Tour an Architect Couple's Contemporary Getaway



Amagansett Exterior

The Wuehrer clan originally arrived on the East End as tenants. Every summer, Brooklyn-based Barbara Wuehrer-Engelking’s parents would jet over from Europe to spend two weeks with their American grandchildren at one summer rental or another. Eventually, they decided to put down roots in the Hamptons, but Wuehrer-Engelking, an architect, wasn’t impressed with the houses that she found on the market.

What caught her eye: an unspoiled swath of “wide open woods” on the border of Amagansett and Springs, where “you can’t see the neighbors, only birds and deer,” she explains, in her charming Austrian-accented English. Even more appealing was an adjacent forest reserve, which will never be developed.

So the decision was made to build, although not with Wuehrer-Engelking at the helm. Conveniently enough, her husband, Jerome Engelking, is also an architect, and his wife took the backseat from the start, architecturally speaking. The completed house is “entirely Jerome’s,” she says with a laugh, noting how design collaborations, like marriage, can involve a lot of give and take. A designer of low-cost housing, Wuehrer-Engelking offered technical and practical tweaks to the project, as well as client representation for her parents.

Amaganset Home Living Room

A native of France who has lived in the States for 20 years, Engelking is a mid-20th-century furniture collector who just happens to have a day job at Richard Meier & Partners Architects, the renowned New York–based firm. Anything but energy efficient, all-glass houses like the one he designed for his family mostly went out of vogue during the oil crisis of the 1970s. But Engelking’s modern-day iteration in Amagansett boasts a super-insulated roof that generates enough energy savings to offset the vast expanses of windows, which are framed in wood that’s treated to prevent rot and discourage insects, in addition to providing further insulation. The glass is self-cleaning, with a nonstick outer surface that requires only an occasional hosing off.

Milled from Southern yellow pine, the roof beams and window frames were preassembled at a Québec factory. It took four men from the factory a week to erect the vertical components and roof beams atop the house’s concrete slab. “At the end of the first day, I was ecstatic,” Engelking recalls. “This was the most pleasant construction experience I’ve ever had.” And with good reason: A computer simulation had warned that the windows could pop out if anything veered more than a quarter-inch out of line.

The front of the house appears semi-solid, like a wooden box, but it’s actually an exterior sheath of closely spaced fins of Western red cedar, positioned 10 inches in front of the glass to shade it during the hottest part of the day. The interiors are intentionally streamlined and pared down, so as not to compete with the views. Major fittings are European, and of the highest quality: Dornbracht faucets, Gaggenau and Miele appliances, Erco lighting, Viessmann heating.

The minimalist ethos is so pure that a team from Design Within Reach even rented the house for a recent photo shoot. They brought their own furnishings, but the creative director latched onto a one-off Frankenstein creation by Engelking: a rare Eames La Fonda molded-fiberglass chair seat that he has conjoined with a simple shell chair’s basic wire base. As with the architect’s other innovations, the result is so clever that it wouldn’t be surprising to see it pop up in a DWR catalog any day now. 

A version of this article appeared in the August 15 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Blind Ambition. 

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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
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.


 

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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.


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
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