Whether it’s a weekend place or a seasonal retreat, second homes hold unique appeal. From location to furnishings, they are the looser, cooler versions of the reality you set for yourself. This is the very territory interior designer Victoria Hagan explores in her second book, Victoria Hagan: Dream Spaces, recently released by Rizzoli.
The acclaimed designer has been hailed for her quiet, modern take on residential design. Relying on elegant design principles, Hagan’s work seems to float above flashy, overtly grand devices and lands on the cleanest option. Which is not to suggest modest square footage: The projects featured in this book spread far and wide in grand fashion with a Montana ranch, New York City penthouse, and Aspen getaway all featured in the indulgently glossy mix. Organized into 10 distinct moods/expressions—Trust, Bold, Calm, Tradition, Family, Graphic, Majestic, Open, Spirited, and Creative—the compendium also gives readers Hagan’s insight and personal take on design and intention.
If this selection feels closer to fantasy living than pure home ownership, that would be deliberate. Hagan readily embraces the task of creating the perfect, restorative second home experience. “These ten houses are a testament to the power of dreaming—of wishing on a star—to realize something special,” she writes. “That’s what a retreat is: a place where you feel like your wishes have been granted, where you can feel comfortable just being yourself.”
We sat down with Victoria Hagan and went chapter by chapter through her new book. We asked her to break down why the weekend retreat is twice as nice to design and live in.
How can homeowners take more risks in their spaces – color, art? What ways can they make strong statements in the home?
It always helps to imbue an interior with a bit of one’s own personality. Don’t be afraid to take risks! Design for the person you want to be. Sometimes a simple bold gesture–be it a color, furnishings, art, or accessories–can make all the difference. Just keep it honest.
You mentioned that client trust makes you feel fearless as a designer. Was there an example—a room, a moment in the Florida residence—in which you and the client were perfectly in-step and the result reflected that?
I had previously worked with these clients on a number of homes. Over the years, they have become dear friends. In this case the trust was there from the outset, and we knew each other so well. It’s the kind of client/designer relationship where we finish each other’s sentences regarding an overall vision for the project. After all these years our design vocabulary is the same and we push each other in different ways. It takes time to develop that level of trust, but once you achieve it the design opportunities are endless.
In the shingle-style project, you created a light, bright, and varied space that was visually interesting. How can a home with a light palette and quiet furnishings retain its sense of serenity and not appear boring?
There’s nothing boring about calm. In fact, it’s often the antithesis. In this particular case, the house has a very distinct point of view and each interior moment is highly curated and detailed. The overall effect is calm and light and bright, but it’s comprised of many different facets and interesting pieces that create an overall sense of tranquility. Quiet is often complicated to achieve.
Your own home, Fly Away, exudes the ultimate relaxed weekend Nantucket vibe. When designing weekend homes and second homes, what is essential for you to include in the design or furnishing of these spaces? (Other than killer views.)
The views don’t hurt! But the essential component to designing a second home is that it fits the client’s lifestyle. You want it to feel natural and easy and welcoming. I often say a primary residence is designed for the way my clients live; a second home reflects the way they dream. That’s why I named the book Dream Spaces.
The idea of an adults-only area for a weekend home is kind of out of step with how the modern family works. When designing a home like the Long Island project, how did you ensure that the home was ready for sleepovers and s’mores but also elegant enough the parents to have friends and nice dinners?
This is a wonderful family who really uses this home for weekends and holidays all year long. They have young children, but also entertain quite a bit. This is what a family home should be. It addresses all of the many facets of the family’s life. I never want it to be so precious so that each member of the family doesn’t’ feel comfortable in every space. I want the kids to feel as welcome in the living room as the adults do in the playroom. That’s ultimate family living, and that’s how traditions are created.
Color is so personal, but the prewar home featured in the book gives readers a look at how to deploy color expertly. Tell us about the blue treatment in the kitchen and dining areas.
The Yves Klein-colored blue glass that we used in the kitchen area offsets the neutrals used in several other areas of the house. Color should not just reflect your own personal style but somehow compliment the rest of the interiors. It should be used deliberately, and people shouldn’t be afraid to experiment. We tested about ten different shades at various times of the day before we settled on this one, and the texture and saturation are as equally important as the hue.
When describing the Aspen project, you wrote “everything was carefully calibrated to be the perfect foil to Mother Nature beyond.” With a home with this kind of location and this stunning setting how do you balance the design with the surroundings?
I’ve always been a firm believer that any interior should fit seamlessly with its surroundings. In this particular case, the view is everything. Let’s face it, there’s no competing with Ajax Mountain! Yet, as you can see, we didn’t shy away from using bold furnishings, art, and color. In many ways, they are the perfect complements to the view. Everything needed to rise to the occasion. And the interior needed to hold its own relative to the landscape, not hide under it.
A vacation home usually means a lot of time outside and with nature. The landscaping, as you mentioned, was vital to create seamlessness. How do you like to engage with landscape architects in order to make sure the outdoor space is a perfect companion to the architecture and interiors?
A landscape architect is critical to every project, particularly in a glass house. In this case, which was my own home, landscape architect, James Doyle, of Doyle Herman designed the exterior to be as simple, symmetrical, and serene as the interiors. I feel it’s a perfect mix. It all seems so seamless.
Your description of the getaway home is so charming—how it should feel different and special, but not a cliché. Tell us about the design of the kitchen in this Yellowstone project; it’s a hard space regardless, but it really suits the entire mood and look of the home.
This kitchen is the lifeblood of the house for a very active family in a very active location. It was designed using the same vernacular as the rest of the house – reclaimed wood, lots of leather, brass, stone, and nickel. It’s traditional, modern, and warm all at the same time. It’s also a kitchen designed to be lived in, which makes it a perfect getaway dream space.
For the Florida project you mentioned reconfiguring the entry area. Why is creating an experience, from the second one enters their weekend/getaway home, so vital?
I’m a firm believer that one should derive a feel for a home upon first entering. The greatest challenge with any entry is to give a sneak peek to what lies beyond without giving away the entire narrative. It’s a balance that makes you feel warm and welcome from the first “hello.” Welcoming homes are happy homes, and that’s what I like to achieve for my clients.