The home is often described as an extension of the self, but Derek Axelrod’s bespoke Mill Creek home is a chronicle of his design journey through New York and beyond. The idiosyncratic developer helps clients build homes tailored to their needs and personalities, and following in his own mission, Axelrod’s hypermodern property reflects his audacious New York spirit as well as a more bucolic side. With successful projects under his belt, such as Teqa restaurant in Manhattan, the Hamptons offer an ideal escape from his frenetic work life.
Attention to detail is at the forefront of Axelrod’s design philosophy. In his six-bedroom home, a 3D art wall and elegant lines throughout break up the space. He honed his keen eye during days spent observing his father as he designed storefronts for his clothing brand, French Connection. On days when they would visit, his father would “look at extreme detail when walking each and every one of his retail stores, from the way a garment was hung to the way a light hit the mannequin,” Axelrod says.
Gathering additional influences from his mother, who designed various family homes, Axelrod became intrigued by the principles of interior design. After the completion of his Manhattan apartment, his friends were impressed by the elegant minimalism of the space and began enlisting him for advice on their own homes. Axelrod realized he might have found his true calling.
When he started working on the Water Mill house two years ago, Axelrod could not anticipate the toils and reward that would go into the project. “The challenges of building a house are extremely difficult when you build modern. In traditional home building, you can hide imperfections much easier than in modern design,” says Axelrod. The contemporary style prevalent in his homes was a labor of love. “Everything is sort of squared off and minimal: no clutter. Everything is behind cabinetry, no handles on any doors, just a very clean look. That’s what I enjoy,” he says. Although he incorporates a range of style sensibilities for clients, his personal methods indicate his metropolitan upbringing.
Completed mid-2020, the home is filled with handpicked art and custom features provided by local and international brands. Locally, Michael Chiarello from MAC MetalWorks in East Hampton elegantly streamlined the space with the staircase, steel rods, the outdoor sundeck and other elements. Darnell Murphy from Off the Wall Studio crafted the concrete wall finish that adds texture and movement throughout.
Despite the abode’s highly designed aesthetic, a pastoral motif is present throughout. Axelrod notes that at times, horses can be seen roaming the environment. The harmony of nature and design was key to the living area, his favorite room. “I created a space where you feel like you are one with the farm and horses. Large glass openings as well as high ceilings allow the sky and farms to come right into the open space,” Axelrod says. In the basement, a giant mural featuring Clint Eastwood presides over a Ping-Pong table. Additionally, the master bathroom is a haven for relaxation with its state-of-the-art European walk-in showers with trench drains.
Although the geometric structures of the house give insight into Axelrod’s meticulous design, the large-scale art pieces he curates are the best indicator of his identity. In the kitchen/dining room, a large photograph taken by Roberto Dutesco brings haloed light and color into the room. The photograph, entitled “Linda, Christy and Naomi,” presents three horses with windswept manes reminiscent of the piece’s ‘90s supermodel namesakes. Alluding to its owners affinity for nature, the artwork also encapsulates a desire for freedom. The art is part of a photography series called The Wild Horses of Sable Island.
Created by Pauly Originals, the Clint Eastwood painting was chiseled into the plaster and concrete of the basement wall to create a textured, dimensional feel. “Any art I choose has been more about something that connects to me rather than collecting for value or monetary reasons,” says Axelrod. “Most of the art I have is from friends of mine who I love to show off to get them the acclaim they deserve.”
The source of Axelrod’s affection for the painting is indubitably personal. Clint Eastwood in Sergio Leone’s famous Spaghetti Western The Good, The Bad and the Ugly appeals to the more outlandish aspects of Axelrod’s persona. Positioned next to the movie theater, this portrait of Axelrod’s favorite director and actor is a testament to the powers of building personal mythology and American grit, two things that Axelrod knows well. When it comes to design, Axelrod asserts that “it’s all in the details.” When it comes to his home and his life, it is apparent that the details are where the most fantastical ideas can grow.