Beach house all year round
The two men who created this Long Island home share an aesthetic that embraces color, comfort and wit: Moises Esquenazi, Bogotá-born and U.S.-trained, is an architectural, interior and furniture designer and a photographer. His partner, Bryan Graybill, is a real estate developer currently studying town planning and sustainability. “Basically Moises was the designer and I was the client,” Graybill says of this, the first house they built for themselves. “We rarely disagreed, although I had to be convinced that the pool should be so far behind the house. Moises didn’t want to look at an ugly pool cover for most of the year. Of course he was right.”
The uniquely bright and graphic street facade is a playful surprise, especially for passersby here at the east end of Long Island, where a recent outbreak of look-alike McMansions has been epidemic. Several times a day Esquenazi and Graybill are amused by the sight of a car driving by, then, seconds later, backing up slowly so its occupants can take a longer look.
If those random admirers entered the living room, they would see the same sure design hand within. As you’d expect, a couple deeply into the building and decorating arts knew how to modify the crisp perfection of their modern rooms with comfort, color and a playfulness that warm their spaces, tweaking the traditions they themselves invoked. The room, with its modern fireplace and unexpected seating nook, is big enough for two Esquenazi sofas in an L configuration and a pair of four-and-a-half-foot-square tables.
How can you socialize with guests around a work island while preparing dinner, yet avoid looking kitchens. Esquenazi and Graybill are a gregarious pair who love to give cocktail, brunch and dinner parties. Both cook, and they occasionally hire a guest chef, who specializes in, say, Thai or Tuscan cuisine, to give a demonstration that provides the event’s entertainment as well as the meal.
Their L-shaped indoor social space consists of three flowing areas. The living room merges at the rear into what the owners call the “display” kitchen, and, adjoining it, a formal dining corner accommodates a table for eight. The opposite corner contains the prep kitchen, the larger of the two cooking areas, which features an all-important pocket door. Here, used plates and platters can pile up until the company goes home and the occasional caterer can work in private without imposing any culinary crises on visitors. Both kitchens are fully equipped with Wolf ranges, Sub-Zero refrigerators and Bosch dishwashers. The prep kitchen’s stretch of wire shelves for pantry supplies and cooking gear hides behind sliding, red-framed blackboards (not slate—that would have been too heavy—but Benjamin Moore’s chalkboard roll-on paint). This inside room gets daylight and a glimpse of scenery thanks to an interior window that lines up with an exterior window. It also offers kitchen occupants a geometric treat: an unusual view of the profile of the stairway in the house’s entry. The long, straight flight to the second floor is made of white oak, supported by square tube steel. The rope handrail is a nautical note.
Esquenazi designed the high-reaching second story of the red-clad tower as a perch for savoring the distant water views (the cladding, by the way, is superinsulating fiber cement paneling). “It’s a thrill,” he says, “to watch the parade of sailboats going off to race.” But, he adds, “I also planned for the near view of part of the exterior—something I always try for.” The library/sitting room belongs to the master suite—a private space in which the owners can take a breather now and then from the clamor of frequent guests—and it is central to the building’s natural cooling system. As described by Michael Mensch, who was Esquenazi’s local architectural and construction collaborator, “When open, the clerestory windows provide stack-effect ventilation, pulling up fresh air from below.” The owners rarely use air-conditioning.
The primary color scheme continues here with solid red or blue upholstered pieces, like Esquenazi’s Odyssey Lounger and a matching deco-era chair. Yellow accessories include the vintage hanging lights. Above the door is an enormous Chinese poster, another example of Esquenazi’s uninhibited and personal sense of whimsy. The sculptural and decorative spiral stair leads to a balcony, where yoga mats, weights and other exercise gear are used. Adjoining the master bedroom in the gabled wing, a waterside porch is a symmetrical stretch with a wide daybed at either end, about which Graybill comments, “Lounging has always been a goal in the rooms we come up with.”
“Ideally, a bedroom has a sitting area as well as one for sleeping, but whatever the configuration, the design needs to focus on serenity, seclusion and comfort,” says Esquenazi of his rooms for clients as well as his own master bedroom on Long Island. Here visual excitement is kept to a minimum with wall-to-wall drapery in a geometric fabric behind the headboard, a pale antique area rug and, as the only textural flamboyance, a bed skirt of feathers installed on a Velcro tape. Otherwise, the textures are soft, for acoustical as well as physical comfort; the duvet is by Anichini.
Esquenazi likes beds to be low; he feels it is part of the comfort quotient that they stand around 18 inches off the floor, at chair height. (This one is a bit higher, to line up with the bedside tables.) For the seating area at the foot of the bed, he grouped a vintage bench and two linen-upholstered Louis XV chairs.
Since the 1980s, placing a major bathtub right in the bedroom has become a high-style design statement. Esquenazi and Graybill like the idea but prefer that such a juxtaposition be a voluntary sometime thing, so their bathroom adjoins the bedroom but can be separated by a pocket partition made of translucent glass. Whether open or closed, this panel admits northern light. Unlike a bedroom, a bathroom can be as playful as you please, according to Esquenazi, who went with a marine theme in a pair of life-preserver mirrors over twin basins. The mirrors make an intriguing sight from outside as well. The white oak counter is topped with Carrara marble, which matches that in the kitchen, and on it the designer indulged his fancy for hat stands.
Key to the Style
• State-of-the-art modern construction includes energy-efficient materials as well as meticulous detailing.
• Commercial glazing maximizes indoor/outdoor living while providing energy efficiency.
• The palette is based on primary colors and is faithfully but not slavishly adhered to throughout the home for visual cohesion among the spaces.
• Varied furnishings intrigue the eye, cushion the body and visually soften the clean, crisp architecture.
• Furniture groups are thoughtfully conceived: There is always a place to put your drink, your book, your feet.
• Whimsical accents abound, such as a trio of wall-mounted vintage hat mannequins in the foyer and a bed skirt made of feathers.