A New York Couple Escapes the City Life in This 1920s Shelter Island Abode



Architect Steve Schappacher and designer Rhea White's Shelter Island getaway is now their primary home and office.For years, interior designer Rhea White and architect Steve Schappacher lived and worked in Manhattan and spent weekends on Shelter Island. But once they were on the island, they found it increasingly difficult to leave. “We dreaded Sunday nights,” recalls Schappacher. “And pretty soon, Sunday nights turned into Monday nights, and then Tuesday nights.” The summer before they became permanent residents, they spent only seven or eight nights in the city, so “we decided to refocus and move to the island full time.”

“Between our mortgage payment and the parking garage payment and everything else,” White adds, “we were spending around $2,600 a night. We could get a kick-ass hotel room for $2,600 a night!” Even so, White remained apprehensive about the move at first, not fully committed to the idea of not living in the city. “To this day, half our garage on Shelter Island contains a lot of stuff from our city apartment. Just in case I got nervous one day and had to go back.”

Not to worry: The pair, who are the principals of the firm SchappacherWhite Architecture, still get out and about. They recently completed Wm. Farmer & Sons, a restaurant, shop, and boardinghouse in Hudson, New York, for an entrepreneurial couple they met at a friend’s birthday party, and they’re also at work on a large renovation of an 1820s farmhouse in Bridgehampton, a restoration of a mid-20th-century-modern Ulrich Franzen house in Essex, Connecticut, and a ground-up structure in Mill Valley, California—not to mention several projects on Shelter Island.

The couple originally lived in a small farmhouse on Shelter Island and didn’t take local jobs, preferring to keep a safe distance between work and pleasure. But they couldn’t resist signing on for a handful of architecturally driven projects nearby, which led to the realization that their home was far too cramped to accommodate both their professional and personal life.

Their new house, which dates from the 1920s, was originally a single-room cottage with a stone fireplace. Added onto over the years, it had become an agglomeration of not particularly attractive little buildings and enclosed porches. Schappacher and White ended up demoing about 50 percent of it, while trying to maintain the integrity of the component parts. Then they expanded it, creating a nonlinear layout that they say they probably wouldn’t have done had they started from scratch, and turned the freestanding former garage into their office, increasing their commute from none to about 20 seconds.

The new office is a boon, considering that the house sits on the easternmost edge of Ram Island, a remote extension of already remote Shelter Island, accessible only by causeways. “When it snows,” White says, “we turn on the outside lights so the snowplows realize there’s somebody here and come and plow the road. It gets a little desolate, but we love it.” The house’s distant locale calls for regular entertaining, often in the form of large dinner parties—sometimes for as many as 20 people—so the kitchen is necessarily immense. “People always say they want to help at our parties,” White says with a laugh, “but what they really want to do is sit around and drink and watch you work!” Fortunately, Schappacher has plenty of room to cook, and everybody else can socialize and mingle around the 14-foot island without knocking into one another. “One friend said to us, ‘This isn’t a kitchen, it’s a loft,’ and that was the idea,” says Schappacher.

Furnishings in the kitchen and throughout the house tend to hew closely to a chic, stark palette of black, white, and taupe—much like a modern Manhattan aerie. Deeply layered textures, from nubby linen fabrics to the hand-scraped floors, make up for the lack of color. “Our friends are such a colorful cast of characters already,” White says, “that we don’t want our house to compete with them.”

Not that their place, all polished and new, can’t hold its own. In fact, White feels so at home that she considers herself a true Shelter Islander now. “We’ve been here several years,” she says. “I think we can finally have that garage sale.”

A version of this article appeared in the September/October 2016 issue of HC&G (Hamptons Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Island Outpost.

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

Landscape Spotlight

Edit Module
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

Edit ModuleShow Tags

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.


 

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