A Barn Refuge Designed by Architect Tod Williams

Househappy —  September 4, 2013 — Leave a comment
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Photo by Eric Striffler for The New York Times

When David Schiff (an L.A. based talent agent whose clients include big names like Jeff Bridges, Eminem, Sienna Miller, and Ethan Hawke) and his wife Lucinda got around to planning the renovation of their summer home in Sagaponack, New York, simplicity and budget were key.

The Schiff’s Long Island home, as modest as it is, is a notable footnote in the area’s architectural history. Constructed in the 1970’s, architect Tod Williams made the beach house from two midcentury barns.

It was an ambitious project for the young architect who––with wife and partner, Billie Tsien––has gone on to design some pretty significant cultural institutions including Cranbrook’s natatorium and the building that once house the American Folk Art Museum.

“I had an idea to be a developer,” Williams said, explaining how he bought four more barns and moved them to a three acre site across the street from his then-girlfriend’s sandwich shop, hoping to test himself as an architect by creating two inexpensive dwellings from a combination of these elemental shapes, and then selling one and living in the other.

The structures successfully emphasize the purity of the barn shapes and the sweetness of the land, and serve as an indication of the fine architect Williams would be come. “I was struggling with ideas about context and change,” he said. “I wanted to keep the integrity of the barns, keep what was good about them, their rawness and their simplicity.”

Williams moved the smallest of the barns he had bought to the 1.7-acre site that would one day be the Schiffs’. “I think it was really used by the farmer as a garage,” he said. He connected it to the larger barn already there with a breezeway enclosed with a grid of windows. On the other half of the land, he assembled the three remaining barns into an elegant, modernist whole––a beautiful home featured in this month’s Architectural Digest.

For additional photos and complete article, visit NYTimes

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