Nestled in Nature, Punctuated by Color

Two-story glass walls bring in lots of light
Arthur Beckenstein and John O’Rourke suggested earth tones for the interior of their house but discovered they also liked brilliant hues.

“The outdoors is very much a part of the indoor living,” Arthur Beckenstein said of the house nestled in lush foliage overlooking Three Mile Harbor where he and his husband, John O’Rourke, live.

When they began planning to build a house seven years ago, they wanted to be sure it complemented the natural surroundings. In fact, they made that definite even before any plans were drawn for the structure, which was completed in 2013. 

The couple first met with Thomas Woltz, principal of Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects, to discuss and understand what they could build on the one-acre site without disturbing it too much. They then worked with Chris Coy and Rob Barnes of Barnes Coy Architects, a Bridgehampton-based firm, to create their roughly 6,000-square-foot, four-bedroom house. 

From the edge of the road, where the house adjoins a garage, it appears to be a straightforward modernist building of stucco and glass. But, as Mr. O’Rourke pointed out, the front of the house boasts an uninterrupted two-story wall of glass, with the harbor looking almost like a painting as the view.

The glass walls allow nature and wildlife to set the stage for the midcentury interior design. But while natural colors and materials were the couple’s inspiration, their interior designer, Julia Roth, encouraged the use of brilliant colors — orange, yellow, blue, and green — for furnishings that punctuate the spaces. “With a house, I think I was thinking very neutral, and soft, quiet colors, and I think she opened our eyes to be daring,” Mr. Beckenstein said. 

The glass face makes the interior bright, but the house is not cold. The couple attributes this to the many different earth materials used, and to the house’s long, two-story fireplace wall. “A lot of modern architecture can be very cold,” Mr. Beckenstein said. “We wanted to bring in a lot of earthy palettes, a lot of wood, stone, natural materials, concrete.” 

Beyond the floor-to-ceiling glass front door, an inviting foyer flows toward the fireplace wall, which is honey colored and roughly 23 feet long. It divides the main floor into kitchen and living room areas with water views on two sides. There also is a view of their trapezoid pool, which contains a bluestone wall with spouts of water, intended to mimic the fresh water springs of nearby Springy Banks. Two guest bedrooms, one with a glass wall that faces the harbor with its own balcony, lie beyond the living room. 

The couple spend a lot of time in the minimalist, white, and airy kitchen, where Mr. O’Rourke makes use of his culinary talent while Mr. Bernstein watches television, and where they and their guests can go in and out of sliding glass doors to the patio, backyard, and the harbor. A nine-foot, resin-coated zinc table with steel legs is close to the long fireplace wall, while there is a contrasting, large white island on the other side of the room.

Beyond the island, the kitchen’s fixtures, including a wine cooler, stretch along an outside wall, but the eye focuses on the space over the fixtures, which contains a long, narrow window in the place of what in a more conventional house would be tiles. That window “sort of makes the view twice would be tiles. That window “sort of makes the view twice as long when you look at it,” Mr. Beckenstein said. 

The wall continues as the backbone of the second floor, separating those rooms. The layout is similar to that of the first, while the master bedroom and adjacent library have views more akin to what you might see from a treehouse. “With floor to ceiling glass on both sides, especially upstairs, we are kind of in the trees,” Mr. Beckenstein noted. The master bedroom and a third upstairs guest room have sliding glass doors that lead to balconies with water views and a once-disregarded tree.

“This wonderful tree never looked so fabulous as when we suddenly looked at it from upstairs from the bedroom,” Mr. Beckenstein said. “And if it’s silhouetted at dusk, there is a wonderful deep-blue sky. It’s wonderful to see that tree at night.” 

For those who can take their eyes away from the trees, and the harbor, the garage roof, on the street side of the house, is planted with sedum, which was recently a light-green color, although different flowers sprout on it throughout the year. The green roof has the ecological benefit of reducing stormwater runoff before it drains into Three Mile Harbor. It also appeals to Mr. Beckenstein aesthetically; he can see the roof from the library and was reluctant to look at nothing but flat stucco.

Since Mr. Beckenstein and Mr. O’Rourke retired, they have made this house their primary residence. “We wanted to make sure that whatever we did fit into the land and was respectful of the environment,” Mr. O’Rourke said. “That was actually the starting point for us.” That the house accomplishes this goal is easy to see. 

Floor-to-ceiling glass on two sides of the house allows for bright light and panoramic views.
A roughly 23-foot-long fireplace wall in the middle of the house is the backbone for the rooms on both the first and second floor. Three uniquely shaped mirrors bring in the outdoors.
Where possible, the roofs are planted with sedum, often changing color with the seasons.
The pool, built with water spouts to mimic nearby Springy Banks, stays open all year.
An antique dresser and midcentury modern chair almost steal the first-floor guest room’s view of Three Mile Harbor.
A photo Arthur Beckenstein took after Hurricane Hermine in 2016 became a 12-foot-long triptych placed over the bed. The headboard makes use of what is known as live-edge wood.
An unusual chair was made in Brazil.
A patio table near the kitchen is shielded by a stone wall that creates a barrier between the deck and steep slope toward the harbor.