A Hamptons Dream House Filled with Modern Art

Architect Andrew Pollock conjures a relaxing retreat for Lisa and James Cohen

American Pop artist Roy Lichtenstein's 1990 Suspended Mobile, a screenprint on polyester, has been placed on the wall behind a sofa upholstered in fabrics from Pierre Frey and John Robshaw.

It was all about the sea—and the view of one of the dreamiest expanses of the Atlantic Ocean that one could ever see. That was the starting point for the creation of Lisa and James Cohen’s wonderfully sprawling, shingled, English Country-style house in East Hampton, New York. Let’s just say that all involved—the owners, the architect, and the interior designer—were on the same wavelength.

The 2009 aluminum sculpture of a long-legged cyclist, one of American artist William King’s 2009 Velo, welcomes visitors to the house as they arrive by the circular driveway
The 2009 aluminum sculpture of a long-legged cyclist, one of American artist William King’s 2009 Velo, welcomes visitors to the house as they arrive by the circular driveway

“We wanted a real family house, where friends could gather with the feeling of sitting on a yacht looking out to sea,” said Lisa. “We had the living room raised up, and installed a wall of glass to take advantage of the extraordinary site,” noted the Brooklyn-based architect Andrew Pollock. Andrew Sheinman, principal of the New York-based design firm, Pembrooke & Ives, who worked closely with the Cohens on the planning, decoration, and furnishing of the large-scaled rooms, as well as on the integration of the clients’ art collection with the interior, explained his approach: “We focused on the ecology of the location, using sandstone to reflect the beach, and grey cerused-oak paneling to resemble driftwood washed up from the sea.”

For the exterior, the British architect Edwin Lutyens  inspired the remarkable array of chimneys that are conduits to various fireplaces, plumbing vents, and heating columns; and the influence of the 20th-century American firm of McKim, Mead & White was reflected in the grand scale and detailing of the different volumes. “But,” added Pollock, “I always kept in mind that what I was after was a modern interpretation.”

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Pembrooke & Ives designed the huge lighting fixture that hangs from the apex of the living room, while San Francisco-based Coup D’Etat crafted it from salvaged horse-buggy wheel rims. The chairs are covered in a hand-printed fabric from John Robshaw, and the earthenware clay vase by Pablo Picasso dates from 1952.

Inside, navy- and white-striped draperies—made from a Ralph Lauren Home Collection outdoor fabric—hang in the long, high-ceilinged hallways that have been painstakingly lacquered in a high-gloss “boat” finish. “That process took weeks,” explained Lisa, who knew exactly the look she was after: “A fresh, open feeling with lots of blue and white, nothing heavy,” she said, pointing out the John Robshaw prints on the living room chairs and the large pillows of vintage Japanese fabrics. Nothing retro or timid here.

And if there were any doubt about Sheinman wanting “all the furniture to be proportionately bold,” one has only to look up at the dramatic hanging light fixtures. But it was Lisa who took the lead in zeroing in on the artworks that would mesh perfectly with the interiors—from a primary-colored, three-dimensional collage by American Pop Art artist Roy Lichtenstein, to a mesmerizing masterpiece by the American painter Sam Francis that stretches across an entire wall of the dining room.

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The rear of the house overlooks the beach and displays an array of chimneys, inspired by the English architect Edwin Lutyens. Andrew Pollock, the architect, chose Alaskan yellow cedar shingles, framed in mahogany.

“When I first saw it, with all of its negative space, I thought it would be perfect, and so Zen,” recalled Lisa. Other pieces, although different in feeling—such as two paintings by American artist Marjorie Strider—fit right into the decor. “How fun is it to have girls in bikinis in a summer beach house?” Lisa asked.

A while back, visiting the Locks Gallery in Philadelphia, Lisa was introduced to the work by the American artist Rob Wynne. She knew immediately he would be the right person to create a piece for the stairwell. The result was Wave, a swirling, scintillating, dynamic swoop of glass crystals that is as beautiful during the day as at night. Sometimes, a painting strikes an even closer chord. A few years ago, at the Armory Show in New York, Lisa spied a large canvas by the American artist Jennifer Bartlett. He says we need a new engine was painted across the canvas that depicted a boat floating in a beachy setting. Lisa stopped to take a closer look. “I related immediately,” she said. “That’s happened to us a few times.” 

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In the kitchen, two hand-blown and carved Chinese glass vases from Robert Kuo & Associates stand below a 1990 silkscreen by Keith Haring.