Thomas O’Brien’s Home and Garden

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Interior and furniture designer Thomas O’Brien is a self-described rescuer of things. But not just any things. “Personal items from someone’s family history or experiences are what I am drawn to,” says Thomas. “I was taught to ask about things, even pictures, in someone’s house. What is brought forward carefully and made new is what I love.”

At his iconic summer place in Bellport, New York, this belief about Thomas’s chosen objects is embodied in many ways, such as a grouping of seemingly disparate but somehow subtly connected treasures in a bowl; a Georgian mahogany breakfront filled with precious Steuben pieces, Italian colored glass, and Picasso ceramics; lighting and furniture from Thomas’s own collections; and even the “Academy” and “Library” buildings on his property. Each one has an intrinsic richness and beauty while containing a cultural or relational narrative all its own.

The gray, Federal-style Academy building that started life as a schoolhouse and is now home to Thomas and interior designer Dan Fink was first reimagined as a home for a woman poet in the 1920s. Thomas serendipitously discovered it on a summer bike ride decades later. “It was always about coming to the front door of the Academy house,” he says. “It’s such a wonderful place— building and home. And it naturally unfolds to other parts of the garden and then next door to the Library. It’s really a full circle of making home and garden in a life of design and collecting.”

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