“I ALWAYS SAY if you can’t sleep in it and can’t go out in it—I don’t want it,” says fashion icon Donna Karan. The longtime East Ender has made this mantra extend to her Hamptons homes—or compound, rather, where she and her late husband built a series of homes for their family, including one for her daughter, Gabby Karan de Felice, and her family. “We have four houses all on the water here, and each house is totally different,” explains Karan.]
Much like her simple yet sensual, globally inspired collections for Urban Zen, the homes are stripped down and streamlined, showcasing the raw beauty of the materials, and the stunning landscape and seaside outside. “That’s what I love about the house most,” Karan explains of the indoor-outdoor focus. “I never stay inside—I’m an outside person.” Washed linens, weathered Balinese woods and neutral palettes are punctuated by Karan’s late husband’s artwork. The focus on wellness is not mere branding. Karan practices what she preaches: Her home is outfitted with an Iyengar yoga wall as well as meditation areas—“I have a whole studio that’s a spa and a yoga room,” she says.
Karan started practicing yoga at the age of 18. “That’s what my whole life is about,” she explains of her lifelong focus on wellness and of the inspiration to create Urban Zen and the corresponding Urban Zen Foundation. “I started this whole project because unfortunately I’ve had death my whole life around me, ever since I was 2 years old,” Karan says. “My father died and then my mother… everybody died of cancer.” Today, Karan is at the forefront of health, offering holistic patient care with the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program.
Wellness has been at the epicenter of the family from the start. Karan and her daughter began practicing yoga together when de Felice was a toddler. “It’s been a mother-daughter thing since I was a kid,” de Felice explains. The family also regularly gets acupuncture as well as incorporates juicing and a raw food diet into their lifestyle. “It’s just so embedded in how we live. We don’t preach it; it’s just the norm,” de Felice says. “I grew up having juices—literally since I was 8.”
When it comes to design, de Felice offers how her aesthetic differs somewhat from her mother’s taste. “I do things supersimple,” she explains. “I think I’m more pure than my mom.” Because she’s spent so much of life traveling and on the go, de Felice has tried to make her home her quiet place. Inspired by a home in Parrot Cay, she worked with builder Larry Kane to construct her refined retreat. “I wanted my own separate sanctuary,” she says. Her impeccable taste also can be seen in her restaurants. “I love creating environments,” she says of her Tribeca and Hamptons hot spot Tutto il Giorno. “And restaurants have become so much more than food. It’s become about creating a space and a place for people to have fun with their friends and family. In all my restaurants, I’ve always had an Urban Zen table in the communal area, which was in the center and sort of made my room feel like a living room,” she says.
It’s clear the mother-daughter duo, no matter their differences, both value sanctuary. “Not too many people live out here, which is great,” Karan says. “In fact, most people don’t know how to get to my house.” Paradise lost indeed.