Tour a Glass-Walled Modern Masterpiece in East Quogue
Having oceanfront property in the Hamptons is many a homeowner’s dream, but such close proximity to the water can be an architect’s nightmare. “When you build near the ocean, you’re up against all kinds of regulations,” says principal Robert Barnes of Barnes Coy Architects, the firm behind the East Quogue home that appears on these pages. “There are FEMA flood lines to consider, and because of coastal erosion you have to maintain a certain distance between a house and the top of the dune. Plus, your windows need to be made of missile-impact glass.”
Fortunately, Barnes Coy’s clients, an accomplished Long Island real estate developer and his wife, understood all the limitations. The result: a modern home designed as a unique response to its equally unique location. From the expansive upper decks and common living areas, stunning vistas can be had of both Shinnecock Bay to the north and the Atlantic Ocean to the south. There’s more water on view than land.
In order to capitalize on the scenery while heeding governmental restrictions, Barnes Coy installed custom two-story walls of hurricane-resistant glass framed by marine-grade stainless steel, which withstands rust and corrosion; Alabama sandstone floors and terraces easily weather harsh storms. “If you try to work against the environment,” says firm principal Christopher Coy, “you’ll constantly have to maintain everything.” Concrete beams supporting the large walls of glass, Coy adds, create a look that’s similar to “a beveled picture frame.”
While the clients “loved the idea of a see-through building,” Barnes recalls, “you can’t build a fully transparent house, because you still need privacy. So we treated the guesthouse”—which is situated closer to the roadside, at a slight angle from the main house—“like a barrier.” A hallway connects the guesthouse to the main house, with a pool situated in the courtyard between them—an ingenious location, given local restrictions limiting the proximity of swimming pools to the ocean. Even on the windiest days, the house protects it from gusts.
When it came to the interiors, all that glass and drama demanded a decorator who was up to the challenge. The clients hired interior designer Benjamin Noriega-Ortiz of BNO Design to do the job, though “at first,” Noriega-Ortiz recounts, “the husband wasn’t so sure my decor choices would fit with the architecture. He’s a bit more reserved, so we had to cajole him into certain things.”
Noriega-Ortiz employed feathers, fur, leather, and easily washable fabrics—all in a beach-friendly palette of bright whites—to pull his minimalist scheme together. Easier said than done, as only certain shades of white layer well. “Whites tend to look yellow when they sit next to each other,” he says, “so we had to search hard to find the right ones.”
Furnishings, in keeping with the beach-y theme, are understated and made for lounging. “We built clear acrylic furniture that sits low to the ground so that it doesn’t interrupt the flow of the open living room and dining area,” says Noriega-Ortiz, who painted every room in the house Benjamin Moore’s Decorator’s White for consistency. Playing further into the oceanfront vibe, he even designed a logo for the house, emblazoning robes, notepads, towels, and tennis visors with the home’s address, not unlike a luxury boutique hotel.
“The clients entertain family and friends virtually every weekend, and they wanted to make sure everyone would always feel relaxed,” says Noriega-Ortiz. Such a mandate requires a heavy-duty setup, and both the designer and the architects did not disappoint, with Barnes Coy specifying for a catering kitchen located below the enormous primary kitchen, including a dumbwaiter for quick service between the two. There’s also an outdoor kitchen, a pizza oven, and multiple bars, should the party move to the pool, the ocean, or the guesthouse. And when the sun goes down, that party doesn’t need to end, thanks to views of the night sky and stars through all the windows. “The house is a showcase,” says Noriega-Ortiz. “It’s a theater for living on the beach.”
A version of this article appeared in the August 15, 2016 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Diamond on the Dune.