Illustrious jewelry designer Tara Maria Famiglietti (whose A-list clients include Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Gisele Bündchen, Jessica Alba and Ali MacGraw, to name a few) and her husband, musician Matt White, don’t remember exactly when it happened. But at some point in the last year or so, the pair found themselves living full time in their five-bedroom, two-story cedar-shingle home in Sag Harbor.
“I can’t tell you when we moved here, because it was a slow, slow transition,” says Famiglietti, who does a fair bit of commuting. (Ondyn, her new water-inspired jewelry collection available exclusively on her Web site of the same name, will debut just before Memorial Day at a launch party in Tribeca.) “It was a little more and a little more. It was gradual.”
Tara, 40, met Matt, 39, through a mutual friend at the East Village restaurant Frank, on Fifth Street and Second Avenue, 16 years ago.
“His guy friends didn’t like the girl he had been seeing,” Famiglietti recalls. “They saw me in the restaurant and said, ‘You should date someone like that,’ and the rest is history!”
They decided to buy a home outside the city after the birth of their child, Ava — now a precocious 6-year-old with a burgeoning interest in Tolkien. The couple wanted an escape where their daughter could play in greener pastures. They were quickly drawn to Sag Harbor’s quaint whaling village and the cool waters of nearby Long Beach, but it was the romance of a detail-rich house that sold them on taking a leap beyond Manhattan. They purchased the property in 2013 as a bucolic getaway, but it’s now become their primary residence.
“There was a lot of care put into this home, which is why I loved it,” says Famiglietti (who once collaborated with her friend Padma Lakshmi on a collection inspired by movement for Bergdorf Goodman). “There were so many things that I thought were special.”
Indeed, the home’s previous owner, Peter Rufli, an Irish craftsman and Park Avenue building manager, oversaw its elaborate restoration. He ripped out the ceiling and the attic above the great room to open up the space, then lined the roof with skylights and heavy wooden beams reclaimed from the original 1940s house, using old-school peg joints often found in ship building where timbers join.
A sea-weathered slab of driftwood acts as the mantel above the fireplace, which the former owner also built by hand. He dried the nearly foot-wide plank flooring in the kitchen for a perfect fit.
“He really built everything by hand,” says Famiglietti. “It was so many years in the making.”
But while the bones were exquisite, Famiglietti wanted to put her own stamp on the house. Bit by bit, the family has been implementing a second renovation. They’ve rag-painted walls, refinished floors and decorated the house with eclectic, beach-chic objects, such as an Easter Island-esque silver ceramic head by Philippe Starck that serves as a side table. Famiglietti picked it up from a sale at the Sanderson Hotel in London.
“There used to be two,“ she laments of the artwork accidentally broken by her daughter. “We used to have nicer seating, too, but I like cleanliness, and as you can see, we have a small child. Now I just buy lots of affordable sofa covers from Ikea. There’s nothing wrong with Ikea!”
She purchased another much smaller silver head from Romany Kramoris Gallery on Sag Harbor’s Main Street. “There used to be two of these, as well,” she laughs.
Elsewhere in the great room, the couple created two tables — one from an antique iron base found at an estate sale and the other from galvanized pipes — that both feature custom wood tops commissioned from local artisans. A colorful painting by Famiglietti’s uncle John Lentini fills the living room wall. A striking still of Brigitte Bardot smoking a cigar hangs inside the master bedroom, while other fashion portraits by Peruvian photographer Mario Testino complement the guest bedroom.
“I silver-leafed the frame myself,” she says of her uncle’s painting. “I have been known to silver-leaf everything.”
In the kitchen, Famiglietti prefers to keep the long row of windows over the granite counters open, creating an indoor-outdoor feel and improving her view of the pool, patio, fire pit and comfy white daybed at the back of the house.
Perhaps the most strikingly rustic objet d’art she acquired for the home is a bench carved out of a weighty 19th-century shipping crate, which still boasts its original hardware.
“I always, always have a design aesthetic in mind,” says Famiglietti, whose jewelry line exploded onto the fashion scene in 2003, while she was still a student at FIT. (When an editor at New York Magazine bought a pair of her earrings and included them in a “Best Bets” feature during Famiglietti’s senior year, the designer received enough orders overnight to sustain her business for two years.)
Famiglietti attributes her celebrated aesthetic to her somewhat eccentric upbringing in Murray Hill, inside a family of fashion fanatics. Her father, Richard Famiglietti, ran the Downtown rock ’n’ roll boutique Jenny Waterbags and designed for stars like Eric Clapton, John Lennon, Mick Jagger and Jimi Hendrix. Meanwhile her mother, Thérèse Connolly, and an aunt, devised looks at their uptown shop, Ménage à Trois (on 65th Street and Madison) for clients like Diana Ross, Diane von Furstenberg, Barbra Streisand and Bianca Jagger. As a child, Famiglietti would model for family friend, fashion illustrator and late Halston creative director Joe Eula; his sketches of her made for Barneys and a local furrier now hang in her light-filled Sag Harbor study.
“I was always designing,” recalls Famiglietti. “In my home, that was the life we were leading. But I didn’t want to make clothes. That was my parents’ thing. And what little girl doesn’t love diamonds and jewelry?”
These days, the designer also adores cooking classic Italian dishes, painting with her daughter and relaxing in the outdoors with her husband at their home — happy moments that evoke her rollicking childhood, amongst the old writers and artists who used to fill her Manhattan neighborhood.
“I heard a song this morning and it brought me back to a memory where I could see us all in our apartment where I grew up on a summer night with the music blasting,” she says. “It was fun growing up like that. That’s what I want for my daughter here.”
And so the family’s similarly bohemian, one-day-at-a-time renovation continues, without a strict timetable.
“We are getting to this part, and we are getting to that part,” Famiglietti says. “It’s a lot to transition from an apartment to a house. There are always things to buy and spaces to redo. It’s never-ending, but it feels good.”