Jennifer Mabley and Austin Handler never planned to go into business together. After the husband and wife team moved to the East End 15 years ago, Mabley founded an interior design firm that quickly took off. Handler, who was working as a graphic designer, found himself chipping in more and more before eventually taking the leap to work side-by-side with his wife as an interior designer. Since then, the two have turned Water Mill’s Mabley Handler Interior Design into one of the most sought after Hamptons firms. Across the spectrum of their professional/personal lives—client projects, showhouses or their own home—the pair is a well-oiled machine when it comes to cultivating spaces that are equal parts comfortable and chic. It helps that they’ve developed a matching design aesthetic. Mabley and Handler are known for their breezy, coastal-inspired interiors and encapsulated this signature style in their new 35-piece collection for Kravet.
How has Mabley Handler’s aesthetic evolved into what it is today?
Handler: When we first moved to the Hamptons 15 years ago, our style was more traditional, because that’s how we perceived the Hamptons. But as we worked with our clients, we got a sense that while people wanted comfortable homes, they also wanted them to be stylish and sometimes push the envelope a little bit. Our style has definitely morphed from traditional to a more transitional look.
Mabley: Gone are the days of formal, fussy spaces that people are afraid to touch. People want style, but they want to be comfortable.
How did you impart that into your new collection for Kravet?
Mabley: We knew the pieces we wanted to create that we couldn’t find elsewhere. We’ve seen like-minded pieces here and there from different vendors, but not a cohesive collection where there’s a lifestyle behind it.
Handler: We talked about comfortable pieces with clean, interesting lines that incorporated a mix of wood, metal and upholstery. A key part of our concept was to incorporate cerused oak finishes into our upholstery and casegood designs, a wood finish that Kravet hadn’t been utilizing. It really ended up being a fresh new direction for them as well. We also wanted the collection to have versatility, so we developed seven Mabley Handler cerused white oak finishes, 13 grasscloth-style wallpapers, two metal finishes and a collection of 58 Kravet fabrics. Any piece can be ordered in hundreds of different ways.
What was your strategy for achieving a chic yet relaxed style?
Mabley: We created furniture pieces with a sophisticated design but kept the woods and fabrics casual to strike that balance. You can take one of our chairs and choose a pale white wood finish and a light blue fabric and it’s perfect for a beach house. Or you can choose one of the darker brown cerused finishes and a beige fabric and that same chair now works perfectly in a more formal Gold Coast home.
What’s your advice for balancing comfort and style?
Handler: Pick furniture that is comfortable first and build with style around that. We often start with seating pieces that have clean, interesting lines, that are comfortable, offer plenty of seating depth and are scaled properly for the room. Then layer in other styling elements—texture, pattern, accessories and secondary furniture pieces with unique shapes or personal histories.