Shelter island house | Shelter Island, New York | 2019

With this project we sought to make a small house feel big. Presented with a generous site bordered on one side by undisturbed woods, we aimed to design a modest structure to support the activities of the young family who would occupy it, while fostering a connection with the surrounding environment.

The house is conceived as three primary volumes – one for private living (containing the family’s bedrooms), the second for more public activity (including the kitchen, dining, living and entry areas), and the third for guest space and a changing room for the adjacent pool.

Given this elemental programming, the design challenge became how to create a unified compound without breaking the house into diminutive and physically separated spaces.

Our response places the three volumes in a seemingly casual relationship to one another. The assemblage is unified with a common roof and floor plane, conceived as though elastic bands were stretched from the center volume and wrapped around each of the other two, resulting in a series of continuously covered spaces that shift between interior and exterior.

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the house is sited close and parallel to a neighboring residential site. This side of the house is primarily solid to maintain a sense of privacy and reinforce the boundary of the property. The opposite length of the house is left largely open to the rest of the property, both visually and physically connecting occupants to the surrounding landscape. The result is a weaving of site and structure, and a seamless experience between inside and out.

Wood is the primary building material in terms of both structure and finish. It is left untreated to weather uneven- ly according to its exposure. Douglas Fir framing is exposed as a counterpoint to the ship-lapped Western Red Cedar. Oak floors cover the interiors, and ipé decking is used outside. To round it out, salvaged wood from a demolished shed on site was used as interior cladding in the kitchen and laundry. The varying uses of wood allow the material to feel both heavy and light, grounding the house to the site while creating moments that encourage a direct engagement with its environment. Text description by the architects.

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Photography by: Scott Frances