01/26/2017

East End Family Compound

By John Ike

The medical injunction “first do no harm” can be as useful to architects as it is to doctors. In the case of this renovation and extension of a 1980s shingled Dutch gambrel residence on eastern Long Island, I believe it helped get us the job, as we were the first architects who didn’t recommend tearing the place down. 

True, the roof shape was slightly awkward, the proportions unspectacular, and the builder had opted for stock trim and casings. But its orientation intrigued me. 

Wings and bump-outs were added to the house, in the spirit of the picturesque irregularity of the shingle style. OPPOSITE: In the kitchen, oiled butternut millwork, a brick tile backsplash, and a sliding barn door create an informal, functional ambiance.

Built on the foundation of an earlier residence, a fieldstone podium about eighteen inches high, the structure was angled away from the road and toward the grounds, which made it feel countrified rather than suburban. 

A Marcel Breuer bent-plywood armchair sits on a pedestal in the front hall. Steps to the left of the front door lead down to the family room.

The house also derived considerable charm from its post-and-beam construction, and the combination of higher and lower spaces finished in a palette of exposed stick construction, pine floors, and rough boards appealed to the owners. 

Post-and-beam construction connects the new living room structurally and aesthetically to the original house.

I sympathized with their desire to expand upon it. The programmatic requirements were uncomplicated and straightforwardly answered. The house was cruciform in plan, and we lengthened two of the wings and modified a third.

The kitchen was extended and finished with a breakfast area enclosed in a glass bay; the existing double-height living room, off the kitchen, was converted into a family room and a new living room and screened porch added beyond, with a master suite above.

The Swiss stacked-stone fireplace fits neatly into the original post-and-beam structure of the family room. Architect Shamir Shah and the owners collaborated on the furniture and lighting selections throughout the house.

Set beyond the living room and beneath the master suite, the screened porch occupies the entire end of the new wing. In the cold months, glass panes are inserted so that the space can be used year-round.

From a design standpoint, the challenge involved improving the quality of the architectural details and, more significantly, maintaining the overall aesthetic. With the owners’ endorsement, we used the post-and-beam construction methods in the principal part of the addition, working with a Vermont-based craftsman who carefully pegged and elegantly detailed the frame. 

A minimally detailed white-oak box encloses the main stair, which slips between the beamed structure of the existing second floor.

This was reinforced with a material richness and a focus on craft as a quiet but palpable decorative element. 

The finishes selected were in the house’s vernacular yet unexpected enough to enrich the experience, notably the handsomely figured oiled butternut millwork in the kitchen and the thin-cut slabs of Swiss stone selected for the living and family room fireplaces—similar to American bluestone but crisped and salted with a silvery mica.

Swiss quartzite appears in the living room fireplace wall.

The outbuildings on the roughly four-acre property, which my clients put together over time, deserve special mention. 

We extended a small two-story vernacular building to create a painting studio for the wife, incorporating two long dormers and a small deck that looks out past the main house toward the gardens—details that transformed a humble traditional structure into something singular and special. 

The painting studio, clad entirely in pine boards, is a place both to create and to retreat.

And at a remove from the main residence, there is a small courtyard building, formed by barnlike volumes, designed by the great California modernist (and inheritor of the shingle tradition) Charles Moore, which accommodates the couple’s children and extended family. 

The entirety, knitted together sublimely by the landscape architect Ed Hollander, coalesces into what is less a country residence than a small private park, one with interesting architecture, beautiful plantings, and unusual objects—as far from a teardown as one could imagine.

A path through the herb garden leads to the glazed mudroom. The mass of the chimney draws on a Bruce Price precedent. OPPOSITE: The swimming pool was filled in and replaced with a tree-shaded brick terrace for outdoor dining.

See the full house tour on our portfolio.