The north, east, and west façades are largely formed from double-height glazed walls that maximize daylight and views.

The north, east, and west façades are largely formed from double-height glazed walls that maximize daylight and views.

Credit: Scott Frances


Sam Wood has been in the building trade for 25 years, working as one of the busiest and best-known construction specialists in one of the most unusual housing markets in America: Fire Island, N.Y. Thirty miles long and rarely more than 800 feet wide, this strip of beach is the summer retreat of choice for a diverse blend of New Yorkers who are attracted to either its un-Hamptonian informality or its thriving gay community (or both). Based in the hamlet of Kismet near the island’s westernmost point, Wood’s eponymous company has been involved in everything from building casual summer cottages to jacking existing structures up above the ever-rising flood planes. But his latest project, he claims, broke the mold: “This was a whole other animal,” Wood says.

The main entry of the house is on the opaque, white-painted-cedar south façade, and is accessed via a wood-plank walkway that offers access to the gardens, pool, and outlying pool and guest houses.

The main entry of the house is on the opaque, white-painted-cedar south façade, and is accessed via a wood-plank walkway that offers access to the gardens, pool, and outlying pool and guest houses.

Credit: Scott Frances

Wood is standing in the front hall of the new vacation home of Phil and Lucy Suarez, a simple white-steel structure—modestly sized at 2,000 square feet—that is instantly and undeniably recognizable as the work of Richard Meier, FAIA. The architect has known the clients for so long that “I don’t remember when we met,” Meier says—though it had to have been at some point prior to the late ’60s, when the couple approached him to design the interior of their Manhattan apartment. “We really became friends on that project,” recalls Mrs. Suarez, and their enduring relationship led to this second commission almost 50 years later. “I just didn’t want someone else doing it,” Meier says.

The double-height living room faces the water, and a large built-in fireplace helps ward off winter chill for a year-round experience.

The double-height living room faces the water, and a large built-in fireplace helps ward off winter chill for a year-round experience.

Credit: Scott Frances

The designer offered his services after the Suarez’s original Fire Island house burned down three years ago—the conflagration having been extinguished, ironically, by Wood, who, in classic Fire Island fashion, moonlights as a local volunteer fireman. But fighting the flames was nothing compared to the problems of building in steel and glass on an elongated sandbar accessible mainly by boat: Putting together the all-glazed, beach-facing northern wall, the minimal and carefully secluded interior living spaces, and perfectly composed fireplace—complete with projecting chimney—took a full year longer than Wood estimated.

Living room, with a view toward the second level and office loft.

Living room, with a view toward the second level and office loft.

Credit: Scott Frances

Richard Meier & Partners Architects associate partner Bernhard Karpf, AIA, was charged with the logistics for completing the project, and he credits Wood’s team with surmounting hurdles that included the devastation of Hurricane Sandy to realize what is, at bottom, a deeply personal vision shared by architect and client. “This was Richard’s thing that he wanted to do himself,” Karpf says. “It’s just a little glass jewel box on Fire Island.”

The minimal aesthetic is carried into the all-white kitchen, but wood floors throughout reflect the warm-toned daylight.

The minimal aesthetic is carried into the all-white kitchen, but wood floors throughout reflect the warm-toned daylight.

Credit: Scott Frances

View of the living room, toward the water.

View of the living room, toward the water.

Credit: Scott Frances

A galley-style bathroom cuts through the second floor, culminating in a master bedroom and dressing room in the more opaque southern end of the house.

A galley-style bathroom cuts through the second floor, culminating in a master bedroom and dressing room in the more opaque southern end of the house.

Credit: Scott Frances

A deck outside the bedroom is one of many in and around the house—there are 1,700 square feet of decks in all, almost doubling the house’s footprint.

A deck outside the bedroom is one of many in and around the house—there are 1,700 square feet of decks in all, almost doubling the house’s footprint.

Credit: Scott Frances

Richard Meier’s signature orthogonal white aesthetic makes this new beachfront house stand out among its neighbors.

Richard Meier’s signature orthogonal white aesthetic makes this new beachfront house stand out among its neighbors.

Credit: Scott Frances


Drawings

Credit: Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners

Credit: Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners

Credit: Courtesy Richard Meier & Partners



Project Credits

Project  Fire Island House, Fire Island, N.Y.
Client  Phil and Lucy Suarez
Architect  Richard Meier & Partners, New York—Richard Meier, FAIA, Bernhard Karpf, AIA (design team); Amalia Rusconi-Clerici (project architect)
Collaborator  Alison Macbeth
Structural Engineer  Robert Silman Associates
M/E/P Engineer  I.P. Group Consulting Engineers
General Contractor  Sam Wood
Lighting Consultant  L’Observatoire International
AV Consultant  The Honest Audio, Video & Lighting Co.
Size  2,000 square feet (floor area); 1,700 square feet (deck)
Cost  Withheld