Inside the Mesmerizing Hamptons Home of Photographers Inez and Vinoodh

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Among her famous dicta, the legendary arbiter of taste Diana Vreeland once opined that “the eye has to travel.” Few eyes have traveled further afield in pursuit of beauty and inspiration than those of fashion photographers and artists Inez van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin. Over the course of their career, the Dutch-born couple have developed a singular vision predicated on the complex pas de deux of art and commerce, a marriage of haute chic and high drama, interlaced with fantastic eruptions of surrealism and fantasy. That vision has been brought to three-dimensional life in the partners’ captivating country refuge in the hamlet of Water Mill, New York, on the South Fork of Long Island. Layered with an intensely personal collection of objets de vertu and artworks, the home epitomizes van Lamsweerde and Matadin’s devouring eye for mesmerizing color and form as well as their painterly approach to organizing rooms, composing vignettes, and framing views.

The home and garden also speak to the deep well of references amassed by the photographers during their peregrinations through the beau monde. Consider the moody bamboo grove that shrouds the entry procession to the property, inspired by the set design for a production of Madama Butterfly staged by the avant-garde Spanish theater group La Fura dels Baus at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome. Or the enfilade of crape myrtles in the seductive walled garden, which nods to the pink accents in architect Gabriel Guévrékian’s Cubist Garden at the Villa Noailles in Hyères, France. Or the lofty primary bedroom suite on the home’s newly added upper floor, which echoes the layout and proportions of the yoga pavilion at COMO Parrot Cay in Turks and Caicos, one of the couple’s favorite destinations. Everywhere one turns, in both the home and the garden that surrounds it, there’s something fascinating to admire, a heady composition to contemplate, a tale to be told.

“The house is like a continuous still-life story. We’re constantly looking for beauty, shifting things around, finding pleasure in new combinations of color and objects,” van Lamsweerde says of the couple’s restless probing and their ability to forge aesthetic connections that transcend period, pedigree, and provenance. “The feeling we get when we create a special moment in the house is the same joy we experience in making a great photograph,” she adds.

The canvas for the couple’s artful explorations is a humble 1960s dwelling that had been renovated and expanded multiple times in the ensuing decades. When van Lamsweerde and Matadin acquired the property, the house presented itself as a lean, white, Bauhaus-inflected construction, one story high, perched on a hill overlooking a generous pond with a verdant island at its center. To execute their imagined transformation, the photographers once again enlisted the collaborators who had worked on their endlessly Pinterested New York City loft (AD, October 2011): master woodworker Simrel Achenbach of the design-build firm Desciencelab, who oversaw the architectural aspects of the renovation, and designer Daniel Sachs of Sachs Lindores, who advised on furniture layouts and helped source fabrics and furnishings.

“The loft was obviously a major touchstone for this project. You can see the influence in the application of the wood and the juxtaposition of big, expansive spaces and intimate nooks,” Matadin explains. “When we bought the place, our son [Charles Matadin] was only seven years old. He said, ‘You should hire Sim to do it, and you should paint the house black,’ which we did.”

In addition to building a new primary bedroom floor cantilevered above the original structure, Achenbach’s ministrations included lifting the ceiling of the voluminous living room, devising an outdoor dining room in the form of a walled garden, crafting a shaded alfresco lounge by the pool, and working with Sachs and the clients to design custom built-ins and furnishings. For someone who describes his practice as “wood-centric,” it’s not surprising that the soul of Achenbach’s contribution emerges from his virtuosic handling of wide-plank pine, salvaged from farms in Pennsylvania, on the floors, walls, and ceilings, and velvety redwood reclaimed from old wine vats for the kitchen millwork. “Essentially, the woodwork is the architecture, and the architecture is the woodwork,” he says, summing up his enterprise.

Sachs underscores the consistency of the decorative sensibility that animates both the couple’s Manhattan loft and their Hamptons house, evident in the repeated deployment of monumental Isamu Noguchi lanterns, Japanese indigo-dyed fabrics, and a dizzying array of sculptural furnishings. “The big difference, of course, is the landscape. Here, everything is calculated to reinforce the connection with nature,” the designer states. Fashion, unsurprisingly, exerted its own influence. The jaunty color palette of pinks, oranges, lavender, cognac, and blue was inspired by a vintage photograph, supplied by van Lamsweerde and Matadin, of French model Denise Sarrault posed in front of a Sonia Delaunay painting at the old Museum of Modern Art at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris, the tones of her ensemble matching those of the painting.

For the garden portion of the program, van Lamsweerde and Matadin engaged landscape designer and environmental activist Edwina von Gal, founder of the nonprofit organization Perfect Earth Project, as well as landscape designer Tony Piazza, who continues to maintain and develop the garden. Von Gal focused her efforts on the restoration of native plantings and pollinators friendly to birds and insects, all maintained without the use of hazardous chemicals. Her landscape interventions—including the bamboo grove, a berm that hugs the pool with a cascading bank of roses, a flowery hillside meadow, and the cultivation, along with Piazza, of a moss garden within the forest at the edge of the property—collectively reinforce the sense of a home that occupies its own private, cloistered world, far removed from the hubbub of the Hamptons. “The most precious part of the landscape—the pond and the island—is the part I didn’t do,” von Gal confesses with a wry smile.

Although the project spanned roughly seven years, the photographers’ country paradise is still a work in progress. “It’s an ever-evolving conversation, a constant fine-tuning,” Matadin insists. Nevertheless, the rewards are ample. Says Van Lamsweerde, “Coming from cold, rainy Holland, this place is a dream.”

This tour of Inez and Vinoodh’s home appears in AD’s April issue. Never miss an issue when you subscribe to AD.

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