Remy Renzullo was only 26 years old when he was tasked with renovating and reinvigorating every surface of a family’s sprawling home in Southampton, New York, in 2017. That might seem fairly precocious, even by the standards of an American society obsessed with youthfulness. But if you are in need of some old-world glamour that skips across centuries with winning finesse, the young Renzullo is the person you seek—and this Mediterranean-style property is a testament to that fact.
“Even if it’s a house I’ve just done, I want it to feel like generations have already lived there,” says the designer, who grew up in Litchfield County, Connecticut, surrounded by the antiques his interior-designer mother collected.
The Southampton house was built in the 1980s by the owner’s father, and since then, its decor had barely been altered. Renzullo, who had previously created a vacation home in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, for the client, had the challenge of transforming the house to suit the needs of a young family without eradicating the home’s history. Tackling both the architecture and decorating on his own, Renzullo took his cues from the property’s Tuscan feel, a less common architectural motif in the Shingle Style–dotted area, to envision an Italian villa retreat.
In the entry and throughout the ground floor, he pulled up the pale oak planks and replaced them with antique French limestone in an irregular pattern. To continue the natural stone effect, he covered the walls in meticulously applied parchment sheets that have the warmth of aged terra-cotta.
The adjacent grand living room, with its Larry Rivers and Georges Braque paintings, subtly references a Billy Baldwin space at La Fiorentina villa in St.-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, France, with the blue-toned moiré upholstery Renzullo applied to the existing sofas. Meanwhile, the dining room features a hand-cut trellis that Renzullo designed with an eye toward the sunroom that Sister Parish did at the Coolidge Point house in Massachusetts; it plays nicely with a wrought-iron chandelier, which Renzullo painted white for an Alberto Giacometti effect.
The house’s five bedrooms deploy this same easy layering of historical design references: A guest room gets the all-over-print treatment, swaddled in a reproduction of a Pierre Frey riff on an 18th-century print. Upstairs, Renzullo tapped artist Julia Mecha to hand-paint the bedrooms’ wood floors so that they’d have a scuffed look similar to those in the homes of decorating icon Bunny Mellon.
The children’s rooms evoke Victorian seaside getaways, thanks to wallcoverings from Colefax and Fowler. Two previously cramped bedrooms above the kitchen became a sleeping suite for the clients’ in-laws. And when it came to the main bedroom, Renzullo looked inward for his jumping-off point: His childhood bathroom, which was covered in a Provençal fabric. Here, he sought out a similar French textile, applying it to the walls and in a blue inverse iteration to the bed and curtains for full, immersive impact.
And, just as you might expect for someone so steeped in nostalgia, Renzullo sees this project as an enduring one, even many years into the future, and not a done deal. “Growing up, my house was always in flux,” says Renzullo, who continues to add furniture and accessories to his clients’ home. “That’s how I understand a house to be: It becomes a living thing. Nothing is ever really finished.”
This story originally appeared in the Summer 2021 issue of ELLE Decor. SUBSCRIBE
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