At home on the East Coast of America, the upmarket, but very understated Hamptons style has swept the globe. It seems that every second house that I work on is based on this classic style. Whether it is the delicate colour palette of soft blues, greens and greys or the relaxed styling, which still manages to be tailored and elegant, it is a style that I believe will endure.
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It's interesting to see how major movies can have a hand in global trendsetting. Something's Gotta Give from 2004 was one of the starting points for the global popularity of this style. When you compare Erica's beach house in Southampton to the look being emulated today, there are few changes.
We have streamlined the look more and use more greys and I feel it has more of a beach house than a country style look but overall, considering that this was 15 years ago, the style is clearly one that will endure.
Often the Hamptons style exteriors that we see in Australia are not the same as those from the Hamptons in the US with their gorgeous shingled external walls. These shingles are available here but are not often used. Instead we usually emulate the look with weatherboards, white balustrades and render.
In fact I think that the look we have here and refer to as the Hamptons is more reminiscent of the Seaside development in Florida. I have written more about this here.
However we have adapted this gorgeous style to suit our lifestyle and climate. These are the ingredients I believe you should include to get this style happening in your home.
My 7 steps to achieve a Hamptons Style interior
1) The right Hamptons Style colour palette
White trim. A crisp white trim works well for this look however be careful about how bright you go for your white. Remember that one with a touch of grey and colour will usually give you better coverage. You can read more here 5 mistakes to avoid when choosing white.
If you are building a home in the Hamptons style you should also consider the style of your trim – architraves and skirting boards. Many homes of this style also have wainscoting which is chair height wood panelling. For this look it should be painted white to match the trims.
Soft greys. Don't go too dark with your choice of grey. The overall look should be light and breezy if you want a Hamptons style. You can of course have accents of a darker grey but maintain an overall lighter look and feel. Consider too whether you prefer a warm or cool grey. I generally specify warm greys that are almost a greige for a Hamptons style.
Soft blue/greens. Introduce some pale blues and greens that contain some grey. In fact many homes in the Hamptons use a very pale blue grey for their exterior eaves. Dulux Milky Spearmint is one of my favourites for bedrooms in a Hamptons style home.
Navy Blue. This is the colour to opt for if you like the idea of stronger contrasts but want to keep the Hamptons look. Either in accessories, artworks or in upholstery and trimmed with white piping, this is definitely a colour that works for this style.
Furniture painted in white and black. Limit the use of natural timber furniture and paint joinery in white or black. I like to keep some natural timber, particularly if you have antique pieces. You want the feel to be organic, one that has evolved over time through a careful curation of interesting pieces or you run the risk of the house feeling contrived.
Related: Why I love a crisp white trim
2) Classic style joinery
Simplicity is the key here with satin or matt finishes and should incorporate the colour palette as mentioned above. These are my key points to remember for this look:
- Simple shaker inspired joinery
- Louvred style furniture also suits this style.
- Shiplap backing to bookshelves and display cases
- You can have a nod to the Caribbean if you introduce bamboo elements in the detailing on the joinery.
- Consider the door handles that you use too – black or dark bronze is a good choice for this look
- Match the hinges to the door furniture for a complete look
3) Comfortable places to sit
Linen upholstered sofas are an absolute classic for the Hamptons Style. If you are concerned about wear and tear then opt for washable slip covers in a cotton fabric or a washable linen mix.
Rattan chairs in all shapes and sizes are good to add texture and are a signature element of this style. In natural, black or white, they are an absolute integral part of the look. Whether you use them to complement linen sofas, introduce them in a cosy reading nook or use them as dining chairs – you must have at least some of them.
Leather accent chairs give you a more upmarket feel with fabric sofas. Consider your overall colour palette to decide whether a dark leather or a lighter one suits your look. This is a signature look for Ralph Lauren.
Comfortable upholstered window seats are great in any style of home but if you are emulating an upmarket East Coast summer beach house, then if you have the space and the right layout, they are essential.
Related: How to choose the right upholstery
4) Hamptons style flooring
Timber. A classic timber floor will give you the look of a Hamptons home over a tiled floor. For the classic Hamptons look, I like to see some contrast so prefer a darker floor however the look is often adapted for Australian houses with lighter oak flooring. This look is beautiful too and is light and airy and gives you the look and feel of the Hamptons style but suited to our sunny climate.
Rugs. Dhurrie blue and white striped rugs, natural floorcoverings in Sisal and Hemp or simple one colour rugs work well for this look and the rug absolutely must extend underneath the lounge setting.
Natural stone. I like to use a very pale natural limestone or a good quality porcelain tile that absolutely mimics limestone for a Hamptons look. A very pale grey or natural travertine will also work well.
Remember always that the Hamptons Style is based upon upmarket beach houses on a prized and expensive stretch of beach on the East Coast of the US so there is no place here for high gloss finishes. This is not a glitzy look. You must keep it natural, low key and understated with good quality finishes so you always need to consider this with your flooring choice.
Related: How to select the right rug
5) The right lighting
I like to have layered lighting in all houses so that you have a mixture of overhead ambient lighting (which must be controlled by dimmer switches), accent lighting from table lamps, task lighting for desks and reading nooks and wall lights to work with the overhead lighting to soften the overall look and highlight artworks.
For overhead lighting you can use LED ceiling lights but to get the Hamptons style right you must also use a range of pendant lights.
Table lamps should be pretty and either in a basket weave for a more casual look or made from ceramic with simple drum or empire shaped linen lampshades.
Related: How to choose table lamps
6) A classic style fireplace
Natural stone. Work with the natural stone of your area to get the right look for your fireplace if you are having a stone surround. The houses in Sydney look great with natural sandstone as this is what the entire city is built on. Don't be tempted to introduce a stone from overseas that is cheaper – work with what you have locally to get the right effect.
Simple slate hearth. A matt dark grey slate is my choice for the hearth however a lighter look can be chosen in a marble or pale grey.
A white timber mantle piece and surround in a classic style is perfect for this look. When choosing a design, remember to refer back to the simplicity of the Shaker style joinery.
Often the fireplace becomes part of a media centre so that you have bookcases built in either side and a TV placed over the mantle shelf. I'm not a big fan of TVs placed here but often and certainly if the room is a family one, then this is the only place it can go. Ensure that you look carefully into height regulations though as there are minimum distances between the fire and the TV and this is something you should bear in mind, right at the beginning of the design.
7) The right Hamptons style accessories
Whatever you do, don't throw away all your precious artworks and ornaments but if you do want to faithfully recreate the look then you may want to incorporate some of the items below:
- Ginger jars, generally in a mixture of blue and white
- Rattan or leather trays
- Books, either as a statement coffee table style or in bookshelves.
- Indoor greenery
Hamptons Style kitchens and bathrooms
The right look for the kitchens and bathrooms refers back to and incorporates many of the above points. However, there are some points that I want to emphasise for these important rooms:
Bathroom tiles. As with the overall palette, the colours should be generally light and airy and include the whites, soft greys and possibly touches of blue/green grey. Natural marble is my first choice for this look but you must ensure, as with any natural stone, that these are well sealed. Accents of natural stone with white tiled walls and soft pale grey floors work well together.
Kitchen tiled splashbacks. Again, marble is your friend here for this type of look. I like Carrara marble with its soft grey white background and grey vein as it gives you a very subtle look. Alternatively a soft white or grey subway tile looks good.
Bathroom and Kitchen benchtops. White Carrara marble looks great or a reconstituted stone with a similar look will work well and be far more durable and less likely to stain. A matt black benchtop also suits this look and together with door hardware and some accent painted furniture gives you an interesting Hamptons look with the stronger tonal contrast adding to the appeal.
If you love this style but are having difficulty pulling the look together, you may find my Free e-book on how to put together a mood board useful. This gives you a step by step guide to gather your thoughts and ensure that you stay on track with your decorating project. You can download it free here
There are lots of other useful resources in the library if you are building or renovating.
Remember with the Hamptons Style to always refer back to where it originated – the Hamptons on the East Coast of America. You need to keep the look relaxed but upmarket and slightly more tailored than a relaxed Australian coastal look. Hamptons style is a beautifully classic look which will endure and will only need to be adjusted over the years. If you feel you are straying into a full on coastal look, you may need to rethink it or just go with it because rather than replicating a style faithfully, you should always opt for what you like and what suits your home and location.
I would love to hear from you if you love this style and have this look in mind for your next build, renovation or weekend update.