For years, a classic shingle-style vacation house on a windswept bay in Southampton had been the ideal escape for a family of five. But as the homeowners’ children grew up and brought their spouses and babies in on the fun, the living spaces and sleeping arrangements started feeling tighter, and the floors got sandier.
Then, serendipity: A sun-dappled double lot just across the street came up for sale. Soon after, architect Joseph Cerami and designer Michael Cox—who together had conceived the aforementioned waterfront retreat—were tasked with imagining the transformation of this vacant property into a getaway befitting the family’s youngest generations.
“The new house functions almost as an addition to the primary residence,” Cerami says of the resulting structure. Its three-level floor plan includes a gym and massage room, as well as a billiards room and outdoor sport court, plus plenty of space for indoor and outdoor relaxation. “We tried to imagine every element of a self-contained oasis,” Cox explains.
Because the new dwelling would be part of a family compound, the design team also endeavored to create connections between the two houses—“as well as a sense of evolution,” Cox notes. “Certain fundamental elements are repeated in subtle ways, while others represent a natural progression.”
The strong yet simple structure that landscape designer Joseph W. Tyree created with hedges, hornbeams and stone walls, for example, gave the new house an immediate sense of belonging. The cedar shake roof that Cerami designed nods to the waterfront home’s shingled façade, but punctuating the roofline with dormers topped with standingseam metal made it “more modern looking,” the architect says of this effect created in collaboration with general contractor Brian Kuck.
Inside, Cox and colleagues Zunilda Madera and Stephanie Daniels incorporated the same wideplank white oak floors and coffered ceilings used in the primary home, but traded traditional trim for simpler, beefier profiles, “so everything was in a bolder scale,” explains Cox.
This paved the way for visually impactful moments, such as the dining room’s gigantic, Ingo Maurer–designed pendant, the interior of which is painted an intense ultramarine hue. “When we were installing it, we got a picture of five team members standing underneath the dome—it’s that large,” Cox recalls. In the main stairwell, the designers suspended a 14-foot-long light comprising ropebound, hand-blown glass globes—a sculptural take on Japanese buoys. And for the living room, they chose a large, woven-rattan pendant. “It’s ‘go bold or go home,’” Cox says of their approach. “We think of lighting as sculpture hanging from the ceiling.”
Fixtures this daring beg the question, “What do you put underneath?” Cox admits. For the dining room, he designed a Corian-topped table whose impact comes from its massive scale, while, in the living room, it’s the diptych painting’s “color shock” that makes a statement, he notes.
The art collection the designers gathered for the house covers a wide swath of creative expression, from watercolors to block prints, paintings and photographs. And, throughout the house, eyecatching furnishings double as artwork, from a voluptuous Gaetano Pesce–designed chair to the foyer’s custom cabinet inspired by Piet Mondrian’s primary-colored paintings. “That was a very specific client request,” Cox says of the latter. “When the homeowner suggested, ‘How about something that feels like Mondrian?’ I was so happy to see him getting excited about referencing art as inspiration.”
Eighteen years ago, when Cox embarked upon the first of numerous homes he would design for this family, their taste “leaned more traditional,” he recalls. “But through the years, we pushed the envelope and started to introduce them to more contemporary furniture shapes and artists.” This house is the payoff. “Here, they gave us the ability to bring in surprises in terms of color and scale,” Cox says—and in return, they’re treated to design as fun as the freewheeling vacation vibe it fosters.