Everyone has a wish list. For former ProAm ballroom dancer Cary Mabley, one of the items on her wish list was to live in a home that reflected her rural upbringing in Delaware. Today, her wish is a beautiful reality in Water Mill, a charming hamlet in Southampton, New York. The picturesque community, so-named because the state’s first watermill was located there in the 1600s, is where Cary’s new farmhouse-inspired home seamlessly blends echoes of the past with modern appeal. Cary’s daughter, Jennifer Mabley and her husband Austin Handler are the founders of Mabley Handler Interior Design and the architects of Cary’s dream house interiors.

As a competitive dancer Cary travelled around the world, visiting many beautiful cities and towns, but her heart led her to Water Mill. As a child, she spent summers at her grandparents’ home on Coopers Neck Lane in the 1950s and wanted to recapture those traditions. Her fondness for the Hamptons and a deep appreciation of the region’s lush, visually satisfying landscape are sweetened by the reality that her daughter and son-in-law live there too.

Jennifer knew exactly what her mother was hoping for. ‘She wanted a kind of hybrid house,’ she explains. ‘Like a modern barn rather than a traditional shingle-style home, with airy, informal spaces; a funky, open layout; and large windows inspired by her childhood home - a colonial farmhouse in Wilmington, which had large French windows that opened onto an apple orchard in the backyard.’

The combination of modern character and meaningful design touches is evident in the home’s exteriors and interiors. Just beyond the colourful gardens outside are several apple trees, a nod to the orchard her grandfather had on his property. There’s plenty of strategically placed outdoor seating areas near these trees for Cary and her guests to appreciate the view. 


The artwork in the home showcases paintings from Cary’s collection. Works by painter, poet, and horticulturalist Robert Dash and local Hamptons’ artist Elwood Howell are among Cary’s favourite pieces. “We wanted the spaces to feel serene and calm so the art would be the statement,” Jennifer says when discussing the use of artwork to enhance the home’s décor.

The lighter tones in a lot of the artwork were carried over to furnishings used throughout the home. Jennifer and Austin kept the home’s palette beachy and light with white-painted millwork, pale wood flooring, and a fireplace in the living room with a stone veneer. As for his mother-in-law’s preferences for the home’s interior style and ambience, Austin says, ‘She’s a huge fan of bold colour and bold prints.’

Since Cary spends most of her time in the garden, ‘puttering around,’ as her daughter puts it, the designers made an effort to connect the interior spaces with the exterior spaces with various garden hues. The octogenarian ballroom dancer turned to her late friend James van Sweden of the landscape firm Oehme van Sweden for inspiration when she was planning the outdoor living space and selected many of the trees and shrubs, including Japanese maples, abstilbe flowers and silvergrass, herself.

Referring to the personal nature of this particular project, Jennifer says, ‘This is where my mom wants to stay from now on, and it’s right next door to our house, so it had to be a winner.’

Photography Gap Interiors/Costas Picadas


The designers Jennifer Mabley and her husband, Austin Handler founded Mabley Handler Interior Design in 2002. The firm primarily focuses on transforming spaces for homeowners throughout the Hamptons, New York.

The house This three-bedroom farmhouse-inspired home is in Water Mill, Southhampton, New York.


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