A Modern House in Sagaponack Pays Homage to the Past
Architecturally sound, this lath house takes simplicity to a new level.
For his first project in The Hamptons, architect Brian Mac considered local barn vernacular and the East End’s low-lying farmland before even lifting a shovel. The principal of Birdseye, a design-build firm based in Richmond, Vermont, he was keen on staying true to the pastoral site—a slightly sloping plot of land in Sagaponack—and traditional farmland architectural conceits.
Lathhouse, the home he built for his London-based clients, now sprawls resplendently across the property, a thoroughly modern house, but wise beyond its years.
HC&G: What was the inspiration behind your design?
BRIAN MAC: Lathhouse has its roots in the eponymous lath house, a traditionally gabled farmhouse structure made primarily of wood laths or slats spaced to reduce sunlight while permitting ventilation. Such detailing is typically used in corn cribs, drying barns, and livestock shelters.
In this modern iteration, how is lath employed?
The slats are both contextual and purposeful, reimagined as siding that functions to provide privacy screening and limit interior light emittance. The slatting extends over windows and skylights and wraps around the bedrooms’ windows, delineating Juliet balconies off each. On the south elevation, on the cantilevered pergola, it also functions as a solar shading scrim.
Where did you source the material?
It certainly doesn’t look brand-new. It’s repurposed Douglas fir from corrals and snow fencing that we found in Big Sky, Montana. It has a patina reminiscent of barns and outbuildings in rural landscapes. It not only gives the house a captivating sheath, but also a seamless look. The entirety of the modern house is a purposeful, regimented composition of repetitive details that physically and emotionally connect the form to the place.
There are no chimneys, no gutters, and no downspouts. We always try to get at the essence of pure form and expression. The house looks simple, but it’s a lot of work to hide things that would otherwise pop out and distract from the purity of the form.
How did you accomplish this?
A gutter and downspout system is concealed under the roof. Water is collected and evenly dispersed to mitigate erosion on the property.
Your employee-owned firm, with 65 people, is organized like a co-op, with architects, builders, excavators, woodworkers, and metal and glass craftsmen. What a novel concept.
It’s a great advantage because all my ideas can get executed in-house—it’s like a family business.
Speaking of, your wife, Brooke Michelsen, was responsible for the luminous, airy interiors, which are fascinating to behold as the sun creates ever-changing shadows through the slatted skylights.
Yes, that’s true. The sun keeps the architecture and design alive because the light is always moving.
The print version of this article appears with the headline: Latchhouse.
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