Tour an Architectural Garden Inspired Home in Sag Harbor



Joseph Cornetta's Contemporary Garden Themed Sanctuary

What would you do if you were a landscape designer transforming a neglected property in Sag Harbor’s historic district, only to find out that the place was suddenly on the market? If you were Joseph Cornetta, of Joseph Cornetta Designs, you’d buy it yourself— despite the diminutive lot size (just 60 by 100 feet) and a wreck of a house its brave new owner describes as “Grey Gardens gone bad—only worse.”

Having already begun the outdoor work, Cornetta kept plugging away, adding a plunge pool/spa, installing a new fence and gates, laying a bluestone path, raising beds edged with Pennsylvania wall stone and making a fountain from an 18thcentury Chinese pot. He replaced the front lawn with Delaware blend pea gravel, which he also used for the driveway, part of which has been given over to a boxwood topiary garden. He pleached hornbeams, sculpted ilex hedges and planted Ligularia, hostas, beech trees, firs, cedars, lodgepole pines and little hedgehog clumps of dwarf grasses. Within three months, he says, “80 percent” of the garden was complete.

His design combines stately old-world formality with whimsical juxtapositions of plants, contemporary asymmetry, a deeply felt serenity and enough points of visual focus to keep even a black thumb’s eye engaged. “I wanted an architectural garden,” Cornetta says, “with defined outdoor rooms and lots of little moments for discovery.” Because he desired beauty year-round, he opted for a green-on-green scheme provided by (mostly) nondeciduous plantings. There are few flowers in this plan; instead, Cornetta worked with textural variations and colors that range from bright chartreuse to dark forest green, silvery blue and deep earthy red.

As almost everything outdoors has been shaped by human hands, so it has indoors, where the designer moved “just about every wall” to create a contemporary living space from a house that had been built as a garage. Moved from its original Main Street location in the 1950s, the garage part of Cornetta’s house is now the cozy 400-square-foot living room. Cornetta refinished the “pumpkin-colored” floors, replaced the brick fireplace with a burnished bronzed-steel update, added a dining room and deck, gutted the kitchen, paneled the bedrooms in V-groove board and then painted the entire interior— floors, ceilings, walls and trim— with Benjamin Moore’s China White. He also changed out all the windows, finding a vintage replacement for the living room’s cottage window in West Hollywood. What started out as a humble garage was fully transformed into a 1,500-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-story charmer.

Ed Ruscha relief print that hangs behind the living room sofa. It set his color palette, which runs to the neutral and the natural—as do his textile choices: wool, silk and linen. Cornetta designed some of the pieces himself (“In order to get exactly what I wanted”) and bought others from well-known purveyors like Knoll (the Warren Platner dining table) and Niedermaier (the Vicente Wolf bed in the master suite), as well as such auction houses as Sotheby’s and retail outlets that range from chain stores like West Elm to up-market home decorating shops like JED in Sag Harbor.

He also incorporated wood and metal accessories that range from a mirrored Joe D’Urso coffee table to chrome Mies van der Rohe dining chairs. But he’s fond of patina, too: On the aged copper-clad table in the mirrored entry, for example, several bronzes from his travels in Asia are on display, along with stone statuary and antique ceramics.

And now that the place is finished? “I love living in nature, indoors and out,” says Cornetta. “I feel a deep satisfaction from having created this place from basically nothing. And everyone who comes here seems to love it, even if they don’t share my particular taste. It’s really very gratifying.”

A version of this article appeared in the August 1 2011 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Sweet Serenity.

 

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleEdit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

Edit Module
Haver & Skolnick Architects
Haver & Skolnick Architects creates award-winning homes of timeless design, providing personal service & impeccable attention to detail. For 22 years, Charles Haver, AIA and Stewart Skolnick, AIA have offered a single source for architecture, interior design and landscape architecture, creating seamless environments which are a reflection of their clients’ personalities. The firm has been nationally recognized for comfortable, classic country homes and elegant apartments which reflect history while responding to a contemporary lifestyle.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Builder Spotlight

Consiglio Builders
Consiglio Builders is a luxury residential construction company located on the East End of Long Island. We have developed a unique method of residential construction in the Hamptons—we call it "The Considered Approach." It stems from our experience which demonstrates that meticulous planning and transparency throughout the process, combined with our expertise and emphasis on perfection, enable us to deliver consistently the best-constructed homes on time and within budget to our discerning clientele.


 

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

James Merrell Architects 
From our perspective in the 21st century, all styles are historical. Even Modernism is now a century old. So, we are free to interpret, and interweave the minimal with the decorative to find new expressions for our own era. Our house celebrates this new design freedom. It brings a contemporary sensibility to the architectural covenants of this otherwise traditional neighborhood. Floor to ceiling glass on the ground floor, for instance, yields modern interior spaces. While above, divided windows sit comfortably in second floor dormers. And the style that results is both unique and timeless.


Edit ModuleShow Tags

Architect Spotlight

Bates Masi + Architects
Bates Masi + Architects LLC, a full-service architectural firm with roots in New York City and the East End of Long Island for over 50 years, responds to each project with extensive research in related architectural fields, material, craft and environment for unique solutions as varied as the individuals for whom they are designed. The focus is neither the size nor the type of project but the opportunity to enrich lives and enhance the environment.

Bates+Masi Architects
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module