elledecor– Aveteran fashion publicity and marketing executive who has spent decades working at brands like Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger, Giorgio Armani, and, most recently, Burberry, George Kolasa knows his way around a storytelling opportunity. Still, when he and his husband, Justin Tarquinio, a publishing executive who worked at Hearst for over a decade, went looking for an East Hampton second home in 2014, he could hardly have predicted the narrative arc behind their eventual purchase.
The couple fell for the Sherrill Farmhouse, a place with bones from the 1700s, rebuilt in 1858, that served as a working dairy farm in the 1940s. The home had been owned exclusively by nine generations of the Sherrill family, one of the founding families of East Hampton; due to a lack of funding, they were looking to sell it to a nonblood relative. But they were clear that they wanted people who would steward the home through the future, not raze it to the ground.
“I am the perfect example of someone who wasn’t looking for this, but stumbled upon it,” says Kolasa, a Long Island native who has been coming to the Hamptons for years, of his newfound role as a de facto preservationist. “And I’m now a huge advocate and supporter of other people who want to try to do this with other homes.”
The Sherrill Farmhouse was in need of considerable care, a fact that became evident when the previous owner spent two hours walking Kolasa and Tarquinio through details of its storied history. A head of the East Hampton Historic Society also joined in, encouraging the couple in their restoration endeavors. They sought out specialists who could strip the original 18th-century floors, doors, windows, and walls of layers of paint and polyurethane, while preserving their natural integrity. The garden and pool were overgrown and in a state of disrepair; Kolasa cleared things away and landscaped the garden himself, aiming for an English country feel.
Then he dove into even more research, consulting old photos of the house and driving around other historic farmhouses in the area for inspiration. His goal was that all furnishings be 19th century. With the exception of a few items, he achieved this feat, scouring the Brimfield Flea Market in Massachusetts, a Paris flea market, and local estate sales, among other spots, for finds.
The final result is a house that is warm and vibrant—and also part of the town of East Hampton’s annual historic homes tour. Since purchasing Sherrill Farmhouse, the couple also bought the land next door, which Kolasa has further landscaped, and a shed that now serves as a charming poolhouse. And since the onset of COVID-19, he and Tarquinio have made their East Hampton abode their main residence.
“I have really changed my priorities in my life by being out here,” explains Kolasa, who left Burberry in October 2019 and has been working on a series of lifestyle-oriented projects. “It’s about the beauty of the nature that surrounds us.”
The living room exudes coziness thanks to a two-seater sofa and armchairs from the British heritage company George Sherlock and covered in Ralph Lauren fabrics. ELLLE DECOR A-List designer Alfredo Paredes, who spent 33 years at Ralph Lauren and now has his own design studio, turned Kolasa onto the George Sherlock brand, and Kolasa visited their factory while in England and watched his seating pieces being made. “Alfredo was a huge help,” Kolasa notes. “I’m fortunate to have a lot of great friends and help. This is not a house I did on my own.”
To complete the look, they reused a quirky assortment of found objects, including tables made from old-fashioned laundry carts, a small vintage pommel horse, and a map of Long Island, purchased from Nellie’s Antiques in Amagansett, New York.
Paredes also assisted Kolasa in this room, suggesting he buy the Ralph Lauren Home walnut Tudor revival table in the largest size possible to create a sense of intimacy in the smaller room. Little did he know that the table was a touch too large—so much so that the contractor had to rip out the door’s casement in order to get the table inside. “It basically cost me more to get the table in the room than it cost to get the table itself,” notes Kolasa.
Hanging above the mantel is the home’s original deed. “[It] was given to me by the sister of the one of the family members,” Kolasa explains. “It’s a very, very special memento.”