Tour an East Hampton Home with an Architectural Twist

Stansel East Hampton Home

Like so many of today’s long-distance love affairs, this one started on the Internet. Contemplating a move across the country from Portland, Oregon, Robert Stansel and Tammy Marek began to shop for properties online. Clicking through the usual Hamptons fare, they were delighted to find a listing that broke radically with convention.The ad showed a futuristic house under a broad, softly curved roof. Stansel, a former mortgage banker who now designs home furnishings, recalls the design as being “strikingly original” and recognized it as the ideal complement to his own work, which has a contemporary Pacific Northwest aesthetic. On the East End, however, experimental architecture can still occasionally be considered over-the-top.

The design is the work of MB Architecture principal Maziar Behrooz, a local modernist who says that he has not used a single shingle since 1996. Disappointingly, the advertised house was nothing more than a rendering that the original owner had attached to the listing. Fortunately, it was also nothing less, since Stansel admits that he might otherwise have missed the potential in the verdant pine-filled land prior to construction.

Behrooz has been playing with the notion of a house with a dramatically curved roof for the better part of a decade. The design he dreamed up uses the same industrial technology—more than 100 10-foot ribbed curving steel panels, plus around 4,500 bolts—more typically found in airplane hangars. Though highly unusual for a residence, the sweeping structure would not look out of place at, say, the East Hampton airport, which happens to be just about a mile away as the crow flies (fittingly enough, the house sits in its flight path).

In his design, Behrooz has incorporated a host of ecologically sensitive features, including a thick layer of sprayed-on roof insulation that also ensures peace and quiet, plus a roof garden on top of the flat-top garage, which is reached by a green surface of drivable grass. Working closely with Behrooz, Stansel and Marek customized and enlarged the rooms from the original plan. “Everything but the arc expanded in size,” Stansel notes.

The 64-foot arc, though it appears to touch the ground at each end, actually sits astride a full walkout basement on the lower level. The most striking thing about the innovative structure, though, is that there’s nothing unusual about hanging out there, even if it looks otherworldly. “It’s not like living in a missile silo or a mushroom,” Stansel says. An airy, floating central staircase connects the 4,700-square-foot house’s three far-flung bedrooms and terminates in a minimalist art gallery. The team took pains to avoid making spaces that, while camera-ready, were unnecessarily sterile. “Hospitals look cluttered compared to some of the houses I see published in magazines,” jokes Stansel.

To keep the vibe warm and welcoming, the couple turned to a favorite Portland resource, interior designer Brad Clifford. Floors are Oregon walnut, as are the doorframes, fabricated by a Portland-area woodworker. Certain key pieces in the furniture plan are Stansel’s own designs, including a free-edge coffee table in the living room and a custom rug in wool and silk, another piece with Oregon roots. Stansel adapted its pattern from photographs of Portland graffiti he digitally manipulated and then sent off to be hand-knotted in Nepal. He and Marek hired a truck to transport their treasures across the country, including a stone slab from an Alaskan glacier. “Since we were bringing a load,” says Stansel, “we figured one more stone wasn’t going to present any problem.”

A version of this article appeared in the August 15 2012 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Arc de Triumph.