Huck describes his early mood boards as nautical gone wild, and not, he now realizes, in a good way. But he remembers Smith being very nice about them. “Michelle said, ‘I see where we’re going with this.’ She was so approachable and didn’t overwhelm me with the process.”
She also appreciated that the angular, 1980s structure, despite its wonky ceiling heights, weird window sizes, and too-open floor plan, could be saved. “She promised me that even though it was kooky, she could work with it,” Huck explains. “She said, ‘I can make this your home.’”
For Smith’s part, she remembers the original house as “so ’80s. The best thing about it was that you could skip to the ocean from it. And the positives kind of stopped there.” They undertook that largely cosmetic redo, removing dropped and popcorn ceilings and recessed lights, opening rooms vertically to the roofline, and then cladding walls and ceilings in wooden boards. Everything got a coat of Smith’s favorite shade of white (the name of which she keeps a trade secret). From there, she layered in furniture, sticking to soft but rich textures, natural materials, and largely neutral hues, the better to let the ocean views claim the spotlight. Hanging from the ceiling throughout are powder-coated white-metal pendant lights in various geometric shapes.
Asked to describe the house’s overall style, the designer explains, “It’s Montauk modern or Montauk clean-lined—but easy. You don’t care if you’re in there with wet feet or someone comes in with their dogs. Simon has parties with hundreds of people, and it can all hold up.” While living in the house full time during much of the pandemic, the couple realized that they needed more space—specifically a home office, a gym, and a primary suite, all tucked away from visitors and the social whirl that came with them, once those lockdowns were over. “Every weekend we have a minimum of six houseguests,” says Huck.
Smith’s solution was to design two new wings, which the design team, including architect H. Randall Goya, connected off the back of the original house with a breezeway bar. One wing now holds the primary suite, gym, and home office, the other a screened porch-style living and dining area, with a rotating suspended steel fireplace. The consummate hosts had realized they were in need of a multiuse hangout space, ideally one closer to the pool and backyard, and this room did just the trick.
“Michelle did such a good job with the addition, creating such good flow…the house feels like it was always this way,” Riportella says. “In Montauk, we built the new out of the old,” Smith agrees. “Since we did the original house, I honed my skills, and Simon and Phil honed their sensibilities. It’s the original version—but upgraded.”
Asked to sum up his working relationship with Smith, Huck concludes: “Michelle has taught me over the last decade about how important restraint is, because I love to go over the top. And every time I didn’t listen and went with what I thought was best, I regretted it and went back to her idea.”