Sarah Jessica Parker takes us to her laid-back Hamptons home

This story originally appeared in the October 2005 issue of ELLE DECOR. For more stories from our archive, subscribe to ELLE DECOR All Access.

Four years ago, when Eric Hughes began designing a weekend home in Bridgehampton, New York, for actress Sarah Jessica Parker, he knew he wanted to create a place that could handle sandy feet, wet bathing suits and lots of people. He was a California boy who grew up in Newport Beach, so he knew all about weekend beach life. What he was not, surprisingly, was an interior designer. A recent refugee from Hollywood, he had given up his job as president of ice cream production at Universal Pictures, where he had helmed blockbuster films like Bride of Chucky and Bring it on. So despite the fact that he and Parker had been friends for years, he was a bit nervous about the company.

“I kept thinking, this is the house that Carrie built,” Hughes says.

But Parker, like all his friends, knew that Hughes had exquisite taste. He had unofficially helped her decorate a New York apartment, but nevertheless, “I was a little scared,” he admits. “It wasn’t just about putting some paint on and finding a canvas sofa. But I think she felt comfortable knowing that I wouldn’t be decorating it like a movie star.

In the den, a vintage wicker and chrome rocking chair.

A short bike ride from the beach, the house is one of the few places where Parker and her husband Matthew Broderick can decompress with their almost three-year-old son, James Wilke. It’s a respite from crazy filming schedules and Broadway rehearsals. “For me and Matthew, it was important that the house was not too valuable,” says Parker. “We didn’t want anything stuffy or flashy. We wanted color and light, and comfort, comfort, comfort. It’s a place where they can play ping pong and entertain Parker’s friends and extended family (she is one of eight children). In fact, the couple have come to love the area so much that they have just purchased another beach cottage, nestled in the nearby Amagansett Dunes.

parker and hughes

Parker with his longtime friend and decorator, Eric Hughes.

However, finding that first home hadn’t been easy. For years, real estate agents showed Parker places that were too posh and lacking in the local character that had drawn her to Long Island as a renter for more than a decade. Then, by accident, she spotted a picture of a Victorian house that looked right out of an estate agent’s window. Within minutes, she was walking through a 19th-century farmhouse alongside cedar, flooded with natural light and adorned with high ceilings. She made an offer this afternoon.

“We didn’t want anything stuffy or flashy,” says Parker. “We wanted color and light, and comfort, comfort, comfort.”

Parker and Hughes immediately agreed to add an expansive porch, creating an outdoor living space that could accommodate a swing and up to 20 people for dining. Inside, Hughes widened the doors, opening up the living spaces and giving the house a more generous flow. He created a clean, crisp backdrop by painting all the rooms with Benjamin Moore Super White. “I wanted to let the architecture speak for itself,” he explains, “and then fill the rooms with pops of color and simple pieces with lots of character.” At Parker’s request, the kitchen cabinets are a glossy tulip red.

the kitchen

The stove, hood and dishwasher are from Viking; the print is Uno la Mela by Enzo Mari de Moss.

Hughes was inspired by one of his favorite designers, Billy Baldwin. With clients such as Cole Porter and Kitty and Gilbert Miller, Baldwin had the kind of New York theater pedigree that made sense for two actors’ lives, so Hughes adapted Baldwin’s cues to the beach. He had a classic sofa upholstered in the designer’s favorite brown denim. He used Baldwin’s signature splatter print for the window seat in the living room. He placed a linen-covered Karl Springer console table in the couple’s bedroom and designed a dining table inspired by that of Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner’s home in nearby East Hampton. But Hughes wasn’t afraid to mix the bass and treble style. He picked up several pieces from local tag sales and thrift stores and had IKEA Parsons tables painted to look like lacquer.

Even better, Hughes added some personal touches. “I kept thinking, this is the house that Carrie built,” he recalled, referring to Parker’s character on sex and the city. So he called the show’s production designer and asked for an architectural rendering of Carrie’s apartment to be mounted on the sliding panel that hides the built-in television in the master bedroom. “It was a total surprise,” Parker says. “At first I thought, Oh, people are going to think I’m an absolute narcissist. But now that the show is over, I’m so glad he did, but because I’m so sentimental about that time.

the dining room

A collection of vintage chairs painted with Benjamin Moore’s Regal Matte black are gathered around a dining table designed by Hughes; the Egyptian blown glass chandelier is from Liza Sherman Antiques.

The dining room has become his favorite place. “When it’s filled with people, they become works of art which make it even more beautiful,” she says of the room where she receives friends such as Kate Winslet and Sam Mendes, Marci Klein and her husband, Scott Murphy , as well as Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman. Now they are also all Hughes customers. “Sarah Jessica launched my career without even knowing it,” he says. “She saw in me the ability to do it when I didn’t see it in myself. This is the real gift.

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