When Athena Calderone and her husband found their dream house in Amagansett, New York, it could hardly breathe. “The house was completely engulfed in trees and wasn't getting any sunshine,” she explains, conjuring up a very Grey Gardens version of the Hamptons. “There were gaping holes in the roof, and there were infestations of mosquitos and moisture and mold.”
Despite all of this, the house's balanced layout and upper clerestory windows charmed Athena (who, as an interior designer and blogger at Eye Swoon, is no stranger to overcoming design challenges), and the couple sprung for it. They did what they could to salvage the integrity of the house, and that very ceiling that was threatening to cave in became a source of inspiration.
“The original ceiling had these dark wood beams with white compressed paper board between, and it just felt like too much contrast,” Athena says, explaining how they put similar beams in the new ceiling but found another material to go between them.
I wanted something that felt utilitarian and natural but was used in a unique way... The architecture was very modern and austere—and even though I was seeking a mid-century modern home, which is rare in the Hamptons, I wanted something super cozy and that wouldn't feel stiff.
When Athena started creating a mood board for the renovation, she realized a certain recurring motif was her answer: rope. She called on her architect, Paul Masi from Bates Masi Architecture, to help bring the idea to life (“he figured out a way to do a pre-drilled channel to thread the rope between the beams”), but there was still the question of material integrity: “A lot of people nowadays are using rope, but when we designed the house a lot of people weren’t using rope in this type of application, and we didn’t know how to tie it or how it would wear,” she recalls.
Everyday manila rope was threaded through pre-drilled holes in the ceiling beams.
Amagansett, being a coastal town on Long Island, provided the experts for her: “We called upon local fisherman and sailers and had them come by during construction to knot and string the rope the best way. It was such an amazing feeling—even the architect of the house was from Amagansett!—that everything was so local and we were figuring it out as we went.”
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In addition to giving the space that warmth that she was looking for, the rope ceiling has the added bonus of lending the whole house a really interesting scent. “It smells like home!” she says, happily.
Athena Calderone is an interior designer and the creator of the blog Eye Swoon; she and her family split their time between Amagansett and Brooklyn.