It takes guts to clad interiors in stark white. If anything in the home—from the interior design to the basic architecture—is off, you’re left with a space that feels cold, vast, and empty. But an all-white interior done well is a marvel: Light streams in and bounces off the walls, giving everything a warm glow; spaces feel light and airy; and the clean aesthetic is instantly calming. The latter, of course, is what is found in Jeffrey Kalinsky’s home in the Pines section of Fire Island. His house, a rectangular, three-bedroom, three-bathroom structure located right on the bay, is a testament to the charms of minimalism.
But, when Kalinsky first laid eyes on the property about five years ago, it was more the expansive views of the water and its convenient location close to town that attracted him to it. “The house was more traditional,” he recalls. “And I knew what I wanted: I wasn’t actually sure that I could turn it into what I wanted.” But after meeting with Scott Bromley, an architect who also summers in Fire Island, Kalinsky knew he’d found someone who shared his aesthetic. “He was able to help me envision that I could have my little glass house on the bay,” Kalinsky says.
Renovations took about seven months, and Kalinsky admits the hardest part wasn’t retrofitting the home but working on Fire Island itself. “Everything has to be shipped; it just makes it hard,” he says. One of the biggest structural changes was adding in the large picture windows on both the front and the back of the house. “The focus is always on the outside,” Kalinksy says of the interiors. “So, when I’m inside cooking on a Friday night, it’s all about the sunset and the water.” And indeed, from many rooms, the view is of unobstructed nature, whether it be lapping water or the carefully cultivated seagrass that surrounds the property. “I just wanted the house to feel like it sort of erupted out of seagrass,” he says.
As for the furnishings, Kalinsky is no stranger to decorating. He also owns properties in the West Village neighborhood of Manhattan as well as Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and his minimalist DNA is evident across all three. “My design style is very consistent,” he says. “It’s a version of me in all of those places, which is always a white base—and as much white as possible,” he adds, laughing. His Fire Island home, however, does have pops of color here and there, like an aqua Hermes throw strewn across the B&B Italia sectional in the living room, or a trio of light blue vases on the dining room table. “I wanted this space to be very serene and I didn’t want any kind of wild explosions of anything,” he says. “In all that negative space in the living room, I find peace and serenity.”
Kalinsky’s minimalist vision was made possible by collaborating with interior designer Christopher Ostafin, who also spends time on the island. “We all summer at Fire Island, so it’s nice because we all get it,” he says. “We’re out there for the same things, and he and [Bromley] were both able to help me create a wonderful weekend retreat for myself.” Ostafin and his team designed a number of pieces of bespoke furniture for the home, including the sleek wooden coffee table in the living room and the wicker bed frame in the master bedroom. “He seemed to get my aesthetic very quickly and he did an amazing job,” he says.” Ostafin also outfitted a number of furniture pieces with easy-to-clean outdoor fabric; this is a house to be lived in, not merely admired. “So, if you lather on sunscreen or whatever it is that you do during a weekend at the beach, all the wear and tear for the house was preplanned,” Kalinsky says. “But it still all looks very chic and rich, and it actually feels very luxurious.”
Unfortunately, for Kalinsky, it might not be until next summer that he’ll get to spend ample amounts of time at the home. Between celebrating the 20th anniversary of his store, Jeffrey, in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District, and his duties as vice president and fashion director of Nordstrom (which is opening a new women’s store in New York this month), it will be tough to sneak away for a quiet weekend. But come Memorial Day, his “little glass house on the bay” will be waiting.