Departures, Spring 2014: "Pop! Goes the Beach House"
February 8, 2015
"The Sagaponack getaway of Richard Mishaan makes a deceptive first impression. As one passes through the gates toward the circular drive on New York's Long Island, a shingled Queen Anne comes into view. It's a perfectly lovely home that does not stand out from others in the area. One could not be faulted for assuming that, based on its exterior, it's the sort of place that would be decorated in one of the expected, tasteful Hamptons motifs-- perhaps the nautical version, dominated by shades of navy and white with glass and jute accents and at least one bowl of perfectly curated seashells. It is, after all, the home of a high-profile designer whose portfolio include the Presidential Suite at the St. Regis in Manhattan, which he redid in 2009. Then one walks int he door and is greeted by an eight-foot-tall fiberglass-and-rubberized-paint statue by the graffiti artist KAWS, which is next to a bunch of surfboards and faces an 18th-century blue-and-white ceramic Swedish stove (that belonged to Mishaan's grandmother)-- and realizes that this is not the typical Hamptons house.
'It is a crazy, crazy house,' admits Mishaan of the six-bedroom home he built with his wife, Marcia, 18 years ago. 'And it's really evolved. It used to be more country.' Which is impossible to imagine, considering its current state. But it soon becomes clear that its evolution reflects the evolution of the designer himself, who, like his home, is much more than meets the eye.
Born in Bogota, Colombia, Mishaan studied architecture at New York's Columbia University and apprenticed with Philip Johnson before going into fashion. At one point he was the president of Wilson Sporting Goods Company; at another he had his own sports-wear company. He developed real estate in the Hamptons; opened a home-furnishings shop, Homer, on Madison Avenue in 1997 (it has since moved to Greenwich Village); and recently completed an executive M.B.A. (from Harvard, no less). His current roster of projects includes two hotels-- the Shelborne Wyndham Grand South Beach in Miami (rooms, from $240; 1801 Collins Ave; 877-999-3223; theshelborne.com) and the Tcherassi Hotel + Spa in Cartagena (rooms, from $360; Calle Del Sargento Mayor N.6-21; 57-7/664-4445; tcherassihotels.com)-- homes in New York City, the Hamptons, and Nassau, and his ever-expanding tabletop collection for Lenox and a furniture and lighting line for Homer. In his 'spare' time, he can be found at various spots around the globe, perusing flea markets, antiques shops, and art fairs.
Art is the constant in Mishaan's life and is present in almost every single room of his home and garden (where a Fernando Botero sculpture watches over a trio of Lalanne sheep). He speaks fondly of his first significant acquisition, a David Hockney drawing, which he bought at Andre Emmerich Gallery while an undergraduate student at New York University. 'I was in love with it, but it was $5,000, and I could never afford it,' he recalls. 'But Nathan Kolodner, who worked there then, saw that I loved it and let me pay for it over time. That is how this all started.'
The drawing now hangs in a place of honor as the centerpiece of a wood-paneled bar in the library, Mishaan's favorite room. It's a clubby mini-gallery, where a visitor, taking a seat in a Philippe Starck Royalton chair or a deep tub chair (also purchased while Mishaan was in college and attributed to Jacques Emile Ruhlmann), can gaze upon works by Tom Sachs, Chuck Price, Deborah Kass and Tony Duquette, as wee as a piece of New York City history in the form of three tables that once graced the tiny lobby bar of the Paramount Hotel and a Hello Kitty drawing that his daughter, Alexandra, was inspired to create after seeing the Tom Sachs versions of the same. 'I don't do this as a stock pick,' says Mishaan of the collection. 'These are things I love and that enhance my life.'
A recent round of rethinking and rearranging some of these items was at the behest of his teenage children. 'My kids were embarrassed that their rooms still looked like they were five years old. I guess we were all in denial, but I love the changes because they are still very reflective of who we are.' His son, Nicholas, now 19, was allowed to select from existing items in the home, and from his father's storage space, where he found a pair of Paolo Buffa side tables. A series of Robert Indiana numbers, discovered at a flea market, hangs above his bed, which is graced with an Hermes blanket given to him by a family friend when he was born.
It really is all in the mix for Mishaan, but he creates it with a sense of scholarship and humor. Many of his objects, in the hands of a different owner, could prove a disastrous exercise in decorating. But Mishaan has had the benefit of time and plenty of square footage (the home is about 14,000) in which to experiment.
Take the dining room. All that remains of its prior incarnation as a formal, more Gothic- style space for dining and entertaining is the marble floor (in Venetian palazzo design) and the white lacquer dining table by Francois Champsaur, one of the first designers Mishaan discovered in France and sold at Homer. The Tony Duquette crystal-and-resin twig chandelier, now the centerpiece of the space, was the 'beginning of that room becoming crazy Oriental madness,' laughs Mishaan. A wrought-iron console covered in shells with a matching mirror, also by Duquette, soon followed. He pokes fun at the Duquette-style more-more-excess, but it's the tempering of the extreme against the crisp clean floors and high-gloss white table that keeps the room from teetering into outrageousness.
He's called the living room a 'series of contradictions,' with pieces from the 16th through 21st centuries commingling in shades of black, ivory, and gold with wood accents. Almost all have an interesting backstory, and several have followed him from home to home, such as a white Donghia sofa that he says 'has been in my life for every incarnation,' as well as a pair of linen-and-leather love seats by Olivier Gagnere that were originally designed for Mishaan's shop. A Louise Nevelson screen, bought at an auction, is perfectly centered between two windows. 'I bought it without measuring,' he recalls. 'Then it showed up and was gigantic! But it fit perfectly where it is and has been there forever. It was meant to be.' Other items of note include a Knoll table, chairs by Eric Schmitt (another designer Mishaan discovered in France and carried at Homer), and 1930s Ruhlmann table and a Mattia Bonetti Chewing Gum table.
While the items in the living room-- and the home as a whole-- read like a checklist of must-have art and design, Mishaan says it was never a conscious effort to tick off certain boxes. The pieces are all just souvenirs picked up from a life (or several lives) dynamically, all composed by a designer with a vision for the classic mixed with the contemporary, the decadent with the delicate. 'We've always loved to collect art and furniture,' he says. 'If the difference between a hoarded and a collector is the provenance of the items, this home is now filled with treasures. Most of them originally were not costly, just things that made our hearts sing. Now they may be both.'"