Inside a Modern Beach Home in East Quogue
On a thin stretch of East Quogue’s barrier island, nestled between vulnerable ocean dunes to the south and the fragile estuary system of Shinnecock Bay to the north, lies a house of breathtaking beauty. Despite the perilous location, the possibilities seemed limitless to Bridgehampton-based Barnes Coy Architects, who built this dream home for a Manhattan couple and their three children.
Robert Barnes and Christopher Coy are comfortable designing beach houses, having completed 200 since establishing their firm 20 years ago. Their brand of modernism employs traditional materials in dramatic ways, with great expanses of glass and an openness that seems to defy the challenges of the new normal: increasingly frequent and stronger hurricanes and super storms. This structure is particularly robust, built using resilient construction methods and materials: Its bones are made of steel supported by 25-foot-deep pilings; the envelope is clad in hurricane-resistant windows.
“The clients wanted an ambidextrous plan,” explains Rob Barnes, so that they could enjoy the rare double pleasure of equally beautiful views of both the Atlantic and the expansive hay meadows and spartina salt marshes of the bay. To fulfill their wishes, “We lifted the house above the height of the dunes, creating an ocean deck and a bay deck,” Chris Coy adds.
Barnes and Coy prefer decks over balconies. “The worst thing you can do is project a balcony in front of the living room and place furniture on it—you obstruct the view of the water from inside,” says Barnes. Instead, the team designed an ocean-facing living room that cantilevers 30 feet, stretching over the lower pool deck and creating the feeling of hovering above the dunes. A narrow deck to the side funnels along the living room wall, perpendicular to the ocean, splaying to 15 feet at the end. The strategy provides undiluted views from both the deck and the living room.
The openness of the interior spaces belies the structure’s fortification. Interior walls don’t always meet at corners, but instead allow light to connect spaces visually in all directions. Finishes and materials—Indian limestone, unpainted teak and cedar, and glass—are streamlined and carefully detailed, minimizing the distinction between exterior and interior; the roof, sloping in two directions along the north-south and east-west axes, further blurs the lines between outdoors and in.
In a riff on the nature of orientation, the architects inlaid a stainless-steel strip that runs true north and south across the floor in the entrance hall, with the second-level master suite carefully located along it. “We wanted to call out the house’s position in relation to that gigantic feature called the Atlantic Ocean, and it was also a chance to establish a true east-west axis off of which the guest rooms on the ground floor are located,” says Coy. Of course, there’s always the added pleasure of marking your own meridian.
A version of this article appeared in the August 15 2013 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Double Vision.