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A Change of Place—An Inside Look of Jean Liu’s Hamptons Home

Jean Liu’s East Hampton escape is a departure for the designer in every sense of the word.
| |Photography by Elizabeth Lavin; Styling by Jamie Laubhan-Oliver
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A Change of Place—An Inside Look of Jean Liu’s Hamptons Home

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The last thing Jean Liu wanted was another project—and in a place like the Hamptons, the in-demand Dallas designer figured that was all she’d ever be able to afford. 

After all, the favored summer destination of the rich and famous boasts two of the five most expensive zip codes in the U.S., with properties fetching close to $1,000 per square foot. 

But as real estate dreams are rarely rooted in practicality, Liu nevertheless began to pine for a place she could call home away from home following her first trip, in 2009, to the South Fork of Long Island, New York. Upon subsequent visits the following few summers, Liu fell more in love with the area—specifically, the town of East Hampton. “The way you enter, there’s a creek and these big white swans swimming in it, and there’s just a slight rolling hill,” she says. “The designer in me really appreciated that proper sense of arrival.” 

One evening in 2015, Liu was partaking in her favorite guilty pleasure—scrolling Zillow before bed—when a house in her price range appeared. “My first thought was, ‘They have definitely priced this incorrectly, or there’s something wrong with it—like somebody died in the house,’ ” she laughs. Turned out it was nothing more than an owner needing a quick sale. Liu got on the phone with a broker, who facilitated a FaceTime walk-through. “And away we went,” she says. “It was one of the more impulsive things I’ve ever done.” 

She’s never regretted it. For nine years, the house has been a place to recharge and reconnect for Liu and her husband, Erik Hansen, and their  12-year-old daughter, “Cricket” (whose nickname inspired the house’s “Cricket’s Landing” moniker). 

Beyond time away, the house also provides relief from the demands of Liu’s day-to-day life in Dallas. Whereas in her professional projects, she meticulously sources and specifies one-of-a-kind pieces, here, she took a decidedly laid-back approach to outfitting rooms. She bought what items she could from the previous owner (who also happened to be an interior designer), picked up some antiques locally, and bought the balance from big-box stores and e-tailers. “The goal was to get in there and start enjoying the space,” she says. “I don’t want to go out to the Hamptons to work on the house; I want to go to the Hamptons to enjoy the house.” Punctuating the rooms are unfussy but meaningful accessories, such as shells she and Cricket have found on the beach and dried hydrangeas snipped from the garden.

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Elizabeth Lavin
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Elizabeth Lavin

The home represents a stylistic departure for Liu as well. While you won’t find butcher-block countertops, shiplap walls, or slipcovered sofas in her Dallas home, here, they make perfect sense. “It’s super casual,” she says of her Hamptons vibe, which extends beyond interiors. “We don’t blow dry our hair straight. It’s definitely shorts and T-shirts.”

Days here typically start with a jaunt into town for coffee and pastries and end with cocktail hour and dinner. About half the time, they cook—or as Liu describes it, “assembling premade food from stores and farm stands”—and the other half, they go out. Between meals, the family will hit the beach or take a dip in the pool—sometimes both. Evenings are spent playing board games or piecing together puzzles. At just 1,800 square feet, the house necessitates togetherness, another welcome change from their primary home.  

“It’s like adult summer camp, where everything is just back to basics.”

—Homeowner and Designer Jean Liu

“In Dallas, we have all these rooms we don’t use. Here, it’s just a really different way of living,” Liu says. “It’s like adult summer camp, where everything is just back to basics.” 

The family escapes here a few times most years—some more, some less—with a goal of eventually spending the entire summer here. When she visits, Liu always works in a trip to the city; she has a pied-à-terre in Manhattan. And though she’s made a second home on the East Coast, Liu admits she’s recently begun to feel the “gravitational pull” of California, where she grew up and still has family. Is more Zillow scrolling in her future?

“I don’t know if we can handle another place,” she laughs. “Who knows what’ll end up happening?” 

Author

Jessica Otte

Jessica Otte

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Jessica Otte is the executive editor of D Home and D Weddings. In 2006, she helped launch D CEO as…
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