Reinaldo Leandro and Patrick McGrath weren’t looking for a weekend home when they spotted a for sale sign outside a shingled cottage in the quaint Hamptons hamlet the Springs. But given their shared line of work, how could the Manhattan couple resist a peek? Though the land itself was modest, “the house felt tucked-in and private,” recalls Leandro, an architect and cofounder of the AD100 firm Ashe Leandro. The residence had a 1930s look and feel, with excellent attention to detail, even though it had been built in 2000. “So there was central air,” notes McGrath, principal of his own design studio. They quickly purchased the property and set about renovating. As Leandro explains: “We’re both in the field, so we make decisions fast.”
Small, considered changes, as the duo knows well, make all the difference. Architecturally speaking, they punched through ceilings to expose gabled roof lines; added doors for an improved indoor/outdoor feel; repositioned windows; and updated surfaces and fixtures, pickling the wide-plank pine floors, purifying the dark kitchen cabinetry with buckets of white paint, and swapping out shiny brass hardware with matte black knobs. “Very small ones, to make it appear more cottagey,” Leandro says. New floor-to-ceiling bookshelves not only accommodate their vast library but also, he continues, “create a threshold between kitchen and dining room.”
Whereas Leandro took the lead on the structural design, McGrath drove the decor, artfully repurposing much of their existing furniture. The living room’s sofa, for instance, was slipcovered in white linen with crisp box-pleat trim, while the bedroom rugs were collected on trips to Turkey and Mexico over the years. When Leandro, a modernist, made the surprising request for chintz, McGrath delivered with two club chairs clad in graphic Rose Cumming calla lilies—breaths of fresh air against the spare backdrop. There was plenty of trial and error too. Only when the marble stool McGrath had bought at auction arrived did they realize that, at several hundred pounds, it wouldn’t do in the master bath. It now beckons from the bottom of the stairs.
“Everything has a story,” says Leandro, indicating the bedcovers (purchases from Paris) and earthenware pineapples (souvenirs from San Miguel de Allende). Art ranges from rare prints to pre-Columbian icons. “There’s a Colonial Peruvian Virgin my parents gave me when I came out, so it would protect me,” Leandro deadpans. “Now it can protect the guests.” A native of Venezuela, he concedes that McGrath’s New England roots set him at ease when it came to decorating in a cottage style—though they didn’t always see eye to eye. “At a certain point I did say, ‘If another urn comes into this house, I’m going to have a meltdown.’ ” McGrath interjects with a laugh, pointing out the table lamps that flank a guest bed: “And a few more did.”
To oversee the garden and pool, the couple gave free rein to celebrated landscape architect Perry Guillot, who limited the plantings to three local species: Eastern red cedar, boxwood, and viburnum. “It was really nice to have the experience of trusting someone else with control,” says McGrath. “Perry even selected the gravel.” The vintage outdoor furniture, however, bears McGrath’s charming stamp: retro green cushions trimmed with white piping. There’s no question the house has been transformed into an idyllic retreat, but it’s also become a boon to business. “We started getting more jobs out here,” says McGrath, explaining that local projects have afforded them both more time away from the city. But that, he adds with a knowing grin, is a double-edged sword: “There’s less time to chill when your client knows you’re five minutes away.”
More of a Design Couples Idyllic Hamptons Retreat
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest