Remsenburg, NY

Hamptons Summer House

For a large, newly-built house near Westhampton Beach, our challenge was to forge dimension, texture and style through a sequence of architectural interventions. By adding more windows we created a symmetry to the elevations which had been missing; replacing sliding doors with French doors augmented the atmosphere with dignity.

Our goal was not to encrust a contemporary house with period ornament, but to lend it the time-honored language of understated architectural detail, a way of accentuating and humanizing space.

The floors of the house were originally surfaced in a variety of materials, including tile, which made the rooms feel “chopped up.” To create an unbroken sense of flow–and warmth– from room to room, we installed dark wood floors throughout, using sea grass and sisal area rugs to further unify the rooms.

The double-height living room had a rather blank fireplace with a sheetrock surround. Using Connecticut fieldstone, we built a floor to ceiling surround using the “drystack” building method, in which no mortar is visible; the rough effect added shadows and texture to the space. A massive 19th-century wooden chandelier brings human scale to the 18-foot ceiling.

With the house itself thus reimagined, furnishing became a delightful enterprise of layering English and American 19th century antiques with pieces from South America, the Far East and India, including colonial styles. Warmth, materiality and restrained rusticity became the keynotes of this house, which now appears rooted and timeless, inside and out.

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The blue-grey of the house’s exterior shingles is complemented by the use of bluestone surrounding the swimming pool, punctuated, in turn, by small gridded metal lamps.

An old chest harbors a collection of objects evincing texture and interest, including the lamp, which we had cast, and an 18th century architectural engraving of an obelisk.

An 18th century Italian armoire, ten feet high, sheathes the family’s entertainment center and balances the fireplace on the opposite side of the living room.

Dark wooden floors carry through into the kitchen, contrasting crisply with finely crafted millwork lacquered in off-white, and the taupe window frames of the double-height dining area.

The double-height drystack fireplace, its hearth and mantelpiece made of slabs of bluestone, is a dominant organic element in the room, suggesting the earth tones of the upholstery fabrics: grey plush velvet, antique linen and leather. A heavy coffee table, a relic of the Raj, is counterpointed by a delicate William Morris Sussex chair. Traditional Shaker doors and moldings are painted a soft taupe.

Regency rules in the master bedroom, with a caned bench at the foot of the bed. A comfortable armchair upholstered in maroon and white stripes and printed curtains of the same color heighten the 19th century atmosphere of the room.