Sagaponack, New York
Superstorm Sandy was a disaster of historic proportions, but at least on this site it created an opportunity. Undermining an undistinguished existing house, the storm also devastated its landscape overgrown with exotic and, all too often, invasive plantings.
Redevelopment provided a chance to work with the natural characteristics of the site and shape the new infrastructure to reinforce the local ecology.
A new house was built farther back from the beach. As required by FEMA guidelines, the house was raised above grade, creating the potential for a disconnect between the building and landscape. The first challenge, then, was marrying these two elements. The design team accomplished this by wrapping the house with limestone terraces that step down to the surrounding ground level. The buff-colored limestone echoes the color of the beach sand and extends the lines of the house, creating a strong visual sense of integration.
This theme of integration continues throughout the landscape. A new dune was created between the house and ocean as protection from future storms, and this was stabilized with a planting of American beach grass. Indeed, with the exception of a Japanese holly hedge by the front door, all the new plantings were natives selected for their appropriateness to such a coastal ecosystem. Shadblow, American holly, and black cherry were tucked into the slope running down from the house to a freshwater pond set back from the beach. Native shrubs such as highbush blueberry, inkberry, and groundsel were interspersed with native groundcovers such as Pennsylvania sedge and little bluestem grass, with grace notes added by specimen bayberries. The use of such indigenous species lends a visual authenticity to the landscape, with the practical benefit that these plants are well adapted to the sandy coastal conditions and thrive with little care.
Because of the dune that lies between the house and the ocean, the swimming pool and spa were located to the rear of the residence, overlooking the pond. Overflow edges in both water features transforms them into mirrors whose still water surface mimics that of the pond below, creating another visual link between the residence and its setting. A fire table fueled by ethanol provides a gathering point at night; covered with a tablecloth by day, it serves for outdoor luncheons.