A Walk on the Wild Side
Interior designer Katie Ridder turns demure Hamptons style on its head with an electric approach to a young family’s summerhouse, where yellow lacquered walls, brilliant Turkish patterns, and graphic modern art set a brave backdrop of color.
Katie Ridder turns up the heat in the Hamptons with exotic pattern plays and heroic color.
ART LOVERS OFTEN DESCRIBE THE ACT of seeing a painting as a full-body experience. So it’s only natural that a woman who grew up among pop-art masterpieces would wish to replicate that feeling of total, joyful immersion when it came time to create a home for her own family. And the moment this Long Island homeowner encountered Katie Ridder’s work in a book, she knew she’d found a kindred spirit: a designer who could bring that sense of aesthetic transport to life.
Known for her exhilarating color palettes and richly layered patterns, Ridder designs experiences as much as rooms. For this project, a summerhouse situated a stone’s throw from the home where the client grew up playing among Warhols and Lichtensteins, she also wanted to reflect the client’s personality. “She’s a happy, exuberant person,” says Ridder.
She’s also fearless. Recalls the client, “I told Katie, ‘Let’s go to town on the living room and dining room.’ For us, they’re lessused spaces, so why not have fun?” Bright-yellow lacquered walls ensued in the dining room, where a pineapple-footed mahogany table holds court amid rattan cafe chairs and giant urns flank a chic straw-marquetry mirror. In the living room, meanwhile, “going to town” meant going halfway around the world—to Istanbul, whose Topkapi Palace was the inspiration for the hand-painted wallpaper (custom-designed to fit each elevation); to Kabul, Afghanistan, the source of the mirror-backed jali screens on the fireplace wall; and to Sweden, birthplace of a white antique secretary. “The architect originally wanted wood paneling in the living room,” says Ridder.
“THE RIGHT MIX DOESN’T LOOK CHAOTIC. IT LOOKS COMFORTABLE AND LAYERED.”
“I asked to change it to wallpaper. The room is so sunny and gardeny that it called for a lot of pattern.” Indeed, Mother Nature herself might envy the lush proliferation of indoor blooms, from the Arcadian wall patterns to the chrysanthemums on the chair upholstery; from the giant leaves on the Ridder-designed drapery to the stylized blossoms on every throw pillow.
Such more-is-more gestures are anchored by Ridder’s intuitive sense of balance (see page 95). “The right mix doesn’t look chaotic,” she says. “It looks comfortable and layered.” A sharp eye for scale and repetition helps too. For instance, a diminutive motif on a living room pillow echoes one on the wallpaper; an embroidered line on the master headboard replicates the curtains’ pattern. And color provides coherence. “Green is the common denominator downstairs,” says Ridder. “By running it through every room, it creates a sense of flow.”
Yet the flow in this house is far from amorphous. Just as every great painting needs the perfect frame, interior design requires the right architecture to complete and contain it. For this project, that came from Peter Pennoyer, a renowned classicist who also happens to be Ridder’s husband. The deeply articulated interior doorways he designed, for example, “lend themselves to developing rooms that are related but distinct in character,” explains Pennoyer. “They create a definite place to stop one scheme
and start another.” For her part, Ridder appreciates the purity and clarity of his work. “Peter’s classical architecture really frees me to do things that are vibrant and interesting,” she says.
But Pennoyer is not merely the sobering yin to Ridder’s wildchild yang. His work conjures magic all its own, with gestures designed to heighten the drama of certain spaces. In the entry hall, the staircase makes a wide and dramatic U-turn as it rises. “The passage from one floor to another becomes more interesting,” says the architect. “By turning back, you get to explore the architecture as you rise.” And a dramatic glass bay window in the master bedroom “breaks out of the box,” literally and figuratively, “and allows you to stretch a little farther into nature.” It also creates a fun vantage point. “You feel like you’ve popped out of the side of the house,” he says.
Ridder’s eclecticism, meanwhile, is always grounded in practical considerations. The living room carpet is indoor/outdoor, a nod to the clients’ wish to move seamlessly between garden and house, and upholstered and rounded-edge surfaces in the family room mean that the elegant space is also child-friendly. Throughout, the designer doesn’t shy away from using plain expanses to provide calming counterpoints to more flamboyant moments. In the entry hall, the potency of a deep-green ceramic-tiled floor is tempered with pale walls for an open, energizing welcome.
Not surprisingly, the finished house is now a wholly original backdrop for the clients’ own burgeoning collection of art, including Wegman photographs and Warhol prints, beneath whose joyful gazes their son now plays. “It’s so gratifying to build a family house that can mean to my son what my parents’ house meant to me,” says the client. “To bring that magical, whimsical feeling to his childhood...it’s like a hug of color.”
A hand-painted Iznik wallpaper by Iksel, a leafy drapery fabric from Ridder’s line, and a bold chrysanthemum print by Bennison headline the living room’s rich pattern parade.
Ceramic hexagonal tile flooring extends a glossy jade greeting in the entry hall. The Parsons-style bench is crafted of waxed oak and gaufrage leather. Tiles, Mosaic House.
Architect Peter Pennoyer designed the house in the spirit of a 1912 Mediterranean-style villa that once occupied the same lot. The roofing is New York Red Slate.
A pair of 1950s bentwood chairs flanks an orange linen sofa. In the family room, a leather ottoman and Japanese-bird-print sofa are finished in teal trim detail. Purple contrast cord embellishes the velvet swivel chairs.
Ridder layered orchid bed upholstery over cobalt blue grass cloth walls. Drapery and bed fabric, Studio Four. Vintage rug, Märta Måås-fjetterström.
A handblown glass chandelier lights up a barrel-vaulted ceiling in the master bath. Polished nickel tub filler, Waterworks. Tub, Sunrise Specialty.