Noyack Bay Modern

Grade New York and Saota join forces to create a dreamy blufftop getaway.
North Haven Exterior

Photography by Richard Powers

Virtually nothing holds a candle to Long Island’s peaceful pink sunsets. How ironic, then, that most oceanfront houses face southeastward, essentially occupying the cheap seats to nature’s nightly show. And while a prime spot on the Atlantic can’t be beat, there’s the relentless assault of corrosive salty surf spray—a liability for homes sheathed in high-upkeep materials.

But there are other options for those who love the water, including the family whose brand-new house in North Haven is featured in this article. They had fought a contentious battle with the ocean in their previous residence, a pioneering flat-roofed contemporary wood home right on the beach. Endless repairs had taken a toll, so they ultimately decided to trade in the seaside for a bluff overlooking Noyack Bay.

North Haven Day Bed

Photography by Richard Powers

What’s more, the new location is ideal for watching the sunset, thanks to the uninterrupted 300-foot panorama of water and sky. A dutiful shingled blob had been deposited on the land years before, a structure deemed “surprisingly nondescript” by architect Mark Bullivant, one of five directors of the Cape Town–based design firm Saota. Bullivant oversees American commissions for Saota, unapologetically architectural assemblages of concrete, steel, and plate glass built in cities ranging from Miami to Los Angeles. But despite the firm’s international renown—and completed projects on six continents—New York was still strangely unfamiliar territory.

The new home demanded a subtle stylistic stretch for the architects, who settled on a blend of rawboned mid-20th-century Southern California modernism with the pampered tranquility of an ultraluxurious Thai resort and spa. The demolished house had been a simple rectangle, whereas the replacement sprinkles contemporary pavilions from one end of the lot to the other.

Early concepts from Saota evolved further once the project was joined by Grade New York firm principals Edward Yedid and Thomas Hickey, who fielded phone calls about the house “every day for three years,” Hickey recalls. Grade managed approvals, coordinated construction, and ultimately selected the plainly deluxe interior finishes, along with furnishings by the likes of architect Pierre Yovanovitch. One gently unvarnished conversation between Yedid, Hickey, and the client—a Hamptons reality check, if you will—led to the agreement that “You can’t build a Ferrari with a Fiat interior,” Yedid remembers saying.

Grade and Saota passed the design back and forth, with Grade nudging the fireplace out of the center of the great room and up against a wall—thereby improving spatial flow—and also suggesting the oversize Italian marble slabs for the chimney breast. The asymmetrical hearthstone below became a pedestal for cherished signed vessels made by cult potter Claude Conover in the mid-1960s.

North Haven Living Room

Photography by Richard Powers

Skirting the dining area, a room divider is inspired by Harry Bertoia’s Sonambient musical sculptures. The tall antique-brass cattails were prefabricated at Grade’s own factory outside Venice, then threaded into pre-drilled and -tapped holes in the long brass base on-site. Similarly, the dining table’s custom base was fabricated in Italy and then joined to a marble tabletop that Grade commissioned Stateside. Hanging above the table are a suite of custom Flow(T) pendants in watery blues, made by Brooklyn-based Japanese designer Nao Tamura.

The interior’s slatted wooden walls are rift-cut oak stained a soft brown, whereas the exterior is covered in an indestructible Brazilian hardwood. Floating above, louvered white aluminum parasol overhangs cantilever off the house, in a gossamer nod to mid-20th-century designer Pierre Koenig’s Case Study architecture in the Hollywood Hills. The front door, accessed via a series of massive stepping stones set into a dark reflecting pool lined with black river stones, is glass, allowing a view straight through the house and across another reflecting pool in the backyard. Centered in that pool, a specimen tree is planted on a tiny, tidy square island. Backlit by the sun setting over the bay beyond, it’s a world away from the sea, and a world apart.

North Haven Office

Photography by Richard Powers

The print version of this article appeared with the headline: Making the Grade.