From Beach House to Forever House

Jessica Gerston transforms a Water Mill retreat into a home for all seasons

The double-height foyer features a seven-tiered mid-century-inspired mobile chandelier by David Weeks.

In the autumn of 2019, clients of Jessica Gerston’s eponymous design firm retained her to decorate their newly-purchased weekend home in Water Mill. Gerston and her team had just commenced the ordering process when the Covid-19 pandemic brought the world to a standstill. As Gerston tells the story, “The next thing we knew, the family had fled the city and moved to the new house, which was empty except for a black leather sofa from the husband’s bachelor days.” 

Thus it was that their weekend home became their primary residence. Gerston too had to regroup. Rather than designing a beach house, she now began to think of the house, a new build with seven bedrooms and eight bathrooms, in a more aesthetically ambitious way.

“Sculptural” became her watchword. The double-height foyer with its seven-tiered mid-century-inspired mobile chandelier by David Weeks, announces this theme. “I always prioritize lighting,” says Gerston, “and for me, that chandelier was the starting point that defined the home.” Beneath it, she placed a circular flat-weave Moroccan rug.

Plaster and leather lights of her own design are a focal point in the living room. A sinuous assemblage fashioned from rope, also of her own design, hangs over a bleached maple table. Beaded “Talisman” sconces by Apparatus Studio, the most sculptural of lighting designers, light up the master bedroom. For the junior primary bedroom, she selected stone sconces whose well, marmoreal, affect she softened with sisal matting and a linen-upholstered bed, a move that add both texture and warmth to the room.

Gerston, who worked in the fashion industry before she became an interior designer, took the same approach to the furniture. “There’s a dynamic interplay between shapes,” she says. To this end, the plaster lights are offset by a pair of Brazilian chairs by Sergio Rodrigues. A large coffee table looks as though it might be made of travertine marble, but is in reality a hunk of wood that was treated to resemble stone. The parade of sculptural shapes continues in the adjacent sitting room, where Gerston grouped four of Ligne Roset’s Pumpkin chairs around a custom coffee table shaped like a puddle.

Because Gerston and her clients had worked together before, “they let me run with every single idea. They trusted me and allowed me to go with my gut.” Their trust was well-deserved. An enthusiastic write-up in the Italian edition of Architectural Digest hailed Gerston as a rare talent whose interiors “fascinate and stun.” To be sure, the result of her handiwork is that her rooms do not appear decorated so much as sculpted. Overall, she says, they strike the right balance between elegant yet functional and comfortable.

As for her clients, “They lived through the entire installation of the house. It brought them such happiness during that time to be able to watch their home take shape, piece by piece, as each beautiful thing arrived. I don’t like to do interiors that anyone has seen before and I rarely use the same piece twice. It’s so much fun to discover new vendors and artisans for each project. I mean, otherwise, what’s the point?”

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