A Barn in Gatsby Country

Illustration by James Provost

The barn is our family’s anchor point, the central gathering place,” says designer Ernest Sabine, founder of the menswear line Ernest Alexander. The barn to which he refers, where he heads every weekend in the summer with his wife and two young children, is part of a rambling family estate made up of multiple cottages and buildings in Nassau County. With its sprawling grounds—think wild fields, ancient trees, riding paths—this compound is one of the last of the grand horse-country estates that have since been replaced with shiny new developments. The main house, up the hill from the barn, was built by Colonial Radio Corporation founder Fulton Cutting over a hundred years ago. “It’s been in the family ever since, passed down from one generation to the next,” Sabine says. The light-filled barn, with its double-height ceiling, was redone and transformed into a dramatic great room back in 1973 by a member of the family, the decorator Justine B. Cushing—her parents, the late Justine and Alexander Cushing, ran the Squaw Valley ski resort. Cushing collaborated with the architect Alexander McIlvaine (the two also worked together on the Squaw Valley lodge), and the décor (matching chintz slipcovers and curtains and deep-seated sofas) has not changed since, save for a new sisal rug and additional family photographs. Sabine and his family shack up in the three-bedroom apartment above the garage next door, but everything else—meals included—happens in the barn. “It’s the perfect place for children,” Sabine says. “We will be asleep in bed and hear the garage door slam and we know that it is our daughter going to the barn to visit Granny.”

The Living Room
The furniture and décor give the room an Americanized English-country-house feel. Photo: Annie Schlechter

The Dining Area
The farm table can seat up to 20. Photo: Annie Schlechter

The Entrance
The barn door once opened to gaggles of pigs and chickens. Photo: Annie Schlechter

A Barn in Gatsby Country