Inside a Sleek Suburban Oasis Designed by Architect Eric Gartner
Occasionally an architect is lucky enough to come across clients who know exactly what they want. Such was the case when Eric Gartner, a partner at Manhattan-based SPG Architects, signed on to help a young New York City family build their dream home in Mamaroneck. The couple—she, with a background in fashion and textiles, and he, in the construction industry—began their search for a modernist architect well before they were ready to leave their Upper East Side three-bedroom and decamp to Westchester with their three elementary-school-age children. “They knew that they would need to move soon enough, so we started the property hunt together,” says Gartner.
Once the couple settled on a three-quarter-acre lot in a suburban neighborhood where many of the mid-20th-century homes (including theirs) were being torn down and redeveloped, Gartner got to work ticking off their wish list: a modern white façade, specific room-by-room square-footage requirements, a double-height living room, a children’s play area, six bedrooms, a pool, an outdoor dining pavilion and kitchen, and two of the wife’s favorite aesthetic accents: walnut and concrete-like finishes. “The back and forth we had about various tones of gray became almost comical,” says Gartner, who painstakingly sourced at least 50 shades in everything from porcelain floor tiles to plaster to wall coverings. “We were focused on getting it exactly right, making sure that the gray palette feels layered, not just monochromatic.” As for the exacting room dimensions, which some architects might see as a hindrance, Gartner used the directive as an opportunity to bring interest to the front and rear façades by incorporating setbacks and cantilevered sections that make everything line up from one floor to the next. “The exterior planes mask the micromanipulation of spaces behind them,” says the architect, who “designed from the inside out, as opposed to the other way around.”
Even though the lot isn’t huge, outdoor programming is a crucial component of the project. “The kids hadn’t been outside the city, so my clients wanted a well-considered space,” explains Gartner, who conceived a series of rooms that open onto a secluded backyard complete with a gunite pool (the orientation of which was sited to accommodate the lot’s natural slope and minimize the amount of rock excavation), a sitting area, and an open-air dining pavilion and kitchen that matches the house’s stucco exterior. Large stretches of glass on the rear façade “expand the sense of interior space and connect it to the landscape,” the architect adds.
Further inside the 7,000-square-foot residence, a three-story skylit staircase serves as a dramatic focal point. To mimic the look of concrete, Gartner brought in an artisan to apply gray plaster to the wall, and then installed a screen of vertical stainless-steel rods and floating walnut treads. “It brings light to the center of the house and down to the lower level, helping to integrate the kids’ playroom into the rest of the home,” he says. The wife enhanced Gartner’s elegant shell with streamlined furnishings, including reproductions of mid-20th-century designs like a Saarinen Tulip table, a Mies van der Rohe Barcelona chair, and an Eames lounge chair. “She likes to personalize her homes,” Gartner says, “so we left blank spots where she can continue to transform it over time. Our job was to provide a cohesive design that accommodates how the family wants to live and allows for enough evolution throughout the years so that the house will remain relevant into the future.”
A version of this article appeared in the April 2018 issue of NYC&G (New York Cottages & Gardens) with the headline: Modernist Manifesto.