Tour a Modern Beach Getaway in Westhampton



Roll & Hill's Rudi pendant lights hang in a corner of the living room.It’s difficult to peg this Moriches Bay contemporary as a design by a member of New York’s Institute of Classical Architecture & Art. But its owners already lived in a traditional house near the city, and they asked Stuart Disston, whose firm, Austin Patterson Disston Architects, is known for transitional classicism, to build an easygoing beach getaway where they could unwind. “They just wanted to wear shorts and relax,” says Disston, who, despite his traditional leanings, lives in a thoroughly modern beach house in Quogue, where he helms the Connecticut-based company’s Hamptons office. “People who come to our firm for modernism are basically saying they want a house like mine.”

Durability and easy maintenance, particularly in tricky beach and wetland environments, are hallmarks of Disston’s creations. For instance, he advocates a mechanical heat treatment that caramelizes sugars in certain types of wood siding, making it both rot-resistant and imbuing it with a distinctive deep brown color. And this project’s painted exterior cladding, which looks like smooth stucco, is actually a high-tech welded PVC plastic that he describes as “bulletproof.”

The bayfront lot was formerly home to a worn-out 1970s structure sited dangerously close to the shore. Despite the house’s groovy, unconventional octagonal layout, Disston deemed it “past the point of no return.” What’s more, high tide lapped at the pilings, which released creosote fumes whenever the building sat closed up between visits.

This home on Moriches Bay features contrasting exterior cladding of white PVC plastic and thermally modified dark weathered oak. The dock is ThruFlow composite decking.Current zoning and setback requirements significantly reduced the land’s buildable area, although a revegetation project on the site of the teardown allowed wiggle room for a revised footprint. The new structure is positioned farther from the shore, overlooking wetlands now proliferating with beach plum and dune grasses. At a not-grand 4,500 square feet, it boasts 10-foot ceilings on the ground floor, which impart a welcoming sense of scale. Large storm-resistant, laminated-glass windows frame Disston’s wow moment: a center-stringer steel stair with cantilevering chunks of white oak for the treads. Engineered-oak plank floors camouflage any beach sand that happens to get tracked in, and an ample outdoor terrace supplies almost as much living space as the interiors.

Because the house is made for entertaining, there are two kitchens: a presentation kitchen that can be concealed from view behind a panel, and a fully enclosed kitchen that offers a double of every appliance except a cooktop. The latter is bright white, but elsewhere, the palette of interior designers Scott Ornstein and Mary Rabiner, of Kings Point–based decorating firm Ornstein Rabiner, is softened in deference to the views. “You see water from almost every room,” notes Ornstein, adding that the bedrooms on the second floor have the additional benefit of ocean vistas. The designers also commissioned an impressive eight-foot walnut slab dining room table and sourced new large-scale furnishings throughout, creating an airy, inviting decor scheme that couldn’t be further from twee or trad. As Disston notes, “Everything about the house is pretty dialed down.”

A version of this article appeared in the August 15, 2017 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Bay Watch.

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Landscape Spotlight

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Rosalia Sanni
Rosalia Sanni is an award-winning landscape designer whose approach strikes a balance between architecture, nature and people. Comprehensive services include master planning, construction, administration, furniture souring, and an open dialogue that often continues after completion. Rosalia believes that good design enhances people's lives profoundly, and should offer more than a collection of beautiful pictures. Landscapes should suit the people who inhabit them in a meaningful, fun and deeply personal way.

Rosalia Sanni Design

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Architect Spotlight

Consiglio Builders
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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.


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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.

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