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December 2008


FEATURES

A Master Symphony
by Jami Supsic
Photographs by Charles Meyer

COMBINED DESIGN TALENTS ORCHESTRATE TWO CONTEMPORARY HOMES FOR AN EAST HAMPTON FAMILY RETREAT

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When a couple with two grown children decided to create a family compound in the Hamptons, a highly fortunate chain of events ensued. The three essential factors behind a well-designed home—architecture, interior design and landscape design—all fell into place well before any ground was broken.

After purchasing three adjoining lots on a verdant East Hampton agricultural reserve, the couple needed an architect and for that they turned to interior designer Bruce Bierman, of Bruce Bierman Design, who had worked on their Palm Beach home some years back. With his guidance, the couple selected Manhattan-based Leroy Street Studio. It took some time, but after seeing other local projects by the firm, they were sold. In turn, Leroy Street Studio, guided by partners Morgan Hare, Marc Turkel and Shawn Watts, immediately consulted landscape architect Edmund D. Hollander, who had a comfortable history with the firm. And now, some several years later, two homes and a carefully planned landscape define the expansive property.

Though located only a short distance from one another, the homes, one the main residence and the daughter's residence to the east, feel completely separate while maintaining an aesthetic connection. The architects unified the structures through a contemporary scheme and use of materials. Stone, wood and glass predominate with stainless steel visible only as necessary for structural support. Westchester granite defines exterior and interior walls with beautifully irregular surfaces divided in large, arresting blocks. Ipe, an extremely dense and durable wood, cloaks the flat roofs, window frames, wood siding and the floors in the main house's private spaces. Bluestone serves as flooring throughout the daughter's home and in public spaces of the main house.

Broken into two levels, the main house has the master bedroom on the ground level and the guest rooms and service quarters on the second. The daughter's house, though much smaller in scale, feels expansive, thanks to a clever layout that makes use of an open floor plan, high ceilings and extended patios. Only the guest room in the daughter's house provides views next door. "When you are there, you feel like you are in your own world," says Hare.

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Each of the homes features a unexpected entrance. In the main house, a reflective pool of water beckons in the front courtyard, while the inner space remains concealed. When visitors cross the threshold of a wooden entry box, everything opens up with vast expanses of windows framing the landscape and lining the walls of large communal spaces that include the living and dining rooms, as well as a large screened porch. It's a surprise effect intended to overwhelm the senses and impress. "The house initially feels very solid, but as soon as you cross that threshold you are outside again," says Turkel. One enters the daughter's house at a split that divides public and private spaces, marked by a bamboo grove that shoots skyward through a cut in the roof.

As for the interiors, Bierman selected a midcentury modern aesthetic in soothing tones of lavender and blue for the daughter's home. The interiors of the main house embody a 1930s aesthetic that is richer in terms of colors and scale to complement the large volume of spaces. "I had to go in with a very light touch, but the combination works well," he says. "Despite the differences there is a certain harmony, which is due in part to the unity of architectural elements."

Throughout both residences Bierman carefully married form with function. In the main house a Dakota Jackson low table features a drawer for hiding remotes and various electronic accessories. Discrete magazine racks form the arms of weathered teak chairs on the screen porch. And in the daughter's house an abundance of chairs allows for easy rearranging when it comes time to entertaining.

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Built-in furnishings and custom cabinetry also factored heavily into the architecture and interior design. Leroy Street Studio frequently creates furnishing components in their designs and, in this case, Bierman was a participant from the very start. "As we were analyzing walls in relation to the rooms we would realize the need for focal points," says Turkel. For the living room, they created a wall-mounted cabinet with bookshelves and a sliding door that reveals a TV on one side. The master bedroom features a similar design that parts in the middle, also revealing a television when open and blocking windows above and below.

It was a team effort with the landscape, as well. While the plots are expansive, the rear portion of the preserve is unbuildable land. Thus the architects were challenged to design homes that didn't appear crammed along the front and unconnected to the remainder of the property. Low stone walls divide and connect the land; the material relates seamlessly back to the architecture. Ornamental grasses provide screening, and six rows of corn, a plant Hollander and his team used here for the first time, create a privacy shield from Further Lane.

In the end Hollander sums it up best. "One of the reasons why this project is so successful is because ideas were thought of from all three angles simultaneously," he says. "Design is an exploration. It's a back and forth with all the parties until you get it just right." And "get it just right" they did. Bierman concludes, "The clients feel a serenity in this space."

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