Mara Miller and Jesse Carrier are the husband-and-wife team behind the wildly successful Carrier and Company design firm. (And we do mean wildly successful—just ask their client Anna Wintour about them.) In addition to designing homes, they’ve created lighting, furniture, art, and rug collections. To their neighbors in Manhattan’s Upper East Side, though, they’re simply the interior designers down the hall.
One of those neighbors “just came by one day,” says Jesse. Then he made a few more impromptu visits. He wanted Mara and Jesse to take a quick look at where the architect of his second home, in Southampton, had left things and see how they could work their magic. Slowly Mara and Jesse realized the scope of the job was much bigger than just a few finishing touches. The impromptu meetings continued. The project kept growing. “They were going up and down and out,” says Jesse. It was a total renovation by the end.
As Mara and Jesse got down to the nitty-gritty of the design, they faced an all-too-common dilemma: differing tastes between the spouses. The wife liked modern, and the husband liked traditional. “I feel like we often get this response from clients,” Jesse says. “Rarely do we have clients who have a singular point of view.”
So how do you bring two disparate tastes together? Find common ground. The easiest way to do this was to layer in the things the couple loved.
Mara and Jesse set their eyes on two items owned by the couple: a set of vintage Moroccan pendant lights and a piece of unique artwork. Both found their way into the design, and everything else was built around a compromise of style. Mara and Jesse used natural elements to find new ways to appeal to both the modern and the classic aesthetics. “One of the key things is that the contemporary elements are also organic, and that rusticity appealed to the husband. So it was a good bridge,” says Mara.
Jesse and Mara built that bridge through a neutral color palette, a splash of funky additions, loads of texture, a balance of light and dark, and their secret weapon: “We achieve it with raw talent,” Mara says as a joke. She’s not wrong.
Though the house looks out onto the Atlantic Ocean, you won’t find your typical beach-house style in this home. “They use this house year-round. They do Thanksgiving and holidays here,” says Mara. This influenced how Jesse and Mara thought about texture and color: The home needed to feel both airy for summer and cozy for fall and winter. To accomplish this, they played with texture and scale.
Grass-cloth wallpaper provided plenty of texture and made the cavernous rooms feel warmer. Mara and Jesse extended the wallpaper to cover the vaulted ceilings in the main bedroom, dining room, office, and main bathroom. Elements such as live-edge tables and pieces of coral incorporated more natural texture and warmth throughout the space.
Among the ways they tamed the scale of the home was by adding an oversize chandelier in the main bedroom and hanging dark curtain panels high in the living room.
The power of light can also be felt in these spaces. An easy way to achieve coziness is by making things feel dark and moody, but often that’s not a sustainable design in a family home. Instead of wrapping the entire home in darker colors, they focused on areas where intimate moments occur. A moody dining room, for instance, is perfect for delicious dinners by candlelight.
His and Hers
“The space is very much his and hers,” says Jesse. The living room is a perfect example of how Mara and Jesse blended two styles into one space. For him, they chose classic upholstery in muted colors. This provides the base for the modern elements selected for her: a sleek light fixture, funky curtains, a live-edge coffee table.
They extended this practice throughout the house. In the bedroom, for instance, they added a tufted bench for him and wild patterns hidden in cream and silver tones for her. The mudroom has classic shiplap for him and an iron bench for her. This dance between modern and traditional keeps the house feeling wholly individual and unexpected.