“With a remote property, you have the opportunity to create a destination,” says Kevin Clark, principal of Historical Concepts. And so it came to be that a family’s brief for a recreational outbuilding on their Bridgehampton estate evolved into a sports barn laden with wellness features.
Surrounded by acres of pristine farmland, the structure demanded a sensitive approach, one that Historical Concepts—an architecture firm known for legacy properties rooted in place—was well-suited for. Alongside interior designer Steven Gambrel, landscape architect Edmund Hollander and master builder Michael Davis, who assembled the team, plans were drawn for a low-slung, cedar-clad activity center softly folded into the rolling terrain.
The decision to nestle the barn into, not onto, the landscape is an exercise in both historical accuracy and ingenuity. First, it references semi-subterranean potato barns local to the area. Second, it meets a Hamptons building code limiting accessory structures to 20 feet high, while still allowing for a three-story structure for all the family’s amenity wishes to live in harmony. In full, the sprawling retreat includes family offices, a large vaulted great room, a full kitchen, an indoor lap pool and spa, men’s and women’s locker rooms and an exercise room—plus a sunken tennis court with viewing pavilion.
“The lay of the land and the feel of a place reveal themselves when you put pen to paper,” says Clark. “The top floor gym has a wonderful view over the property, and the sauna, steam and massage rooms round out the indoor activities,” shares Davis. “In addition to the gathering room, there is a suite of three family offices particularly helpful during these times.”
Throughout, Gambrel’s interiors scheme—a medley of warm woods and chalky blue, green and sand hues—sets a restorative tone. “The palette is muted, based on the environment as inspiration,” he explains, and indeed, the natural setting inspires. Complementing the agrarian landscape, Hollander took care in employing native plantings, such as bayberry, winterberry and viburnum, to welcome birds, bees and other pollinators. “Healthy, living landscapes are essential to the wellness of all visitors, all species,” he notes.
Like many affluent New Yorkers, the family decamped to their country residence in the early days of the pandemic. In turn, the beloved barn has become a haven beyond anything client or design team could have planned for—a hub of safety, togetherness and health. “One of the most rewarding parts of our job is when you see a place you designed be truly life-altering for a family,” says Clark, adding, “When you treat home as resort, there’s something magical about that.”