When Anu Duggal designed her waterfront home in Water Mill, N.Y., she filled it with female-centric touches. A so-called “Ladies Library,” wallpapered in dusty rose, features a curation of books by and about women like Jane Austen, Eleanor Roosevelt, Coco Chanel and Lady Bird Johnson. Ms. Duggal hung framed vintage Jantzen women’s bathing suits that she believes are from the 1920s and 1930s on the walls and added bright floral wallpaper by the likes of Gucci and de Gournay in shades of pink and purple, and in patterns featuring flowers and birds.A
Ms. Duggal, 41, said she wanted her house to be a sort-of physical embodiment of her passion for female success. As founder of the Female Founders Fund, a venture-capital firm that exclusively invests in female-founded technology companies, she said she’s already using the house to host groups of female entrepreneurs at the property for retreat-style brainstorming sessions.
The home is also inspired by Ms. Duggal’s Indian heritage. All of the bedding is custom designed and made using a block printing technique in India, and she displays maps of Indian cities like Kochi and Mumbai and snippets of poetry by Rupi Kaur, an India-born Canadian poet known for posting short pieces of visual poetry on social media.
More:Design a Living Room Around Monumental Artwork
In the primary bedroom, a piece by Ms. Kaur speaks to the power of a woman as she ages. It reads: “they convinced me i only had a few good years left before i was replaced by a girl younger than me….i do not come with an expiration date.”
Ms. Duggal was born in India but grew up all over the world thanks to her father’s work in global finance. She lived in Hong Kong, Manila, Tokyo and New York and later studied in Paris and London. In her 20s, she spent time in the culinary world, attending cooking school in France and then opening a wine bar in Mumbai. She later made her bones in the tech world as a co-founder of Exclusively.In, a flash sale site for fashion, jewelry and home décor by Indian artisans. The website was sold to Myntra.com, an Indian e-commerce company, in 2012 for an undisclosed amount.
Her venture-capital firm started in 2014. Investors in the funds have included Pivotal Ventures, an investment company established by Melinda French Gates and Bumble Fund, an investment arm of the dating website Bumble, Ms. Duggal said. Altogether, the company has invested about $36 million in a portfolio of startups that includes Billie, a female body care and shaving brand, and Zola, an online wedding-planning company.
In the living room, a painting by artist Maria Kreyn, a contemporary oil painter, merges the faces of three women of different ethnicities. “I told her I wanted a piece that was about women coming together from all different backgrounds,” Ms. Duggal said.
More:Opposites Attract: Soften the Edge of Polished Concrete
Ms. Duggal, who is single, spent more than a year, and roughly $275,000, putting her stamp on the summer cottage, she said. But her journey to actually buying the property was a lot quicker.
She purchased the house for $1.5 million, including the furniture, in 2019 as a summer and weekend refuge from her home in Manhattan, where she lives in Greenwich Village. She was casually browsing Zillow and hadn’t intended to buy, but when she spotted this property, she couldn’t resist contacting the listing agent to set up a showing. It was the first listing she saw but after 10 minutes, she knew it was the one. “I’m one of those people,” she said. “When I know, I know.”
The house had everything she dreamed of in a vacation home: character, history and space for all her friends and fellow business associates to gather. It also faced a large pond.
“I wanted a house on the water. Otherwise for me, it’s like you’re in suburbia,” she said. “If you’re going to have a beach house, it has to feel like you’re truly away and part of nature.”
From Penta:Charitable Giving in the U.S. Rises 5.1% to a Record US$471.44 Billion in 2020
She dubbed the property “Scribes Point,” since it had been previously owned by late onetime New York Times managing editor Arthur Gelb and his wife, the late writer Barbara Gelb, who extended and renovated the property, according to records. A writer based in Switzerland purchased it from the couple in 2007 for $2 million.
The Swiss writer listed the house for $2.77 million in 2017 but later reduced the price substantially after it lingered on the market. Ms. Duggal caught it on its downward trajectory.
The four-bedroom, 2,550-square-foot house was in good condition. Sitting just off the road, it had a large garden dotted with tall trees and a view directly onto the pond. There was also a covered bluestone patio with an awning, as well as a dock and a heated, bean-shaped gunite pool.
Ms. Duggal started sprucing up the place with a coat of paint, swapping brown for bright white, and replaced a blue awning with a new bold black and white striped one. She tapped Grace Fuller Marroquin, a former Vogue fashion editor-turned-landscape designer, to revamp the garden, adding a wetland flowering garden.
More:Go Bold With Patterned Bathroom Tiles
The biggest project involved knocking through a wall in the kitchen to open up it up to the dining area and completely redoing the kitchen, which now features blue cabinetry to match the La Cornue Royal Blue stove and a distinctive gold-colored sink, which Ms. Duggal said was inspired by the Indian in her. “I could not resist. I love it,” she said.
She kept much of the existing furniture but added her own flair to the summer cottage-style home. One of her greatest resources: antiquing websites like Chairish and 1stdibs. Since she couldn’t physically go shopping for furniture and collectibles during the pandemic, she did almost all her shopping online. She ordered a decorative vintage settee for the entry hall, a drinks cart from the 1920s and heaps of blue-and-white vintage ceramic plates. She turned to the local Water Mill Museum for old negatives of the area in the late-1800s and had them developed; in one image, women in old-fashioned bathing suits are pictures entering the ocean on a slide.
The vintage Jantzen swimsuits, which she found in an antique store in Bridgehampton and on eBay, particularly appealed to her, she said, because they represented the beginnings of the women’s liberation movement. Provocative advertisements for the suits, on display in the property, tout their sportiness and the ability for their wearers to move more freely. “They were able to enjoy the water and were no longer constrained,” she said.
More:Add Privacy to Your Home, With Panache
Work on the house is almost finished, with the exception of the garden, which is still being planted. Now, Ms. Duggal said she’s getting ready to host her first big retreat there.
The only downside of spending time in Water Mill: Ms. Duggal can’t drive. She relies on her bike and on Uber to get to and from the local shops and restaurants.
“I’m taking driving lessons right now,” she said. “It’s a little embarrassing.”