The pondside setting on Long Island’s South Fork was sublime. The original house, not so much. “It was a barnlike building that lacked the light and amenities the owners were looking for,” says Viola Rouhani, of Bridgehampton-based Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects. In its place, the firm designed a commanding, ultra-modern 8,000-square-foot home with broad expanses of glass to take full advantage of the famous East End light glinting off Wickapogue Pond.
Long before construction was complete, interior designer Damon Liss, whose 16-year-old company, Damon Liss Design, is headquartered in Tribeca, joined the project, advising on materials and fixtures for kitchen and baths. Then, Liss set about speccing furnishings, including custom woodwork and upholstered seating designed in-house by his team, as well as carefully considered vintage and contemporary pieces, many of them sourced from 1stdibs.
Liss had to perform a bit of a balancing act between the minimalist leanings of his clients, a Manhattan couple with two children, and his desire to provide them with “an inviting home that was livable and functional.” The challenge, he says, was “to create a homey, interesting environment that respects the clean, super-modern architecture, for clients who are minimalists at heart, without layering excessively.”
Liss accomplished this by painstakingly curating each piece “to fill a specific need in the space.” At the same time, he upped the visual interest by choosing unexpected materials like carved oak for armchairs that “read raw” and sculptural pieces, such as birdlike 1960s Andorinha chairs from Brazil. For the seating and rugs, he adhered to a neutral palette, introducing strategic dabs of color in hard objects like side tables and lamps.
Fortunately, the architecture supported his goal. “For a large-scale house, it feels surprisingly intimate,” Liss says, attributing this to the rooms’ classic proportions and nine-foot ceilings, clad in oak, which provide a warmth that loftier, white ceilings would not.
The overarching principle, Liss says, was “yielding to the architecture and letting it be what it is — unfussy” — while never losing the connection to the outdoors. His clients’ response? “They use every bit of the house. They go out every weekend and never want to come back to the city.”
The house’s horizontal volumes, dramatically poised on just over two acres, are arranged in what Rouhani calls “a courtyard scheme,” with an open living room/dining room/kitchen in the center, a media room to the side and bedrooms on the floor above. Side wings containing a gym and an outdoor entertaining area act as buffers to neighboring properties.
Walls of vertical mahogany slats set at varying intervals encase the entry area, a stair to the roof deck and the outdoor shower. Wood also lines the underside of deep overhangs and carries into the interior ceilings. The “warm wood language,” as Rouhani puts it, provides an organic contrast to the concrete-based cladding materials on the house’s exterior. “There’s always something crisp balanced with something warm,” she says. The naturalistic landscaping, based on ornamental grasses, is the work of Water Mill’s LaGuardia Design Group.
The foyer is almost Japanese in its simplicity, affording a view through the building to a gravel enclosure. An unusual light fixture by Montauk-based artist Rogan Gregory, made of crushed seashells with a soft pink patina, fits three bills, Liss says: “It’s local, it’s modern, and it’s sculptural.” Hanging on the wall is All for Yellow by Gudrun Mertes-Frady, from Kathryn Markel Fine Arts.
On close inspection, the mostly neutral living room reveals hints of color. The clean-lined sofa, a custom design by Liss, is upholstered in the palest dusty pink. A shot of rich purple comes from a Bishop side table by Paris-based architect/designer India Mahdavi.
Many of the room’s furnishings were sourced through 1stdibs, including the handcrafted Zaragosa coffee table and bronze Duran console, both from KGBL; the pair of contemporary white tub chairs with oak arms by Pierre Yovanovitch, from R & Co.; and, on the coffee table, a ceramic sculpture by David Haskell (who is also the new editor in chief of New York magazine), from Donzella. The Domino daybed by Claudio Moreira Salles and 1960s Andorinha chairs by Martin Eisler and Carlo Hauner are examples of the Brazilian modern designs that have become something of a signature for Liss.
A statement light fixture by Italian designer Roberto Giulio Rida, combining 1950s Italian glass with a contemporary frame, was sourced through Bernd Goeckler. The dining table, whose white marble supports extend into the tabletop, is a bespoke Liss design. It’s paired with contemporary dining chairs by Brazilian designer Claudia Moreira Sallas.
Liss’s firm designed the bleached-walnut bar cabinet, the quartzite insert in which matches the larger one in the kitchen wall.
The all-white kitchen, outfitted with lacquered Boffi cabinetry and panel-front appliances, is an understated presence in the interior “courtyard,” which also includes the dining and living areas. With their natural leather seats and backs that develop a patina over time, bar stools from BDDW, bought through 1stdibs, “pull warmth toward the kitchen,” Liss says.
A vast sofa from B&B Italia anchors the media room. Within arm’s reach is a pair of custom ottomans by Liss, with painted wood bases and upholstered pouf tops.
The 1960s rosewood lounge chairs by Brazilian designer Jorge Zalszupin are so rare, Liss says, “we had to find each from separate sources.” They’re upholstered in white fabric from BDDW, which also provided the leather-wrapped lamps. The little mushroom stool is by artist Kieran Kinsella.
Behind the sofa, the work of Brazilian born photographer Eliseu Cavalcante supplies a dose of vivid color, while a soft, pale rug from Joseph Carini Carpets covers the floor beneath.
A few refined modernist pieces in the master bedroom complement, rather than distract from, the stunning view. Opaline sconces from rewire, designed in the 1960s by Swedish architect Hans-Agne Jakobsson, flank a custom bed of bleached walnut whose headboard is upholstered in white bouclé. The contemporary Richard Weissenberger chandelier is from Donzella. Danish designer Poul Kjærholm’s classic mid-century canvas chair and a sculptural solid-wood coffee table by American artist Dan Pollock round out the room.
The simplicity and transparency of the master bath train all eyes toward the outdoors. The freestanding tub, which Liss calls “a piece of sculpture,” is framed by an expanse of glass, which in turn frames the view.
OUTDOOR ENTERTAINING AREA
The outdoor living/dining room is a contemporary loggia with a fireplace and oversize grill. Screens hidden within the columns roll out vertically to fully enclose the space. The homeowners, Liss says, “really live outside, and those screens make it possible.”
A custom Janus et Cie table for 14 along with Holly Hunt’s woven Keel chairs define the dining area. The sofa and poolside chaises came from Paola Lenti, an Italian company specializing in high-style furnishings for outdoor living.