One Lavish Decorator’s Super Simple Beach Retreat
By SARA RUFFIN COSTELLO JULY 15, 2016
Miles Redd has made a career out of his love for custom flounce and flourish. So how did he end up with an Ikea-filled bungalow on Fire Island?
Redd bought the house in 2006, after renting on the island the year before. “I fell hard, like you fall in love,” he says now, recalling his instant attraction to the summer community’s modern, boxy houses, its shrubby pines and grasses. He especially loves the legendary gay enclave’s relaxed pace: its lack of cars (a long wooden planked walkway runs throughout the nearly 32-mile-long island); the way you could stand in the center and see the bay in one direction and the sea in the other; the festive 20-minute-long ferry ride from Sayville, on Great South Bay; and the Pines’s welcoming spirit. It’s the sort of place, he says, where “if you happened to be strolling down a little wooden path and heard a party going on, you could just go in if you wanted to.” Indeed, the Pines is a contradiction: a place both unapologetically scene-y and, at the same time, convincingly low-key.
In homage to that latter quality, Redd ended up changing very little about his house. Aside from removing a couple of Nagel posters and adding some personal comforts — new mattresses and bedding, a gym, better lighting and hooks for wet bathing suits — he left everything intact, including a white Parsons dining table and three comfortable off-white linen sofas. Spending the previous summer as a renter, living in a raw, undone sort of way, made Redd understand and appreciate the luxury of simplicity: the liberation that lies at the opposite end of the sewn-up grandeur he so convincingly creates elsewhere.
Not that he’s going minimalist now — though he is learning to appreciate absences when he finds them. “Even though I will always love beautiful things, I’ve relaxed my hold on them,” Redd says. “At this stage in my life I’m starting to love beautiful space even more.”
Anyone who has ever encountered an interior by Miles Redd knows that he isn’t afraid of color. Or patterns. Or accessories. Indeed, if the 47-year-old decorator has a single governing aesthetic, it’s exuberance: Consider his downtown New York City townhouse, where a red velvet banquette punctuates the Schiaparelli-pink living room, and a set of double doors are covered in zebra hide and detailed with rock crystal handles. In Redd’s rooms, bombastic color is the first line of assault targeted at walls, upholstery, lampshades and floors. He takes a couturier-like approach to curtains and bed hangings — he is an ardent admirer of the dressmaker Charles James — giving yards of decadent satin extra volume by lining them with even more satin, or finishing them with pleated ruffles. He tells stories with objects, juxtaposing some of his signature flourishes (baroque mirrors, sterling silver bowls) against his clients’ own pieces. It’s this ability to create glamorous, cinematic spaces (Redd was a film major at NYU) that has earned him his discerning following, along with a fabric line at Schumacher and, until 2013, a decade-long run as the creative director of Oscar de la Renta Home.
Which is what makes Redd’s seaside retreat on New York’s Fire Island Pines so surprising. Here, in a 3,000-square-foot, ’70s-era, glass-and-cedar four-bedroom house perched between the bay and the sea, the mood is easy, not theatrical. Most of the furniture and fixtures are from big-box stores. The carpets are industrial gray. The flourishes are minimal. Even more striking is the palette: pure white for the most part, with well-chosen accessories like a fern curling out of a glass vase or a Chinese pagoda hat covered in Redd’s own Black and White V Schumacher fabric. The landscaping is similarly laid-back: The long, winding walkway that leads to the house is hugged by dense copses of bamboo, which also offer privacy, and around the pool are low-maintenance groupings of arborvitae, rosemary and lavender.