With help from Safavieh, Lisa Lavender breathed magic into a historic home overlooking Long Island Sound.

 The historical bones of this 19th-century house were consciously swept away during renovation, leaving an open, light-filled space for contemporary furnishings. Port Jefferson Harbor, with sand dunes beyond, can be seen through the large glass window.

The house is a dowager of New York’s Gilded Age, built in 1893 to overlook Port Jefferson Harbor, sweeping sand dunes, and Long Island Sound. Charles Bender commissioned Lamb & Rich for the design, the same firm that Theodore Roosevelt would tap to design his beloved Sagamore Hill.

Flash forward a century and a quarter, and the Bender house, largely frozen in time, was pleading for modernization. While the façade was sensitively preserved, as were interior details such as a grand living room fireplace and some coffered ceilings, the 9,300-square-foot interior was gutted and reimagined with a mostly open floor plan. That’s when it was ready for Safavieh’s Lisa Lavender to work some design magic.

Preserved architectural features of the home include the living room fireplace, above, and the wide Dutch door with leaded glass sidelights, right, both of which are a charming foil to the contemporary furniture and artwork.

As so often happens, the homeowner met Lavender as a walk-in customer at one of Safavieh’s Manhattan stores. She was shopping for a sofa for her city home, when a certain credenza caught her eye, and soon she was back, eying the credenza and telling Lavender about her newly purchased, historic vacation home in Setauket.

The designer’s brief from the client was not an easy one. "My client wanted everything in the house to look coastal—but not traditional," recalls Lavender. "It was to be chic, modern, effortless looking, calming and uncluttered, so a family of four could arrive from the city for the weekend and feel instantly at ease. And there was one more thing: The house had to double as an event space that could host large parties."

The wide Dutch door with leaded glass sidelights, right, both of which are a charming foil to the contemporary furniture and artwork.

The timetable sounds brutal—two months start to finish—but quick work is a Safavieh specialty. Starting with that special credenza, Lavender looked for more standout, distinctive pieces that would harmonize with each other. The only limiting factor was that they had to be in stock for quick delivery.

Organic forms in the dining room include a massive live-edge table, sliced and polished sections of tree trunks, and an antler chandelier. Seen beyond is the red-and-white kitchen, which makes a bold style statement.

With the exception of some heirloom accessories contributed by the homeowner, everything in the house was sourced from Safavieh. "The homeowner and I established a true partnership," says Lavender. "We curated each piece together." The project was completed on Christmas Eve 2019, on time for family guests, who arrived from out of town later that day.

When the pandemic struck, the clients were doubly glad to have their calming, uncluttered shore home complete. “This house became their pandemic oasis,” says Lavender. As the pandemic wanes, the clients will test the house’s other purpose—to host large parties. No doubt it will pass with flying colors.

A pretty sitting area, shows how one of the original fireplaces was completely modernized.

The main bedroom, above, draws natural themes from the seaside setting: coral forms, driftwood, seagrass and palm fronds.