There’s a game I like to play as I drive along the local highways and byways. I call it “Identify the Builder!” As spec homes become more and more upscale, some builders have developed recognizable styles.
Designed To Reflect The Way You Live
Let’s start with Joe Farrell, uber-builder of the Hamptons’ quintessential abodes that have become synonymous with our local landscape. Farrell Building Company houses were easy to spot for years. Now the game is more of a challenge. While the choices of his clients are still mostly predictably gabled, Farrell has transcended from the traditional to embrace a more edgy design.
Take his house at 4 Polo Court, overlooking the iconic polo fields of Bridgehampton. Not a shingle to be seen. Instead, the barn-style abode is clad with vertical planks. Not to fret. Despite its modern feel, the mammoth scale is still there – this time with a two-story wall of windows.
Our Tradition Is Modern
Then there’s Plum Builders, the folks behind the Modern Barn®, which head honcho Al Giaquinto calls “the equivalent of the urban loft.” That goes for the inside, of course — voluminous spaces that flow seamlessly with a fluid connection to the outdoors. Think: gabled ceilings and trusses. Walls are kept expansive, the better to hang art.
The exteriors too are barnlike. After all, as Giaquinto points out, barns are indigenous to our agricultural roots. But these “barns” are 21st-century interpretations with generous glass windows that slide into walls, creating vast openings.
John Kean erects estates rather than mere houses. And, if you can spot one behind the vertiginous privet hedge, you will know it’s a Kean Development property by the huge proportions and attention to every detail from the distinctive shingle exterior to the expansive manicured grounds.
In an enclave of Southampton, which he calls Olde Towne, Kean has built Twin Peaks (named for its double-gabled front façade and presumably the legendary TV show.) – a veritable shingled palace on four acres. The 15,500-square-foot main house is comprised of eight en suite bedrooms, nine full and three half baths and is positively drenched in white marble from fireplaces to counters. The lower level is a testament to the high life, outfitted with a 1,200 bottle wine cellar, sumptuous theater, gym, entertainment lounge with full bar and billiards and … drum roll please … a professional two-lane bowling alley.
If you were to be invited inside the gates, and let’s hope you are, you will be privy to views of a voluminous pool house replete with great room and kitchen, negative edge pool, tennis court, scads of terraces for entertaining and the novel roof-top putting green, in case you need to brush up on your stroke.
Horizontal Plank Siding
“I pride myself on not having a signature style,” says high-end builder Jay Bialsky. Instead the principal of J. Bialsky Premiere Design & Development lets the location dictate the edifice style. In open fields or on waterfront he erects uber-luxurious modern houses, while in a village he opts for traditional. But both styles have one thing in common: “as many large panels of glass as possible.”
His version of a traditional home allows two to three times as much light as the typical home with double-hung windows. His traditional houses can also be distinguished from others, he says, by the horizontal plank siding. “If the house isn’t your typical wood-shingled siding there’s a good probability it’s one of mine.” As for dining rooms, fuhgeddaboudit. “How often does a dining room get used in a summer house?”
At Cavallo Builders the style of the moment is Transitional: a blend of traditional architecture with modern features. For a current project on Newman Avenue in Bridgehampton contemporary touches include a stair tower with heavy open treads and stainless steel railings; European white oak on the walls and trusses, and Venetian plaster on the fireplace, master shower and kitchen backsplash.
You might be able to tell a Cavallo house by its semi-transparent stained all cedar exteriors, which includes the shingle siding and exterior trim, all-glass garage doors with aluminum trim, standing seam metal roofs and mahogany and cable railings for the exterior balconies. For a house being built on Newman Avenue in Bridgehampton, the windows are a dark bronze color with an entry door to match.
Renovate, Reuse, Rehabilitate
If the structure looks vaguely familiar then it just might be a renovation by Rennew Properties, a firm that specializes in “preserving the essence of what’s there already.” Principal Ed Krug keeps his eyes out for houses with great bones that his team can catapult into the current century. And those properties, usually in need of major TLC, can be almost any in style — farmhouse, California-esque ranch, Jetsons’ modern or Euro villa.
“In a renovation, we take our cues from what exists already,” says Krug. They he adds a huge dollop of high style while “respecting the scale and sense of the neighborhood.” His mission is to “keep it clean, easy and classic, staying away from finishes that are too trendy and will date in a few years, but still give it personality and a bit of wow factor.”
The team also works with owners to uncover the hidden gem that might be “hiding in the form of a time-warped ‘70s contemporary or ‘80s colonial with big-box store finishes.” And perhaps the reason they call it “Rennew”: the finished product costs less, takes less time and results in a carbon footprint that is 75% to 90% less than that of a tear-down and rebuild.