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Hamptons Talent: Conversation with Allison Babcock

Ask Allison Babcock what inspires her, and she gives a designer’s answer: “Nature, art and architecture.” Luckily the Hamptons, where she has lived and worked since 2003, have all three in abundance.

“I think you can see these translated through the use of photography and abstract painting in my work, and the emphasis that I place on connecting my interiors to the outdoors, be it through large windows or the use of natural materials,” she explains. “Living on the East End of Long Island, we are also surrounded by fantastic architecture, from classic McKim, Mead and White cottages, to mid-century masters like Norman Jaffe, or some of my favorite contemporary architects like Kitty McCoy and Blaze Makoid.”

Allison Babcock

Babcock was first exposed to exemplary architectural beauty growing up in the shadows of Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. By the age of five, her dollhouse boasted a curated design palette that was the envy of the neighborhood children. She eventually turned her childhood obsession into a profession after graduating from the University of Richmond. She interned at Richmond-area design house, Nan McVey Interiors, honed her skills as a design assistant at New York City-based, R. Brooke Ltd., and spent eight years as a senior project manager at the venerable Cullman and Kravis, Inc., where she worked with several renowned architects on several projects that were published in Architectural Digest. It wasn’t until she and her husband Luke decided to relocate full-time to Sag Harbor that she decided to branch out on her own. The creative, laidback atmosphere of the Hamptons has allowed her the freedom to cultivate the clean, transitional aesthetic for which she has become known.

Photo by Keith Scott Morton

With the region’s busy summer season in full bloom, we caught up with Babcock to ask her about her style inspirations, trends and how she interprets Hamptons style.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury You describe your style as “transitional,” which you define as “crisp, clean, and timeless.” Why do you feel this aesthetic especially resonates in The Hamptons and other East End communities?

Allison Babcock Transitional design by definition allows you to translate it into modern or classic homes. People come out East to enjoy their homes, relax, enjoy the outdoors, and so their interiors should not become a distraction. And people do not tire of clean – be it clean lines of modern architecture, or a clean uncluttered interior, it translates to calm and peace of mind.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury What do you feel is the main difference between designing for homes in The Hamptons vs. homes in urban locations?

Allison Babcock In the city, you are entirely inward-focused, so the entire goal of a design is to maximize space and create a self-contained interior, no matter how great the view. The city also tends to be much more formal, the buttoned-up best versions of ourselves. Out East, houses tend to be much larger and there are many more opportunities to incorporate the outdoors. And the aesthetic tends to reflect the more laid-back culture.

Photo by Francine Fleisher

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Have you noticed any differences between the ways a client might approach a second/vacation home vs. a primary residence?

Allison Babcock Absolutely. A second home here is primarily used in the summer, so the considerations are different from a year-round house. It’s not designed for day-to-day use. There are not as many things they want to incorporate. They want it to be breezier and light. They want that classic coastal palette and aesthetic. They want to be connected with the outdoors, be it a fabulous water view or lust a verdant backyard, so they want larger windows with less dressing.

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury How do you bring a sense of place into your designs?

Allison Babcock I like for you to know that you are in the Hamptons if you are in one of my designs. Whether it be through the use of minimal window treatments and manipulating the architecture to draw the outdoors in, or through the use a natural palette, I like to create harmonious environments that reflect the calm, ethereal ethos of the East End.

Photo by Francine Fleisher

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Is there a seminal project that you feel really defines your design?

Allison Babcock My own house. The architecture is very modern, but we are not minimal people, so rather than being slavish to that aesthetic I’ve created an interior that speaks to the architecture. I’ve embraced a layered, eclectic interior that incorporates comfortable pieces, cultural finds, and antiques that reflect the way my family actually lives. It’s everything a home should be: warm, welcoming, and inviting.

Photo by Tria Giovan Photography

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury Do you have any signature details or touches that you typically incorporate into your projects?

Allison Babcock I LOVE great lighting. I am all for great statement light fixtures; and I especially look to achieve layered lighting – utilizing sconces, chandelier, lamps, etc.

Photo by Francine Fleisher

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury I know you’re not trend-focused, but are there any styles, materials, features or other design elements that you’ve noticed more of your clients are asking for these days?

Allison Babcock Color! The color block is over. Clients are starting to realize that you can still have a luxurious, soothing home that incorporates color and pattern in it. Color is also making a big return to the kitchen, as people are over the Something’s Gotta Give all-white look that comes across as utilitarian and a bit of Hamptons cliché. There is also an increasing trend of building auxiliary or catering kitchens, as people want to be able to entertain in their kitchens without having to maneuver around dirty dishes or caterers, especially in open-plan homes. Natural woods like bleached oak, are making a big comeback as they add another dimension of warmth and feel less sterile than all white everything. In the bathroom, clients like to create that fantasy many of them are not able to in the city, creating full spa-like environments where they can relax and enjoy their vacations, and in powder rooms, people are increasingly willing to have fun with color and wallpapers. Though as these homes are used less frequently throughout the year, clients tend to invest in more transitional materials and fixtures that will age better than more trendy pieces they might consider for a primary residence.

Photo by Tria Giovan Photography

Coldwell Banker Global Luxury How do you bring a sense of luxury into the spaces you design?

Allison Babcock There are numerous ways, but especially through sumptuous, textured textiles: fabrics, linens, rugs, and through curated pieces and artwork. The real luxury is working within the restraints of what you’re given and creating the unexpected.

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Hamptons Talent: Conversation with Allison Babcock

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