Most stories about buying a new home begin with the usual reasons: starting a family, needing more (or less) space, a job transfer. This one, however, begins with a cappuccino. Although a Manhattan couple had owned summer homes in both Sag Harbor and East Hampton over the years, there was one problem with the locations: the extra travel time required for the wife to pick up her requisite cappuccino and panini at Sant Ambroeus in Southampton on their way out east. So they began looking for a closer house, one that would easily accommodate their children and grandchildren and was within walking distance to the village, beach and train station. A five-month search led them to a house in the perfect locale—but a complete teardown was in order.
That’s where designer John Vancheri came in. Working with the architect of record, Robert Ortmann of Zwirko & Ortmann Architects, on the zoning process and builder Phil Pape on the 16-month build, Vancheri designed a stunning 5,000-square-foot, five-bedroom home inside and out, including a gym, outdoor kitchen and screened-in dining area with fireplace, as well as a gunite pool, pergola and landscaping. “Modern, clean lines and white, white, white,” is how the wife describes what she and her husband were hoping for. “When we saw what he had created on paper, we were awestruck,” she says.
“The vision was for the house to look like it could have been an old structure and to modernize it,” says Vancheri. “I used a lot of weathered woods for the beams and lintels. The paneling was also designed to look weathered, but it runs horizontally for a more contemporary look. Natural finishes, like the concrete floors, were installed without expansion joints so that it cracks naturally.” Pape, who came to Vancheri via a word- of-mouth recommendation, appreciated the designer’s meticulous attention to detail and the couple’s non- cookie-cutter vision. “I loved the concept, the idea of quality over quantity,” he says. “Plus, the use of materials and the architecture were different from what we typically see in Southampton Village.”
Of the couple, with whom he has worked on 10 renovation projects in New Jersey, Manhattan and the Hamptons, Vancheri says, “Aesthetically, they pretty much gave me free rein.” Yet they were very much involved in the planning of the layout. A primary aim was to be able to accommodate children, grandchildren and friends. To this end, Vancheri created an 800-square-foot guest suite on the second floor, as well as a 1,200-square-foot guest apartment on the lower level. Each is connected by a stunning circular staircase, built behind arched doors to create privacy between the guest spaces and main level. Another must-have: a wine cellar to store the husband’s extensive collection—about a thousand bottles; Vancheri designedit in white oak that he had stained a weathered gray.
Noting the couple’s wish for openness, and having to contend with a local rule that the house must face the street, the designer got creative: “I wanted to get the best light and also wanted to maximize the look of the property while keeping it private,” he says. “It has an extra-wide main hall that stretches from the front door to the rear door with wide openings to the adjacent rooms to allow light to filter through.” In the public areas on the first floor, the ceilings peak at 18 feet, creating an astonishing sense of space and light. To maintain this feeling of airiness, the furnishings and décor are almost all white and gray, with the occasional touch of black to add drama—seen in stools in the foyer and the star pendants that hang over one of the dining areas.
For Vancheri, when a job is over, it isn’t quite over. He masterfully orchestrates the moving company, as well as the television and phone services, and puts everything in its place once the move is complete. “With John, when you come in for the reveal, it’s turnkey—like being at the Ritz,” the wife says. “You walk into your new home with music playing, flowers on the tables, and often lunch! This one, though, is the most gorgeous house I have ever been in.”
— Carmela Ciuraru