Design: David Netto
When interior designer and New York Times T Magazine writer David Netto purchased a hexagonal house on stilts in the dunes of Amagansett on Long Island, his first instinct was to do nothing. So for six years, as he watched the area around him go through what he calls "fancification," he did nothing at all. He simply enjoyed the house for all of its nuances and quirks. But then, the architect Will Meyer, with whom Netto often collaborates, came to him and offered a gift.
"It pained Will to see me not doing anything to fix up the house, year after year, and all this time we were doing these incredibly stylish and put-together collaborations for other clients. He pulled me aside and told me he had a present for me in mind. He offered to do a quick and easy fix up of the house for a cost I could live with, in less than a year. I didn't think we could make a beautiful house without tearing it down and starting again. He convinced me otherwise and we were off — it pretty much started off as a bet," says Netto.
The house, built in 1980, is hexagonal and was always hexagonal. "It's sort of a feng shui thing that originated around the view, I think. There was no fighting the hexagons — the plan was the plan — so the first thing the house needed from me was an image. I love the kind of 1950s architecture one sees in Bermuda and Florida: one-story houses in stucco with tile roofs and casement windows with big square lights, elegant but very light. I thought it would be interesting to interpret the Caribbean neo-traditional style in wood shingles with white wood trim — regionally," shares Netto.
A native New Yorker, Netto has spent his whole life coming to Long Island. His dreams for the type of home he would one day inhabit there conjured stately manor houses built with formality in the 1920s. "This never happened, however, and besides having no money, I guess the reason is it's just who I am. Instead, I bought a hexagonal house on stilts, and I think I made it quite stylish. But this was by no means what I imagined myself embracing as a dream come true, architecturally. I was surprised at first how much I loved it. Now I don't think about it anymore," says Netto.
In the living room, the floating fireplace was the one element Netto and Meyer kept exactly as it was. "I thought the blocky form was stark and perfect, and when the window went in behind it, it actually became kind of thrilling — like a ghost of the old house hanging around. I think that's good luck, to always keep something signature in a renovation; it gives patina," says Netto.
The blue and white striped 19th-century dhurrie rug has a provenance of its own, having started in one of the grandest houses in Southampton called Keewaydin, which was decorated by Sister Parish. The rug was returned so Mrs. Parish offered it to Netto's father, who put it in the family's traditional home on Cottage Avenue in East Hampton. It moved at some point to the dining room of the Nettos' New York City apartment, where it had to be cut in half. "Time passes, but when you have an eye, you never forget beautiful things. When I needed a rug and asked my father what happened to that one, he produced the other half out of a rumpled brown paper shopping bag in a coat closet. The journeys of objects: from Keewaydin to 730 Park Avenue to a hexagon on stilts. I quickly drove out to Amagansett and installed it before he could change his mind," reminisces Netto.
The coiled rope up the pole takes its cue from the wharf-style fish restaurants peppering Montauk. "I love painted furniture by Jean Prouve, and that's how I decided to paint the pole blue. But the rope thing is around out here, just not in people's houses. What can I say, I love the Lobster Inn," confides Netto.
When asked about the three boldly painted doors that line up like surfboards, Netto admits: "The whole house wears a uniform of whitewashed wood, quite plain — by intent. An adult may appreciate this kind of Shaker austerity, but the three painted doors are an attempt to let my children know that this is their part of the house. Kids don't get excited about chic minimalism; they get excited about color, surprises, and design that signifies that someone has thought about things through their eyes. I don't have a lot of that here, but what I do have is a present to them."
"The master bedroom," according to Netto, "is one of those rooms that follows the Albert Hadley maxim of 'give 'em what they never knew they wanted.' I wanted to give my wife a room that was really a dream come true for her, designed for her as if she were a client. She would never have said she wanted something extravagant, but I knew she would love it if it just … appeared. As a gift. We took out all the walls and just made the whole thing one space, like a lighthouse. Then I said, if we're being decadent, let's just put the tub in the bedroom. That room is more than a room — it's a house in itself, on top of the house."
Though Netto was at first convinced this oddly configured 1980s building had to come down, it took collaborating with Will Meyer to create their own version of reinvention. "The house is everything we set out to achieve in that spot. This is success, because what a house is supposed to do, this one does — it's a happiness machine. We are happier there than anywhere else in the world," concludes Netto.