Renovation of a Horace Gifford Beach House, Fire Island Pines - Enhancement and Rejuvenation with Respect and Sensitivity
In 2013 we were retained to renovate an almost untouched, original, Horace Gifford beach house in Fire Island Pines, NY which had been constructed by Harry Bates. The house was owned by the same family from construction to last year when they decided to sell to our client, who immediately saw the value in the original design and its near pristine state.
The building itself is a classic 1960's beach house, beautifully conceived and executed as a 37'x37' square on plan, divided internally into three zones: a living-dining-kitchen zone facing the bay, a central core of circulation-storage-bathrooms and a strip of 3 bedrooms facing inland. The bedrooms and storage/ bath are at a higher elevation than the living space, linked together by a floating catwalk and open riser steps. On leaving each bedroom you have a fantastic view across the living space and deck to the bay between Fire Island and Long Island, with its spectacular sunsets. The interior and exterior of the house is clad with 12" wide Western Redwood planks and is one of the last houses constructed with this now unavailable material.
Pre-renovation, the house had decks facing inland from the bedrooms and a larger deck between the bay and living space, with a grand centrally located stair down to the beach. While a classic, the house was in need of renovation and updating. The bathrooms were renovated but dated, small and somewhat uncomfortable to use. The original kitchen was built as an enclosed box at one end of the living room, which reduced the openness of and detracted from the overall symmetry space.
Our client wanted to incorporate a swimming pool on the bay side of the house, now an essential for beach houses on Fire Island. In addition, he wanted to make the kitchen more useable for guest gatherings while cooking. It was clear that the bathrooms also needed reconfiguration and enlargement befitting the spirit of the house and modern usage. Our challenge was to achieve the client’s wishes, while respecting and enhancing the original design.
The redesign called for removing the original kitchen and its enclosure, incorporating it into the living space. We were all convinced, that an open kitchen would not just function better but also add to the purity and symmetry of the space – a concept on which the house design was based. The new kitchen is a clean and simple white Bulthaup design with grey counters – it blends into the space and works beautifully with the existing Redwood walls and new Siberian Oak floors.
A decision was also taken to increase the size of the bathrooms by sacrificing under used closet space – more generous bathroom being deemed more important than closets in a beach house! The bathrooms are finished in simple dark grey and off white porcelain tiles with elegant modern plumbing fixtures from Toto and Fresca.
The furniture was chosen to create a comfortable, informal but stylish interior, blending neutral and vibrant fabrics and colors, creating a contrast to the toned down wood color palette of the rest of the house.
The work on the exterior consisted of reconstructing the bay side deck to include a swimming pool. A key design decision was to stagger the levels of the pool instead of constructing it at the original deck level. We designed a series of stepped decks interspersed with generous sunbathing platforms leading down to the pool and beyond to the beach. The steps provide a variety of places to lounge and sit around the pool with great spots to watch the bay and sunset. In front of the pool and just above the beach, a lower deck is included – perfectly sheltered place to sit in the morning with one’s coffee.
This design reinforced the three-dimensional “terraced” section all the way from the bedrooms and circulation space to the living space of the original design to the added deck. It also created a delineation between the original design of the house and the new. But most importantly, it enhanced the views of the bay from within the home.
The pool color; dark gray, was chosen to blend the pool with the bay. From the living room and circulation space the two elements seem as one. The unusual liner color also creates wonderful reflections, quite unlike the usual blue pools. Solar heating panels were installed on the roof of the house to heat the pool water.
The interior renovations and new pool, although different from the original concept, respect the original house, while bringing it up to the expectations of the 21st century. Adjusting the interior improved on the symmetry of the living space while adding the stepped decks blended the building structure via the pool space to the bay side beach.
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Sunset Pool View
Living Room View
Deck View from Beach
Morning Coffee Deck Area
Kitchen With Bay View
Kitchen with Catwalk
View From Catwalk
Sunset View Of House
View Into Living Room from Catwalk
House with Deck Addition
Outdoor Seating Area
Existing House with Deck Addition