They call it The Floritauk Hotel, named for its owner’s deep Florida roots, its lakefront Montauk location, and its roster of friends and family who rotate in and out during the summer months.
The term was coined by interior designer Ghislaine Viñas. “I said to Ghislaine, ‘Think Florida and think Montauk,’ ” says the homeowner, Paige West. “So she came up with Floritauk.”
West grew up in Philadelphia and Florida, spending her summers at Islamorada Beach. It was a happy and inclusive experience. “You could drive on the beach, the houses were next to each other, and there were motels. All walks of life shared the beach,” she says.
As a result, the New York City-based art collector and author eschewed the Hamptons when looking for a beachfront property. It just didn’t feel right. “It’s lovely and amazing, but it didn’t resonate with me,” she recalls. “Montauk resonated with me like Florida because everyone knows each other and it’s not so private.”
Montauk not only gave her the beach experience she wanted but also offered an escape from the city. “You really feel like you’re away from New York,” she says. “That extra hour makes you feel more removed from home.”
The house itself started life as a developer’s spec home, built in the 1980s. West bought it as a family retreat in 2008, lived in it for eight years, then started to debate its future, realizing it wasn’t built for the 50-year lifespan she wanted. “I had to make a big decision: should I tear it down?” she says. “But I loved that house—I decided to redo it and start over.”
That’s when she called in Viñas, her friend and favorite interior designer, who in turn called in Martin Sosa, an architect with Arcologica. “We said, ‘Make it look like it did, only better,’ ” West relates. “That’s not easy to do when you’re an architect—not to do your own style—but he did an incredible job.”
A native of the Hamptons and the son of an architect, Sosa had the right background and the right kind of knowledge for the project. “I gravitated toward these New England-style homes with cedar shingles,” he says. “There’s a combination of modern and traditional here, and we tried to marry those two vocabularies.”
The renovation started out modestly enough. West wanted to expand the basement and add a deck at that level. But there were problems with a swimming pool and an earth berm that had been built too close to the house.
“It was a false screen, to bring the pool up to the house, with a garage next to the pool,” she says. “So the water was coming downhill and into the basement. It was impossible to get rid of, and it got to the point where we couldn’t use the basement.”
Tom Donahue, her builder, said that if she wanted to get rid of the moisture, she’d have to move the pool. West agreed to that. Then Sosa suggested that if she moved the pool, she could create a new floor plan and put three new bedrooms where the basement was. And she agreed to that too.
“The basement was level with the pool,” Sosa says. “So we had to move the pool, reorient it, and drop it down five feet.”
The house grew from 5,000 square feet to about 8,000, with a total of eight bedrooms. Its new pool-level bedrooms face outwards, capturing great bursts of sunlight. “It’s like a revolving door for family and friends,” West says of the added living space. “I love people and I love sharing it and I love the extra bedrooms for more friends and more family.”
She asked for the renovation to wrap up in a year so that she, her husband, and three sons would lose only a single season at the beach. The builders started in September and worked through to the following September. The family was back in the house by Memorial Day; their total time away was actually a year and eight months.
“I panicked at one point when we showed up and the only part of the house remaining and not torn down was the central stairway,” remembers West. “I wondered how they could do it in the time frame we gave them—but they made it happen.”
West’s family background in Florida imparted a distinct influence on the interior design of the house. Her grandmother’s garden in Orlando was chock-full of banana and citrus trees, and she drew on her memories of them. “I asked Ghislaine to use citrus colors—lime greens, bright oranges, and lemon yellows—throughout,” she says. “We even découpaged a vintage dresser using pictures of citrus fruits.”
A visit to the Beverly Hills Hotel when she was 24 inspired the design as well. There, she’d come across lush wallpaper in the hallways, created by designer Don Loper in 1942. He’d also worked on the Brown Derby restaurant and the show I Love Lucy. The wallpaper, a reproduction of tropical banana leaves, is called “Martinique.”
“It was so rare to see life-size palm fronds in a hallway, and I decided that I wanted them in my home one day,” she says. “And 20-some years later, the same banana-leaf pattern hangs in our guest room.”
It’s all part of a theme that she and Viñas employed—whimsically but carefully—throughout the new home’s interiors. “We knew we could strike a chord that’s Montauk-beachy and Old Florida with caning, wicker furniture, palm trees, alligators, and bamboo chairs woven in a diamond pattern,” West says.
That became the home’s narrative: a white, modern interior punctuated by cane and rattan from 1950s and ’60s Florida. “There’s a lot of wicker and also a pineapple room with formal pineapple wallpaper and beds striped in white and yellow, plus a tongue-in-cheek pineapple painted white,” Viñas says. “It’s very stylized, like the basket of woven straw with a silly little monkey on it and a mermaid lamp—there’s a lot of fun to be had when you’re working with Paige.”
Twin boys—inseparable best friends—share a bedroom punctuated with a series of perky, colorful, and ornamental sharks’ heads above their beds. “Ghislaine found them. They’re happy, and everybody loves them,” West says. “They’re very Montauk, with the big shark tournament out there every year. I’m not a fan of that, but I love them on the wall.”
The layout of the home places the master suite, guest room, kitchen, and dining area all on the second floor. “We’re used to our loft in New York, so there are all these big rooms instead of cut-outs,” says the owner. “And we’re together all the time. Even when I’m in the kitchen, I’m still part of the action.”
The Design Intent
The big idea behind the home’s new look is usability rather than preciousness—though to be sure, much of West’s taste in fine art and sculpture reflects the latter. But the renovation delivers a sense of welcome for family members and guests alike. “I wanted it to feel like you can come inside in your bathing suit or dressed for dinner, either way,” she says. “And I wanted it to be comfortable so you can come in and flop down—nothing formal.”
Together, West, Viñas, and Sosa achieved her desired effect. “The aesthetic of happiness makes you feel good and relaxed,” Viñas says. “People walk in and they’re so happy.”
While Sosa honored the home’s Montauk pedigree outside, maintaining its traditional Shingle style, he made some major alterations as well. “We extended the rooms out north and south and created terraces overlooking the lake,” he says. “We modernized it with large sliding glass panels and added windows for more light.”
Those glass panels and windows are not just for light—they offer clear access to the home’s raison d’être: the expansive views of Lake Montauk and the sound beyond. “We wanted it for the view,” West says. “When you walk in the front door and go straight to the kitchen, there’s a panoramic view of the water. It’s an antidepressant, even if it’s rainy or cloudy. The sun sets out there every night, and that’s what sold us on the house.”
Before the renovation, the house didn’t take advantage of either its site or its views. But Sosa changed all that, opening up the gable ceilings and creating vistas from every room. His sliding glazed panels are actually steel and glass doors that are insusceptible to hurricane winds, fully fortifying the house against heavy gusts from across the water.
Now the retreat is fully open to its surroundings. “It’s one of the highest points in Montauk, overlooking the west,” he says. “And it’s surrounded by reserve areas on all sides, plus those views of the lake.”
The net effect on West, her family, and their guests is predictable. “It’s our happy place, and we love it,” she says. “I want people to feel excited and on vacation when they’re here.”
Chances are, that’ll be the real and lasting effect of summers at the new Floritauk Hotel.