Modular by the Sea
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 4/1/2005 12:00:00 AM
Modernist architect Bertrand Goldberg is perhaps best known for his $36 million living center, Marina City, which he built along the Chicago River in 1959. Some 10 years earlier, he was spending time near another body of water, the West Neck Harbor in Shelter Island, New York, constructing a modular beach house, which is now the vacation property of an artist and her young son.
The original structure for the first owner consisted of mainly 1930's railroad cars, whose exterior Goldberg clad in mahogany planks. At one point, that same owner simply lifted the modules—which sat directly on the beach without any foundations—and arranged them for a change in layout. In the 1980's, new owners renovated the house and changed the exterior to cedar shingles.
The current inhabitant hired David Schefer Design to bring order to the chaotic interiors. Renovations began with the removal of the cedar shingles and the asbestos-contaminated roof. With that, original elements began falling like a house of cards. Eventually, only Goldberg's massive granite walls and fireplace remained standing.
Staying roughly within the original footprint, Schefer—whose warm modern aesthetic infuses New York restaurants Fred's at Barneys and Elmo—and his wife, interior designer Eve-Lynn Schefer, rebuilt the 7,500-square-foot residence in the spirit of Goldberg's original, from its signature modernism to the exterior mahogany planks. In the public areas, for example, the floor is the same type of slate tile used by Goldberg. The living room retains its largesse, its scale similar to that of a boutique hotel's lobby.
However, Schefer did make his own personal contributions. Near the archway to the private wing, he created a dazzling new powder room. Not even 4 feet wide, it packs in unexpected glamour. Tiny 1/2-inch-square travertine-mosaic tiles in deep reds, browns, and creams clad the rear wall, reflecting endlessly in the floor-to-ceiling mirrors covering the sidewalls. The boxy vanity, veneered in warm rosewood, has a polished pounded-nickel basin set into its red travertine countertop. Illumination comes from an early 1970's brass mirrored sconce, chosen by Jonathan Adler, who collaborated with Schefer on the project.
In the private wing containing the residence's three bedrooms and two bathrooms, Schefer lowered the ceilings from 11 to 81/2 feet and covered the floors in carbonized bamboo. "It's warm and casual, appropriate for a beach house," he says.
In the master bath, the designer limited the materials palette to maintain the relaxed simplicity. The bathtub is surrounded in smooth quartzite, chosen for its watery blue-green color and wavelike veins. The walls of the shower, enclosed by three panels of clear glass, are clad in handmade white ceramic subway tiles. Strips of carbonized bamboo run along the floor and wainscot. For a touch of opulence, Adler contributed an Italian glass chandelier.
Adler also commissioned Jean-Paul Philippé to paint an ocean-themed mural on the walls and ceiling of the son's bathroom, where Schefer repeated the shower subway tiles and bamboo floor and wainscot. He specified the room's generously proportioned wall-mounted porcelain lavatory and its polished-chrome fittings by Dieter Sieger. "He's a little boy with a giant sink," jokes Eve-Lynn Schefer.
Outside, Schefer surrounded the pool with a bluestone terrace and put down flagstone walkways. Along the south elevation, he added an outdoor shower, a must in any beach house.