: What I find interesting about houses and gardens is that they're biographical and decorative. Discovering the way people—who are lucky enough to have options—live and what they surround themselves with, it completely intriguing and inspiring.
NYS: Over what sort of time period did you research, write, and get to know the designers/architects/homeowners/landscape architects who let you into their homes and visions?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: In Palm Beach—it has been a lifetime of observation since I grew up there. I haven't been coming to the Hamptons for even half as long but have always taken note. More concretely, it took about 28—30 months from book contract to completion.
NYS: We were actually surprised that so many architects of note had designed homes in the Hamptons. Can you name some particular favorite houses that are unexpected in terms of the architects' usual design style?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: Long Island is an outpost for some of the most successful, talented people on earth—and they have the budget to support their vision. They've traveled the world and make educated and inspired choices. I love the houses recently designed by Deborah Berke and James Merrell and Edwina von Gal's designed by Hamilton Smith who worked on the Met Breuer. Peter Stamberg and Paul Aferiat's neon pavillion is mesmerizing. But the houses that were left untouched, Louise Grunwald's and Tom Sheerer's and designed as beach houses by no one in particular, have equal presence.
NYS: Why are gardens so important to you, such as that of landscape designer Alice Ireys' work for Betty Sherrill's home and Robert Dash's foundation, Madoo which remains open for visitors today?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: Gardens, to me, are the envelope of the house. They're the packaging. When inside the house, they serve as an extension. In the summer, gardens serve as additions, outdoor sanctuaries. Creating a pretty garden, big or small, takes time, patience and care. You can't fake it. I never met a gardener I didn't adore; they're like people who love animals, gentle souls.
NYS: We have to say we were enthralled with Louise Grunwald's and Albert Hadley's approach to basically whitewash an entire house, furnishings included and the origin of the home as a tar-paper shack. How did you find out about the home's past and what made you feature it?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: Vendome's publisher, Mark Magowan, friends with Louise. I've been admiring the house from afar. How lucky were we to have access to a house that has never been photographed and was designed by Albert Hadley to be in its element on the beach but also comfortable for some very important but relaxed entertaining—Henry Grunwald was a diplotmat, of course. And the fact that Louise hasn't changed it, but only updated it and enhanced it when needed from wear and tear, means everything.
NYS: Deborah Berke's work on a seaside Sagaponack house blew us away. It felt like a modern version of a country cottage near the sea while also paying tribute to the East End's artful past. What was your favorite aspect of this home?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: Deborah could articulate this better but from a pedestrian's point of view, you never feel like you're inside, yet you feel protected from the elements. Not sure how she achieved a certain coziness, humanity, while making the house feel second to nature.
NYS: Tell us about the magic behind a Port of Missing Men! It felt like a modern day fairy tale with a Colonel wanting to create a modest hunting lodge, Stanford White turning the project down, and regretting it once John Russell Pope's whimsically themed rooms and wings kept growing and growing! What can readers expect to hear of the story past and present?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: First of all, thank you for reading the text! I can't tell you how many well-meaning people tell me, when I get stuck writing, "don't worry, no one reads these books."
Countess Salm says she's a Colonial wife. It's true. She is one with the land and the water out there. It's hundreds of acres and really can exist in its own world. Yet, there is a deli five miles down the road that serves lattes. So it's the best of everything if you ask me. Her children, in their 30s, adore the place and make a point of spending a lot of time there and are preservation-minded so it seems safe for years to come.
NYS: We love the story behind Bayside Cottage. We find the idea of a kit house purchased at the 1939 World Fair and a man returning to his roots quite amazing. What did you most love of this story and what separates this cottage from others in the book?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: Isn't that wonderful? We selected the mix of house based on a certain authenticity you
feel from the moment you step foot inside. This cottage is special because it sits on a big piece of property on the bay. Most people would have built up to the lot line. I can't blame them as prices are so astronomical out here now, but this is a fantastic couple, without children and the one bedroom cottage suits them perfect. It's a rare find. They have sunset cocktails on their dock with their neighbors every Friday.
NYS: We were utterly fascinated by the late Kirk White's travel decorating narrative and the story behind it. What was the most touching or inspirational aspect of this home for you?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: He was the most delightful man. He was so worldly and humble. He passed away before the book was published. It was really all about his life, and a life well lived with a lot of curiosity and engagement. That's what got us. I was tipped off by his pal, Rebecca Chapman, who is president of the Peconic Land Trust. She understood what we wanted to do and connected us with a few real gems.
NYS: We find it highly amusing that Bob and Pam Melet's "epic yard sales" draw the likes of Julian Schnabel, Cynthia Rowley, and Lauren Bush Lauren. What do they sell and what did you think of their home when you first saw it?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: I loved it! But it's not for the faint of heart. The family goes on epic tag sale pilgrimages, even pulling their wonderful daughter, Sunny, out of school to travel. Bob has a warehouse in downtown NYC. The tag sale has everything from old record albums to paintings, chukka boots, to red, white and blue bell bottoms. Something for everyone and things you don't find anywhere else.
NYS: Tell us about why Woody House has attained mythical stature?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: It is the house that defers to its surroundings. It's a relatively humble wooden cottage but
on the ocean and a big pond. Really a priceless setting. It's been layered and layered over time and represents a life well lived. It's completely transports as you look around and see fabrics from India, paintings of scenes of the Middle East, gardens that refer to Italy, France and England. But it's all been done with the distinct imprint of Katherine Rayner so it works together.
NYS: What was surprising about Muriel Brandolini's home? We cannot get over how beautiful that indoor pool is!
Jennifer Ash Rudick: It's spectacular and well-used! If you know Muriel, nothing is surprising about that house because you're prepared to be wowed. She has great range and imagination. Maybe the biggest surprise is how practical Muriel is, every inch of that house has a purpose and is so well planned from the placement of the bedrooms and the dining room to the entrance hall that doubles as a library and office.
NYS: We love Peter Stramberg and Paul Aferiat's Shelter Island getaway. Did you have any qualms about introducing such a different aesthetic into the mix?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: No a single qualm! I tracked them down and cold-called them after seeing the exterior of the house.
NYS: We were also very excited to see Mary Heilmann's studio. How did you choose to feature hers from all the artist studios out on the East End?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: The photographer had already shot the house, so that made our lives easy—we really lucked into it. But what I discovered is she is so friendly, open and without pretense. She was happy to have the pictures used for the book. She answers her own emails and opens with "hey, it's Mary." We had already shot Donald Sultan's house. He is the same way. They are both major talents but without major egos. They're old school.
NYS: What was the most satisfying and/or enjoyable part about writing this book?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: ALL of the above.
NYS: Do you have a favorite experience when writing the book?
Jennifer Ash Rudick: It's a joy to work with Vendome, always. And Tria Giovan, the photographer, is amazing. I'm always amazed by the generosity of people who share their houses. Of course some do it for business reasons but it still takes a lot of time and effort on their part and they do it happily because people are really proud of their houses and in many ways they represent the life the people have built. What could be more interesting than seeing a real cross section from the Halsey family, 12th generation farmers, to a banker who provides a major architect the space and budget to do her thing.
NYS: When and where can people find your book?
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