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Room To Breathe

When ex-Brooklyn residents Alane Kelly and Daniel King set out to find a new home on Long Island’s North Fork, they thought a small, low-maintenance weekend place would do. But after a six month search, they hadn’t seen anything that made their hearts race. Then Kelly got word that Andrew’s Legacy, a bed and breakfast in a 1930’s farmhouse, in Cutchogue, had come on the market. On paper, the property was hardly a natural fit. For starters, there was its size. With five bedrooms and five bathrooms, the 2,600 square-foot structure was far too big for the two of them. And then there was the color situation: the house suffered from a worrying amount of purple paint. Nevertheless, they decided to take a look.

“It wasn’t my style at all,” Kelly recalls. Inside, the atmosphere was very close with dark drapes and clunky furniture and a great many knick knacks. Mentally, she cleared away all the chinoiserie and, to her surprise, she glimpsed an opportunity. Right there and then, she and King decided to move to Cutchogue full time and transform the property’s cluttered precincts into an inn. Three of the bedrooms would be dedicated to guests and the couple would live in the other two. Purple paint begone!

“I’ve always loved small hotels and the location of this one was superb,” Kelly explained. “You could see the grapes growing on their vines from the back garden. The plan was to create an inn for the modern traveler.”

Soon after closing on the property, Kelly hired Caitlin Flynn and Elyse Parkhurst, the team at North Fork Design Co., to bring her vision to life. “Caitlin and Elyse have great energy,” she says. “I told them what I wanted and they got it.” Although the decorators are based in Massachusetts, Flynn grew up on the North Fork and retains strong personal and professional ties to the area. But the commission came with a catch: Kelly, who had left a high-pressure job in travel marketing, and King, a former high school English teacher working in safety compliance at Brookhaven Lab, hoped to open the doors of their freshly-minted business to its first guests in six months’ time.

Style-wise, the interiors were to be modern and North Fork-y. “I didn’t want the place to feel like a guest house in Brooklyn,” Kelly says. “I didn’t want formal or fussy décor.”

“Casual luxury,” is how Flynn describes their design brief. “The place had the good bones of a traditional farmhouse; the challenge was to reveal them.” On that note, the duo made just one structural change, inserting a set of French doors which open to a deck that leads down to the back garden. There, a circular flagstone patio overlooks a vineyard–a delightful spot for enjoying a glass of wine at sunset. Next, they repainted the exterior of the house white. The shade they settled on, Benjamin Moore’s November Rain, has a slight greenish undertone which the designers liked because it established a link with the home’s leafy surroundings. In a bold gesture, they painted the front door black, which the designers admit wasn’t an obvious choice, but they felt it made a modern statement.

Working from mood boards, they developed a color scheme based on earth tones, layering in textures, fabrics, and wall coverings that took their design inspiration from the North Fork landscape. “We used a lot of natural textures to bring the outdoors in,” says Parkhurst. They aimed to create interiors that complemented the house’s existing architectural features, which include southern yellow pine floors, thick plaster walls, original double-paned windows, and a cupola above the entrance hall. To this end, they ordered a custom mahogany table with twisted legs and mitered edges for the dining room and a dramatic wrought iron and glass lantern whose sharp angles echo the steep pitch of the cupola. In the living room, they painted the dark wainscoting white and covered the walls in grasscloth. As Flynn notes, “We tied our design choices to the location, so a lot of the decorative accents feature natural materials.”

Since the inn would host up to six guests at any one time, it was important to create common spaces that were separate yet stylistically connected. In the living room, they designed a reading nook with recessed bookshelves and two seating areas that feature tailored, clean-lined furniture with custom-made jute rugs throughout. In keeping with the North Fork theme, King’s own photographs of the local landscape decorate the walls.

The guest rooms share the same design DNA with white-painted nightstands, grasscloth-clad walls, and beds with custom-upholstered headboards. “Each one has its own feel,” says Flynn, “but the décor is related.”

The team finished right on schedule and the North Fork Guest House is now preparing to enter its second full season. Since the project’s completion, the Brooklyn transplants are enjoying their new home and their role as inn keepers. “The first time I came out here, I couldn’t believe a place like this still existed,” she says. “All that farmland–it looked like the 1950s! Here, I feel as though I can breath. I hope that’s what our guests feel, too.”