East Hampton, N.Y., is a hotbed of dressed-to-impress summer estates, but architect Paul Masi took a subtler approach with this large family home. Located in an established oceanfront community, it draws inspiration not from The Great Gatsby, but from the vernacular of Long Island potato barns, which are often dug into hillsides for natural cooling. Here, an earth berm retained by Cor-ten steel walls wraps the outward-facing elevations, reducing their apparent scale. “We didn’t want to make the house loom,” Masi explains, but rather “to reveal it gradually, so it keeps unfolding.” Despite its 7,000 square feet of living space, he says, “from some angles, it looks like a one-story structure.”

The building exposes its full height at a private courtyard that faces the ocean. The upper-level floor structure extends in a 12-foot-deep cantilever along the main wing’s 90-foot length, creating an outdoor deck above and a sheltered open-air space below. Simple gabled forms, clad in oversized yellow cedar shingles and punctuated by blackened-steel chimneys, take the barn motif in an abstracted, modernist direction. A related palette of interior materials, including cedar shingles on the vaulted ceilings, unifies the project. “By limiting the number of materials, we let you read the narrative of the building,” Masi says.

The jury praised the project’s deft handling of an extensive program--calling the division of family and guest quarters “close but not too close”--and its elegantly spare detailing. The integration of building and landscape yield an outcome they deemed “extravagant and beautiful.” 

On Site To create a thin floor plate capable of supporting a long cantilever, architect Paul Masi designed an upper-level floor structure that consists entirely of 7-inch-thick wood planks. Laid flat and splined together, the planks form a monolithic “slab” that also serves as a finish floor above and finish ceiling below.

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