This story originally appeared in the August 2012 issue of ELLE DECOR. For more stories from our archive, subscribe to ELLE DECOR All Access.
For some people, too much is never enough. In contrast, Ralph Pucci has made a career out of knowing when to stop. “The designer Andrée Putman taught me about what she called the ‘Poison Pill,'” he says. “It’s when you add that one extra detail that isn’t necessary—like the added spice that ruins the dish. I don’t like distractions. For me, less has always been more.”
Over the years, he has applied Putman’s principle to everything he does. He company. Ralph Pucci International, specializes in high-style mannequins for stores such as Nieman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. In 1990, Pucci began selling limited edition contemporary furniture and art. His showrooms in New York and Los Angeles present the work of such modernist icons as Vladimir Kagan alongside more recent discoveries such as Chris Lehrecke and David Weeks.
In his personal life too, Pucci practices what he preaches. Last year, when he and his wife, Ann, were searching the Hamptons for their first vacation home, they looked at several impressive residences that exuded status and style. Too much work, they decided, opting instead for a more modest bungalow located right on the beach in Amagansett. “It’s small, but it’s a great place that’s completely in touch with the elements,” says their decorator, Vincente Wolf. “The sea literally breaks behind their terrace.”
Known for his pristine white interiors, Wolfe is a simpatico designer for a couple who craves simplicity. The beach house is the third home he has decorated for the family over the years (he also worked on their residence in Greenwich, Connecticut and an earlier house in Bedford, New York). The Puccis have three grown children who visit often on weekends with friends in tow. “We wanted a chic and sophisticated space,” says Pucci, “but one that’s also about comfort. Vincente understands our family so well. I just let him run.”
The bungalow had been built 10 years ago on the footprint of an earlier structure dating from the 1950s. The new house has an airiness that belies its diminutive size, with four bedrooms, an 1,100-square-foot deck and thoughtful details, including 18-inch-wide wood-plank floors. “We didn’t make any architectural changes,” says Wolf. “All we did was change the door handles and light fixtures to make it feel simpler and more modern.”
He continued to refresh the walls with his favorite neutral color shade, Benjamin Moore’s Super White. “It’s a very clear white that looks like gesso,” he says, “It really brings out the architecture and gives even the smallest detail more power.” From there, Wolf added more layers of white: The windows were covered in unlined shades that softly obscure the daylight without blocking the view, while most of the furniture was given beach-friendly slipcovers in outdoor fabrics.
The arrangement is not completely monochromatic. Wolfe incorporated a subtle selection of blues that reference the ocean—from the pale, aqua-colored linen on a trio of Jens Risom chairs in the living area to a guest room’s periwinkle walls and curtains. The coolest gesture is the deep blue wall that – together with a large white lattice that looks like a trellis – frames the headboard in the bedroom. When Wolf first suggested the idea, Pucci admits he initially resisted it as unnecessary embellishment. The designer explained that since the bedrooms’ wall is visible from the living room, the graphic splash of color would create a striking focal point for the eye – like a fountain, he said, at the end of a aisle. “He told me, ‘Trust me on this one,'” says Pucci, “and he was right.”
The house is filled with work from Pucci’s stable of designers. Lehrecke created the minimalist entry table with its stainless steel frame and an ash top that was wire brushed to give it a sandblasted texture. California glass artist Lianne Gold created the cluster of translucent white and blue vases in the dining area. Wolf, whose furniture is also represented by Pucci, designed the high-back sofa and the leafy dining table that, with one of its leaves turned downward, nestles next to a wall lined with a foot-long bench—but also a fully opened to seat 10 for dinner. “It’s all about flexibility,” says Wolf. “Everything here is designed to be moved around.”
The casual decor also incorporates Pucci’s collection of art, found objects like driftwood and seashells, and global accents drawn from Wolf’s travels to places as far-flung as Ethiopia, China and Burma. “I think these kinds of pieces make a room feel more human,” says the designer.
For the Puccis, the lightness of their holiday home more than makes up for its lack of grandeur. Nothing is superfluous here. “It’s soothing,” says Ralph. “We watch the sunrise and have lunch on the terrace. The stars of the show are the sea and the sky.”
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