The owners of this summer house in East Hampton, N.Y., weren't looking to impress their neighbors. “They didn't want a typical East Hampton mega mansion,” says architect Bill Grover, FAIA, of Centerbrook Architects and Planners. “They were looking for a property where the house wouldn't be visible from the street.” Once they found it, an idyllic, forested site dotted with wetlands, Grover and project manager Ed Keagle, AIA, set to work designing the outdoors-oriented getaway the clients requested.

Breaking larger buildings up into smaller pieces has become something of a Centerbrook signature, and this strategy suited the clients' taste and program. Not only did they like the imagery of old barns, which often coexist with other agricultural buildings, but they also wanted to give the master suite and guest room privacy from the main living areas and kids' rooms. The divide-and-conquer concept suited Grover, too. “I like the idea of villages, where the spaces in between the buildings are as important as the buildings are,” he says. “Also, my predilection is toward gable-roofed houses. They're relatively narrow, so you can get light through them more easily than a big deep box.”

So he and Keagle topped the master suite with guest quarters, pulled that structure away from the main house, and connected the two buildings with a one-story, roofed hallway. They did the same for the garage, which contains a game room upstairs. The architects then grouped the three gabled structures around a 2,230-square-foot deck with a swimming pool, spa, and grill. Generous, wisteria-covered trellises provide the deck with shaded spaces, especially in the warmer months, when the vines blossom.

Natural heating and cooling methods apply indoors, too. Most of the house's glass is located on its south side to bring in warmth and light during the day. Substantive stone pillars absorb that heat, radiating it out throughout the night. “The stone walls give the house a feeling of solidity and permanence,” says Grover. And the subterranean wine cellar buried several steps down from the basement requires no mechanical temperature regulation. Built as a simple concrete box, the cellar relies on the earth's natural temperature to maintain the air inside it at a steady 55 degrees. The water-permeable concrete allows in just enough humidity to keep the wine at its best.

The 7,240-square-foot house offers just as many places to retreat as to socialize. Ladder-access lofts above the children's rooms provide extra storage and sleeping areas, as well as cozy play spaces. An additional second-floor play area overlooks the dining room. For adult quiet time, the guest room above the master suite backs up to a library with a fireplace and views of the surrounding woods. The home's tranquil atmosphere takes its dwellers light years away from the bustle of everyday life—just like a vacation home should.

House in East Hampton, East Hampton, N.Y.

Centerbrook Architects and Planners, Centerbrook, Conn.

general contractor:
Ionian Development Corp., Westcott, N.Y.

structural engineer:
Gibble Norden Champion Brown Consulting Engineers, Old Saybrook, Conn.

mechanical / electrical engineers:
Consulting Engineering Services, Middletown, Conn.

project size:
7,240 square feet

construction cost:

Jeff Goldberg/Esto