Ina Garten takes us on a tour of her new barn. It's earthy, elegant, simple, and so Ina...
FRANCES SCHULTZ: Are you telling me you built this whole thing 'cause you wanted a kitchen?
INA GARTEN: No, because I wanted a house! Oh my gosh, we were cooking, and filming, and writing cookbooks, and everything else in our house. It was crazy! I needed another place to go.
So it's a kitchen and then some, but you call it a barn. Is that because it's where you unleash your culinary animal instincts?
That, of course! And I love the simple but old style of Belgian country buildings and barns. I gave Frank Greenwald, the architect, some books of things I liked, and he came back with a plan that literally was perfect. I didn't change a line.
There's definitely a dash of Axel Vervoordt here. Where does the Belgian thing come from? You're not Belgian, are you?
No, no! I just travel to Belgium a lot.
Because of the food? The beer? The French fries?
Well, the French fries aren't bad. The waffles are good, too. But I go because I love their style. It's very simple but very country. I mean that's where the whole neutral-linen thing started — and I believe by Axel Vervoordt. The whole thing about antiques and modern things together, and natural materials like wood, stone, leather — it's earthy and elegant, which is what I always look for in food. Real and not too perfect. It is what it is. If you start with really good-quality ingredients, you don't need to do much to make food taste great. Funny, I always say this about food, but it applies to interiors as well. Start with good-quality furnishings, and you don't need to do much to make a house look good.
Did anyone help you with the interiors?
Oh, yes. Robert Stilin. He's incredibly talented. What I love about him besides his great style is that when you ask him about something he says, 'Well, how do you use it?' First the function, then figure out how to make it look good. I don't like things that are purely decorative. Any collections I have are things I use, like pitchers and cake stands.
Knowing you, 'Form follows function' could be your credo. What other design directives did you have?
It was important that the house not look brand-new, that it felt like it belonged here, had a history. When I planted the trees I didn't want them lined up in perfect rows. I wanted them a bit off. Frank said if you plant the trees a little too close to the house it will look like it's always been there.
This dining table, so ample, and so comfortable!
It is! I work here, eat lunch here, have parties here. And I love those big chairs.
That's the longest kitchen counter I've ever seen. You could play shuffleboard on it. Exactly how long is it?
Almost 18 feet. My assistant and I work together, so we needed a really long counter. It's divided by a sink in the middle — very efficient. You don't want a huge kitchen. If it's too big, you need roller skates to get around it. The work area itself is actually the same size as it is in the old house.
Apart from supersizing, what are the most common kitchen planning mistakes?
One is that the work space is in the flow of traffic, so people have to walk through your space to get somewhere. And the second mistake is the location of fridge, sink, and stove. That classic triangle. Sometimes the fridge is on the other side of the counter. It's unbelievable — I mean, how many architects don't cook! They look gorgeous, but they don't work.
Hah! And sometimes the space between the counters is too much. You just want to be able to twirl around and be at the other counter, rather than have to walk over and back.
Now, lighting a barn is...
Really hard, because the overhead tracks are so high up. Greg Yale, the lighting designer, said you need much more than you think, and of course he was right. I prefer low, dramatic light, so they're all on rheostats. The ceiling is up-lit so it sort of glows at night. There's directed light down the middle of the counter, and we lit the cabinet and fireplace.
The fireplace sans giant moosehead, I notice.
Well, I wanted it 'barn,' but not barnlike.
Besides this one great multitasking room, there's an office area, a bedroom...
When I'm filming, the bedroom is my place to retreat. When I'm not, it's a great guest room.
And what a killer bath! A tub by a window overlooking a perfect little walled garden...now that's downright poetic. Which brings me to those great outdoor entertaining spaces...
I love having various places to go when I entertain. We have cocktails on the terrace, then come inside for dinner. After dinner we go back outside and pull up chairs around the fire bowl near the terrace and roast marshmallows.
May I have one of those sticky buns, please?
I have to tell you--those are the best things in Back to Basics. [See an excerpt from the book here.]
Back to Basics — I'd say that sums up the Barefoot Contessa design philosophy as well, in the most, as you say, earthy and elegant way.
It's my sixth book, and it's the first one I've written in the barn. I think architecture is inspiring, and when I walk in here, I can't believe I get to work in this place.
WHAT MAKES ME COMFORTABLE?
Owner INA GARTEN
1. Cashmere blankets and Loro Piana slippers everywhere.
2. Great dance music when I'm cooking.
3. Flower arrangements from the garden.
4. Mariage Frères tea with homemade cookies.
5. Surrounding myself with people who make me happy.
TONS OF PICS OF THE BARN:
On a shady side street of East Hampton, New York, Ina Garten built her "barn," inspired by the simple country buildings of Belgium and designed by architect Frank Greenwald. Ina loves to entertain outdoors, and "all my guests love to sit on the stone sitting wall before dinner, having a glass of wine," she says. After dinner, everyone gathers around the big iron fire bowl to roast marshmallows and make s'mores.
On the bluestone terrace, Ina prepares to set the table.
Rough-hewn salvaged beams lend dimension and warmth to kitchen-dining area. Axel Vervoordt cabinet anchors one wall and a huge Vervoordt basket at the end of the 18-foot-long counter holds all Ina’s bakeware. Countertop is Peitit Fossil Belgian Stone; lamps are custom. White armchairs from Robert Stilin. Wall color is Farrow & Ball Light Gray.
"There was a temptation to put a mantelpiece around the fireplace, but it would have been too decorative," says Ina. "This is a masculine room, and it needs to be very clean." Candlesticks on the mantel by Ted Muehling; stools from Robert Stilin; faucet by Waterworks.
Open shelves are stocked with a collection of cake stands and hotel silver. Viking range and hood; Sub-Zero refrigerator; Bosch dishwasher; KitchenAid mixer.
Grapes, figs, crackers and cheese: so basic, so Ina!
In the pantry, simple wire Metro shelving holds plates, props, and supplies.
In the bedroom, a 17th-century French oak table holds eggshaped ceramics by Ted Muehling and a vase from Lucca. Bed linens by Frette.
Morning coffee in the cozy comfort of a bedroom armchair covered in a Rogers & Goffigon gingham.
Ina's office space in an alcove outside the bedroom. The antique desk is from Bloom in Sag Harbor. Photo of Luxembourg Gardens by Jean-Michel Berts. Walls are Farrow & Ball White Tie.
This bubbles-up-to-your-chin bathtub by Waterworks overlooks a walled garden. Wood blinds are by Nanik.
A covered porch leads to the entrance. The caramel-colored cedar will age over time to a silvery gray.
HOLY FUCKING FABULOUS.