“As a former creative director, I am a very visual person—I know exactly what I like pretty quickly,” says Kelli Delaney, the well-loved Hamptonite who serves as the editor in chief of KDHamptons.com, a digital luxury lifestyle magazine chronicling the best in fashion, design, and social goings-on in the area. So when five years ago her husband-to-be, Mark Kot, introduced her to the circa-1885 Victorian farmhouse he had purchased in 1995, Delaney was quick to recognize its myriad charms. Dubbed Maple Shade for the three 150-year-old maple trees that grace the property, the shingle-style home spreads graciously over three floors and is surrounded by gardens both groomed and wild.
Kot bought the home, located in the tiny town of Water Mill, from Italian designer Massimo Vignelli after noting not only its historic details but also its uniquely intimate surroundings. “I was attracted to the strong bones, history, and privacy of the property, encompassed as it was by a privet hedge and surrounded by farmland,” he says. In a part of the world better known for its out-of-town visitors and over-the-top social scene, such an attention to quiet grace is a defining character of Kot and Delaney’s approach—both to design, and to life in the Hamptons.
The Art of the Mix
Kot’s bachelor stage was a bit more refined than the average. Eschewing shag rugs and oversize televisions, he had filled his home with pieces that reflected the stately era in which it was built, including an impressive collection of 19th- and 20th-century landscapes, seascapes, and equestrian paintings. When Delaney moved in, she recognized the need to lighten things up. “Although a wraparound porch is a pretty architectural detail, it does end up blocking a lot of light from the first-floor rooms, so we needed lighter furniture and rugs to brighten the living spaces,” she recalls. Her aim was clear: to update the serious, “one-note” interiors of her husband’s home to reflect their more contemporary shared style. “I think it’s important for couples to blend styles, especially if one person has lived in the home first,” says Delaney. “I wanted to create a home that felt like both Mark and me, incorporating pieces we covet from our past as well as new items we’d acquire together.”
Single-paned, double-hung windows and distinctive period moldings punctuate the common areas and play beautifully against the contemporary furnishings Delaney seamlessly melded with the couple’s combined collection of antiques. In the living areas, contemporary seating is stylishly geared toward comfort, while case goods, tables, and decorative accents are largely antiques. The resulting mix feels invitingly practical and yet carefully curated. The couple’s use of the space follows a similar approach. “In the fall and winter we use the formal dining room for larger dinner parties, but when it’s just the two of us I’ll set the round table in the living room for a fireside meal,” says Delaney.
In the fall and winter we use the formal dining room for larger dinner parties, but when it’s just the two of us I’ll set the round table in the living room for a fireside meal.
A Balanced Approach
Delaney’s curatorial instinct is evident at every turn: Symmetrical placement, neutral foundation pieces, and judiciously balanced pops of blue and white create spaces that feel at once airy and robust. The master bedroom, which Delaney calls her “sanctuary,” is grounded by walls painted Benjamin Moore’s rich Champion Cobalt. Crisp block-printed linens collected on Delaney’s Indian travels introduce a surprise hit of bohemian charm to the space, and a Victorian walnut sideboard layered with dignified art in gilded frames adds gravitas. As for the room’s deeply personal warmth, that’s trademark Delaney. “You will always find fresh flowers by my bedside, a Diptyque Baies candle burning, and too many down pillows on the bed,” she says.
I think it’s important for couples to blend styles, especially if one person has lived in the home first.
A Home for All Seasons
Rather than a warm-weather escape, Delaney and Kot are full-time Hamptons residents who enjoy Maple Shade year-round—more, almost, when the crowds clear and the coziness of the home they conceived together is at its most pronounced. “We love [our house] in all seasons, but cozying up to the fire with a white blanket of snow outside can’t be beat,” gushes Delaney. And never more than when the holidays loom. While it is hard to tear the couple from the collection of spaces they so lovingly filled with personal touches and homey staples, Thanksgivings are often spent at favorite haunts in their beloved area. “We typically go for a meandering drive out to Montauk, followed by dinner at the American Hotel in Sag Harbor,” says Delaney.
Bringing the Indoors Out
The outdoor spaces are as carefully conceived as the stunning interiors. “We live outside as much as we do inside during the warmer months,” says Delaney, an avid gardener. “I consider designing our outdoor spaces as rooms, which should be as inviting, comfortable, and chic as any spot inside the house.” An intricately carved Balinese bench-turned-daybed shrouded by voluminous Endless Summer hydrangea bushes is the perfect spot to sprawl out with a book on a lazy summer afternoon. A gurgling antique limestone fountain tangled with vines channels British garden elegance, while a bluestone patio presided over by a cedar pergola is the perfect indoor-outdoor extension of the back of the house. Delaney has a number of inputs to her process when it comes to the exterior spaces. “I pore over books by Charlotte Moss and Carolyne Roehm, I never miss a Hamptons garden tour, and I always make time to visit historic gardens in Europe when I’m traveling.” They entertain alfresco as often as they can, serving cocktails on the porch or poolside and holding dinners under the pergola with a prime view of Delaney’s prized rose garden.
I consider designing our outdoor spaces as rooms, which should be as inviting, comfortable, and chic as any spot inside the house.