A Luxurious Beach House That Redefines Modernism
In Hampton Bays, architect Jonathan Marvel designs a home with a distinct point of view.
This beach house that architect Jonathan Marvel designed for clients along a lesser-known stretch of Great Peconic Bay is the essence of modernism, boasting sleek lines, a copper roof, and idiosyncratic fenestration. Yet the structure pays subtle homage to more traditional vernacular design in details such as cedar siding, which will weather to the same gray as the shingles that clad untold Hamptons beach houses. And like all the best beach getaways, it invites the outside in.
Marvel, who has offices in New York and his native Puerto Rico, was thrilled by the site: 3.64 wooded acres perched high above the bay. Because his clients wanted to be “as close to the water as possible,” he recounts, “we put the pool at the setback limit and then pushed the house as close to the pool as possible. No matter what the architectural style, a family home should speak to the family, and be energized and nourished by a close relationship with nature. That notion is the philosophical underpinning of this project.”
The 4,500-square-foot four-bedroom structure, designed in the shape of a slightly distorted V, comprises a straightforward volume containing the garage, an office, and private rooms and, as its counterpart, a showstopping two-story glass pavilion that seems to reach for the sky and stretch toward the beach.
The entry to the house lies where the two legs of the V meet: a beautifully proportioned breezeway that frames the view and instantly transports visitors from the woodland to the shore.
The design brief from the clients dictated a great room occupying the main floor of the pavilion: The kitchen opens onto the dining area and a soaring two-story living room, a space broken only by a massive two-sided concrete fireplace that was board-formed to echo the horizontal cedar cladding outside. Accessed by a sculptural staircase, the primary bedroom suite occupies the space above the kitchen and dining room and features the same staggering views, as well as a fireplace of its own.
The glass pavilion was designed for both economy and aesthetics. Marvel incorporated the weight-bearing structural support of the wing in the mullions between expanses of glass, and these mullions support the ceiling beams in turn. Rift-cut white oak—on the floors, some walls, and the ceiling between the beams—plays a unifying role.
“I wanted to limit the number of materials for a coherent look,” the architect says. “The neutral palette really brings out the highlights of the water and the sky and the greenery.”
The interiors take a similarly respectful approach to nature. Decorator Steffani Aarons of New York–based DHD Architecture and Interior Design kept her focus on the clients’ wish for “accommodating family gatherings and taking in the view as much as possible, while embracing the modernism of the house,” she says.
A blown-glass light fixture by artist Jeff Zimmerman, stools covered in a perky purple polka-dot fabric by Madeline Weinrib, and vibrantly colored Bisazza mosaic tile in a guest bath are just a few examples of how she steered the house away from becoming too stern—a common shortcoming of modern abodes. “It’s playful and fun. This is a beach house, after all.”
Because “the eye just wants to go to the view” in the living room, the designer continues, “we went for organic pieces like a natural wood cocktail table and a few mid-20th-century classics, including a pair of leather lounge chairs by Finn Juhl.
Jonathan made a house that’s not overly formal, so everything is intentionally a little loose and relaxed. Even the driveway that winds through the trees toward the house isn’t paved—it’s just stones and gravel. It feels like you’re going to a beach hideaway—just as it should.”
The print version of this article appears with the headline: Sharp Focus.
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