Worth the wait
If you’re an architect looking to work with Deborra-lee Furness, you’re going to need nerves of steel. “I’m a bit of a perfectionist and a commitment-phobe, which is not a great combination,” she smiles over a grilled chicken salad and a Diet Coke — “my one vice” — at the Kit Kemp-designed Crosby Street Hotel in New York’s SoHo. That suite of personality traits might explain why the East Hampton holiday home that Furness and her husband, Hollywood megastar Hugh Jackman, had bought for the summer months remains in the design phase almost four years on. The couple and their children, Oscar, 18, and Ava, 13, along with pooches Dali and Allegra have all cosied up in the property’s guesthouse instead. “[The main house] has taken so long to build because I keep changing my mind,” confides Furness, who has designed the entire retreat in conjunction with Bridgehampton-based architecture firm Stelle Lomont Rouhani. (She also collaborated closely with the architects on key furnishings and pieces.) “And then we’d travel to Greece or Japan or Morocco, and I would get inspired by my surroundings, so I’d come back and go to the architect and say, ‘I’ve got a great idea!’ And the architect would be like, ‘Oh my God, here she goes again.’”
The unexpected upside of Furness’s indecision has been the restoration of the 435-square-metre wooden cabin they’re currently inhabiting. Previously occupied by an artist, it has sat on the land since the 1970s. “I’m a complete modernist, and the shack was tan tiles and a lot of tan wood,” Furness says, “which wasn’t my usual design style.” Still, she conceded it had great bones, so she and Jackman — along with architect Viola Rouhani and interior designer Eleanor Donnelly — decided to honour the shack’s history by going entirely with wood, painting the exterior black and bleaching out wooden floorboards. “I love opposites — I’m very into black and white,” Furness says. “All the interiors are neutral tones and I think the architects were pushing me towards doing the main house black, but it will be white — the Jungian, the yin and the yang.” She adds: “I’m not usually a wood girl — I’m more of a stone girl — but when you transition something completely, what’s the point?” Furness charts her passion for design back to two key influences in her life: her late mother, Fay Duncan — who was awarded an Order of Australia medal for her tireless charity work — and her profession. “We moved 12 times,” recalls the Sydney-born Furness of her peripatetic childhood. “People would say, ‘Is your mother a diplomat?’ And I’d say, ‘No, she just likes to decorate.” ››
The approach and entry to the Hamptons home of Deborra-lee Furness and Hugh Jackman, a collaboration between Furness, Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects and LaGuardia Design Group landscapers. Details, last pages.
THIS PAGE in the gazebo, linen drapery from Australia’s Hale Mercantile Co. OPPOSITE PAGE in the pavilion, bespoke built-in sofas by Deborra-lee Furness with Eleanor Donnelly of Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects; upholstery by Upholstery of the Hamptons, in fabric by Holland & Sherry; Furness wears a Bonnie Young navy tunic and an Élu necklace.