Taylor-Made Living: Come Inside Designer Rebecca Taylor's Beach House
A charming summer retreat on New York’s Shelter Island transports designer Rebecca Taylor to her native New Zealand, where dinner under the stars and lazy sun-drenched afternoons are part of a daily rhythm.
Horseback riding, swimming in the pool, biking on car-free streets these were all the scenes Taylor envisioned for her children even before she had twins Isabel and Zoe, 8, and Charlie, 6. She just didn’t know this type of idyllic setting could be found so close to her home in Brooklyn. “I had never been to the Hamptons, and I’d never been to Shelter Island, but a friend of mine had been coming out here to horseback ride, and I wanted to get back into it myself,” the 45-year old recalls of her first visit to this 8,000-acre island situated just a few miles from tony East Hampton. “So my husband and I came out nine years ago for Christmas.”
When they arrived, snow was falling and a deer crossed in front of them while they window-shopped at the one bookstore in town. The couple was smitten. “We contacted a real estate agent, she showed us this house, and we bought it on that first trip,” she says. “It was incredibly rash.”
She may have a CFDA nomination under her cinched belt and dozens of celebrities dying to be dressed by her (Olivia Palermo, Emma Roberts, and Taylor Swift are big fans), but on Shelter Island she’s just Mom. “Wayne and I get very traditional in our roles out here: cooking and cleaning for me, lawn and trash for him,” she says jokingly. “It’s
really perfection. All we’re missing is a name for the place.” They toyed with naming the house the Pines, “but we just end up calling it the Island.” Far from city life and business obligations, Taylor’s retreat lives up to its moniker. “It’s a special spot,” she says, taking in her surroundings and marveling at her luck that today’s rain never came. “It’s like New Zealand. You don’t need as much here—just good food, good wine, family, and, of course, some nice clothes.”
Taylor is a huge fan of fresh flowers—and lots of patterns. “Prints are a big thing for me,” she says. Her kitchen walls are covered with framed illustrations, most of them drawn by her husband, artist Wayne Pate.
The Front Porch
Taylor and her three children, twins Zoe and Isabel, 8, and Charlie, 6, spend nearly all their time outside playing tennis and swimming (pictured left). “The property has maples, hydrangeas, and pines—it’s just lovely,” she says. Outside the property, signs point visitors to the ferry dock (pictured right).
The Living Room
Natural materials—cotton, wicker, wood—lend the living room an easy, comfortable vibe. “We’re always switching stuff around,” says Taylor. A large Alexandra Strada photo of children swimming hangs near the fireplace.
The three children relax in the guesthouse, which has no bathroom. “My parents stay there,” the designer says with a laugh.
The Children's Rooms and The Back Entryway
The Outdoor Space
Most meals are served al fresco, underneath the blooming tree that dominates the backyard. “When it’s really hot, there is a nice breeze under the canopy of boughs,” the designer says.
Vases filled with wildflowers, and even little toys, give Taylor’s table settings their no-fuss appeal.
The Master Bedroom and The Pool
The master bedroom (pictured left) was once a television nook. The swimming pool (pictured right) is where the children can be found on summer afternoons.
Taylor's Relaxed Style
Taylor doesn’t take herself—or her second home—too seriously. “We like things that are meaningful, not expensive,” she says. Printed pillows add a pop of pattern to the white-on-white living room.
The Mudroom and Getting to the Island
The mudroom is arrayed with baskets of hats and an American flag (pictured left). Ferries provide the only access to the remote Shelter Island (pictured right).
The most important factor of Taylor's summer retreat is that it supports a family friendly atmosphere. “The style is relaxed and eclectic, almost rustic. It’s not meant to be perfect,” said Taylor, pictured here with Charlie, her “little man.”
The Back Porch
Taylor is attempting to imbue her daughters with a sense of Kiwiness. “I want them to identify with what’s going on down there, from the politics to the pavlova,” she says.