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Mabley-Handler: A Love Story Wrapped In Sophisticated Design

Originally Posted: February 08, 2010

Douglas MacKaye Harrington

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Jennifer Mabley and Austin Handler combined their love and design skills for a successful business venture. They are shown here in their newly renovated Design Studio in Water Mill. (Austin Handler)

Head of Pond Road, Water Mill dining room in their own home.

Water Mill - Here is a Home and Garden story with a romantic twist for Valentine's Day, interior design couple Mabley-Handler, married with children and a flourishing design studio in Water Mill, lovingly designing the East End while in love with each other.

As Austin Handler simply put it, "We met and fell in love in New York City and decided we wanted to get married and raise a family out here." Jennifer Mabley explained the circumstances, "I had home furnishing stores in Tribeca and one in Greenwich, Connecticut and I was doing residential homes in the Tri-State area, and when I met Austin he was working for McCann-Erickson as a graphic designer."

Handler explained the synergy they hoped to create in the East End, "Our plan was that Jennifer would do interior design out here and I would build the design firm's website and photograph the projects and continue to do freelance work. If she needed me to, let's say, go meet a tile delivery, I would go do that. After the first year or so we started getting busy with interior design work and I was getting more and more pulled into that, to the point that before we knew it we were both doing the interior design work together."

Mabley's NYC furniture design business was highly successful and grew into a partnership with a west coast firm, but was "a very productive but short lived partnership" with the decision to pick up and move east. Although the location may have changed, the passion for design did not, "I think I knew as a child that this was my destiny, as I was constantly rearranging my mother's living room. This is definitely in my blood," Mabley stated.

Paradise Point Road, Southold (North Fork) living room.

Their maiden job in the East End was also a family affair, as Mabley's first client was her own mother who commissioned her daughter to design a Southampton Village house in the town where she as a child had spent her summers, "She was trying to recapture her childhood, so we designed a house for her in the old school Hamptons style."

It was while working on her Mother's home that Mabley solidified her desire to put down roots in the East End, "Going back and forth from the city to Southampton I fell in love with the area. I felt it was the perfect move for me in terms of the aesthetic, the light. It is a very similar light to New Mexico [where Mabley lived and worked after college]. So all these things were coming together and it was not a hard decision to make. It took us about eight years to bring things to where they are now, a lot of sweat equity, show houses, marketing, etc. We are very fortunate that it worked out and we are able to live here year-round," Mabley admitted.

I asked Handler if he could define the Mabley-Handler design style, "We talk about it all the time; it is definitely in the transitional style. It is not overtly traditional, it is not ultra modern. It is transitional, a blending of both of those styles. A lot of clients want to put into words the style of the design work we have done for them, and the phrase that comes up the most is Sophisticated Beach! The color palettes we use are very soothing. We use a lot of mineral greens and blues with cool, grayish tones. I think what we are trying to do is redefine the classic Hamptons beach house. We try and give it a freshened look with some added, sophisticated touches."

Fair Hills Lane, Bridgehampton living room.

Mabley added, "As a lot of our clients are from New York City, they are familiar with many of our vendors. They read the design magazines; they know what the hot items are and what is in fashion, and we have to keep up with that. However, we re-invent it each time so that each house has its own look. We are certainly not trendy, but we are fashionable."

Returning to her design roots, Mabley and Handler are looking to develop a line that will be proprietorially Mabley Handler. They hope to have a fabric line and outdoor furniture line ready to launch within the next year.

I asked Handler the impact of the recent economy on business, "The phone is ringing as much as it was two or three years ago, but we are more budget conscious when it comes to our clients, even the more affluent clients. People want to be smart with their money and make sure it goes the distance."

St. Mary's Lane, Amagansett master bedroom.

Business has indeed been good enough for Mabley Handler to recently renovate their Water Mill design studio, once the studio barn of renowned East End artist Warren Brandt. Although the Mabley Handler design studio is state-of-the-art, the rough-hewed timber walls remain with the actual paint splashes of the artist.

Along with their two children, Mabley and Handler have carved a life in the Hamptons that reflects their love of family, their love for each other and a love for design that redefines classic Hamptons style. A redefinition that reflects sophisticated transition between the new and the timeless, all created with a passion for the community in which they live and work.

For more information go to www.mableyhandler.com.

Frequently mistaken for the "Most Interesting Man in the World" from the Dos Equis commercials and the iconic gray-bearded Sean Connery, DMH is the Senior Contributing Editor at Hamptons.com. www.hamptons.com Hamptons HamptonsOnline HamptonsOnline

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Guest (Jennie) from Southampton says::
A wonderful couple with exquisite taste!
Feb 15, 2011 3:14 pm

Guest (Jennifer & Austin) from Water Mill, NY says::
Thanks again to Doug for such a great story on us, we are so flattered and very appreciative!
Feb 14, 2011 11:33 am

Guest (Mark) from Southold says::
Having worked with Jennifer and Austin in designing the interior of our new home, we can say without reservation that they are a pleasure to work with and consumate professionals and artists.
Feb 9, 2010 5:49 pm

Guest (Betsy Neuhouse) from New York says::
What a talented Duo, love the fresh look...
Feb 9, 2010 9:56 am

Guest (Slone) from Southampton says::
Just so fresh and yummy, what a sweet story and talented people!
Feb 9, 2010 9:20 am


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