Symphony in Wood

In the subtle fashion of a great work of art, this weekend retreat home in the Hamptons fully reveals the complexity of its character only when one takes the time to ponder it.

February 01, 2001
Inside the main foyer, the true artistry of this home is revealed in the magnificent custom-crafted woodwork and finish details, carried out in pleasing combinations of a wide variety of hardwoods. A work of art in its own right, the coffered ceiling is infinitely more complex than it appears. In order to achieve perfect symmetry in the corners of every coffer, each of the panels needed to be calculated to a slightly different size. The same is true for the dentil molding which trims the coffers. "Your eye does not perceive the minute changes in the panel sizes," says Saper, "but you certainly would notice if the corners were unevenly matched."


In the subtle fashion of a great work of art, this weekend retreat home in the Hamptons fully reveals the complexity of its character only when one takes the time to ponder it. Sold last summer for $9.25 million, it is the most expensive spec-built home to date on New York’s eastern Long Island, yet its ambiance is warm and approachable.

Designed by architect Jonathan Felsman, the 12,000-square-foot home features an unpretentious, shingle-style exterior, reminiscent of the work of turn-of-the-century architect Stanford White, famous for his seaside mansions. White’s design for the clubhouse at the notable Southampton golf course, Shinnecock Hills, served as the inspiration here. The understated cedar-shake exterior allows the residence to blend in well with its bucolic setting - 35 acres of open land punctuated by orchards, ponds and wildflowers.

"I wanted the exterior to complement the beauty of the site, not overwhelm it," says Greenwich, Ct.-based developer Jordan Saper. "From the outside, the home is deliberately designed to appear smaller than it is."


The shingle-style exterior of this $9.5 million home features an understated elegance that "pays respect to the history of the design," according to developer Jordan Saper. Without a true front or back, the house opens up in all directions to take in views of its 35-acre site on eastern Long Island. The home’s cedar shake siding is treated with a bleaching oil in order to prevent it from darkening over time. The privet hedge disguises a pool that features its own river rock waterfall.


Inside, the true genius of the craftsmen that labored on it for more than a year is revealed. The interior features well over $1 million dollars worth of woodwork from coffered ceilings to reeded columns. Remarkably, none of it, from the dentil molding that accents the ceilings to the baseboards that run along the floor, was purchased in a store. Rather, every piece was painstakingly hand-milled on site.

"Working with hardwoods is exponentially more difficult than working with paintable paneled woods," says Saper. "It is much more complex and there is no room for error. Make a mistake, and you might as well throw it out. Putty will never cover it." Sixteen different types of woods were used throughout this home including Brazilian cherry, walnut, maple, redwood, White Oak and African bubinga.

"For this project we took what appeared to be a very ragtag group of craftsmen and allowed them to come together to achieve their highest capacity," says Saper. "The woodwork was my passion. When the carpenters saw my willingness to test out their ideas, they really became inspired."


The upstairs hallway demonstrates the complexity of the elements that make up the home’s interior. "Just look at all the things you have going on here at the same time," says Saper. The staircase on this level leads to the loft created by the eyebrow dormer. The balcony columns are actually structural steel support posts surrounded by 2-inch by 2-inch cherry planks with a beveled edge inside and reeded face outside.


"We literally had 13 trimmers working on this house in two shifts," says Harold Fisher of Raywat Homes, Saper’s general contractor for this project.

Saper gives much of the credit for the success of the home to Fisher. "He is an extraordinarily focused individual who is not afraid to try anything when it comes to construction," says Saper, noting that Fisher has an invaluable talent for assessing personalities, as well as finessing the egos of the artisans required for a project of this caliber.

Remarkably, there were no detailed plans for the home’s complex interior architecture. Along with Fisher, Saper’s creative team included Steve and Mike Nechacov of Showcase Interiors, who designed and built all the custom cabinetry and paneling throughout the home.

The 8-bedroom home’s interior floor plan is more open and contemporary than its traditional exterior would suggest.

This combination is a good example, says Saper, of what the market wants today. "People are looking for a much more open experience inside their homes these days."


A honed stone floor brightens the kitchen and defines its boundaries. With both an island and a snack bar, counter space is abundant in this key area. Countertops are made of honed granite, the custom cabinetry is cherry and the ceiling is tongue-in-groove maple.


The main floor includes formal living and dining rooms, a library, family room, four guest rooms and a central kitchen. The master suite and its sitting room share the second floor with three additional bedrooms, all of which feature walk-in closets and private baths.

While the basement is as luxuriously appointed at the rest of the house, featuring the same cherry and maple finishes, this level of the home is purely for R & R, according to Saper. It includes a home theater, wet bar, sauna, arcade, and even a trampoline. The use of structural steel beams minimizes the need for vertical support columns that would otherwise have interfered with the openness of this 5000-square-foot space.

Hard costs for Saper’s "fantasy" house were $350 per square foot, excluding land. It was completed early last year and is located in an exclusive neighborhood in Sagaponack, N.Y. where home prices range from $4 million to over $50 million.

Projects Features

Developer: Jordan Saper, Greenwich, Ct.

General Contractor: Harold Fisher, Raywat Homes Inc., Manorville, N.Y.

Architect: Jonathan Felsman, Bond Street Architecture & Design, New York, N.Y.

Custom Cabinetry: Steve and Mike Nechacov, Showcase Interiors, Kitchener, Ontario.

Major Products Used:

Appliances: Sub Zero, Viking, Bosch

Cabinetry: Custom

Countertops: Granite

Exterior Finish: Cedar Shingle

Fireplace(s): River Rock

Windows: Norwood

Bath Marble: Country Floors of California, New York and Connecticut

Carved Trim: Raymond Enkeboll Designs Architectural Woodcarvings, Carson, Calif.

Oriental Rugs: Woven Legends, Philadelphia, Pa.

Also See

Meant to Be Treasured

Inside Job

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