Oftentimes, designing a house with a spouse can be a study in opposites. One likes muddy moss green, the other a spirited Barbie pink; one wants to be enveloped in an echo chamber of ikat, the other would rather get lost in a peaceful maze of beige. When interior designer David Rogal and his husband Ron Carlivati bought their beach house in East Hampton, New York, eight years ago, they suspected a similar situation might be in store. Rogal, an interior designer who trained under Vicente Wolf, gravitates toward quiet, monochromatic color schemes and sculptural furnishing that give a nod to nature. Carlivati, meanwhile, is an Emmy-winning television writer who is drawn to exuberant jolts of color (yellow and orange topping out as favorites) and has a penchant for a dash (or two) of kitsch. But, to their surprise, there were no arguments, gripes, or groans; instead, there was a lot of loving compromise, resulting in a charming beach house that perfectly captures each man’s unique personality and design proclivities.
The property originally had two separate structures, a main house and a guest house. Rogal and Carlivati consulted several contractors about a renovation; one told the couple that he could build them a new (and better) main house for less money than it would cost to rehab the original. So tear it down they did. While the footprint is the same, the new house has every modern convenience that most Hamptons cottages lack—central heating and cooling, updated electrical and plumbing, a brand-new kitchen and baths, modern windows, and an interior layout that better suits the couple’s lifestyle.
In terms of interior decoration, Rogal managed to artfully blend their styles, choosing finishes and furnishings that reflected Carlivati’s personality as well as his own. One of their first decisions was what color to paint the front door: Carlivati wanted a cheery yellow, while Rogal preferred chic black. Rogal acquiesced. It turned out to be one of the best design decisions the couple made, resulting in a recurring motif: Shocks of yellow turn up throughout the main cottage and the guest house in subtle ways that visitors notice only after spending a full day buzzing in and out of both structures.
Slightly more obvious are the sharks. Carlivati’s lifelong obsession with the movie Jaws has led him to amass a large collection of memorabilia related to the 1975 Steven Spielberg blockbuster, which Rogal—admittedly less of a shark aficionado—lovingly sprinkles throughout the house in a chic and sophisticated way.
Where the couple’s aesthetics truly merge is in their passion for art. The house is chock full of colorful pieces—some serious, some more playful, but all reflective of their shared interest in collecting and displaying. The couple is quite content with their ever-evolving beach cottage, which they continue to fill with even more mid-century finds and vibrant paintings—perhaps, at some point, causing them to look at one another and say, “We’re gonna need a bigger house.”