“My husband’s family have had a house in Wellfleet since the 1960s. When I was pregnant with my son Niko, I asked my husband Ben, “Can we have a more private intimate summer holiday? Europe is so social.” This was the first time he suggested Cape Cod. So we went to Wellfleet. And I loved it. It’s the most extraordinary time warp, firstly because President John F Kennedy created the Cape Cod National Seashore in 1961, so it’s completely protected. Secondly, when Bauhaus architects, including Gropius, Breuer and Chermayeff, fled Germany during the second world war, they summered in Wellfleet, skinny-dipping and building summer houses. Those houses are still there, protected by their owners like gold-dust. They’re mostly wooden, single-storey, simple – they’re cabins, really. Ben’s family’s house was built by a Bauhaus-inspired American architect in the 1950s. It’s sprawling with a Mondrian pool and shag-pile carpet throughout, even in the kitchen. The Cape Cod Modern House Trust has some rental properties here. It’s not easy to book – there are very few houses available – and that’s part of the appeal.
There’s no WiFi, so we’re completely off the grid. But it’s much more than being off your phone – you don’t even need to wear shoes or put your dogs on a leash. We surf all day on incredible Atlantic beaches and then walk barefoot through forests, dive in freshwater lakes to wash off the saltwater, then wander home. It’s a life that doesn’t exist any more: there are no Starbucks or McDonald’s. In the evening the kids play backgammon and cards or we go to a drive-in cinema, with blankets and pillows in the boot of the car. There’s an amazing flea market and red clay tennis courts with old, old couples still playing together. And the fish is so fresh; you get lobster rolls at Mac’s Shack in the harbour – they literally throw lobster at you.
It’s one of those amazing holidays where you totally wind down. The last summer that Lee [Alexander] McQueen was alive he stayed with us, with Annabelle Neilson. And my friend [designer] Eric Wright came once too. It’s a very intellectual place – a lot of writers and top New York psychologists seem to summer here. And it’s where Hopper used to paint. That incredible light in his pictures is the light from Truro, next to Wellfleet.
Regarding work, I really prepare beforehand. I give my team two touch points – maximum – per week, when I’ll be in an internet café, drink tons of coffee, use it as an office, get it all done in an hour. There’s no Netflix, so I catch up on reading. And creatively I get more done than anywhere else. I get all my ideas when I go running in the morning. And I always take a huge sketchbook, a compass, a ruler, all my coloured pens, and I draw.
Re-orbiting is hard. Normally I go back to our house in Connecticut before going to New York or Paris, so that I have a slow re-entry. I want to keep that happiness, that glow, that ability to think and go deeper. The thing about Wellfleet is that people are protective about it. It’s not a social place, it’s a hidden retreat. In fact, I kind of shouldn’t be talking about it.”