Wednesday, November 30
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Architectural Trends

North Fork Real Estate Showcase sat down with three local architects for a Q&A Roundtable. We spoke with Mark Schwartz, the Principal Architect of Mark Schwartz & Associates; Tom Samuels of Samuels & Steelman Architects; and Stuart Disston, partner of Austin Patterson Disston Architects to get their take on design and trends.

What are the latest trends in North Fork architecture?

Mark Schwartz & Associates: More and more people are looking to maximize their enjoyment of their homes, and one of the major trends over the past couple of years is a demand for some fairly extensive outdoor kitchens. These go well beyond a nice grill setup, and incorporate detailed masonry, planning for outdoor room spaces and dining areas, and even pergolas and various automated shading solutions. In some ways we find ourselves essentially designing all of the capabilities of an indoor kitchen into an outdoor environment – basically just take away the walls and the ceiling and you’ll get an idea of the extent of these builds. The good thing, however, is that clients really do make use of these elements, and it adds to their enjoyment of their home, which is always very gratifying.

Samuels & Steelman Architects: Our clients are increasingly looking for houses planned for a casual lifestyle. This translates into plans with more open and bright kitchens and living rooms, often including the dining area. Kitchens tend to be central to one’s life ‘in the country’, and they have therefore gotten larger and closer to the action of daily life. This is also true of the outdoor spaces, which include covered, sometimes screened porches and terraces, often overlooking a view of the water or garden. From a style standpoint, the finishes are still traditional, but the details are becoming simpler and ‘fresher’ and more ‘pure’, sometimes in an almost contemporary way.

Austin Patterson Disston Architects: Since we are working on both traditional shingle style and modern houses, I’d say design trends are evenly split. Our houses are planned for vacation living, spaces that easily gather family and friends and often feature an open family room, dining room and kitchen. The bedrooms are plentiful and not necessarily large but each one has its own bath.

What is your design philosophy?

Mark Schwartz & Associates: Well, I don’t know that it counts as a philosophy, per se, but I am very attuned to what I call ‘the human element’ in my designs. In my experience, in some places a house is more of a showcase, but here on the North Fork I find that clients who ask us to design, say, even the largest and most impressive waterfront properties are more concerned with the house being a ‘home’ – something that’s comfortable, and can really be used and enjoyed for entertaining, or when family comes out to visit. I try and make use of efficiencies of design in order to add the little details, whether they be built-ins or nooks, or even just a matter of being more mindful of that little dimensional nuances that change a room that on paper could be a cavernous and cold space into a more intimate environment that can be easily enjoyed.

Samuels & Steelman Architects: We work towards a design synthesis of old and new forms, classic and indigenous. We are respectful of our rural context, and of the East End’s building traditions which have grown and developed over three hundred years. We find continual inspiration in the many local farmhouses, barns, and classic beach homes bordering the open fields and bays which give the area its scenic character. We believe this built context should be preserved and reinforced.

In form and articulation, our buildings are part of a long tradition of architectural design, updated for contemporary sensibilities. We employ classical and regional elements in ways which give harmonious structure and formal stability to evolving architectural aesthetics. In detail, we rely on the beauty and integrity of natural materials, and strive to achieve the clearly resolved simplicity evident in the best of modern design.

Austin Patterson Disston Architects: Austin Patterson Disston’s work is largely focused on bespoke projects, residential, hospitality and private clubs. We feel confident doing a broad spectrum of styles and types: new residences, renovations, restorations, additions, and apartments.

I would not say that the firm has a particular ‘cookie cutter’ style. I can tell you what others have said: our work has an intimate scale, that even our larger residences do not seem imposing and that our interiors work together and are well tailored in their material detail.

What are your thoughts on sustainable (green) design?

Mark Schwartz & Associates: Well, I find that ‘green’ design is fast becoming the rule, rather than the exception. Say Schwartz, I think this is due to a combination of factors, not the least of which is the fact that both geothermal and solar technologies really have advanced over the past few years. The other thing to bear in mind when it comes to efficiency, which is part of this equation, is that there have been a number of changes to the energy code that have made it much more stringent, and a home’s need to pass thermal envelope testing is now a given. In addition, we’re seeing new nitrogen-reducing septic systems becoming standard features on most projects, which is another positive for the environment.

Samuels & Steelman Architects: In keeping with trends throughout the American economy, sustainability has become a necessity in the construction industry. This applies to the materials used, many of which have been re-engineered to reduce toxicity and extend lifespan, such as non-deteriorating exterior trim in place of wood. In building systems, several projects incorporate photovoltaic power and geothermal heating and cooling. In all cases, energy usage is paramount, and current code mandates well insulated, tight and efficient buildings.

Austin Patterson Disston Architects: For the past 15 years Austin Patterson Disston has been incorporating sustainable practices on every project, a new residence or renovation of an historic home. Clients now realize that an energy efficient home is not only environmentally sound, but economically wise, so they are on board. Superior insulated envelopes with high grade windows and doors have always been standard in all our projects, but we now regularly use geothermal systems, passive solar orientation, on-demand water heaters, roof gardens for insulation and rain retention and water filtration, water collection for irrigation, some solar arrays and even wind turbines.