Growing up in her Setauket home, Sue Rourke didn’t think much about its style until years later, when visiting a friend who was restoring a northern California home designed by Joseph Eichler, an architect who developed distinctive midcentury modern homes there.
Rourke, 58, an investment manager, was immediately struck by the similarities between the two homes, despite being on different coasts: their airy, open floor plans, their flat-paneled cabinetry, their abundance of built-ins.
“My folks met in California after World War II, and I can’t help but think they were influenced by that style of architecture . . . the redwood trim . . . ranch style . . . deep eaves and the panoramic walls of glass in the family and living rooms,” says Rourke.
On Long Island, there are many examples of midcentury modern homes, which were built mostly between 1933 and 1965, particularly on the North Shore and the Hamptons, notes Eduardo LaCroze, a Locust Valley architect.
These houses “were new homes for modern families and embodied ideals of contemporary suburban life,” says Erik Neil, former director of the Hecksher Museum in Huntington. “The architecture favored clean lines, lots of glass and an open attitude toward nature,” says Neil, who curated the 2010 exhibit Arcadia/Suburbia Architectures on Long Island 1930-2010.
What makes midcentury modern homes attractive today is the open plan, says LaCroze. “They were fairly sustainable in the sense that the good ones were very mindful of passive tenets of heating and ventilating,” he says. “So it makes them very up to date.”
About a dozen years ago, LaCroze renovated a 1953 Marcel Breuer home in Lloyd Harbor that was designed with big windows and energy-efficient exposures.
“The fact that they were well designed made them very easily adaptable to today’s requirements,” he says.
Here are a few midcentury modern homes for sale on Long Island.
Shelter Island, $4.95 million
PROPERTY TAXES $20,822
PROPERTY SIZE 1 acre
FEATURES Four bedrooms, 3 1⁄2 bathrooms, 3,500 square feet
LISTING AGENT Penelope Moore, Saunders and Associates, 631-749-5801
Hugging a corner of Ram Island’s Reel Point, this 1965 Shelter Island home offers 180-degree views of Gardiner’s Bay, acres of preserves and secluded harbor, with 170 feet of new bulkhead on its waterfront.
There are vaulted ceilings, walls of windows, a double-sided fieldstone fireplace, a Japanese slatted wall separating the entertainment area from library and a wraparound outdoor entertainment area. “You can’t decide if it’s Asian, Californian or a beach house,” says Penelope Moore, listing agent for the Shelter Island home.
Belle Terre, $695,000
PROPERTY TAXES $13,025
PROPERTY SIZE 1.13 acres
FEATURES Three bedrooms, two full bathrooms, two half-bathrooms, 2,550 square feet
LISTING AGENT Amanda Eckart, Keller Williams Realty, 516-873-7100
Built in 1968, this Belle Terre house has high ceilings, white oak wood floors and an atrium spa room with an in-ground hot tub leading to a redwood deck. Owner Deniz Erezyilmaz says she loves how the house sprawls around the wooded lot. “Each of the main rooms has a unique view to the outdoors, yet through smart architecture, the house is extremely private,” she says.
One unusual feature of the Belle Terre house is its cedar-walled ship-themed basement, complete with antique equipment from ships, brass port windows and flashing green and red starboard and port side lights that frame the bar.
PROPERTY TAXES $10,462
PROPERTY SIZE Just over an acre
FEATURES Three bedrooms, 2 1⁄2 bathrooms, 3,320 square feet
LISTING AGENT Anthony Frabizio, Rice Realty Group, 631-624-1200
This 1964 Bellport home features a sunroom overlooking a gunite pool, two gazebos and a floor-to-ceiling fireplace. The house is on a cul-de-sac and backs a nature preserve.
The circular kitchen aligns with a curved outside wall and is just one of many interesting shapes and angles of the Bellport home, notes listing agent Anthony Frabizio.
PROPERTY TAXES $15,787
PROPERTY SIZE 0.25 acre
FEATURES Three bedrooms, three bathrooms, 2,100 square feet
LISTING AGENT Lori Schoen, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, 516-922-9155
Perched on a hill, this Centerport home gives you the feeling of being in a treehouse, says listing agent Lori Schoen.
Built in 1960, the Centerport house has the original stone fireplace, plus high ceilings, hardwood floors, two decks and a patio. Some of the retro-hip midcentury furnishings are also for sale.
Setauket, $1.2 million
PROPERTY TAXES $28,079
PROPERTY SIZE 2 acres
FEATURES Four bedroom, three baths, 2,063 square feet
LISTING AGENT Ann Strong, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, 631-689-6980
This 1958 Setauket home contains walls of glass that offer a view from Conscience Bay to Strong’s Neck. An oversized deck overlooks a lawn, with tennis court, dock and bulkhead
“The light as it changes seasonally and throughout the day is very much a part of the home’s decor as anything else,” says owner Sue Rourke, who grew up in the house.
Rourke and her siblings, she recalls, “went swimming and sailing, and also took full advantage of the bay at low tide — clamming and poking around in the estuary to see what wildlife it had to offer.”
PROPERTY TAXES $13,580
PROPERTY SIZE 60 by 100 feet
FEATURES Four bedroom, two baths, 1,269 square feet
LISTING AGENT James Stramezzi, Exit Family Realty, 631-450-4777
Lauren Brohman recalls games of croquet and monthly gatherings with her extended family in the great backyard of her Levittown home. “We were the family that lived in the suburbs. All the relatives came from the city to visit,” she says.
The 1948 Levittown house looks pretty much like it did when Brohman remembers it as a kid. There’s the original stainless steel sink in the kitchen and the half-dormer her parents built to add an upstairs bathroom and a dining room off the kitchen.
The attic, she says, was converted to a bedroom, and has drawers built into the wall, which she and her three siblings thought were pretty cool.