Every custom home responds to a client’s unique program; that’s what makes it custom. But Sam’s Creek began with an unusual combination of requirements. Its owners, the parents of two young children, also are a classic New York power couple. He’s in finance; she runs a 60-person PR agency. “She’s really a multitasker,” says architect Paul Masi. “They have parties of 20 children and entertain 30 adults at the same time, some of whom are clients.” To help manage their overlapping family and professional lives, Masi and his partner Harry Bates designed the new house as a grouping of connected pavilions, each serving a specific set of functions.
“They’re almost like separate buildings,” says Masi of the open-ended “boxes” that make up the building. “There’s a connection between them, but they’re allowed to be separate.” Oriented toward the north and south—and screening out neighboring houses at the east and west—the interlocking volumes open onto sheltered courtyards and hedge-bordered lawns. Despite a relatively tight neighborhood location, Masi says, “you’re really just looking out into the landscape.”
A high, glass-walled living and dining pavilion stands at the center of the composition, linking the kitchen and family room to the east, and family bedrooms to the west. A transparent gateway between the formal entrance and the main patio, the central pavilion accommodates large gatherings that flow comfortably onto the main patio and into the kitchen without disturbing the house’s more private zones. A pair of two-bedroom guest quarters, at opposite ends of the house, mirror each other’s compact floor plan. The pool house, conceived as a detached “fragment” of the main house, serves as a fifth guest suite. “There’s definitely an efficiency we were trying to achieve, keeping the house as small as possible with this number of bedrooms,” Masi says.
An abbreviated palette of rich materials unifies the loose-jointed floor plan. Mahogany exterior siding wraps into the house, where it covers walls, floors, and ceilings. Travertine pavers form an unbroken plane from the entrance walk, across the living room floor, and into the backyard hardscape. “To keep the number of materials down, we even carved the stone to make grills in the floor,” says Masi, referring to the HVAC. His firm also designed the house’s interiors. The resulting integration of architecture and furnishings reflects the architects’ goal of “letting it be about the geometry rather than about the materials.”
Where a material moves to the foreground, it does so with authority. The fireplace that divides the living and dining room, a steel-framed structure clad in slatted bronze plates, asserts a strongly sculptural presence. Builder Stephen Breitenbach points out that the assembly also conceals mechanical equipment, a coat closet, and a structural moment frame that provides rigidity to the entire pavilion. Rather than gas jets, the hearth holds a troughlike alcohol burner set in a bed of brass BBs. “That’s a flueless fireplace,” Breitenbach says. The hood above leads to a skylight, he explains, so instead of smoke wafting up, “during the daytime, light comes down that shaft over the fireplace.”
The kitchen works a similar trick, with a rooftop monitor that pours light into a recessed counter area lined with travertine. The back wall of the recess borrows its lapped pattern from the building’s exterior, where the same detail—also in travertine—accents the window walls. “We had special stainless steel wire clips fabricated for that,” Breitenbach says. Elsewhere, the room draws from the house’s core palette, with hinged mahogany panels concealing the refrigerator, storage cabinets, and a wood-burning brick pizza oven. The consistency of materials “gives the kitchen the sense of being another entertaining space,” Masi says.
But every party ends eventually, so the house reserves a few visual treats for its owners alone. The master bedroom centers on a built-in bed whose high headboard repeats the fireplace’s cladding pattern, but in leather rather than bronze. The master bath’s focal point is a vessel tub, bracketed by the room’s etched glass shower and toilet enclosures and backed by a panel of narrow ceramic tiles. The custom light fixture above, with its dangling curtain of bead chain, echoes the tiles’ rainlike pattern. “It has the same effect as water,” Masi says.