House Contemporary Design

Practice contemporary design

Television writer Bill Persky and advertising executive Joanna Patton already knew the architects as tried and true talents. Stamberg and Aferiat had previously renovated a much-loved weekend residence for Persky. When he and Patton decided to marry, all involved thought it best to give the couple a new start with a home of their own. As Stamberg Aferiat’s first ground-up residence, the project came with virtually no constraints to aesthetic interpretation. In a creative sense, the architects were home free.

“We practice contemporary design,” state Stamberg and Aferiat emphatically. Their take, a consistently fresh response to conditions and personalities, is perfectly illustrated here in the compound’s main house, guest pavilion, and freestanding garage.

practice contemporary house design
practice contemporary house design

Public living and dining/kitchen

The admittedly dramatic 2,000-sq.-ft. main house is composed of articulated volumes and capped by a curved roof. Yet the scheme was derived from site conditions, not arbitrary gestures. The property’s severe narrowing from roadside to water’s edge resulted in a maximum width allowance of just 35 ft., provoking the house’s tight, linear form. Furthermore, the hillside site dictated a split-level parti. Entry is at grade; the public living and dining/kitchen expanse is down half a level with the master suite situated above. To relieve the long expanse and to provide organizational cues, the architects expressed each mass with a different material. The entry structure is a single-story concrete block; upper volumes are of cedar; and lower portions are clad with corrugated metal. The enveloping roof, a reference to the full-blown sails of the couple’s 50-year-old Norwegian sailboat, Lulu, is covered with rubber. The yacht served as further inspiration, with the cable supports for the house’s entry awning and sun porch suggested by the stays of Lulu’s mast. “These are humble materials,” state Stamberg and Aferiat of their choices. “They easily could have been used to clad the barn-like structures of a camp.”

Open living space with contemporary furniture interior
Open living space with contemporary furniture interior

Views and changing qualities of natural light figured strongly into the architecture, and the clients had clear-cut ideas on fenestration. Unlike many of their Hamptons counterparts, this house was to have no monolithic expanses of either glass or glass block. Persky and Patton preferred a more traditional approach. Thus, doors and windows are mahogany framed. Glass block is used sparingly for clerestories.

Persky and Patton are serious cooks, but they had no intentions of separating themselves from guests during meal preparations. With cooking tied to entertaining, the main floor is an open arrangement of living, dining, and kitchen spaces. There is a four-ft.-high corrugated metal partition between the kitchen and dining table, sofas and recliners, but this is meant to mask the mess when the guests are seated, not deter guests from activity in the kitchen. The living area has a double-height ceiling, a counterpoint to the building’s slender width. A type of architectural trompe l’oeil, the treatment generates a perception of increased spatial proportions.

Fooring and Indoor Furniture

Stamberg and Aferiat continued their exterior materials study indoors. Concrete flooring begins at the entry and pervades the public zone. The kitchen is defined by a timber frame with columns and a beamed ceiling, repeating a favorite aspect of Persky’s previous house. Steel introduces a shimmering quality in the form of cables and railings. Maple, used for the master suite’s library balcony, injects warmth.

Clients and architects had purchased top-quality furnishings for Persky’s earlier residence. Re-using them here validates the wisdom of buying the best. Both furniture and architecture embrace an attitude of low-key glamour coupled with informal coziness. As for Camp Persky Patton’s guest house, the clients requested that it be similar in structure and finishes to the main dwelling. “It was a strategy that was both gracious and economical,” relates Stamberg.

Proudest of the varied materials palette plus the house’s siting within the landscape, Stamberg and Aferiat obtained another thrill from the project. They discovered the charms of Shelter Island and purchased property for themselves.

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