By VALERIE KELLOGG It may have an asking price of almost $9 million, but this year's Hampton Designer Showhouse features some flea market finds and inexpensive decorating solutions alongside the expensive antiques and luxurious amenities. And although the shingle-style house in Water Mill is nearly 9,000 square feet (with the pool house, it's 12,300), many rooms are cushy and comfortable, defying the idea that big homesshould be for families whose members never want to bump into each other. Instead of big black seats in the media room, for instance, Joe Ginsberg Inc. of Manhattan used a soft two-tier banquette, a comfy 1950s vinyl rocker chair and luxurious pillows on the floor as seating. These trends and others reflect the times, say participating designers and artists. "In today's economy, it's important to bring things into the home that make you feel good," says Roslyn native Abby Modell, creator of LLe-Dom Glass Art and executive vice president of Modell's Sporting Goods, summing up the decorating approach at the house. THE GREAT INDOORS. One show stopper is Manhattan designer Kristen McGinnis' modern take on the traditional paneled library, with its bronzed elements of nature, like a Chista coffee tree trunk table and a tree root candelabra by artist Michele Oka Doner. "It's a celebration of nature," McGinnis says. "We're looking at everything around us and embracing the more simple things in life." Take inspiration from the lower-level sitting room by Manhattan's Janna Bullock for Art, Architecture and Design LLC. The room features a stuffed bird by American artist Kiki Smith. But, says J. Randall Brockett, a representative for Bullock, "a taxidermy piece doesn't necessarily have to come from an artist." And, he says, "You can find a bird's nest in the eave of your house" and bring that inside. SOCIAL DECORATING. Bringing in the outside world is envisioned in a larger way in other rooms. By decorating the library, bathroom and hallway with arts and crafts by local residents and lighting and wallpaper by an area company, the home becomes an extension of the community, says Soraida Bedoya, who owns Sag Harbor-based artists' consortium Related Arts and whose photos hang in the space. "People in general want to exchange ideas, collaborate and find new ways of doing things," says Bedoya, who collaborated with Southampton designer Carole Reed. "It's a natural consequence of being shook up. You look around and evaluate things around you. You begin to see whole new things." HIGH END/LOW END. In one corner of Huntington designer Kate Singer's second-floor bedroom, she paired two watercolors of Paris street scenes that she found at a flea market for $40 with a Thomas Pheasant floor lamp for $10,650. "Go more for a style and a look than for a pedigree or a price range," she says. The fireplace inside Brad Ford's casual yet luxurious screened-in porch contains a sculpture of a little bird. The Manhattan designer bought it at Target's Smith and Hawkins section for $5. "I thought it was so cute, and I loved the idea of little bird finding its way in," says Ford. TELL A TAIL. In conceptualizing the home office, decorators at Great Neck-based SY Designs say they wanted the room to "feel like the Hamptons." So partners Cathy Yohay and Marjorie Sobiloff focused on horses, using the 60-inch-by-48-inch photograph, "Unbraided Horse," by Bridgehampton photographer (and equestrian) Steven Klein, as the starting point. They added a silk and cotton ottoman, whose colors and textures remind them of the coat of a horse; pillows with edging made of dark raffia, reminiscent of a horse's mane, and a Collura and Co. desk lamp, whose structure conjures images of a horse's bony frame. The point, says part-time East Hampton resident Yohay, is to "fall in love with something, whether it's art or something architectural. You'll bring a consistency to the room." PLAY A LITTLE. The two bedside table lamps in Manhattan designer Janna Bullock's sitting room are not only made of human hair, but have names ("Rita" and "Elisa"). Manhattan-based Brendan Kwinter-Schwartz Interior Design's game room features a delicately stitched brown-paper sculpture by artist Ivar Theorin of a life-size goat gnawing at the corner of a painting hanging on the wall. Manhattan designer Brad Ford's screened porch features an entire wall of handmade porcelain wind chimes. At this year's show house, there's lots of playfulness. "People need a refuge from the tension of the outside world," says Brockett of Janna Bullock. "Why shouldn't there be a sense of humor in their living spaces?" It can work with color, too. Witness Brooklyn designer Ellen Hamilton's garden-themed master sitting room, with its green and purple foxglove wallpaper, colorful chintz curtains and pink upholstered furniture. TEMPLATE TIME. Stenciling is back, says Palm Beach designer Jennifer Garrigues, but it's different. Gone are dainty, small hearts and ivy designs; today's stencils are often modern, exotic and bigger. "This is gutsier," she says. Instead of more expensive wallpaper, Garrigues used a pattern on the master bedroom wall copied from the design on a Syrian antique similar to one in the room. OTHER TRENDS If you can't afford to build a pool house, build a gazebo. "It's a little getaway from the house, the worries, the stress," says Joseph Naas, sales and marketing employee for Dutch Petals in Southampton. Naas' company provided the gazebo and or- chids - in, because prices have come down as they're grown locally, he says. Manhattan's Miguel Elias Interior Design finished it, building a platform, benches and tables - which, with custom fabric frames on the ceiling, seat cushions, throw pillows and shades, could host a small dinner party. For something really different around the dining room table, decorate with jewelry. Glass art designer Abby Modell used cuff bracelets as part of the napkin holders in one setting. "That's a fresh way to show napkins," the Roslyn native says. If you have a rug that doesn't fit, give it a burlap border, as Manhattan designer Marshall Watson did in the living room. "The fabric is cheap, and it wears like iron," he says
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