A Montauk Vacation Home Finds Common Ground With its Natural Surroundings

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By Kelly Dawson
An NYC family's Long Island retreat was meant to be an escape. But the original postwar layout didn't make the most of its location.

It doesn't take much to describe the allure of Montauk for a family based in New York City. A couple with a young child were attracted to this storied seaside town on Long Island for its clear differences from their daily lives—the trade of crowded sidewalks for ocean views, and cramped quarters for open spaces, for instance—so they planned to buy a vacation home to use as a ready escape. It's just that the original property they settled on wasn't easily linked to its relaxing setting. 

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The east and west facades of the home feature mahogany siding, while the north and south facades are wrapped with bluestone siding.

The east and west facades of the home feature mahogany siding, while the north and south facades are wrapped with bluestone siding.

As part of a beach community that's stood since the postwar era, the home and its neighboring properties were built with a distant relationship to nature. The area's "steep topography," as Paul Masi of Bates Masi + Architects describes it, wasn't touched, and homes were built around it. This, Masi continues, created a disconnect between "the usual flush relationship between a house and its yard." And for a modern family, that wouldn't do. Masi's main goal was to reconfigure the home so that its indoor spaces had a seamless connection to the outdoors.

The oversized entry door and hardware are by Arcadia. 

The oversized entry door and hardware are by Arcadia. 

"The steep terrain was the main challenge of this project," Masi says.  

Masi flipped the design of a traditional home and placed the common areas on the second level for the best ocean views. The kitchen cabinetry is custom-made, and a Thermador range sits on the island. 

Masi flipped the design of a traditional home and placed the common areas on the second level for the best ocean views. The kitchen cabinetry is custom-made, and a Thermador range sits on the island. 

As much as the landscape was an issue, it was the reason why the family chose this location in the first place. So Masi didn't want to hide the hills—or worse, get rid of them entirely. Instead, he came up with a solution that embraced the challenge: He built the property into the hillside, and created "six distinct levels" that flow out toward a backyard with a pool. Masi also inverted the traditional layout of a home by placing the main living space and kitchen on the second level, nearest the backyard. It gives the shared areas the best ocean views, since they're above surrounding rooflines, and creates a clear connection between indoors and out.  

Mahogany decking continues onto this balcony, while a full-length slider makes it easy to fill the indoor spaces with fresh air. Curtains from The Shade Store provide privacy when needed. 

Mahogany decking continues onto this balcony, while a full-length slider makes it easy to fill the indoor spaces with fresh air. Curtains from The Shade Store provide privacy when needed. 

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The home's materials also create a connection to nature. Masi installed locally sourced bluestone retaining walls throughout the property according to the grade of the slope, and covered most of the structure with naturally weathered horizontal mahogany—from the roof and walls to the flooring and ceiling. 

He also installed oversized sliding windows to allow for an abundance of sun and ocean air, and he opened the kitchen up with a long skylight. Not only does the skylight mirror the shape of the nearby windows, but its oak louvers cast an artistic array of ever-changing shadows.  

Masi's main goal was to better connect the home with its private yard. 

Masi's main goal was to better connect the home with its private yard. 

Masi refers to this home, which he completed last year, as a place to immerse the senses. He says the home's carefully positioned place in Montauk allows the homeowners to appreciate their natural surroundings at every turn—whether they're inside at the kitchen or out by the pool. And that's exactly what a family who escapes the rush of the city wants to do here: sit back and take it all in.

Masi used Lutron lighting indoors and out for a cohesive look—much like the continuation of mahogany throughout the property.

Masi used Lutron lighting indoors and out for a cohesive look—much like the continuation of mahogany throughout the property.

Related Reading: Two Cedar-Clad Structures Form a Unique Montauk Retreat 

Project Credits:

Architect of Record: Bates Masi + Architects / @batesmasi

Builder: K. Romeo Inc.

Structural Engineer: Steven Maresca

Landscape Design: Groundworks Landscaping, Inc.