By Ellen T. White
It’s the lament of our time: We demand to be connected to the world 24/7, while still longing to get away from it all. When Alison and Andy Brod began rebuilding their Bridgehampton house, they embraced the contradiction. They envisioned a streamlined design with dramatic details — a stage set, in essence, where they could entertain up to 100 clients and friends, which they do routinely on summer weekends. At the same time, they wanted a place where weekend house guests might find a Zen retreat and their boys, who are 5 and 7, could play undisturbed.
“When I met with Alison and Andy they didn’t talk about their needs in terms of how many rooms,” their architect, Paul Masi of Bates Masi + Architects in Sag Harbor, said. “They talked about how they lived, and the design of the house grew out of that narrative.”
The Brods’ white-painted 1980s contemporary was razed in 2009 as the market was tumbling. “It was a scary,” said Mrs. Brod, whose husband, an investment manager, had a bird’s-eye view into the financial abyss. “We decided to go ahead and break ground anyway.” Over the next two years, Mr. Masi’s interpretative fugue — a series of six open-ended cubes wrapped inside and out in mahogany and faced with floor-to-ceiling glass — began to take shape. At its completion in 2011, the house had altered the neighborhood’s traditional architectural landscape.
“Alison and Andy were inspired by the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright and Richard Neutra,” Mr. Masi said. Mrs. Brod claims that she gets her best night’s sleep in the depersonalized zone of a hotel room. The couple wanted to capture some of the luxurious simplicity they had found at the Amanresorts’ boutique hotels, which they have stayed at for business and pleasure. “My office is so full of clutter,” Mrs. Brod said. “It can really be overwhelming. I wanted a design where I could relax and get away from it.”
At the heart of the great room, a gas fireplace of Mr. Masi’s design, with a bronze grill base and hood, is open on three sides. It erupts in blue flame, creating something closer to theater-in-the-round than coziness. The fireplace doubles clandestinely as a supporting wall, HVAC system, and coat closet — an engineering feat that is itself something of a magic trick.
“What’s really exciting to me,” Mr. Masi said, “is to reinvent materials like bronze and mahogany by putting them together in a new way. In my view it’s more interesting than inventing a new material would be.” In a nod to the familiar Shingle Style, Mr. Masi has faced key interior and exterior walls with shingles held in place by CNC wire brackets, but the shingles are made of travertine — a novel feature that delighted the Brods.
“We wanted conversation points throughout the house,” Mrs. Brod said. Like Mr. Masi, she said she has an obsession for detail. They worked closely on the spare interior design, and you would be hard-pressed to find personal items cluttering a surface, even in a bedroom.
An asymmetrical Terzani chain-mail chandelier, recast in bronze, hangs over a Lucite dining table and chairs. In the living room area, bronze-colored-leather pulls are used to open the doors of a mahogany wall to reveal a flat-screen TV and ample bars. A gray sectional sofa surrounds a vast Lucite and Plexiglass coffee table. It was designed by Mrs. Brod’s father, who, perhaps incongruously, is an antiques dealer.
Tucked into architectural cubes, each bedroom — individually climate-controlled and media wired — is its own universe, often with a glimpse of its own garden or the travertine terrace. A skylight in the walk-in closet in the master bedroom ensures that Mrs. Brod can coordinate her colors in natural light. Bureaus are built in and hidden; bedside tables extend from mahogany casing around the bed. A headboard, constructed of strips of belting leather, mimics the grill-work of the fireplace. Nothing jars.
In the summer, the Brods can draw floor-to-ceiling shades or slide back the glass north-and-south-facing walls of the main room so that the interior merges with a landscape of switch grass (cryptomeria) and an orchard of tree hydrangeas. On the terrace, the Brods create signature pizzas in a built-in oven.
Mrs. Brod runs an eponymous public relations firm that represents luxury brands, and her parties for clients and friends are an extension of her inclusive style; a Facebook update might mean that a lunch party for 10 can easily swell to 10 times the number. Gatherings often spill out of the house and around the pool. There’s a built-in bar, and two bronze carts roll out from a kitchen island to wherever guests might be.
The project cost roughly $725 per square foot, according to Mr. Masi. A comparable house in the neighborhood was listed for more than $13 million not long ago. “However,” Mr. Masi said, “the measure of successful architecture lies not only in its market value but in its effect on its inhabitants.” Last summer was the family’s second season in the house, and Mrs. Brod claims it has changed her life.
I might do 12 events for clients in a week in the city, but out in the Hamptons I entertain the way I want. The house gives me a center where my own personality comes through. It’s where I can be my most creative and relaxed.”
Bates Masi + ARCHITECTS The mahogany boarding, on the wall at rear, opens to reveal a flat-screen T.V. and ample bar space.When the horizontal gas fireplace is lighted, blue flames become the focal point of the large main room; sectional seating was chosen for the living room area and transparent furniture for dining. Bates Masi + ARCHITECTS Built-in seating and stools and tables of reclaimed pear wood and black walnut have a dramatic effect in the den.” Bates Masi + ARCHITECTS The couple’s 5 and 7-year-old boys have their own spaces. ”