Michelle Gerson's Water Mill Interiors Project Is A Labor of Love

Elizabeth Harper | July 30, 2020 | Home & Real Estate Home & Real Estate

In a palatial water mill home, interior designer Michelle Gerson highlights the quiet, oft-overlooked corners. The result is a jewel box.

MG1395.jpgThe dining room walls are covered in wallpaper handpainted by Porter Teleo, accompanied by a light fixture from Stefan Gulassa for Holly Hunt Studio, a custom cerused oak table and Milo Baughman chairs.

I mean, the truth is this house was a labor of love,” interior designer Michelle Gerson says. It’s a spring afternoon when we take a moment to talk all things design and, more specifically, her recent Water Mill project. Her passion is contagious—it oozes from her voice as she explains room after room of intricate, master-planned decor; as she notes the art and its personal significance to the homeowners; as she describes each room, painting me a picture as if I were on the grounds of the estate myself. And, if I hadn’t already been intrigued by this 13,000-square-foot, nine-bedroom, 10 ½-bath home set on 6 ½ acres, I am now. She’s got me hooked. And I’m yearning to learn more.

MG1416.jpg In the kitchen, find lighting from Lee Broom, Thomas Hayes bar stools, and cerused oak cabinets and a bronze vent hood by Ciuffo Cabinetry.

As our conversation flows, I find it unsurprising when Gerson attests to her yearslong relationship—both professional and personal—with the family. “This is the fourth project I’ve worked on with them,” she says of the house, which was developed in partnership with builder Frank Bodenchak. “There is a lot of trust in our relationship.” There’s an ease to her demeanor that’s entirely comfortable, yet she’s utterly delightful and devilishly engaging in her pure, uninhibited enthusiasm. And what I soon begin to realize is that our tête-à-tête is much like the Hamptons home she’s decorated. It’s welcoming; it’s unfussy; it has loads of personality. It’s a place you crave to return to. The owners, Gerson explains, “wanted a house that really felt like theirs. They wanted it clean and modern with personality, and they wanted it to be different from other people’s homes. And,” she adds with gusto, “they wanted it to be super, super comfortable.”

MG1547.jpgApparatus x Zak+Fox wallcovering adorns a bedroom, as do a custom bed and nightstands, an Arteriors lamp and art from Angela Chrusciaki Blehm.

What catches the eye most are the vignettes—the quiet moments within the grand home that let it be known who, exactly, resides here. Each design choice has personal significance for the homeowners, notable especially in the art that enlivens the otherwise neutral backdrop. The “lady of the house,” as Gerson affectionately calls her, was raised in an art lovers’ home. “Her mother has a pretty cool art collection; her father also has a cool art collection. They grew up around art, so she knows a lot about it,” the designer applauds. “She really is a collector, and she’s gotten her husband into it also.” Of particular note are the Tom Wesselmann in the master suite, the Warhols in the living room and the cheeky Angela Chrusciaki Blehm lips in one of the children’s bedrooms (each kid had a hand in selecting the pieces for their room, Gerson notes). “It’s so cool when you get a client that loves art and wants art, like real art,” she enthuses.

MG1580.jpg A Tom Wesselmann piece hangs in the master suite. The rug is custom from Stark Carpet, the desk from Mr. Brown and the chair from Interlude Home.

Elsewhere in the home are surprising, playful touches— such as a secret bookcase door from the master suite sitting room to the office; a roof deck with glass railing for ultimate Hamptons stargazing; a whopping 29 televisions for next-level entertaining; and a basement with pinball, Skee-Ball, shuffleboard and pingpong—as well as more functional design cues along the lines of motorized umbrellas on the pool deck, a tennis pavilion with a bathroom “because the tennis court is set pretty far from the house,” she adds, and uberpractical coffee tables made to put your feet on (i.e., no glass coffee tables dare enter the home). “They wanted all the bells and whistles,” says Gerson. “It was really fun.”

MG1322.jpgThe Ciuffo Cabinetry metal fireplace is a showstopper in the living room. Other furnishings include Vladimir Kagan chairs, The Rug Company carpet, a Thomas Hayes side table, a custom sofa and art by Matthew Satz.

Then, notes the designer, are the “forgotten spaces,” which, in this home, are really anything but. In the butler’s pantry, for example, mirrored subway tiles line the backsplash as they reflect the moody dark-painted walls and the shimmering bronze cabinets. “When you see them in person,” she says, “they’re jaw-dropping. They’re really beautiful.” And in a powder bath, an unexpected rainbow onyx integrated sink meets a quirky mobile-inspired light fixture “that really looks like a piece of art.” Gerson’s theory for the nooks and crannies of a home is perhaps not a revolutionary design move, but it certainly is a welcome change to traditionally staid rooms. “A powder room,” she uses as an example, “is the room that everybody who comes to your house goes into. … You can really make it into its own little jewel box.”

It’s evident this home was truly a labor of love—not only for Gerson’s love of her craft, but also for her friendship with the family. “It’s really become a place that they want to call home,” she muses. “They’re here all the time, all year-round.”

Photography by: Marco Ricca Studio