Photo Courtesy Chris Wesnofske of Wesnofske Photography, New York, NY
Recently Paul Masi of Bates Masi Architects renovated the Dolce and Burnham residence in Amagansett, NY, a cypress wood-planked beach house originally designed by Masi's partner Harry Bates in 1967. As Project Architect for the renovation, Paul Masi decided to use Glacier Blue® Devonian Sandstone as one of the primary building materials in the updated design.
The current owners hired Bates Masi to modernize the house and expand it with a 250 square foot addition. The baths and kitchen were redone and almost everything had to be resurfaced, except for some of the walls and ceilings of the existing structure.
Masi explains, "What was interesting about the project was the timeless nature of the design that my partner had done originally. It was a challenge to keep the same vernacular in the architecture, but also the subtle textures and qualities that made the house so appealing. The exterior of the house was covered with a very rough sawn wood that had a weathered quality to it that we liked, and we retained that look by recycling a lot of the wood. Because of the addition, we had to lose a whole wall of the house and we were able to reuse the wood on the inside of the house for wood screen walls. What was nice about that was when you cut that wood, you had a very fresh wood on the inside, but on the outside you had the weathered wood of forty years. So when we stacked the wood, we had the exposed edges on one face and the weathered edges on another face. That attention to the detail in subtle textures and qualities went into the stone as well."
"We started working with Devonian Stone of New York, Inc. because of the company's capabilities of being able to manufacture thicker slabs for countertops, as well as thinner slabs for tile. Depending on where the tile was used or what the function was, we varied the texture or the finish of the stone to give a different feeling of that material or of the space, but in a subtle way. We used three different stone finishes for the project: flamed, honed and polished. It was a combination of practicality. The countertops are polished in the sense that it's going to be a better seal. Then we have the honed finish on the floors, and as it sort of migrates into the bathroom and wraps up the walls, we changed it to the flamed finish, so it gives you more of a tactile experience, so to speak."
The consistent color of the pale blue stone was a perfect complement to the weathered wood, according to Masi. "I think it was perfect because the coloring of the stone and the color of the wood was fairly even. What was also nice is the flexibility of the stone, because many stones that we work with are only available in certain sizes, whereas with the Devonian Sandstone, we were able to get pieces for the tub deck and tile for the shower. The fact that we have the same parent material used in all the different applications was a key to the design, in a sense that we were being very stringent in the number of materials allowed in the project."
"The amount of work that we've done is quite dramatic, but we tried to hide it so that it blends seamlessly with the original structure. There's a character and an appeal to the owners, and that's why they bought it. They wanted to keep that spirit of the beach house but bring it into today's standards for living without losing that quality."
When asked about the challenges with this particular project, Masi explains, "I think the challenges were to not go overboard and muddy the waters of what's there, but to really be retrained and follow the existing design methodology and the simplicity of it. It's very easy to start adding different things and new materials, and probably the stone was the only new material that we added, but it was the perfect complement in the sense that, if anything, it reduced the number of materials that were in the house originally. The floors had some sort of tile, the bathroom had some sort of other tile, and the countertops had another stone. We got rid of these three other building materials and were able to reduce it just to one."
"A lot of our work is focused on sustainability and environmental issues, and for this particular project that meant using finishes that were natural and organic, and also using materials such as the stone that are indigenous to our area. That's important to us. Depending on what the design goals are for each project, there always is a sustainability aspect to it, and we establish early on what the focus of it is and how it is going to be executed, because there are so many different ways to solve a problem. What our firm does is we specialize in looking at the particular challenges that the client has, whether it's the budget, the site, or the program. There are a number of factors, and we create a hierarchy of these design parameters and tailor our architecture to fit them."
Last year Bates Masi Architects won nine design awards, and five of the awards were won in the same design competition which came as a surprise to the judges that the winning projects were done by same architect. "I think that reflects in our design methodology. While we do focus on modern architecture, there's not a universal design solution that we try to apply."
The firm is very busy right now and is exploring new design options using Glacier Blue® Devonian Sandstone. Masi explains, "We have some interesting ideas where there would be a lot of use of stone that focuses on the manufacturing process. We're looking at Devonian's capabilities of manufacturing different finishes, and also utilizing the company's CNC technology. Right now we're exploring the design possibilities of using this technology with the stone. We've been focusing on the traditional use of stone and the perception of how a stone wall is built, and how we could then take that experience and add to it so it becomes something that's a bit more memorable."
"A lot of our inspiration comes from not only the client, but what the current issues are today in architecture. Some of our challenges, besides the environment and sustainability, are restoring a sense of craft in personality to architecture. I think in previous years, things have become somewhat sterile and impersonal, and almost too standardized where that regional character has been lost, but with the advances in technology and fabrication and construction, you can return that sense of craft and that sense of identity to architecture."