Sagaponack House

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Published in Architectural Record, September 2013

A unique site, wedged between the Atlantic Ocean and a freshwater pond on New York's Long Island, gave the Sagaponack House an opportunity to make the most of the scenic views. But the location also posed a challenge to the architects, since coastal and wetland zoning dictated a limited footprint for the property. Bates Masi Architects, of Sag Harbor, New York, viewed this commission as an exercise in reducing and carving out spaces from a solid mass to realize the clients' 7,500-square-foot vacation house.

The “carving” concept is repeated in the smallest detail, even within the house's various wet spaces. The children's bathrooms, for instance, feature skylit tub-and-shower combination rooms that resemble a series of boxes hollowed out from larger volumes. One of the main materials used throughout the house, solid surfacing, figures prominently in each of the sons' baths: tub surrounds chiseled with the kids' own names and nicknames; slotted drain floors; storage niches within the walls; and countertops with cutouts serving as towel holders. While some of these elements, such as the cubic volumes and planes of solid surfacing, appear again in the parents' bathroom suite, one feature in the four children's baths is singular—striking wall tiles faced with smooth stones. Not only do they convey depth from light hitting the surfaces, but they also add a note of understated whimsy. “It looks like some kid was stacking these up on the wall,” says principal Paul Masi. Still, the master bath has its own perks, such as his and hers steam showers and an outdoor tub.  

In the house's common areas, the architects juxtaposed layers of contrasting materials to emphasize the play of rectangular masses and voids. The kitchen's breakfast bar/island is clad in oak, which is also used on the space's ceiling, a 20-foot-wide divider wall, and custom dining tables in both the kitchen and a separate dining room. A contrasting solid-surface alcove in the front of the island accommodates pull-out stools. Masi continues the carving out process with a second, deeper recess at the island's base to provide more leg room. Likewise, a stainless-steel niche visually cuts into white-lacquer cabinets to contain the range, sink, and pot filler. All other appliances are concealed behind the cabinet doors which, like their counterparts in the baths, have flush stainless steel-pulls rather than protruding hardware.  

The art displayed on the kitchen's oak divider wall depicts crushed soda cans, while on the other side actual beverages form the main attraction. Some 156 wine bottles rest on mesh-fabric in the wall's integrated rack, gently lit by cold cathode tubes to create ambient lighting for the more formal dining room. “The repetition of the bottles and the label designs is beautiful, much like book spines in a library bookcase,” says Masi.