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White-Washed Weekend Home Blurs Indoor-Outdoor Divide

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Today, we sit down with Jack Wettling of NYC-based Wettling Architects to chat about the firm's contemporary take on a Shingle-style beach house. Perched on tony Shelter Island, N.Y., the house boasts a crisp palette, reclaimed wood flooring, and a bevy of modern conveniences.

Curbed National: Jack, we read that you earned your architecture degree in Texas. Is that where you're from? How would you say spending time in the south has informed your aesthetic?
Jack Wettling: I was born in Chicago and raised in Texas. I've been in New York for 25 years. The experiences of studying in Texas and working in New York have helped me understand what different design means to different landscapes, with consideration of culture, local aesthetic, and climate. For example, in Texas we may accentuate a structure with large, shade-producing overhangs, while in a New York beach house, we'll be more concerned with the beautiful weathering of shingles. Context is always a meaningful design component.

CN: How did you come across these clients on Shelter Island?
JW: We were referred by another client who was well acquainted with our work. Word of mouth is a great ally.

CN: When you first met with them, what was on their checklist for their home?
JW: Of course, it was important to the clients to make the best use of their unique space. Their property is a pie-shaped lot, with a great stretch of beach, and breathtaking views. Above all, though, they wanted a space that would allow them to have a ton of fun—for the kids and dogs (and grown ups!) to be able to run in and out barefoot from the beach to the house to the pool, without fuss.

CN: Would you say the design of the home fits in easily or contrasts with the surrounding community?
JW: We designed the house to integrate into its natural surroundings. The nature in that part of the sound is so special, with the Preserve across the bay from the house. It was important to us to create something that didn't detract from all that beauty. We used sand-colored stone and shingles that weathered to a soft golden gray, so the whole structure shimmers and almost disappears amongst the sand and trees. In the summer, boating past the house, you might almost miss it.

CN: Talk a little bit about the challenges you faced on the site.
JW: The clients wanted to keep as many mature trees as possible, so we began our design process there. Then, the site is at a very low elevation. The clients wanted the pool, beach, and dock to be readily accessible to the house, but it's required by code that the building must sit at a certain measure above sea level, and that there be a four-foot barrier between sea and home. Our solution was to build the pool adjacent to the house, sea side, with a four-foot drop at the far edge. This afforded us the height, and the barrier, with a very graceful effect—no fence along the beach, no sharp inclines of the lawn.

CN: Interesting palette here—so much neutral and white! What's behind that?
JW: The clients wanted the house to feel sun-washed so that the views and their art collection would stand out.

CN: Name some of your favorite architectural details in the home.
JW: Reclaimed antique chestnut floors; miniature brass bracket lights; two-level bridge that separates the guest wing and office space from the main house; kids' rooms zoned away from the pool house to allow late-night socializing for adults after the kids are asleep; a kitchen that opens up onto the outdoor space, minimizing the sense of separation between indoor and outdoor spaces.

CN: What about favorite nooks and crannies?
JW: The kids' room features a large, open loft fitted with wall-to-wall mattresses for sleepovers; the mud/utility room acts as a great buffer upon entering the house, with tons of cubbies and hooks for riding, biking, boating, sun and rain gear; the main office, located across the connecting bridge, is sound-proofed and equipped with a custom sound-system, for total privacy whether hanging out or conducting late-night international business.

CN: Finally, Jack, if you could have dinner with any three people, living or deceased, who would you choose and why?
JW: Family first. Tom Kundig, architectural hero. B.D. Wong, because he's great.

· Wettling Architects [official site]