When Maureen McDermott and her husband decided to leave Brooklyn for the Hamptons, they knew finding the perfect turnkey home might be a challenge, and instead leapt at the chance to create a space all their own. Having spent years working for top designers, Maureen had more than enough design experience and was anxious to find a house that would allow her to seamlessly integrate the light and air of the waterfront community. The designer, who runs the high-end residential firm Winter McDermott, found a sprawling house (2,000 sq. ft.) with a great location, but it needed to be updated from the ground up. With a 6 month timeline, Maureen set out to create better flow with plenty of open space for entertaining, while keeping everything kid (and pet!) friendly for their two young children and 11 year old yorkie. The finished result is a sun-soaked retreat that has us ready to pack up and leave the city as well. We’re chatting with Maureen about the home, her career path, and the ultimate words to live by.
You told us this was a “complete renovation.” What condition was the home in at the start?
The house was a disaster. Dark closed in rooms, small restricted kitchen, and bathrooms that were in bad shape with black mold and no storage. The entrance opened up into the side of the fireplace that cut into the living room. I wanted to create a separate foyer and a dramatic entrance so we moved the entrance to an old breezeway and extended the house to incorporate the garage.
Brilliant! As you moved forward on the design plan, what was the inspiration for the space?
We moved from an open floorplan 2 story condo with windows climbing to the top of the 20 ft walls in Brooklyn to this small closed-in house. So we wanted to open it up and let some of the beautiful Hamptons light and air in. We were also inspired by the old steel windows found in pre-war NYC buildings that we ended up mimicking with new Eagle windows with black painted grilles.
We’re sure a big renovation comes with some challenges…
By vaulting the ceiling we ran into structural issues. A massive ridge beam had to be installed along with a vertical support that was designed to separate the space in a way that flow was not disrupted. That was a big change order! We also didn’t intend on changing out all the windows but then decided to just go for it. The windows had major impact on the aesthetics of the house while allowing for great deal of light to pour in. Many of the windows are over 5 ft high.
The light is simply exquisite, so you made a great call! We know it’s hard to pick favorites, but do you have a room you love most?
The kitchen – it’s at the center of the house. We all congregate and hang out there every morning and night while preparing and eating our meals. It’s the perfect family space and a great space for entertaining. Our son loves to sit at the island and draw.
You’ve made quite a mark on the design industry. How did you discover this was your passion?
I have always been creative and was always taking art classes growing up. I started thinking about architecture and design in college where I was an art history major. We studied a great deal of architecture and I decided I wanted to focus on interior architectural design and applied to design school (NYSID) in Manhattan.
Amazing! Where did your career path go from there?
I got my first job working for an architect who specialized in Broadway Theater restoration while still in design school. It was super exciting to be able to get a backstage view into some of the most famous theaters in the world. Our clients were The Shubert Organization so I learned how to be in that professional world and how to calm my nerves when dealing with tight timelines in NYC. The job entailed a lot of research of historical styles but also taught me how to create construction and bid sets, client presentations and how to use AutoCAD proficiently. I then worked for other designers such as a lighting design firm (Tirschwell & Co.) and a corporate designer before finally finding my niche of residential design working for Vicente Wolf. Vicente made me fall in love with residential design and gave me the most amazing opportunities to work on fabulous jobs. I am so grateful for that experience. I worked at Vicente’s for over 4 years until a month before I had my son PJ.
That’s quite a resume, and we can’t wait to see what you do next. Finally, any words to live by?
I stole this one from Mies Van Der Rohe, but “Less is More.”