The New York Times: Shopping with Kevin Isbell

Written by Rima Suqi | Photos by Gordon Grant | Original article June 22, 2011

Kevin Isbell, an interior designer, and a hanging glass terrarium at homenature in Southampton, NY: $85

Kevin Isbell, an interior designer, and a hanging glass terrarium at homenature in Southampton, NY: $85

IN the summer, an outdoor shower is all you need, at least if you believe the interior designer Kevin Isbell.

“Every summer house I have ever rented has had an outdoor shower,” said Mr. Isbell, who worked for Orlando Diaz-Azcuy, Celeste Cooper and Jeffrey Bilhuber before starting his own firm two years ago. “It’s the only place I bathe in the summer at the beach.”

But that’s no excuse for relaxing your standards, he added. Mr. Isbell, 43, who describes his style as “classic, tailored and edited,” insists on the same attention to detail in an outdoor space as he does indoors.

“Just because something is going to be outside and has to be hardy enough to withstand the elements, doesn’t mean it shouldn’t have an aesthetic quality,” he said. “You should bring the same amount of detail and attention you would pay to a room inside your home to this. Everything you choose should add beauty to the space.”

Shopping in the Hamptons for items to outfit an outdoor shower, he began at Mecox Gardens, in Southampton, where he spied a concrete ottoman.

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“This reminds me of John Dickinson, who did tables out of galvanized steel, a humble material that he rendered into something soft and beautiful,” Mr. Isbell said. “This ottoman looks like draped fabric, but is actually cast concrete. And you always need a place to sit.” Even in a shower.

A few blocks away, at homenature (the store prefers lowercase), he found a hanging glass terrarium, for “a little bit of greenery,” he said, noting that he uses jade plants in his shower. “I like the idea that you’re taking it up a notch and hanging a plant in a sculptural piece of glass.”

In the backyard at Jed, a shop in Sag Harbor, a giant shell caught his eye. “You don’t normally see them that big, and if you do, now they’re cast concrete or resin,” he said. “This one is natural. I’d put soaps and sea sponges in it.”

But the most important part of the equation is the shower itself. Mr. Isbell chose one from Walpole Woodworkers at Warren’s Nursery in Water Mill, in part because it had a private dressing area.

“You need to make sure the shower enclosure properly camouflages whatever activity is happening inside,” he said. “Your exhibitionist friends might be disappointed, but trust me, your neighbors will thank you.”

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