A Shipshape House in the Hamptons

Posted June 19, 2018 3:49 p.m. EDT

When Larry Shields and Claire Cardone began dreaming of building a beach house in the Hamptons, they envisioned the home not just as their personal escape, but as a magnet for family.

“We have three children and eight grandchildren,” said Cardone, 72, a health care management consultant. “We thought it would be an opportunity for them to come and see us, and to enjoy the pleasures of being on the beach.”

In February 2011, they found what seemed like an ideal lot in Westhampton Beach, New York, about an hour’s drive from their home in Upper Brookville, New York.

“It was a gray, misty, cold day, and it reminded me of my youth, because I was brought up in the Rockaways,” said Shields, 78, a neurologist. “I always liked that there was a cold beauty to the ocean, and this was very reminiscent of one of the best days down there. It just struck me.”

The property was in a flood zone, consisted largely of wetlands, and came with a low-lying shack and deck that looked as if they were ready to be washed away. But Shields and Cardone bought it that summer for $900,000, with plans to demolish the existing structure and build anew.

On the advice of a friend, they hired the Manhattan-based architecture firm Leroy Street Studio to design and build the new house. Shortly thereafter, Morgan Hare, a partner at the firm, arrived with a bucket truck to hoist Cardone skyward for a preview of the home’s sightlines.

The new structure would have to maintain the footprint of the old one, although it would be raised on pilings more than 11 feet above sea level. The maximum allowable height for the building was 40 feet, which left enough space in between for a two-story, cube-shaped, 2,600-square-foot home.

From their perch on high, Hare and Cardone took photos and discussed the best places for windows and decking to capture views of Moriches Bay, the surrounding wetlands and the Jessup Lane bridge.

In the spring of 2012, after almost a year of designing and environmental reviews, Leroy Street Studio’s construction arm, BLDG, began building.

The house faced its first flood test that October, before it was even completed.

“Hurricane Sandy hit right in the middle of construction, and there was no land underneath it for a while,” Hare said. “You had to take a canoe to get to the house.”

But when the water receded, “there were no ill effects at all,” he said. “It was a big success.”

Inside the house, to cater to the couple’s desire for a sun-filled multigenerational home, Leroy Street Studio bisected the space with a staircase that has open risers, skylights and windows at each end. The entertaining spaces are to one side, facing the bay, with an open kitchen, dining room and two decks on the first floor, and a living room with a wet bar and another deck on the second floor. The bedrooms are on the other side of the staircase, including a master suite on the first floor and two more bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor.

To make the most of the allowable space, the house is designed as efficiently as a ship. The bedrooms are a few steps up from the entertaining spaces on both levels to create room for mechanical equipment, which is tucked into the bottom of the house. The entrance is wrapped by a concrete-walled garden that doubles as a raised septic field.

The kitchen is equipped with a custom steel island on casters, made by Michael Daniel Metal Design, so it can be rolled out to the deck and used as a buffet for outdoor dinners. The counters have pop-up outlets that remain concealed when not in use.

The house was completed in May 2013 for a cost of about $1.2 million, and functions just as its owners had hoped. “It’s sort of like a time-share,” Cardone said. “The kids come, and each one uses it for a weekend. Sometimes they’re with us, sometimes we’re there separately.”

Recently, however, the visits have become less frequent. The couple’s children are now in their 50s, Cardone said, and the grandchildren mostly in their early 20s, and nearly everyone has moved away for college or work — overseas to London, to Florida, Indiana, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire.

“Everybody’s gone,” she said. “So we decided to sell it.” The house is on the market for $2.499 million with Antonio Bottero at Compass.

What’s next for Shields and Cardone? Rather than building another beach house, they have set their sights on an urban destination, she said: “We’ll probably get an apartment in Manhattan.”