Debra Scott -- Interior Design, 3/1/2003 12:00:00 AM
When Dennis Miller was hunting for a summer home in sleepy Bellport, New York, his real-estate broker asked—almost as a joke—if he'd like to see a house where the living room had eight doors. How the layout got that way is uncertain. Miller speculates that the bungalow was originally an icehouse, later turned into a residence for the manager of one of the bayside hotels that drew tourists to Long Island's south shore in a bygone era.
One thing is clear. "Whoever designed the house was smart about how people communicate," Miller says, equating the circulation function of the eight-doored living room with that of a Roman villa's courtyard. In fact, when he compares the humble Arts and Crafts abode to the Villa Rotunda, it's with only a smidgen of irony.
After snatching up the 1,700-square-foot bungalow, Miller began to fill it with a handsome mix of heirlooms, flea-market finds, and pieces from his New York furniture showroom, Dennis Miller Associates. Yard sales yielded beloved examples of "bad art," as evidenced by the dog portraits hanging in the study. Of more exalted pedigree is one of his favorite possessions, the master bedroom's print of Air Force One as conceived by Raymond Loewy.
In a corner of the living room, beneath a large multi-paned Arts and Crafts window, an eclectic modernist seating group reflects a sensibility formed by architectural training in the 1960s. Two Pension birch chairs by Alvar Aalto face Hans Wegner's Ox chair, covered in black leather. Between them stand Mies's steel-and-glass cocktail table and a contemporary piece, Patrick Naggar's apricot-upholstered Club sofa. Next to it, a turned-wood lamp acts as a bourgeois counterpoint to Antoine Proulx's René Magritte–influenced mahogany end table, with its kookily placed doors and drawers, both real and faux.
By the fireplace, Miller has composed a characteristic still life. An antique pine table serves as a bar. Next to it, a 1920s Egyptian-revival stool, found for $10 at a yard sale, is heaped with blankets. The antique wooden rooster on the mantel accompanies a handful of black ceramic vases from Oaxaca, Mexico. Across the room, woven-twine 1940s chairs—a legacy of Miller's grandparents—surround a moderne dining table in mahogany.
Miller spends most of his time on the enclosed side porch, sprawled on a plum-colored chair and ottoman by Clodagh. "It's great for napping," he says. Kevin Walz's bright orange slotted-cork table mocks the serenity of the teal-painted floor. "Teal just looks like a porch color to me," Miller explains. He painted the interior shingles of the porch in the same shade as the sand on nearby Atlantic beaches.
If Miller's not lounging on the porch, he's probably outside on the brick terrace. It's built around a honey locust tree, which provides dappled sunlight for the stainless-steel lawn furniture. When more shade is required, Miller rolls over a wheeled umbrella. The only thing lacking is a door. Or eight.