The eclectic look of the English country house in Bridgehampton

Chris Mead, owner of English Country Home in Bridgehampton, has been an integral part of the East End interior design scene for almost four decades. But when he immigrated to the United States from his native England as a young man, he didn’t come looking for mid-century modern bedside tables or vintage farmhouse dining tables.

“I came to New York because it was the center of the photography universe at the time,” says Mead, citing a who’s who with bold names, including Irving Penn, Art Kane, Helmut Newton, Richard Avedon and Francesco Scavullo.

While working as a photographer’s assistant in London shooting interiors and fashion, Mead landed a job in New York, as an apprentice for the legendary Helmut Newton. Over the course of his career, he published over a dozen books of his own photography, including a volume on American countryside antiques.

Mead’s path to the world of interior decorating and retail interior design was partly a natural progression from her work on her American Country Book and partly an accident of circumstance.

“I had bought a house in Noyac before starting to do the book, then I traveled the United States to photograph antique dealers,” he notes. “By the time I got home, I had furnished my whole house.”

Although Mead had no formal training in interior design, the aesthetic he created using country antiques from across the United States caught the attention of a publication by well-known interior decoration.

When Beautiful house magazine ran an eight-page spread on Mead’s self-decorated East End country home, his professional future began to reveal itself.

Shortly after the Beautiful house spread appeared, Mead more or less officially embarked on a new career – with the help of a friend.

“I had a girlfriend who always wanted an antique store, and so over the weekend we opened a store in the Hamptons on Jobs Lane,” he says. “As photography slowed, antiques picked up.”

The original store has been consigned to Hamptons real estate history, having long since been replaced by the current English Country Home location in Bridgehampton. And though Mead still lovingly maintains a 5,000 square foot barn filled with antiques from around the world, the store has evolved to feature mostly modern, postmodern, and country pieces, with just a handful of antiques on display at any location. what a special place. time.

Tucked away behind a gas station a few doors north of County Road 39 near the side entrance to Bridgehampton Commons, the store entrance is preceded by a collection of massive urns from the Greek island of Crete and of a powder blue 1950s Ford pickup truck that Madonna once tried to buy from Mead’s wife and business partner, artist Zoë Hoare.

Why wasn’t Hoare interested in selling the truck (one of many similar vehicles the couple owns) to a former international superstar and one of the most famous people in the Western Hemisphere?

“She can’t get everything she wants,” Mead’s wife told him, canceling the deal for good.

To walk through the front door of English Country Home is to be bombarded by the magnitude of… things. There are fascinating pieces everywhere – many, many of them; furniture of all kinds, light fixtures, wall art, rugs, upholstery and more. As packed with merchandise as the store is, the mix makes perfect sense. It’s empowering to stand there in the middle of it all, but also oddly serene.

Is it minimalist? Definitely not. Ornate? No. Hamptons chic? Not exactly. To the beach ? In a way, but not globally. The place just exudes good taste. Everywhere. Everything at once.

When asked to try and put some sort of label on the design aesthetic of his store, Mead quits. He eventually settles on “Eclectic…something for everyone.”

Over the years, Mead’s sense of tasteful and eclectic design has helped English Country Home build a fiercely loyal following that stretches far beyond the East End. To complement the store’s retail and online operations, Mead and Hoare provides comprehensive interior design services to trade professionals and homeowners from Aspen to Palm Beach (Mead owns a home in Miami).

The store’s huge inventory is bolstered by a 30,000 square foot warehouse filled with merchandise that rotates in and out to complement the pieces on display.

We have different styles, different thumbnails, we’re always changing things up,” says Mead. “Our customers know this. I have people who come every Saturday morning at 8:30 to get ideas.

“We’re basically able to supply house cores directly from the store,” he continues. “People come and say, ‘Oh, I like everything.’ What I usually do then is tell them to walk around and dot whatever they like, and then we create a storyboard with the pieces they’ve chosen.

“You can tell a designer whatever you want,” he notes. “But until you see it, that’s probably not what you really want. The way we do it often makes it a very expedited process.

Summarizing the relationship that so many of his customers have with his shop, Mead tells the story of a longtime customer who owns a summer residence in the East End:

“She tells me that every time she comes to the Hamptons, she goes to the ocean first, then she comes to the English country.”

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