Norman Jaffe’s iconic Long Island houses were designed in the 1970s and ’80s, when the island’s East End went from a beach getaway of primarily small, nonwinterized summer bungalows to a posh resort of gigantic, ostentatious mansions. Though Jaffe was displeased with the change, it’s hard not to think his houses unwittingly anticipated or precipitated the shift. Along with Andrew Geller and Horace Gifford, Jaffe made the island a leading location for experimental architecture.
His material palette of weathered wood, taken from the farmhouses of the area, along with his bold, striking forms, created the Hamptons look. The literal flatness of the island and its extraordinary quality of light, bouncing off the surrounding sea, provided the perfect tableaux for a holiday architecture that wanted to stand out and be seen.
By the time Jaffe drowned swimming off of a Hampton beach in 1993, he had designed more than 50 houses on Long Island. While some have been torn down, there are still dozens that dot the region and are beloved and carefully maintained by their owners. In 2014, his Schlachter beach house in Bridgehampton was restored by a respectful owner.
More recently, Jaffe’s own 1986 house has received a careful modernization that shows perfectly how to update and at the same time improve an iconic work of architecture. Nick Martin of Martin Architects, a Hamptons-based architect and builder, found the house for a client and set to work redesigning and restoring it. The original residence was a single structure, but over time, Jaffe added three additional outbuildings surrounding a swimming pool, like so many other farm compounds on Long Island. Martin removed a seldom-used second-floor balcony in the main house, merged the space into a new master bedroom, enlarged the living room by joining it with the original foyer, and added new public and private entry points on a north/south axis with the pool. In order to capture the special light of the Hamptons, he dramatically enlarged the windows facing the swimming pool courtyard.
As in most modernizations of older houses, the kitchen and bathroom received the most upgrades. The house is now the definition of the perfect Hamptons summer home in 2018. Its striking shingled facade, with a large sloping roof and prominent central chimney cleared of an overgrown pergola, now stands out without overwhelming its site, as so many contemporary Hampton houses do today.