December 3, 2022


Comfortable residential structure

A Fashion Designer Wears a New Hat: Full-Time Decorator

Can you style a bed room as you would a pair of previous Levi’s? Fashion designer Chris Benz thinks so. “Color, proportion, the blend of things—building a look is a whole lot like layering a place,” he claims. “It’s all about that combine, and making it experience reliable and pulled with each other.”

Considering the fact that purchasing a 19th-century farmhouse 4 decades ago in Bellport, New York, with his spouse, lawyer Peter Toumbekis, Benz has been renovating and outfitting its numerous rooms with aplomb. You could say that his trend background has served him very well. Even without any formal training in the house decor house, the former senior vice president of style for womenswear and Crewcuts at J.Crew has generally uncovered a pleasant simplicity implementing his aesthetic vision to interiors. During his several roles in vogue design—prior to J.Crew, he labored for Marc Jacobs, founded his personal eponymous womenswear selection, and was the inventive director at Monthly bill Blass—he experienced frequently dabbled in interiors-relevant assignments, like a wallpaper series with the model Wallshoppe.

In the entry, the bamboo desk is vintage, a midcentury studio pottery planter holds a pencil cactus, and the pendant is by Original BTC Lighting. The walls are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Teresa’s Green, the paintings (remaining) are by Cacho Falcón, and the silver sculpture (ideal) is by Ernest Trova.

Kelly Marshall

The household in Bellport is the fifth home that he’s built for himself and Toumbekis. He also oversaw the previously intestine renovation of their 4-story Brooklyn townhouse, a equally hanging but a lot more urban reflection of his penchant for an impactful color palette. “Whenever we transfer somewhere, I will need to put my stamp on it,” he suggests.

Prior to the pandemic, they were being wanting for a weekend retreat and were drawn to Bellport, a village on the North Fork of Extended Island with all the charms of a bucolic seaside town but the convenient perk of uncomplicated entry to New York Town. The quaint gallery- and store-lined key road turns more rural as it stretches out, winding earlier generations-previous properties and cottages. It was the guarantee of a extra discreet counterpart to the Hamptons—understated, but loaded with background and age—that drew Benz and Toumbekis to the region in the very first position. “The Hamptons has a whole ‘see and be seen’ vibe,” Toumbekis notes. “This space is where the folks who really do not care about that—or don’t want to be seen—come instead.”

living room
In the living room, the sofa and leather-based wingback chairs are by Ralph Lauren, and the custom birdcage is from Croatia. The deconstructed antique chair (correct) is from Holler & Squall, the 1960s rattan cocktail table is from eBay, the disco ball planter is from a flea marketplace, and the rug is from Sisal Rugs. The pendant and Japanese mosquito netting curtains are from Etsy.

Kelly Marshall

Originally, Benz experienced enjoyed the process of renovating on weekends only the routine authorized him time to think about his design and style decisions in advance of returning a week later with a refreshed perspective. But every little thing improved for the duration of the pandemic: The few marketed their household in Brooklyn and moved to Bellport full-time Benz targeted on turning a getaway property into a 12 months-spherical abode. He also located his hobby increasingly turning out to be his passion. Final yr, Benz pivoted into qualified home layout with the start of Cult Projects, a best-to-bottom concierge service for jobs of all scopes and dimensions. “Decorating is a enormous aspect of it, but we also do home organization and seasonal improve-outs,” he suggests. “If you want a vintage Land Rover in your garage when you pull up Memorial Day weekend, I know just where by to select it up.”

Inevitably, he places his fashionable contact on an inside. From the exterior, his own cedar-shingled home bears all the trappings of a typical Victorian farmhouse. A peek through the entrance door, on the other hand, reveals a colorfully idiosyncratic sanctuary layered with furnishings and objects culled from a variety of decades—an simply refined blend of previous and existing.

Chris Benz with his horse, Charlotte.

Kelly Marshall

Even though the title “the Oaks” was authentic to the 1886 property and a few-acre property, Benz was quick to embrace the designation as his have. Custom made matchbooks in pale turquoise are casually strewn about the dwelling (in portions suggesting that company really should most likely pocket a several), even though a sq. picket placard bearing the house’s identify hangs subsequent to the entrance door. Benz commissioned both projects from vendors on Etsy, a longtime trade key of his for sourcing what he refers to as “micro-contractors.”

Benz has often had an innate sense of color—bold palettes have been his trademark—yet he maintains that even the most coloration-averse can effectively undertaking further than neutrals by creating a sensible development from just one space to the next. “I really don’t consider people today ought to be as frightened of applying coloration as they typically are just make absolutely sure there is a flow—a cohesiveness—so that the hues make feeling and it doesn’t come to feel like a exciting residence,” he suggests.

guest bedroom
A guest bedroom’s antique beds, acquired at auction, are dressed with classic cotton chenille coverlets from eBay and bedding by West Elm. The R.J. Horner fake bamboo desk is antique, the partitions are painted in Farrow & Ball’s Blue Ground, and the artworks above the beds are by Maruyama Okyo.

Kelly Marshall

In his individual home, he practices what he preaches. Upstairs, a cluster of bedrooms in shades of robin’s-egg blue, smoky eco-friendly, pale salmon, and a cozy yellow blends fluidly and without having preciousness. Several rooms are accented with modern day information (like the highlighter-yellow ceiling of the downstairs sitting room) nevertheless convey a lived-in heat, largely many thanks to the clever mashup of furnishings. “I love that flea-current market vibe of paintings leaning up against the wall on the flooring,” Benz claims. “By layering them that way, as opposed to just hanging one higher than the fire, you produce a sort of electrical power in a house.”

Write-up-lockdown, the couple is much more inclined to host buddies at home relatively than go out. Throughout the summer months and early tumble, the screened back again porch overlooking the verdant gardens and a slender swimming pool results in being the hub where by friends gather for lazy weekend lunches of icebox-cold fried chicken and a boozy take on iced sweet tea. When the weather conditions cools and the gatherings migrate indoors to the house’s cozier areas, Benz relies on two strategically put bar setups to motivate movement and motion while visitors mingle. He and Toumbekis hold the bars stocked and the agenda open, a understanding tactic thinking about how often their daytime gatherings have turned into evening revelries, and often all-night affairs.

garden and swimming pool
An English-style parterre garden sales opportunities to the home’s swimming pool.

Kelly Marshall

To friends like Stefan Beckman, the manufacturing designer and artwork director, Benz’s transfer into inside and dwelling style helps make rational feeling. “It’s a best healthy to seem at interiors from a fashion standpoint: embracing hues, embracing textures, all these sorts of factors,” suggests Beckman, who resides portion-time in Bellport and owns the close by Bellport Common keep. “It’s enjoyment to see him give everyday living to his possess dwelling.”

Specified Benz and Toumbekis’s predilection for entertaining, there is also a 625-square-foot cottage on the property for blessed right away site visitors, who may possibly wake up to refreshing eggs from the couple’s heirloom hens. For every person else, there are plenty of matchbooks to snatch—a fantastic souvenir of a go to to the charmingly refreshed Oaks. 

september 2021 cover elle decor

This tale originally appeared in the September 2021 problem of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE

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