Architectural Digest, August 2013
C. WONDER FOUNDER J. CHRISTOPHER BURCH'S SPIRITED HAMPTONS BEACH HOUSE
Interior decorator Christopher Maya tailors the fashion-and-lifestyle entrepreneur’s getaway in Southampton, New York, to reflect a snappy-chic style
By the architectural standards of Southampton, New York—where magnificent old piles built by Yankee blue bloods and extravagant contemporary mansions constructed by moguls of finance and industry are perched along one of Long Island’s toniest beaches—entrepreneur J. Christopher Burch’s house is a modest affair. Most buyers in this community would likely have torn down the ranch-style structure, which clocks in at 6,000 square feet, and replaced it with an imposing Georgian Revival or Shingle Style residence, replete with pomp and pergolas. But its unassuming character suited Burch, the founder and CEO of Burch Creative Capital and the man behind the retro-preppy lifestyle retailer C. Wonder. “I didn’t want anything too grand,” he says. “I wanted it to feel more like a cottage than an estate.”
Modifications, however, were necessary to bring the place up to snuff—namely streamlining the awkward floor plan and upgrading the surfaces. New Jersey architectural designer Marina Lanina stripped the building down to its wood frame and reconfigured the interior, more or less hewing to the original footprint save for an expanded kitchen at the rear. Lanina, who honed her skills in the office of interior designer David Kleinberg, also added guest quarters above the attached garage and, at the opposite end of the home, constructed a second-floor master suite. Bridgehampton-based landscape designer Joseph Tyree recast the 2.75-acre grounds with, among other touches, a charming parterre garden that is visible from the master bedroom’s small balcony.
“It would have been a lot cheaper to tear it down,” admits Burch, who cofounded, with Tory Burch—his former wife, with whom he has three young sons—the clothing and accessories label that bears her name. (He also has been a major player in the development of the Faena Hotel+Universe in Buenos Aires and, in February, he became a co-owner of Nihiwatu, a 580-acre ecoresort on an island in eastern Indonesia.) But the remodel in Southampton has resulted in an eight-bedroom retreat that is perfect for easygoing summer weekends with his companion, fashion designer Monika Chiang, and his children. (Burch also has three grown daughters from another previous marriage.)“I rarely go out when I’m in the Hamptons,” he says. “I prefer watching movies, hosting very small dinner parties, and hanging out with my kids.”
The getaway exhibits the spirited, all-American styling of C. Wonder, but the brand’s candied hues are toned down. “I didn’t really want to do my stuff in the house,” Burch says, adding that he began the renovation before launching C. Wonder in 2011 with a flagship store in Manhattan. The residence is instead New York interior designer Christopher Maya’s interpretation of his client’s somewhat eccentric taste, which Burch himself describes as “a very quirky sense of classicism.” The decorator’s first meeting with the entrepreneur was inspiration enough. “Chris was sitting in the conference room with colleagues, a pink Hermès scarf wrapped around his head. I thought, This is going to be fun,” Maya recalls. The designer soon set about conjuring schemes for each room of the dwelling, aiming for an inviting, energetic atmosphere reflective of Burch’s playful personality.
Every inch of molding and trim gleams with pristine lacquerlike finishes. To offset that snappy sheen, some walls are papered in grass cloth, while others are meticulously upholstered with boldly patterned fabrics. The colors are lively—Carolina-blue in the master bedroom, buttery yellow in a guest room—and the overall ambience is light and relaxed. “A lot of houses in the Hamptons are so formal, it’s like being in a Park Avenue apartment,” Maya says. “I thought the house should be fun—when guests walk in, they should feel right away like they’re about to have a fantastic weekend.” Cerused-oak floors, sisal carpets, and the occasional rattan armchair further the casual vibe. The oak-paneled library is as sober as it gets, but an apple-green sofa and a Billy Baldwin slipper chair clad in a peridot-green leopard print leaven the mood. Accenting the room is a striking etching of an owl with its wings spread wide; it is one of several artworks by Walton Ford that Burch had purchased before the project started and which turned out to fit right in with the palette Maya conceived.
asked the designer to incorporate some furniture from a line the investor has developed for No. 9 Christopher, a lifestyle concept store he plans to open in Manhattan next year. Maya customized the pieces, including painting a Jansen-inspired desk in brilliant royal blue and an Asian-style cocktail table in a brash Dick Tracy–yellow. “The house is a little electric in spots, but I’m not scared of color,” says Burch, who sums up the place in his typically punchy style: “It’s cool. It’s small. It’s very happy.”
Maya conceived the sitting room’s sofa and upholstered chest (used as a cocktail table); the photograph is by Rachel Lee Hovnanian, the curtains are made of a China Seas fabric, the brass lamps are from the Lockhart Collection, and the vintage rattan chair was found at a Paris flea market.