Wanderlust is not a term typically used to describe a decorating style, but it may be the only one that fully encapsulates designer Alisa Bloom’s ethos. But for this particular project in East Hampton, New York, her worldly vision proved more difficult than usual to execute.
For a given residential assignment, Bloom typically relies on rare finds and vintage treasures collected around the world. But when this redesign for a family started, it was the height of the pandemic. However, that made the job all the more necessary: the family was transitioning from their city life to home almost full-time.
Somewhere along the way, Bloom was finally able to travel again. “I would have five days to visit all my suppliers and get out,” Bloom recalls of her European sourcing trips. To supplement those travels, the designer also ventured into vendors in the American South, a region where she hadn’t done many “deep dives” in the past, but one that provided a fertile new source of material.
The end result is a modern house with a distinctly rich range of colours, tones and details. Each room, it seems, has its own story to tell. In the hall, a 1970s table dominates the base of the stairwell. It is an original showpiece from the Hermès store in Milan, sourced from the South of France from a seller who specializes in luxury showroom pieces. The table serves as an introduction to two crucial categories that help define the rest of the house: commercial exhibit finds and, in particular, gemstones associated with the fashion industry. An example? Her clients’ favorite piece: a pair of antique Italian reclining chairs, reupholstered in 1960s Chanel tweed, in the guest bedroom.
“Restaurants and shops are always pushing the boundaries and are so much riskier; it’s great to get ideas from them,” says Bloom. Example: An Italian Art Deco inspired lamp hanging in the sitting room. Bloom first saw it in a restaurant in Florence, asked where it came from, and had it recreated in a custom format. In the same room, a few cushions were reupholstered in vintage Hermès fabrics.
Somewhat surprisingly, these luxurious decor elements don’t feel fussy. “I didn’t want anything too perfect. I wanted it to pop a little bit, which is why vintage felt so ideal,” says Bloom. “It just makes the house feel welcome.”
When it came to the sitting room sofa, Bloom opted for a custom terry cloth cover (functional for indoor/outdoor living and welcoming to all, including family dog). Across the room are two vintage Italian chairs that had taken such a beating from standing outside in the rain, only their frames were salvageable. (The springs were promptly replaced and the upholstery refreshed to tie into the room.) Nearby, woven curtains—selected by the designer because their fabric is reminiscent of the South of France—frame each window. High pendants from South America provide a warm glow over the seating area. It’s the perfect finishing touch to a room that works just as well during the beach-oriented summer months as it does during the cozier seasons of the year.
In general, it could be that creating a story through color is Bloom’s specialty. “I always start with a palette and draw a million fabrics and colors for no rhyme or reason,” she shares. “Then I start putting it together, room by room, like a puzzle.” Furniture, she argues, will come soon after, starting, of course, with vintage finds.
That may be one of the reasons why this house is overflowing with joy. Another? The old clients trusted Bloom to take the lead, allowing her vision to blossom. There were a few details. First, the sofa in the living room had to be comfortable enough for the homeowners to snuggle up by the nearby fireplace. When the designer saw an ideal modular living room in Florence online, she found a way to visit Italy so she could lay down on the sofa herself and send photos to her clients to prove that it was indeed incredibly comfortable.
Another example of how Bloom goes above and beyond? “I don’t let them come to the construction site until the house is finished,” says the designer of her various assignments. “It’s a closed set, then an HGTV show reveal moment, which brings me so much joy.”