MAXIMILIAN EICKE GREW up around the corner from Christy’s Art Center, the antiques shop his mother, Elfi, and father, Michael, ran for nearly three decades in Sag Harbor, N.Y., a village of about 2,000 people on eastern Long Island. As he got older, he knew he’d one day have to choose: inherit the family business or chart his own course. Instead, the 33-year-old furniture and object designer figured out how to do both.
Now that his German-born parents have settled into retired life in the minimalist villa he built for them in Tanah Lot, Bali, Eicke has begun cataloging their stacks of paintings and antiquities. This past May, he sold the 5,800-square-foot store that had been a fixture in his life: It was there, at 21, that he debuted the furniture collection for his own company, Max ID NY; for a while, he even slept on the second floor surrounded by artworks.
Shortly after the sale, on a stormy afternoon in the spring of 2021, Eicke and his wife and creative partner, Irina, a Russian model and stylist, went hunting for a new home in nearby Southampton. The first property they toured, a humble cottage that overlooked an estuary, gave them the queasy sensation of being aboard a ship. The second one had a history of flooding. By the time they arrived at the third listing, a 1,200-square-foot three-bedroom bungalow with low tiled ceilings and brown wainscoting from the 1950s, they were wet and irritable. “I did not like this place,” Eicke says. “It made me claustrophobic.”
Although he has an explorer’s fearlessness, Eicke was looking for something that required less imagination — and effort. He had only recently finished turning an Indonesian rice field into his personal compound, overseeing everything from the construction of the buildings and the landscape design to all its furnishings, and he was already working on a gut renovation of his studio in Bridgehampton while opening another Max ID NY location in Philadelphia. Yet the place had an undeniable, if creaky, allure. The couple signed the deed with a promise to each other: Whatever changes they decided to make would be completed in three months.
To meet their deadline, the duo moved into Eicke’s studio, where they ate instant ramen and slept for weeks on a mattress on the floor, returning to the new house only to work or shower. “It was like being back in college,” says Eicke, who studied interior design at Griffith College in Dublin. (“It was more like an adventure,” Irina, 31, clarifies.)
When it came to designing the space, they improvised, excavating and repurposing materials from Eicke’s own practice and his parents’ collection: a teak tabletop became a headboard in the main bedroom; on the wall next to it, a sunset-colored painting by the midcentury British artist Newton Haydn Stubbing is hung where they wished there’d been a window. In every corner, old and new interrupt each other as if chiming in with different parts of the same story. The effect is a tapestry of time, where pieces separated by centuries exist in the same moment.
WHAT EICKE COULDN’T exhume from storage, he built from scratch. A cozy living room, into which one enters from a mudroom by the front door, doubles as an exhibition space for his geometric creations: a chandelier made from rolls of aluminum flashing; a coffee table with a rounded glass top and a steel base reminiscent of an inverted citrus juicer; and, next to a circular mirror hanging against a white paneled wall, an orange-and-black lacquered oak Schneckebär console, named after a mythical bear who lives in a snail shell — an invention of his mother’s, and his nickname.
In order to get fuller views of the majestic oak trees in the backyard, and to create the illusion of space, they cut open a wall separating the kitchen from the dining room and turned the third bedroom next to it into an open-plan office. The kitchen was in bad shape when they found it — “There was no decade that you could use to explain it,” Eicke says — so they removed the leaky skylights, added natural wood fluting to the walls and installed brown Ikea cabinets with Eicke’s rounded metal knobs, a motif echoed in their spalike bathroom, which was inspired by traditional Japanese interiors. “One thing I learned through the Bali house is that mimicking a few details can create the impression of continuity,” he says. “That’s why I use the same round mirrors everywhere.” On the kitchen’s marble island, his angular handblown tumblers and highball glasses in shades of amber, mossy green and pink refract the light like a cache of jewels.
Down a short hallway are the home’s primary and guest bedrooms. There, too, objects conjure memories from Eicke’s youth: one of the first lamps he made, from a salvaged nautical light; an ebonized wood bookcase he titled the Dakota, after the storied New York apartment building where his godfather dreamed he’d one day live; Goyard luggage that belonged to his mother; and decorative candlesticks that resemble hunks of coral — “something my mom has carried around to every one of her houses,” he says.
As Eicke moves from room to room, appraising his own work, he’s quick to point out the building’s flaws. He does this not to be disparaging but because he was taught to find beauty and worth where someone else might see age or neglect. This proof of life, he believes, is what makes the house special. “There are cracks everywhere,” he says. “We’re not trying to make this place perfect.” Of course, that’s precisely why it is.
Photo assistant: Paul Fittipaldi