Stephen Sills & David Netto: On Stage


It is the seventh time that the East Hampton Historical Society has done a summer lecture and luncheon. The popularity was obvious. At $250 a ticket, they were sold out for the August 10 event, a Thursday. And why not? The draw was not only cold corn soup and the chicken paillard at the Maidstone Club, although we’re sure that was fine.

It was the promise of a lecture called “Making Houses and Gardens” and eye candy like this: Stephen Sills’ living room at his 22 acre estate in Bedford, NY.

Stephen Sills. who has done homes in Florida, New York City, New Jersey, Connecticut and in the Hamptons, was going to talk about his process. And to tells some funny — albeit discreet — stories about clients, taste and life in the design business.

His partner in this, David Netto, was his interlocutor. Netto wrote the text for Sills’s book “A Vision for Design,” published last October.

Netto, it should be noted, has his own book about design, “David Netto,” to be published on September 3. Netto went on to appear on Sunday at Authors’ Night in East Hampton.

(Photo by Lisa Tamburini)

But first, the luncheon. It was sponsored by Wilmington Trust, Christie’s and Town & Country magazine. All proceeds would go to benefit the society’s restoration, collections and exhibitions. It was a chance, attendees knew, the hear from someone who, as Forbes put it, was “a designer’s designer.” The man Karl Lagerfeld turned to when he needed his home decorated. Who had Tina Turner as a client, and Martha Stewart as a next-door neighbor in Bedford.

To be able to design homes for Tina Turner and Karl Lagerfeld is a sign of Sills’ talent. His rooms never look dated, because they never follow trends.

Doris Meister took to the podium shortly after 11am to introduce Sills and Netto.


Doris Meister (photo Rossa Cole)

And the fun began.

Stephen Sills, left, and David Netto, right (photo Rossa Cole)

One trick that David Netto has shared elsewhere is to put a little bit of yellow in a room. Because it makes things look happier. And Sills is a great believer in putting an antique into even a modern room. Things do get along, and the friction just makes things more interesting.

The audience was rapt. (photo Rossa Cole)

At his property in Bedford, Sills has become an avid gardener. The section of the book about gardening was done as a Q and A with Martha Stewart. It was hard for Netto to go into much of that during the to and fro at the Maidstone. But there was plenty of other ground to cover.

Such as working with and for Tina Turner. Sills did two houses for her: one on the French Riviera, when he was still in partnership with James Ford Huniford. The second one was on the shore of Lake Zurich in Switzerland, which Turner considered her real home.

Sarah Wetenhall, Sills, and Debbie Druker (photo Rossa Cole)

Sills told People magazine when Turner died earlier this year, “She was my favorite person I’ve ever met in my life.”

They were very close, and visited each other often. Turner wrote the introduction to “A Vision for Design.”

Harrison Morgan, Lizzi Bickford, Kathy Prounis, and Guy Cole (photo Rossa Cole)

Both men have been selected to the AD 100, and in that sense they are equals. But Netto deferred to Sills during the lecture. It was Sills’ book, and Sills’ turn in the spotlight. He uses the word bohemian more than one would think likely for someone of such rarified tastes. But to him it means something more like “carefree,” or “original,” or perhaps “handmade.”

Steve Long, the executive director of the East Hampton Historical Society, and Jennifer Levene Bruno (photo Rossa Cole)

The audience lapped up the conversation between the two men, which was handled deftly. A woman representing Christie’s made brief closing remarks, and thanked Sills and Netto for what had been a delightful hour. She then adjourned the crowd to the dining area.

Beth Buccini and Cameron Silver (Photo Rossa Cole)

Among the guests were people from the design world, including the CEO of Kirna Zabête Beth Buccini; Cameron Silver, the fashion world darling who has once again set up a Decades pop-up store in Sag Harbor; the interior designer Kathy Prounis; and the fashion brand consultant Lizzi Bickford.

The sponsors were well represented. Jennifer Levene Bruno is an executive at the Hearst Corporation. She carried the flag at the luncheon for “Town and Country.” Doris Meister, who made the introductions, is the C.E.O. of the Wilmington Trust. And Jennifer Hall, the senior vice president of Christie’s made the closing remarks.

Others in attendance included the co-chairs: Debbie Druker and Sarah Wetenhall, who helped produce the brilliant Colony Hotel setting for the Southampton Hospital Foundation Summer Party. Also there were members of the host committee including Guy Clark & Harrison Morgan, Paige Daly, Kate Davis, Kathleen Kirchgaessner, Dale Ellen Leff, Cheri Mowrey, Victoria Patricof, Kara Ross and Cameron Silver.

Hilary Osborn Malecki, president of the historical society, and Steve Long, its executive director, were also present.