While many Modern architects focused on geometric shapes and faceless panes of glass, Long Island-based architect Norman Jaffe strove for a more romantic ideal of architecture and personal space, says curator and critic Alastair Gordon.
Gordon, who penned the 1993 book “Romantic Modernist: The Life and Work of Norman Jaffe," says the late architect “believed that a good architect could transform a person’s life with the right proportion, natural light and natural textures.”
Inside and out
Working closely with Jaffe in the late 1970s to build her East Hampton home near Accabonac Bay, Marilyn Hillman recalls the architect being open to his clients’ ideas.
“We told him that we wanted a house where we can be in contact with all the spaces, at least on the first floor,” says Hillman. “In the '70s, that was kind of a novel concept, but he sparked to it.”
Hillman and her late husband planned to sometimes arrive at night and bypass the downstairs altogether, she recalls telling him.
“So, there’s a fireplace in the bedroom. There's everything you could possibly need up there, plus a spectacular view of Accabonac Creek and Gardiners Bay,” Hillman says. “It really works beautifully, and we couldn't have been more thrilled.”
Jaffe never wanted his homes to be an imposition on the land, Hillman says.“He was a genius at siting,” she says. “We have 4.58 acres and instead of positioning the house in the middle of the property looking straight ahead, he went to the edge of our property line and put the house on angle. And, in that way he didn't cut off either side of the view. He encompassed the whole deal, which we always thought was totally brilliant.”
Another hallmark of Jaffe’s design was his fixation with light, Hillman says.
“This is a house where the outside comes in," she says. "There's a lot of fixed glass. You can see from everywhere. It’s like living outside, only you’re inside and protected.”
Further protection came from the copious soffits along the rooflines.
“He used soffits everywhere, so if it's raining, because the soffits are deep, the rain doesn’t come in,” Hillman says.
Design was a key appeal to Adam Katz, who bought the Kings Point Jaffe home in 1995 that he’s now selling.
“The unique style and design of the home and how it is set on the site were important,” says Katz.
The couple selling a Jaffe home now on the market in Old Westbury had moved from another Jaffe home, says listing agent Sandy Binder of Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. “The furniture from the first house fit perfectly into this house,” she says.
They love the spaciousness, the open spaces,” Binder says. “They’re drawn to contemporary design as opposed to traditional, and the design of the windows and how they bring in so much light.”
An artist’s legacy
Before his death in 1993 at the age of 61 from drowning in the ocean near his Bridgehampton home, Jaffe designed about 60 residences on Long Island as well as commercial buildings and Gates of the Grove Jewish Center in East Hampton.
Many of the architect’s homes have been torn down or drastically altered, says his son Miles Jaffe, 60, a Bridgehampton artist and furniture designer.
Miles Jaffe says the homes his father designed were built at a time when the Hamptons were more of an escape — when people were looking for smaller weekend homes, not the oversized ones that many seem to favor now. His father didn't believe in such big houses and thought that larger spaces should be reserved instead for public use, he says.
“Truth and beauty is what he called it,” says Miles Jaffe of his father’s design ethos. “It was about being real in every sense. He never made money through architecture, because he never stopped. Nothing was ever good enough. In that sense, he was an artist. He was constantly exploring the boundaries of his craft.”
At least four Jaffe-designed homes are now on the market on Long Island.
ASKING PRICE $4.495 million
PROPERTY SIZE 2.02 acres
HOUSE SIZE 6,835 square feet
ANNUAL TAXES $81,748
FEATURES This 1977 stone, redwood and slate home, with six bedrooms and 7.5 bathrooms, includes a split-level great room and home theater. A saltwater pool and entertainment area are part of the terraced landscape.
THE JAFFE TOUCH A unique, stunning, multiple-leveled roofline; walls of glass; curved interior wall
LISTING AGENT Sandy Binder, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty, 516-626-7600
ASKING PRICE $2.995 million
PROPERTY SIZE 1.25 acres
HOUSE SIZE 3,500 square feet
FEATURES Built in 1976, this six-bedroom, 5.5-bath house has an open floor plan, outdoor decks from each room, a finished basement, sauna, manicured lawns and an in-ground swimming pool.
THE JAFFE TOUCH Use of natural wood; sited to give sweeping views of water; wood-beamed ceilings; unusual roof
LISTING AGENT Soheila Sharf, Soheila Sharf Realty, 516-773-6677
ASKING PRICE $5 million
PROPERTY SIZE 4.58 acres
HOUSE SIZE 3,500 square feet
FEATURES The 1980 home was positioned to take advantage of views of Accabonac Harbor and Gardiners Island. A waterside pool and hot tub also takes in panoramic views.
THE JAFFE TOUCH Angles, angles and more angles; walls of glass; blending of Tennessee stone, Kentucky bluestone and rough-sawn pine
LISTING AGENT Susan Ryan, The Corcoran Group, 631-324-3900
ASKING PRICE $849,000
PROPERTY SIZE 1.21 acres
HOUSE SIZE 2,000 square feet
FEATURES Built in 1971, this four-bedroom, three-bathroom Modernist home boasts views of Long Island Sound and access to the beach. Both the exterior and interior are cedar. The house, which is surrounded by evergreen trees, comes with a greenhouse, potting shed and vegetable garden.
THE JAFFE TOUCH Three decks and large windows offer a seamless transition between interior space and outside world.
LISTING AGENT Jamie Marcantonio, Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage, 631-754-4800