Landmark Hamptons Estate- Villa Maria

Our design inspiration for today comes from a majestic 15+ acre waterfront estate in the Hamptons;  that iconic weekend and summer retreat for wealthy New Yorkers taking a break from the city, with beautiful luxury homes and breath taking ocean views.  This gated mansion, located in the Water Mill hamlet of Southampton, is said to be one of Long Island’s most beautiful estates and considered by many to be a local landmark- Villa Maria.  The historic 22,000 square-foot manor with stately gardens, vast lawns, and 1,200-foot bulkhead waterfront with dock, has undergone an extensive  renovation and modernization bringing it back to its glory days and better… and, it now happens to be on the market.  The listing caught my eye, for it was said to be one of the most notable, (and expensive) properties for sale in the Hamptons, and for good reason I learned.  I found the home to be beautiful and and fascinating, so I wanted to share my findings with you all for it is the ideal summer home.  For those of you looking for an extra spacious Hamptons retreat with history and a soul, this is perfect for you.  For the rest of us, it is wonderful inspiring interior design ideas.

Dating back to the late 1800’s, the property has had multiple owners and undergone multiple transformations.  The current structure was originally built in 1919, when the Hamptons had emerged as the destination of choice for high society.  The shipping magnate Edward P. Morse commissioned the Brooklyn architect Frank Freeman, known for vigorous mansions and imperial civic buildings, to transform the existing summer house into a beautiful villa by the sea.  The architect more than doubled the size into a 21,000-square-foot stuccoed mansion, adding a large new wing, a sweeping staircase, a ballroom, and an imposing colonnaded portico with Classic design stone capitals copied from an ancient Greek clock tower.  Rising boldly alongside the main road at the entrance to the village and overlooking Mecox Bay, the sprawling luxury home was a tribute to the Morse’s wealth.


As things sometimes go, the Morses grew tired of the home and decided to sell after a decade.  It changed hands a few times again until it was sold to the Sisters of the Order of St. Dominic, a Roman Catholic order in 1931- which is how the name came about.  The order occupied the estate for the next 70-ish years using it as a school, a retirement home, and in 1992, they added an arts and crafts building to the estate, calling it the Siena Spirituality Center at Villa Maria, offering courses in spiritual and holistic living.  During these years, the homes grandeur suffered.  The rooms were subdivided into dormitory-style accommodations.  Purely practical alterations, such as the installation of aluminum-frame windows and asphalt roof tiles, undermined the building’s refined character.  Decay took hold, with rot opening a gaping hole in the entrance hall ceiling.  The cost of maintaining such a home had grown beyond what the sisters could manage, and it fell into great disrepair.



In 2005, the greatly damaged property was put on the market and fortunately, the current owners, saw it’s potential, even after being informed that nearly one quarter of the structure would have to be rebuilt.  Though the nuns couldn’t afford the upkeep or the taxes, they wanted a buyer who would take care of it.   The new owners, Vince Camuto, who launched the popular footwear brand Nine West in the 1970’s and is now CEO of the Camuto Group, a privately held lifestyle firm. (In addition to the Vince Camuto line of clothing, accessories, and fragrances, the company owns the Jessica Simpson fashion label, has a partnership with Tory Burch’s footwear business, and holds the shoe license for BCBG Max Azria.) and his wife Louise, the creative director of the Vince Camuto line and a former Miss Sweden…  told the sisters that they wanted to restore it, no matter how long it took.  Interior design and restoration and preservation was a passion for the couple.   Villa Maria was not the first preservation project for the Camutos; among the other significant properties they have rehabilitated is the early-20th-century French Norman–style estate in Greenwich, Connecticut, where they reside. (NOTE:  Mr. Camuto has since passed away, earlier this this- though the property is still held by the Camuto family and is still being listed.)

To revive Villa Maria, the owners called on the internationally renowned New York City architect Andre Tchelistcheff, with whom they had previously worked on several residential and commercial projects.  The project would take six years to complete and the architect, along with a design team from John Hummel and Associates Custom Builders employed their extensive expertise in historic restoration to revive the mansion to its former jazz age glory and more, as well as modernize it with all of the amenities necessary for a modern luxury home, with “restrained elegance” as the guiding design principle.



Abundant sunlight helps to relieve the building’s formality, with illumination pouring in through French doors, new dormers, and carefully enlarged windows that have been left bare or lightly dressed with translucent draperies.  Enhancing the radiant effect is a primarily white palette.  It is after all, a sea-side beach home, so it was important to keep things light and comfortable.  A Gustavian simplicity helps balance the grander aspects of the architecture.   Against this mostly monochromatic scheme, the room’s darker elements—such as Renaissance-style sconces and bronze low tables—stand out like sculptures.  A special detail, the clunky wood balustrade of the central stone staircase has been replaced  with a regal sweep of wrought iron spanning the floors of the serpentine structure.  After the main restoration work was completed, the couple worked closely with Carol Egan, a Manhattan interior designer, to perfect the final details.



Pale hues dominate, with a variety of textures from parched to polished, which adds soul to the formal rooms.  The walls of the master bedroom glisten with a pearly finish, while the library is paneled in creamy cerused oak, and here and there gilt-wood softly glimmers.  The former 60-foot ballroom is now an inviting place to lounge any time of day, with its vast space divided into three seating areas and its stateliness softened with slip-covered furniture and sisal floor matting.  The place has been given the Hamptons house treatment stylistically you can simply say..which is really lovely.  The original interior architecture detailing is only highlighted with the simple styling of the decor.



The finished home now has 11 bedrooms, including a wonderfully appointed 6-room master suite, and 12 full and 4 half bathrooms, a wine cellar, a light filled atrium, a state of the art kitchen with designer appliances, hand-honed limestone and oak floors, mahogany windows, hand-carved fireplaces, and carrara marble in the bathrooms.

The outdoor spaces, even when palatial in character, also have a relaxed feeling.  The landscape architect Edmund Hollander has restored the properties four formal gardens, and added expansive evergreen landscapes.  The double-height portico, framed by enormous stone columns is my favorite feature of this home.  The estate also features a 68-foot pool and cabana, a carriage house attached to the main house via a glass loggia, a gate house, a 2-bedroom guest apartment, tennis court, an art studio, a teak spa with steam room, wet sauna, massage room, and the list goes on and on…



















This photo shows Mecox Bay.  Villa Maria is on the bottom left…additional land is available as well.  Be sure to check out the listing via the link below for more details…

Hope you all enjoy!  Have a great day!!

Another big point… This home has been featured on the cover of Architectural Digest!!

The home is listed with Sotheby’s International Realty.

Architecture:  Andre Tchelistcheff Architects

Interior Design:  Carol Egan

Photography by:

Scott Frances for Architectural Digest

Jake Rajs  @

Chris Foster @

James T Murray @


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