Designer Spotlight

Carrier and Company Crafted a Sunny, Airy Escape on Shelter Island

How to strike a balance between the traditional leanings of one homeowner and the more contemporary tastes of the other? What’s the key to transforming a spectacular space with vaulted ceilings and a massive wall of windows into, of all things, a bathroom? What kind of light fixture would be functional and attractive over the dining table but not so much of a showstopper that it distracts from the water view? 

From big picture to granular details, “these are the things that keep us up at night,” says Jesse Carrier, partner with his wife, Mara Miller, in the illustrious Manhattan-based interior design firm Carrier and Company. The pair must have had terrible insomnia while working on the Shelter Island home of a couple whose dream house — a 5,000-square-foot, cedar-shingled new build on waterfront property — Carrier and Company took on in an embryonic stage. 

Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller, partners in the interior design firm Carrier and Company
Jesse Carrier and Mara Miller, partners in the interior design firm Carrier and Company, took on a 5,000-square-foot vacation home on Shelter Island when it was just a foundation and framework — a rare opportunity to work on a project so early in the building stage (portrait by Sang An). Top: The living room features a long Gracie sofa, an exposed-wood-frame Valyn chair and a pair of tan leather swivel chairs, all by Carrier and Company for Century Furniture. All photos by Tim Lenz unless otherwise noted

The homeowners had engaged a local architect to make basic construction drawings and file plans, but that was about as far as it went. “When we arrived, it was just the foundation and framework,” Carrier says. “We had to define the whole interior: columns, ceilings, millwork details, lighting, flooring, kitchen and baths — all of it.” 

Carrier and Miller jumped at the rare chance to have a voice so early on in the process, determining such things as what material to use for the as-yet-unbuilt fireplaces (stone so local it was pulled from the property) and tweaking the floor plans. They devised, for instance, a wing wall that lets occupants of the open kitchen remain visible to those in the adjacent dining room and screened porch but hides any mess in the cooking area. “Unfortunately, homeowners often don’t think of interior design until the end,” notes Carrier. “Then, we get in trouble for saying, ‘Let’s move this wall.’ ” 

Shelter Island entry by Carrier and Company
In the entryway, a console from Made Goods is accompanied by a pair of woven Warren ottomans from the firm’s line for Century.

This kind of careful consideration and attention to detail at each stage of an interior design project is one reason why Carrier and Company has become so highly regarded in its 17 years in business, amassing a portfolio of residential projects from Southampton to Soho and hailed for its essential lightness and effortless chic. 

living room by Carrier and Company
The artwork on the blue console is Susan Hable‘s Anemone print, part of her collection with Soicher Marin. The space also features Carrier and Company for Century Furniture’s Gustav coffee table.

Carrier and Miller, the parents of a teenage son and preteen daughter, met while studying interior design at FIT in the ’90s and founded Carrier and Company in 2005 after having separate jobs in the industry for over a decade. Recently, the firm branched out into product design, creating furniture for Century Furniture, fabrics for Lee Jofa and lighting for Visual Comfort. A coffee-table book about its work, Positively Chic Interiors (Vendome Press, 2015), leads with an ecstatic foreword by Vogue editor in chief Anna Wintour, whose office at Condé Nast and Long Island country house Carrier and Company designed. “I wasn’t taken just by the . . . flawless mix of neo-classicist rigor and Scandinavian chic, Art Deco élan and rustic simplicity,” Wintour writes, “but by how each and every interior embodies a real sense of personal charm; these are homes whose high style comes from a very human-scaled sense of warmth and joy.” 

For all the glamour of having celebrity clients like Wintour, photographer Annie Leibovitz and actress Jessica Chastain, Carrier and Miller seem most interested in the nitty-gritty. Carrier took the lead on Shelter Island, mainly because, he explains, “I’m the travel guy, who jumps in the car and drives to the Hamptons.” Miller was involved in design decisions on a daily basis, however.

blue and white dining room by Carrier and Company
The dining room features a custom walnut Wishbone dining table and Hancock chairs by Thomas Moser. The light fixture is by Visual Comfort.

“We keep each other on point when one party goes too far in one direction or another,” Carrier says. “I might push ahead with a blue and white agenda, and Mara will be a fresh pair of eyes saying, ‘Hold on, we need a pop of something else.’ ” Interjects Miller, “Sometimes there can be too much of a good thing! We’re always ready to pivot and rethink or re-shop if there’s room for improvement.”

The architectural design of the Shelter Island house had its pluses — among them, a dramatic double-height living room spanned by a catwalk connecting the two-bedroom wings upstairs and abundant fenestration providing ever-present views of the bay. A subtle nautical feel in the interiors reflects both the waterfront location and the family’s interests. 

“There’s a dock, they have boats, one of their kids is an Olympic rower,” Carrier says. “It’s not just a decor theme, it’s actually a lifestyle.” Hence the shiplap-and-beam detail on the dining room ceiling, collection of fishing spears on the screened porch and marine-inspired lighting, including mesh-lined lanterns over the kitchen island and a custom metal table lamp in the entry whose base is fashioned from a deep-blue vintage nautical lens. “There are lots of nautical references without clobbering you over the head,” Carrier says.

blue and white bedroom by Carrier and Company
In the primary bedroom, a Kravet bed is topped with Matouk linens and throw pillows covered in Carrier and Company for Lee Jofa‘s Dove Meadow print. The window treatment is a Schumacher fabric.

The latter stages of the Shelter Island project happened to align with the launch of Carrier and Company’s furniture collection for Century. “Century chose us because we have a broad range and diverse aesthetic,” Miller says. Carrier describes their line as “a distillation of certain favorite forms, playing with scale to create new pieces inspired by classic vintage and antiques.” Where do they get their inspiration? “Oh, we might crack open an old decorating book to seek out things you won’t find on Instagram,” he says.

cedar shingle sunroom by Carrier and Company
The firm outfitted the screened-in porch with pieces from its line for Century, including the Manoir lounge chairs and sofa and woven Warren ottoman. The bronze drum side tables are by Palecek Furniture.

The Shelter Island living room features Carrier and Company’s long Gracie sofa and swivel chairs, paired with a chunky coffee table with chamfered corners, all resting on a braided jute rug. In the dining room, a handcrafted walnut trestle table by Thomas Moser, a maker the homeowners wanted to incorporate, sits beneath a minimalist contemporary lantern that, Carrier says, “does the job” but keeps the focus on the view.

Original drawings called for a narrow primary bathroom with a double height ceiling and expansive window wall. “The windows seemed like a great idea when drawing the exterior, but how do you make a bathroom out of it?” Carrier asks. The solution: a gigantic free-floating tub to anchor the space and wainscoting to ground the “tall silo” of a room.

pool deck by Carrier and Company
Beside the pool is a dining table surrounded by a set of wood-and-wicker dining chairs from Frontgate.

“Our work is a process,” says Miller. “We start with the foundational pieces — a sofa or dining table — to set the tone for a room. Everything else is a balancing act. If the wallpaper is de Gournay, maybe the carpet is a simple woven jute. If the sofa is a Chesterfield, maybe a contemporary metal frame lounge chair for contrast. We’re conscious of all the intangibles — vistas, traffic flow, scale — and each selection is part of an ongoing narration. Each meeting educates and empowers the clients, so the home becomes personal and the clients more confident in their point of view.” 

“Our interiors may be glamorous, country or modern,” Carrier adds, “But the common thread — and I know these aren’t sexy words — is a level of tailoring and a sense of livability.”

Carrier and Company’s Quick Picks

Painting, ca. 1950, by Jacob Semiatin, offered by GALERIE HARTER
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Painting, ca. 1950, by Jacob Semiatin, offered by GALERIE HARTER

“I love the soft, gestural watercolors of Jacob Semiatin,” says Jesse Carrier. “We own two, so I can’t help but follow and admire the late great artist’s work.”

Pair of ceramic vases mounted as lamps, late 20th century, offered by Lynx Hollow Antiques
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Pair of ceramic vases mounted as lamps, late 20th century, offered by Lynx Hollow Antiques

“These umber-glazed lamps possess a decorative, irregular, hand-finished quality that we love to incorporate into our interiors for warmth and depth,” says Mara Miller.

Charles Dudouyt solid-oak sideboard, 1940s, offered by Jada
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Charles Dudouyt solid-oak sideboard, 1940s, offered by Jada

“What’s not to love about this nineteen-forties French sideboard? It’s solid, bold, expressive and handsome,” says Carrier.

Pair of large bronze light fixtures, 1960s, offered by Carlos De La Puente Antiques
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Pair of large bronze light fixtures, 1960s, offered by Carlos De La Puente Antiques

“I love how these chandeliers are both striking and delicate, modern and whimsical,” says Miller.

Erwin Lambeth pair of sculpted mahogany and mohair lounge chairs, 1960s, offered by third coast modern
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Erwin Lambeth pair of sculpted mahogany and mohair lounge chairs, 1960s, offered by third coast modern

“The perfect chair is as comfortable as it is good-looking,” Carrier explains. “This pair checks both boxes. I love the low and lanky silhouette and the tightly upholstered seat and back, held gracefully in a refined mahogany frame.”

Fritz Hansen Model 1582 wingback lounge chair, 1946, offered by JenMod Vintage
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Fritz Hansen Model 1582 wingback lounge chair, 1946, offered by JenMod Vintage

“Unlike a traditional upright, uptight wing chair, this one is inviting, with a low, lounge-y seat, deeply pitched back and open frame arms,” Miller says.

Green-Painted Bamboo side table, 1960s, offered by Eerdmans Fine Art
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Green-Painted Bamboo side table, 1960s, offered by Eerdmans Fine Art

“Green-lacquered inset surfaces transform a simple bamboo table into a handsome accent,” says Miller.

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