A beautiful house tells a story as eloquent and textured as those of the people who live in it. The most captivating stories often spring from houses burnished by time. But at just two years old, one little cottage in Westhampton, on Long Island, New York, is already making a statement.
Stuart Disston, AIA, a partner with Austin Patterson Disston Architects in Southport, Connecticut, and Quogue, Long Island, rendered the story with a deft blend of structural detail, texture, shape, and form, enveloping it all in the same pleasing drape of Shingle Style he injected into the nearby main house. Beautiful and bright, and as subtle as the soft purple flowers that swish in a sharp breeze, the cottage looks like it always belonged here, perched on a bucolic property overlooking sun-splashed Moriches Bay.
Disston, a certified LEED Green Associate, was uncannily suited to the project. He grew up summering in Quogue, which is peppered with Shingle Style homes, and from the beginning, he loved their looks: the long, sweeping rooflines; rambling porches; and spacious interiors. “My favorite houses in Quogue were always the Shingle Style residences,” Disston says. Even then, years ago, he noticed the architectural details that define Shingle Style. The style markers—large bay and double-height windows, and the roof shapes, from gables to gambrels—“spoke of timeless ease and individual character,” he says.
The two-bedroom Westhampton cottage is compact, comprising just 1,534 square feet on its combined two floors. Sensitive design gives it the illusion of being much more spacious: an open floor plan; expanding bedroom dormers; a double-height spiral staircase that is exposed to the top ceiling, where a lantern hangs; and a private side porch that overlooks a garden. Even the wider-than-usual wainscoting—besides adding texture and depth—is, as Disston says, “a more expansive detail.”
Shingle Style is a perfect vehicle to express the unique interior details. The tower that houses the spiral staircase is a lovely, welcoming anchor. Shining country-grade oak floors, coffered ceilings, and beautiful wide-board wainscoting around the stairs, on the kitchen walls and ceiling, and lining the kitchen island give it a stamp of identity. Porches and interior nooks and crannies have been thoughtfully placed for sitting and enjoying the space. All elements of Shingle Style, the spaces bespeak a casual, warm summer shore style that is very much a part of the Eastern Long Island vernacular, Disston says.
The language of the architecture is just as relevant today as it was when the Shingle Style was born in the late 1800s, Disston notes. “Today we live far less formally than Americans did in the 19th or 20th centuries,” he says. “Shingle Style accommodates an informal lifestyle beautifully. For the past 30 years, its appeal has been universal for houses of any size.”
Shingle Style also provided a creative canvas for the interior design. Douglas Graneto, a designer based in Greenwich, Connecticut, says the cottage architecture’s “craft sensibility” was a fine foundation for many of the touches he incorporated, such as curtains of embroidered crewel fabric, which project a warm handmade quality, and side tables that sing with the natural shade variation of oak and other wood. The simple spirit of handmade interior details also reflects the work of the French interior designer of the Art Deco era, the late Charles Dudouyt, one of the owner’s favorites.
Like Disston, Graneto consciously set out to reflect the main house here in the cottage. But because of the small guesthouse’s personality and function—Graneto calls it “a lovely little folly”—he could be more playful, while also relating to a modern sensibility in color and use. “It’s a lighter, fresher palette,” he says. With the main house and cottage poised on the waterfront, Graneto used warm golds and bright greens in both interiors, but made the cottage a little more lighthearted, with “fabrics and colors we may not have in the main residence.”
The cottage’s light, fresh mood and simplicity are the key of its appeal for its owners—so much so that sometimes they contemplate forgoing the main house and staying there themselves. “We love the cottage so much,” says the owner, “that we discussed keeping it for ourselves and letting everyone else use the house.” With a child in high school, another in college, a dog, and extended family, there is never a lack of people wanting to stay in the cottage. “We have many weekends every summer where we are 8 to 10 people, and the cottage is a prime and coveted place to sleep,” the owner says. “Also, families with young kids love it, as the kids have their own room.” The main house and cottage share a swimming pool, tennis court, and dock.
The first floor is the common space, including a spacious back porch where guests spend lots of time. Much of the focus on this floor is the beautiful fieldstone fireplace. Upstairs are just two bedrooms and two bathrooms. A deck off one of the bedrooms is situated above the covered front porch.
The cottage sings of home, history, and individualism. And no wonder—after all, it has its identity in Shingle Style. As Disston says, “The Shingle Style is as American as the buffalo nickel. It was born on the East Coast and embodies a cultural democracy that is essentially American, as it celebrates the individual. Every home can be as unique as its owner.”Published in: New Old House Spring/Summer 2013