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Architects of mod: 4 signature LI houses by Bates Masi + Architects

In the decades after World War II, the Hamptons became a virtual laboratory for all manner of residential design, including the stark geometrics of Charles Gwathmey, the masterful stone houses of Norman Jaffe, the whimsical beach “shacks” of Andrew Geller — and the modern buildings of Harry Bates. “I wouldn’t know how to design anything else,” says Bates, now 89.

In 1996, on the brink of retirement, Bates hired a young assistant, Paul Masi, for a summer job. Despite the four-decade generation gap, the ideologies of the two modernists clicked. A partnership was discussed, and in 2000, after Masi earned his master of architecture degree at Harvard University, Bates Masi + Architects was launched. “Harry had a rich midcentury modernist background,” says Masi, 45, who saw the partnership as an opportunity to join a small but successful practice where he would have the freedom to explore original ideas and methods. For Bates, the partnership was “a new beginning, like a light going on,” he says.

Their firm is the subject of a recent book: “Bespoke Home: Bates Masi + Architects” (ORO Editions, $50), a retrospective detailing the architects’ trendsetting designs. Their luxury residences have touched all areas of the East End and spilled over into Nassau County — and way beyond. 

Here are four homes on Long Island featured in the 288-page book.

The team

Paul Masi and Harry Bates Courtesy of Bates
Photo Credit: Bates Masi + Architects

Paul Masi and Harry Bates. The book about their work, "Bespoke Home: Bates Masi + Architects," contains dozens of photos, floor plans and biographies that showcase East Hampton-based Bates Masi + Architects’ body of work. 

FIRE ISLAND: ‘The Treehouse,’  built 1967

Harry Bates designed this Fire Island home known
Photo Credit: Bates Masi + Architects

This is Bates’ first project as a young architect — a two-story vacation house, on a 0.15-acre lot, for an interior designer. Inspired by its setting in a dense grove of pine and holly trees, the late designer had named his 1,440-square-foot retreat “The Treehouse.” The second-floor deck peeks over a leafy canopy and provides a panoramic view of the Great South Bay with its busy water traffic of sailboats and motorcraft. Bates’ contemporary design called for sturdy, maintenance-free materials to protect the structure from the island’s often harsh weather conditions. All interior and exterior walls — and even cabinets — are clad in rough-cut cypress, with floors of bleached oak. Windows and doors have aluminum frames. An enclosed deck leading to a glass-enclosed entry and dramatically exposed beamwork add design elements to the rustic ambience.

MATINECOCK: ‘Underhill,’ built 2015

Harry Bates and Paul Masi designed this Matinecock
Photo Credit: Bates Masi + Architects/Michael Moran Photography Inc.

Inspired by the history of their 3-acre property as the site of an early Quaker settlement, the owners asked Bates and Masi to design their new residence with a respect for nature as well as the Quaker ideal of simplicity. The solution: four structures connected with short, weathertight corridors to create a complex covering 6,300 square feet. Each structure is targeted for a specific household activity, such as gathering, dining or sleeping, and each is angled to frame views from its own garden courtyard. Oversized cedar shingles and interior finishes unify the complex in honor of traditional Quaker construction techniques.

EAST HAMPTON: ‘Pierson's Way,' built 2013

Harry Bates and Paul Masi designed this East
Photo Credit: Bates Masi + Architects

To mask the scale and modern design of this 7,400-square-foot residence in a neighborhood of modest and conservative homes, the streetside facade was partially sunk into an artificial berm. That placed the upper floor on a level with the top of the berm. This created a way to isolate the public spaces on the lower floor, used often for entertaining, from the private family quarters on the upper floor by providing direct access from the upper floor to the outdoors. Landscaped with native plants and pathways, the 1.7-acre property shelters a scattering of small garden retreats that overlook the ocean. The house was built with 7-inch-thick laminated wood panels supported by steel girders, with the infrastructure left exposed on the lower floor’s ceiling. The panels were used as design elements both inside and outside and even for creating cabinets and other custom furnishings.

AMAGANSETT: ‘Elizabeth II,’ built 2014

Harry Bates and Paul Masi designed this Amagansett
Photo Credit: Bates Masi + Architects / Michael Moran Photography

Masi designed this house for his wife, naming it after her. The half-acre property is in the heart of busy — and noisy — Amagansett. But Masi used an ingeniously crafted series of 20-inch-thick insulated concrete walls that are not only engineered to deflect sound waves but also provide thermal insulation for the 3,200-square-foot home. Sheathing of wide cedar boards, attached to exterior surfaces with stainless steel clips, adds a warm, natural-looking finish. Noise is also controlled in parts of the living spaces with felt-lined walls that are overlaid with cedar panels.

'Bespoke Home'

“Bespoke Home: Bates Masi Architects” (ORO Editions, $50)
Photo Credit: ORO Editions

In the introduction to the 288-page book (ORO Editions, $50), architecture critic Paul Goldberger writes, “Harry Bates and Paul Masi are producing some of the most compelling modernist residential architecture in the Northeast.” 

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