After building their dream getaway on Long Island’s East End, a Boston-based couple realized they needed just a little more space. They purchased the property next door to their Sagaponack home and reenlisted the same design team to craft a guesthouse for their grown children. And while the idea was to create a structure that related, visually, to the Shingle-style main house, the brief was clear: This time around, let’s have some fun. “They didn’t want to do the Nantucket thing,” says interior designer Alyssa Urban, who spearheaded the project with interior designer Ellie Cullman. “They pushed us to do something more modern and playful here.”
That animated spirit is palpable as one approaches the house. It’s Shingle style but through the proverbial looking glass. “We wanted this house to have personality,” says architect Thomas Kligerman. “The main house is almost origami-like, so we exaggerated that idea with how the shingles turn, the flare of the gambrel roof–it’s more of a folly,” he says. Working with general contractor William Costello, Kligerman was able to employ an idea he first pondered for the main house. “I’d been inspired by sail lofts, purpose-built buildings for sail-making on eastern Long Island and in New England. The offices are downstairs, with a loft and windows upstairs.” Here, an upside-down plan enabled him to pack the ground floor with four ensuite king bedrooms, leaving the upper floor to an airy great room with a kitchen, bar and powder room.
“We got a lot more in than I ever imagined,” continues Kligerman, noting that hiding the mechanicals in a house without a basement or an attic proved a challenge. (He ultimately slipped them in over closets.) But the architect is also quick to note that challenges bring successes. When the review board nixed an upstairs band of windows, Kligerman tweaked the plan. The result was “a quirky asymmetry that loosened it up a bit,” he says. “Sometimes pushback forces creativity. You have to get more inventive, and that’s a good thing.”
With the loosening of the architecture also came a loosening of the interiors. Light woods replaced mahogany and a color palette inspired by a Pucci skirt in Cullman’s closet was “dialed back a bit,” says Urban, who also worked with colleague Katie Sutton on the project. “The color scheme is punchier than the main house but we backed away from acid green. We also gave each bedroom its own palette–blush, yellow, indigo and turquoise–color specific, but quiet and soft,” she explains.
Adds Sutton: “It took a lot of thought but when the clients want perfection, they allow you to make custom pieces–like the Wonmin Park resin coffee table–or to travel to find just the right thing. This isn’t a casual beach house. Every single piece is a work of art.” To that end, the designers and the wife traveled to Los Angeles, finding pieces at Jean de Merry, Blackman Cruz and Dougall Paulson, and to Paris, where they found the HervÃ© Langlais dining table at Galerie Negropontes. “With its curved ceiling and bowed sides, the upstairs area is huge,” says Urban, “so it took us a while to come up with the floor plan that would ‘let each piece sing,’ as Ellie would say.”
Throughout the home, the designers explored new decorative techniques. “We pushed what we could do,” says Urban, noting mother-of-pearl wall finishes and embroidered, painted or otherwise lavishly embellished draperies. And while figuring out the fit and flow of furnishings was a feat unto itself, placing the couple’s extraordinary art collection also took serious consideration. The right works were found with the help of art advisor Rachel Carr Goulding of Ruth Catone. The couple’s Boston home features Early American paintings, while their Manhattan pied-Ã -terre focuses on midcentury and contemporary works. In Sagaponack, however, they’d opted for “younger, emerging and international artists,” says Carr Goulding. Those style choices carried over into the guesthouse. “The Jeppe Hein balloons in the entry really set the stage,” notes the art advisor. Other works include pieces by artists Spencer Finch, Alice Channer, Mika Tajima, Donald Moffett and Lesley Vance.
But not every artwork is new. To bridge the properties, the couple moved a large mirrored work by Hein to the exterior of the guesthouse, where it reflects Edmund Hollander’s landscape. “We needed the new garden to relate to the main house but we didn’t want it to be a mini-me,” Hollander says with his signature humor. “Great clients let you be as creative as you can be within the boundaries, so here we were able to preserve remnants of the old boardwalk for some history.” Hollander, who worked with his firm’s Melissa Reavis, created “gathering places” around the guesthouse that allow visitors to enjoy a sensory experience. “There’s fragrance–the smell of the ocean and the beach roses–and the sound of wind in the grasses and the bees going from rose to rose.” Hollander also included seaside goldenrod to welcome those other guests, the Monarch butterflies that migrate through in autumn.
It’s a guesthouse with open arms, so to speak, and is currently home to the owners while the main house is refreshed. “I love the way its three-dimensionality is revealed when the sunlight glints across the faÃ§ade. It’s exuberant!” says Kligerman, adding reflectively, “I’d live in it in an instant.”