The venerable designer on the hallmarks of a great beach house, improvising, and why you won’t find any chintz in his Abaco home
Tom Scheerer’s beach house essentials (straw hats!) and island inspiration
TOM SCHEERER HAS SOME RULES. “Informality is my watchword, especially at the beach,” he says. The Manhattanbased designer’s crisp, breezy decorating style has graced escapes including the tony Lyford Cay Club and three of his own homes in the Bahamas. “I don’t like anything too shiny, too glitzy, or too polished along the shore.”
He grew up spending summers at his grandmother’s shingled cottage a few feet behind the dunes of Georgica Beach in East Hampton, New York, and from there followed a deep familiarity with the cultural nuances and easygoing nature of watery places. “In decorating, great locales tell me what to do,” he explains. “Different places call for different design choices. For instance, I use batiks in the tropics but not in the Northeast. Airy, flowery chintzes always seem right in East Hampton but would be an off note in my house in the Abacos. So I always start with the beach.”
No matter the stretch of sand, practicality and durability count heavily: “My personal style calls for patina,” Scheerer says. “It’s a great camouflage for sand on the floor, inevitable rust, and often a little mildew!” This translates into rough stone paving or concrete floors “with or without seashells worked into them.” Features he tends to use over and over at the beach include walls covered in straw hats (a trick he picked up from his grandmother), lamps made from shapely glass bottles, natural grasscloth upholstery in a radiantly blond hue, weathered teak, and indestructible Formica coffee tables designed to a room’s proportions.
“It’s a loose formula that happily allows for improvisation,” Scheerer says. “Being overly deliberate can sometimes spoil the fun.”
Scheerer on the steps of his beach house in the Bahamas