A New York couple builds a spacious retirement retreat
While traveling across the country on business through the years, Charles and Janice had always kept a keen eye out for potential retirement spots. When the search was finished and the couple had finally settled on a Long Island location for their spacious timber frame residence, it was like coming home. “I grew up on Long Island and used to come out here as a young girl,” Janice says. “I loved it then, and I love it now.”
Dubbed “East Wind” because of its east-facing stance and the windy winters along Long Island, New York, the 8,900-square-foot custom home built by Burger Construction is a complement to its surroundings both inside and out.
“Being on the beach with all this water around us, we wanted a natural, open feeling,” Janice says. “That was one of the reasons for choosing a timber frame.”
The second reason, according to Charles, was the incredible view afforded by the home’s location. “We’re on a bluff 42 feet above the water,” he says. “A timber frame allowed us to use a lot of glass across the back. We have a long water view with speck-sized houses on the shoreline six or seven miles away. It’s incredible.”
The couple hired Samuels & Steelman Architects in Cutchogue, New York, to design the house. “Janice and Charles gave us the direction to design what you might call Norman Revival for the outside, with a light, sandy brick and a kind of Gothic look,” Tom Samuels says.
“Inside, they wanted it to be spacious and open with a living plan where the kitchen, living and dining areas were all combined into one space,” he adds.
Though designed with an older European look on the exterior, the timber frame is very “now,” says Jim Gibbons of Vermont Timber Frames.
“The frame style is definitely a contemporary style, especially with the modern arch and lighter whitewash stain that they chose,” he says. “Also, the home owners specified minimal checks and cracks in the wood, so we used a grade of Douglas fir called ‘free-of-heart-center.’ This eliminates the center of the log from the timbers and does away with a lot of the stress that causes the checks.”
The home owners selected the timbers’ finish color based on the home’s location. “We didn’t want the wood to have a traditional dark or medium finish because we felt it would detract from the view of the water,” Charles says. “By muting it with a very light beige stain, we can still see the grain, and it coordinates well with everything that’s here.”
Having spent years living and working in a more formal setting, Janice and Charles welcomed the easygoing environment provided by their two-story waterfront home. “We wanted the home to be relaxed,” Janice says.
With 18 rooms and a finished basement, East Wind is expansive yet comfortable. “The living room is about 25 by 25 feet with a 20-foot-high ceiling, but it’s still cozy,” Janice says. “We both love plants, so we decided to bring the outside in with lots of plants and lots of windows.”
After a serious search, Tom found only one manufacturer for those all-important windows, based on a variety of requirements set down by the home owners.
“We wanted the house to be built to the Dade County (Florida) standard for hurricanes,” Charles says. “They thought we were nuts, but we face east, we’re on the water, and we do have hurricanes here.”
And these standards are indeed stringent. “The Dade County standard allows for windows to be no more than 30 inches wide and there are certain height requirements,” he adds.
And then there was one other stipulation. “On a trip to Ireland, my wife saw that a lot of people used transoms on top of their windows for air circulation, so she decided to have crank-opening transoms all over the first floor,” Charles says.
Once they tossed the various window shapes and sizes, and colors and cranks into the mix, Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork was the manufacturer who met all of the criteria. “It was a good choice,” Charles says.
Another key element of the living room is an Old World-style fireplace of French limestone in a creamy, sand-like color. “It was made in France and then shipped here to be cut in place by our mason, Bob Schmidt,” Charles says. “One of my specifications was that we wanted it to look like an old European fireplace big enough to burn a 4-foot log.”
Diagonally laid pink firebrick lines the inside of the box, while a limestone mantel sits above.
The home’s ceramic tile flooring mimics the aged and irregular pattern of limestone that’s been in place for years. “We wanted all aspects of this home to look like they had been here for a while,” Janice says. “We wanted it to look like it belonged.” An efficient radiant floor heating system is set beneath the tile.
Janice’s kitchen is made for entertaining, with its lightly stained hardwood cabinets and granite countertops in a grayish-beige color.
“We have a large stainless steel sink with stainless steel countertops on either side,” she says. “I have a commercial stove with a griddle top on one side, two big ovens and six burners.”
Then there are two dishwashers, a large stainless steel refrigerator and three smaller under-the-counter refrigerator units. Hand-painted wall tiles feature old European-style hot air balloons and cloud-like wind faces for a bit of whimsy.
The couple’s master bath is a visual experience unto itself. “It’s marble with a yellowish-tan grain and streaks of violet red running through it,” Janice says. “We have a very large tub and a freestanding shower surrounded in glass. Each of us has our own counter area of cherry-colored marble and cabinets of cherry wood. There is a separate toilet room, and the walls and floor are all marble.”
The second floor is primarily for visiting children and grandchildren. “The house was designed so that our children could come in through a side door that leads directly upstairs,” Charles says. “That area can be isolated from the downstairs so that they can have their privacy from the first floor, and we, at the same time, can have our privacy.”
Upstairs there is a large den, four bedrooms and three bathrooms.
For the outdoors, the couple wanted a landscape that seemed to grow with the site. “Charles and Janice preferred to have a very flat yard, so the site was heavily recontoured,” Tom says.
This regrading allowed for a variety of beautiful landscape options, including a large stone retaining wall and a circular driveway.
Growing throughout the 2 1/2 acres is an assortment of deciduous trees, perennials and annuals, evergreens and a private vineyard.
The landscape’s openness is echoed by the airy feeling of the expansive timber frame. “From the start, my husband absolutely loved the idea of a timber frame, but I was apprehensive. I imagined them all as being like old English home—dark with closed-in spaces,” Janice says. “But, once the frame was up and whitewashed, I fell in love with it. I really love this home.”
It is within these timber-framed walls that the couple will enjoy their retirement years overlooking the beach and enjoying the winds as they blow through the next chapter of their lives.
For a list of companies who contributed to the home, see the Spring 2002 issue of Timber Frame Homes.
Story by Michael Baxter
Vermont Timber Frames photography by Rich Frutchey