I was born an artist. I knit my first sweater in kindergarten, won the Easter egg poster contest in first grade and sewed my first bikini in second grade. Throughout my years as a professional designer, I have continued to do crafts. I bought my house in Southampton, New York, when I was 35 from money I earned as an industrial designer and totally renovated the house myself.
I love working with wood, and designing and building furniture, dog beds and birdhouses. I have worked with tile — not only did I install it, but I also have been commissioned to hand-paint tiles. I have a passion for needlepointing, knitting and embroidery. I have collected yarns from my travels and have created designs from my own artwork all of my life.
My mother’s childhood home was in Wainscott, Long Island. She loved the Hamptons and loved to share her many fond memories. I was 7 the first time we visited Southampton, and I vividly remember playing in the giant ocean dunes with my brother next to the Bathing Corporation at Lake Agawam. I made the pink and blue checkered bikini I wore — I can still see it now. I remember the light, the diamond-like twinkles sparkling in the sky, the white, white dunes and the vast roaring ocean in shades of aqua, turquoise and blue-green.
My mother loved to show us all the things she treasured, in particular the hedges cut into animal shapes, bunnies. … It was serendipitous that I ended up buying a house across the street from one of the men who cut all of those marvelous hedges.
I enrolled at the University of Vermont and studied fashion design, but their offerings were limited. I transferred to Syracuse University, where I studied children’s book illustration and spent my junior year on an exchange program with Central Saint Martins College of Art in London. After viewing a major exhibit of Pre-Raphaelite art at the Hayward Gallery, I was hooked.
The day after graduation, I came to NYC with the intention of becoming a children’s book illustrator. The Art Nouveau influence upon my work led to my doing illustrations of Alphonse Mucha-style ladies for Penthouse Forum. Through a modeling go-see, I met Sam Antupit, the art director of Esquire magazine. I had a copy of Penthouse Forum in the back pocket of my modeling portfolio. He saw my Mucha-ish illustration of a woman in it. I did get the modeling job, as well as illustration work, but meeting Antupit altered the course of my career.
Antupit introduced me to a couple who were consulting for a Japanese flatware manufacturer. They asked me to submit some ideas, and I was one of five international designers chosen, along with Robert Welch, whose studio I had visited in London three years earlier. Imagine my pride as Yamazaki introduced our collection of 11 patterns at the New York Hilton in 1980. Three of the 11 patterns were mine. My pattern “Cove” became the No. 1 pattern in the tabletop industry, and I became a tabletop designer. I have spent the past 43 years licensing my designs to more than 30 manufacturers worldwide, primarily in the tabletop industry.
The Hamptons are synonymous with hydrangeas and hedgerow. Over the years, I have planted, studied and painted hydrangeas many times. Their beauty continues to inspire my fabric design. My home furnishings are covered with fabrics I have designed and licensed over the years. My favorite is a hydrangea pattern.
Periwinkle blue has always been my signature color. I used several of the coordinating patterns for the hydrangea, the wildflower, and the plaid in periwinkle. While shopping for projects, I stumbled upon fat yarn in my periwinkle colorway and excitedly planned a throw for my bed. I couldn’t find needles big enough to make the throw, so I got a broom handle to practice on, then used dowels I had and made my own needles.
I was drawn to Southampton because of the lure of the ocean, pristine beaches, the rolling hills, horse farms, golf courses, the light and fragrant smells of the magnificent gardens … its pure charm. While living in New York City, I spent my summers in the Hamptons. I spent my weekends swimming and sailing, and was invited to the Southampton Yacht Club. I loved racing lightnings, the colors of the spinnakers, the light, the sunsets, the potluck dinners, the camaraderie. It was then and there I decided this is where I wanted to live. For the next five years, that became my goal: to own a home in Southampton.
I rescued Buckaroo, my dog, from a construction site in the Hamptons, and as much as I enjoyed taking Buckie to the city parks, I decided it was time to move.
I found a colonial foursquare in the heart of Southampton Village, built in 1916. It was a true handyman’s special but full of charm. Hidden behind massive curtains were gorgeous six-over clear windows, many with original glass with wonderful trim. Most of the rooms have three or more windows, so my home is dappled with light and has warm breezes flowing through on summer days. The rooms have picture-frame molding and foot-high baseboard molding.
It is still a work in progress, as am I.
I am always working on projects throughout my house. I recently found curtains at an estate sale that were three stories high. I am in the process of upcycling these and making them into curtains for the living and dining rooms and hallway.
I am enveloped by my studio, which is the whole house and garden. It is my sanctuary. I wake each day eager to see where my imagination will take me. The morning sky is filled with the sounds of birds singing. Teddy, my cairn terrier, wakes me each morning at 5 sharp. This utopian paradise that I’ve created over the years brings me unmitigated pleasure.
Throughout my life, I have always had a special relationship with animals, who have been an integral part of my being. My love for animals led me to doing pet portraits, which I truly enjoy. I continue to get commissions for dog paintings, and currently my paintings of dogs are in the Southampton History Museum’s exhibition Puppies, Ponies & Pussycats: Tails of Southampton. I am also working on a children’s book written in the voice of my dogs about how great life is in the Hamptons for rescued dogs.