NEW KDHamptons At-Home: Rita Schrager's Gorgeous Guest House

Rita Schrager gets a pug hug from Lillie

Former New York City Ballet dancer Rita Schrager’s personal style could be described as chic, sexy, & effortless ~ and the interior design of her Southampton Colonial compound reflects the same aesthetic. Perched on top of rolling green hills, Casa Cuba is comprised of a stately main house where Rita, and daughters Sophia & Ava spend their laid back summers, as well as a gorgeous three bedroom guest house, and smaller gate house, which Schrager aptly named “The African Room” after filling it with pieces she brought home from a Kenyan safari.

For some, designing ONE house can be a daunting task, but for this Hamptons tastemaker, tackling all three homes at once was a “creative joy” [completed in just five months!]. Here, KDH breaks down the design elements of creating a GREAT guest house with Rita Schrager and her designer / best friend, Hernan Arriaga in a feature I wrote for Hamptons Cottages & Gardens magazine for whom I am a contributing editor.

KDHamptons: How would you describe the design aesthetic for the guest house at Casa Cuba?

Hernan Arriaga: I would describe it as primitive American, very inspired by the world of Ralph Lauren with white washed floors, vintage photography, beautiful old flags, and antiques that have a nautical or equestrian influence.

Rita Schrager: I always wanted a “Ralph Lauren” house, focusing on primitive furniture and great American design roots. But we needed to take into consideration that we were in the country and at the beach, so we created an interior mix that brought all of those things together.

KDH: How does the guest house differ from the main house in terms of design? Is it necessary to have continuity between a guest house and the main?

Hernan: The main house clearly represents a different look: French Country ~ because Rita loves that style, Cuban ~ because of her roots, a Delano Hotel Miami vibe ~ which represents her entry into the design world, developing the Agua Spa with Phillipe Starck, and a Hamptons 
“family feel” to nest with her daughters. We didn’t feel a need to marry the style of all three houses at Casa Cuba. The spirit of the design comes from all of the things that are important to Rita. [Click here to see KDHamptons feature of the main house: ]

KDH: Rita, what inspires your design aesthetic? Did you incorporate your Cuban heritage into the design of the guest house?

Rita: I am from a traditional Cuban family. Growing up, my family home was always filled with collections of religious icons, sculptures, and crosses, some of which I display in different nooks of the guest house. I also learned so much from my ex-husband’s [hotelier Ian Schrager] collaborations with creative legends like Julian Schnabel, Philippe Starck and Andree Putman.

Hernan [adding]: Lots of Rita’s collections came with her, she loves religious icons and old family photos so we put them together, added some extra pieces that we found in the Hamptons, and exhibited them in different rooms of the guest house. Rita’s home has become a part of her, and that is exactly what I was hoping for…

KDH: Hernan, how does your Argentinean upbringing inspire your design?

Hernan: My culture is absolutely an inspiration in my design ~ that comes from the gaucho in me! I love organic materials, textures, cow hides, furs, leathers, driftwoods, branches….all elements that you would typically find in great Argentinean interiors.

Rita, Hernan and his pup Lilo

KDH: Rita is not only your favorite client, but also your best friend. How would you say your taste in interior design differs?

Hernan: I am a big admirer of Rita’s taste. Honestly, she is not even aware of her taste level ~ it just comes from her gut. She knows what she wants right away….and I can help her decide where it will go! My knowledge is based more on experience, research, learning about the history of pieces and styles. I am very involved today in international vs regional design and like to insert myself into places, and cultures to learn about every aesthetic.

Rita: I met Hernan twelve years ago. I fell in love with East Hampton home at the time, and his gorgeous Fifth Avenue apartment in the city. I couldn’t wait to “play house” together on this design project. I knew we would build my dream house.

KDH: Where did you acquire most of the pieces in the guest house?

Rita: We hit auction houses, estate sales, and antiques stores in the Hamptons from Quogue to Montauk. It was important to me to source as much as we could through local resources.

Hernan: At one point, I lived in the Hamptons for seven years and had a store in Amagansett, so I know the best and sometimes secret places to discover inspired design on the East End. [Arriaga now owns a store in the Dominican Republic called Azul Mar,]

KDH: Do you have a favorite item in the guest house?

Rita: Yes! A vintage red leather horse saddle I found at an East Hampton yard sale for $30! Another favorite was a gift from Hernan of four wood-carved saints that are over 500 years old.

KDH: Do you like to entertain at the guest house?

Rita: I do, actually. It breaks things up to have a second location on the property to host dinner parties. I host more intimate dinners on the porch of the guest house, and sometimes on snowy winter weekends, I like to go for a “staycation” in the guest house, making cozy warm fires each night.

KDH: Okay, time for a big reveal — who is your all-time favorite house guest?

Rita: [laughing] Well, I would say two of my favorite house guests were Dulce and Lupita. Two baby goats whom Hernan and I rescued from an animal shelter on Long Island. We originally set out to rescue a pot belly pig, but I fell in love with two baby goats instead! We cried the whole drive home along with the goats, who were crying from being separated from their mom. My daughter Sophia dubbed them Dulce and Lupita, names from a telenovela she used to watch.

* To see more of Hernan Arriaga design please go to:

* To see more of Douglas Young’s photography please go to:

To see the full feature in HC&G click here: