Designers achieved timeline, cost, and structural advantages using offsite construction for the North Fork Residence.
Located about 80 miles east of Manhattan, three structures atop a sand dune form a residential compound on the western edge of Long Island’s Little Hog Neck peninsula. Casual and approachable, the North Fork Residence—designed by San Antonio–based Lake|Flato—leverages wood as a comfortable “old” material befitting a seasonal getaway. But beneath its rustic veneer is a technologically advanced structure and finish using innovative materials and prefab construction techniques. Long Island’s North Fork is more agrarian than the better-known Hamptons communities on the nearby South Fork. “It has more farms and vineyards,” designer Kelly Weckman says. In fact, the utilitarian wood barns that have served these areas for centuries provided inspiration for the home’s design. “There’s a tradition of wood construction, wood barns,” Partner and Founder Ted Flato says. “They’re ubiquitous and handsome in the landscape.”
The clients are a Brooklyn-based couple and their small child. They suggested the notion of a camp, and the designers created the informal collection of buildings in this spirit. Two new structures were added to an existing carriage house on site, which itself was renovated as a three-bedroom guest house.
In its final form, the complex is composed of a linear main living barn, a utility barn and studio, and the small guest barn, all clad in dark-stained—nearly black—cedar. The main living barn building appears to be a long skinny one-story volume, with living, dining, and kitchen spaces at one end and bedrooms at the other. But the bedroom end is actually two stories, with two bedrooms downstairs and a third bedroom on the main level. The primary bedroom is on the lower level and has sweeping views of the ravine and out to the bay.
“We’re very interested in new technologies to do things better and simpler,” Flato says. One of these is prefabrication. “We thought if we built in a prefabricated manner offsite, we could get started before the permits were available,” he says. Not only would this save time, but construction by Bensonwood in New Hampshire, where the structures were manufactured, is less expensive than on Long Island. The prefabricated pieces included the structural frame of columns and beams, as well as infill panels that arrived on site with plywood on both interior and exterior sides.
“[It] allowed us to do things that aren’t traditional to barns,” Flato says, noting that “barns are often more opaque than open.” But the designers wanted to create a structure that could change with the seasons. “The main living barn wanted to be a tight buttoned-up cabin in the winter and an open pavilion in the summer,” he says. To accommodate this approach, “we used CLT roof panels that allowed us to not have a ridge beam,” Weckman says. The prefabricated frame allowed for floor-to-ceiling windows and doors—which could be ordered ahead of the structures’ arrival thanks to the tight tolerances of the offsite construction—which create an interior that can change with the seasons, as desired.
Wood dominates throughout, with species selection based on what works for each application. The structure is Douglas fir. “Cedar weathers well, so that’s what we used on the outside,” Flato says. And inside, as a counterpoint to the dark-stained exterior, whitewashed pine surfaces reflect the light. “We wanted this informal cabin quality, so we used pine because we liked that simplicity and informality,” he says. In the same spirit, a reclaimed heart pine was used for the floors.
“The darker exterior was a response to wanting to reduce the building to shadow and just let it sit in that forested landscape,” Weckman says. “Then the interior wants to feel brighter because it’s bringing in light and bouncing light in all the spaces inside.” The millwork is a darker stained wood that contrasts with the light whitewashed pine. “It reinforces the idea that the shell is one whole thing and then there are parts and pieces within it,” Weckman says.
The prefabricated approach made that goal easier to achieve, helping to create a well-crafted structure on a timeline better suited to the client’s needs.