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A Seventies-Era ‘Builder’s Special’ Reimagined in Montauk

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A Seventies-Era ‘Builder’s Special’ Reimagined in Montauk

August 27, 2018

To Mark Gibson and Maria McManus, both Irish expats living in New York, Montauk feels a bit like home: a tight-knit community surrounded by water, with golfing nearby.

Both entrepreneurs—he’s a restaurateur, she runs a fashion marketing consultancy—the couple live in the West Village full-time with their two daughters. For a decade, they rented houses in Montauk for their summer holidays, but missed certain creature comforts (a decent mattress, water pressure in the shower) that their rentals couldn’t provide. When they finally bought a Montauk home of their own—a circa-1970s builder’s house in Ditch Plains—they turned to architect T. W. Ryan to lead its much needed remodel, plus an expansion.

His clients, Ryan says, wanted “a true family beach house, designed for weekends, that was simple and comfortable but distinct.” For inspiration, he turned to the early Hamptons work of architects Richard Meier and Charles Gwathmey, who relied on common materials, simple color palettes, and “primitive forms” in their designs. Ryan’s response “takes its cues from subtle detailing and a reduced material palette,” he says, “using traditional means to define a primitive, yet contemporary, architecture.”

Photography by Scott Frances, courtesy of T. W. Ryan Architecture.

The beach house is clad in cedarwood, stained with eight coats of Black Cabot stain. Two four-foot-tall fences define the property from the street. The fence on the right is almost solid, to hide the streetside gravel parking court from ground-floor occupants. The slatted fence on the left lets light in and &#8
Above: The beach house is clad in cedarwood, stained with eight coats of Black Cabot stain. Two four-foot-tall fences define the property from the street. The fence on the right is almost solid, to hide the streetside gravel parking court from ground-floor occupants. The slatted fence on the left lets light in and “allows the native grasses and dunes flow through.”

“The dark exterior merges the house into the shadows of the site,” says Ryan, “while the interior conveys a certain ethereal lightness.”

From the outset, the owners wanted the upper floor of the house to be an open-plan kitchen, living, and dining room with a link to the outdoors. It opens directly onto a back deck, which almost doubles that floor&#8
Above: From the outset, the owners wanted the upper floor of the house to be an open-plan kitchen, living, and dining room with a link to the outdoors. It opens directly onto a back deck, which almost doubles that floor’s living space and affords ocean views.
On the open-plan top floor, the kitchen countertops are soapstone, and the heart pine island has countertops of statuary marble. On the far right, flat-panel baseboard radiators by Runtal heat the space.
Above: On the open-plan top floor, the kitchen countertops are soapstone, and the heart pine island has countertops of statuary marble. On the far right, flat-panel baseboard radiators by Runtal heat the space.

“One of the core design concepts was to limit the number of materials but strategically change their finish and dimensions to tell the narrative of the house,” says Ryan. The top floor—the culmination of an occupant’s walk through the house—is the brightest area: Its whitewashed walls and grayed wood floors transition into a solid white, gabled ceiling at their peak.

Though the kitchen is compact, it has a full suite of appliances, including a four-burner Bertazzoni range and a Bosch refrigerator (see  Easy Pieces: Best Skinny Refrigerators). The cabinets are pine wood, stained the same black color as the exterior cladding. &#8
Above: Though the kitchen is compact, it has a full suite of appliances, including a four-burner Bertazzoni range and a Bosch refrigerator (see 10 Easy Pieces: Best Skinny Refrigerators). The cabinets are pine wood, stained the same black color as the exterior cladding. “It’s the only black stain inside,” Ryan says, “and it gives a special distinction to the communal nature of the kitchen for the family.”
The living area occupies the other side of the airy, open loftlike space.
Above: The living area occupies the other side of the airy, open loftlike space.
The upstairs powder room is whitewashed pine.
Above: The upstairs powder room is whitewashed pine.

“Although it might not be readily apparent to the general visitor, the progression of the wood stains helped to give a more nuanced logic to the fairly compact interior spaces, without being visually overwhelming,” Ryan says.

In the entryway a sansevieria plant sits beneath a mask collected on the couple&#8
Above: In the entryway a sansevieria plant sits beneath a mask collected on the couple’s travels. (Before they married, Gibson and McManus each traveled extensively—she through Asia and he through Europe and Central America.)

McManus chose all the furnishings and decor: “She has a wonderful and exacting eye,” Ryan says.

The walls on both levels are clad in whitewashed heart pine. The stair rail is made of unlacquered brass.
Above: The walls on both levels are clad in whitewashed heart pine. The stair rail is made of unlacquered brass.
The bedrooms are the only rooms with painted walls.
Above: The bedrooms are the only rooms with painted walls.
There is one full bath in the house, shared by the family, a decision made early on to maximize living space. The vanity has cabinets of heart pine wood in a clear stain. &#8
Above: There is one full bath in the house, shared by the family, a decision made early on to maximize living space. The vanity has cabinets of heart pine wood in a clear stain. “The kitchen island and the bathroom vanity, as the only ‘autonomous’ pieces of built-in millwork in the house, are the only locations with a clear stain,” Ryan says.
The ground-floor bath serves three bedrooms. It has both an indoor and outdoor shower, divided by an obscured-glass sliding door. The outdoor shower can be accessed from the side yard, so residents can have a post-beach rinse without coming indoors.
Above: The ground-floor bath serves three bedrooms. It has both an indoor and outdoor shower, divided by an obscured-glass sliding door. The outdoor shower can be accessed from the side yard, so residents can have a post-beach rinse without coming indoors.
A wall of rendered concrete plaster splits the shower from the bathtub. The concrete floors have radiant underfloor heating, and a towel warmer hangs on the wall by the bath.
Above: A wall of rendered concrete plaster splits the shower from the bathtub. The concrete floors have radiant underfloor heating, and a towel warmer hangs on the wall by the bath.
The kids&#8
Above: The kids’ room has a built-in, floor-to-ceiling pine wood bunk bed with storage drawers beneath. The walls are painted in Pink Ground from Farrow & Ball. Part of the owners’ desire for a home in Montauk, explained the architect, was to give their daughters “a laid-back escape; a place more similar to where they both grew up in Ireland.”
Note the two fences in the site plan, which delineate the property from the street. To reach the house, occupants walk from the gravel parking court through the gap in the two fences, along a flagstone path.
Above: Note the two fences in the site plan, which delineate the property from the street. To reach the house, occupants walk from the gravel parking court through the gap in the two fences, along a flagstone path.
The house is only two blocks from the beach, in a neighborhood typical of the area, says the architect—filled with small weekend houses built by developers in the 60s through the 80s.
Above: The house is only two blocks from the beach, in a neighborhood typical of the area, says the architect—filled with small weekend houses built by developers in the 1960s through the 1980s.

N.B.: This post is an update; the original ran on April 27, 2018.

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