Sarabeth Levine and her husband and Bill bought a house on the property in 2010 with the intention to renovate it as a summer and weekend getaway from NYC. They had fallen in love with the site and the Water Mill location but not with the original house. After analyzing renovation schemes, it became obvious that replacing the two-story, 1,500 sq ft house would be the best value option as well as the best way to accommodate the owners’ wish to have a house designed for their casual lifestyle and for visiting kids and grandchildren.
Cass Smith and Sarabeth’s family have been friends for many years, both personally and professionally. At sixteen years old, Cass worked a summer for Bill who was then a builder in New York. Later, they collaborated on several restaurant projects– Sarabeth’s on Park Avenue South in New York City and, most recently, two more Sarabeth’s locations in Seoul and Dubai. It was natural that the collaboration would extend into the residential realm.
This particular area of Water Mill — ‘North of the highway’ vs. the more expensive ‘South of the highway’ — has open fields and is more about farms and horses than the beach. Sarabeth and Bill both wanted a house that was simple and restrained, related to the site, contemporary, and that had an everyday feel. There were no ideas about a mega-Hamptons house, showing off, or lavish parties. Since the couple had spent time in the old house, they knew the site and its attributes, which helped direct the design. The house’s location on the site and the pool were fine, and the basement was in good condition, so the new house was designed to fit onto the old foundation, with a little expansion along one side. Through a series of design meetings, the outside of he house took the shape of a barn – yet it received a modern interpretation through the materials, windows, and detailing. The new two-story, three-bedroom structure measures 1,800 sq feet and is meant to be a compact and efficient house that feels spacious.
The roof of the house is standing seam galvalume, the walls are vertical cedar siding, and the windows are large scale shapes that play off the solid wall planes and overall geometry. The stacked stone fireplace adds a component of verticality and gravitas. Inside, the space was intended to have a loft feel, with open floor plan plans, a main two-story space, and strategic amounts of natural light. The main space with high ceilings accommodates the kitchen, dining and living areas, and entry hall while the bedrooms are fitted within the actual two-story part of the building. The master bedroom is on the first floor and the two guest bedrooms are on the second floor. White oak floors and ceilings, smooth white walls, and painted cabinets add to the feeling of spaciousness and casual comfort. Windows and doors are sized and placed for views, light, and connections to the outside, while a number of skylights bring in light to further render the interior space and balance the light. The fireplace, which is built on the foundation of the previous one is stacked blue stone, which has a slightly rustic quality that counterpoints to the more refined finishes around it. The team left the original landscape, adding new planting close to the house.
Although a renowned chef, Sarabeth didn’t want a commercial chef’s kitchen, which was consistent with the direction of restraint. She wanted a medium-sized residential kitchen, but with a twist, so the design team came up with the “Sarabeth blue” kitchen (Sarabeth’s favorite color, also used in her restaurant branding).
Photography: Eric Laignel