Founded by English Puritans in 1648, East Hampton is more than an exclusive beach retreat; it’s also home to some of the nation’s oldest Colonial houses—cedar-shingled saltboxes with plain façades and multi-paned windows. So, when a modern couple with three school-age children set out to build the perfect weekend retreat, it was no surprise that they requested their architects, from Manhattan-based firm Janson Goldstein, to take their cues from early American architecture.
“The clients didn’t want a showy home, but something understated,” says the firm’s partner and project manager Hal Goldstein. “The façade is very simple, with no overhanging canopies or trim—just a rhythm of windows that masks the volume behind it.” Walk around the back, and the building reveals itself as a U-shaped structure, with one of its legs shorter than the other. Enormous expanses of glass in back allow views from inside the house to the lawn, trees and pool beyond.
It’s not merely its surface appearance that ties the house to historical precedents, though. “You have all of these traditional-style homes out there, but what’s really traditional about them besides the shingle and six-over-six windows?” asks Goldstein. “We planned this home the way old homes were planned—one room deep, to let light penetrate and breezes blow through. The house is like a sundial, with changing shadows all day long.”
To accommodate the family’s large extended clan and frequent guests, the team at Janson Goldstein designed airy, loft-like interiors with lots of flowing, open spaces that can easily handle crowds, but they were careful to ensure aesthetics never took a backseat to function. In an expressive contemporary gesture, part of the peaked ceiling on the main floor is “peeled back,” so that wood rafters and other structural elements are plainly visible. “Exposing the wood posts and columns holding up the roof, and the wood ties going across, naturally divided up the space into bays, and framed each part,” Goldstein explains.
There’s a casual sitting area, where the family watches television, stylishly furnished with a custom sofa from Dune, a Jens Risom armchair from Ralph Pucci, and a coffee table from B&B Italia. The next bay, simply furnished with a kitchen table from BDDW and chairs from Avenue Road, is adjacent to the showstopping open kitchen, with a white-veined gray marble island at the end. “We didn’t want to push the kitchen off to the side and close off the space,” Goldstein says.
The long, light-flooded wing (referred to as the great room) is the heart of the house and where the homeowners like to entertain. This is the Hamptons after all, so if the party were to flow outside (as it often does), giant sliding glass doors open onto a bluestone patio.
“There are no truly formal spaces,” Goldstein says. “It’s a casual beach house, designed for ease of use, with minimal stuff—just what’s needed.” That, after all, was precisely what the clients wanted. “It’s just the blend we were looking for,” says the homeowner. “Modern can be too stark, traditional can be too staid. This house combines the best elements of both. It’s low-key and comfortable. When we walk in and see the green trees through the windows, everyone just relaxes.”