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One Frustrated Hamptons Buyer Opts for an Alternative: Build It Yourself

When Amanda Brezing began looking for a summer house in the Hamptons in 2017, she encountered a common problem.

“Things seemed kind of expensive, and nothing was really what I wanted,” said Ms. Brezing, 36, who works in finance in Manhattan. “So I decided to look at land.”

Hiring an architect to design a house she loved would surely provide better value,she figured. She didn’t have the budget for an oceanfront estate, but she was able to find a roughly half-acre lot planted with trees on a quiet cul-de-sac in Springs, a hamlet in East Hampton, N.Y., backing onto a nature preserve.

For Amanda Brezing, building a house in East Hampton, N.Y., made more sense than buying one. The one Oza Sabbeth Architects designed for her has three volumes connected by a glass corridor.Credit…Eric Striffler for The New York Times

After buying the lot for $337,500 in August 2018, Ms. Brezing began looking for an architect, hoping to find a small, local firm where the principals would be closely involved in the project. “It was really important for me that they share the same vision I did for wanting calming, thoughtful elements in the design, as well as something very modern,” she said.

Ms. Brezing also wanted a home that would support indoor-outdoor living and have enough space to comfortably entertain friends and relatives. “I have a large family with three sisters, and I’ve never really been able to host them in my smaller apartments in New York City,” she said. “So I wanted a space that had these functional areas where we could all gather and create memories together.”

After interviewing several candidates, she hired Oza Sabbeth Architects, a firm with offices in Bridgehampton and Manhattan that had built a few nearby homes she admired. The company offered a turnkey design-build service through its construction arm, Modern Green Home.

When its founders, Nilay Oza and Peter Sabbeth, visited the site, they immediately saw a challenge: Ms. Brezing wanted privacy, but she had neighbors on both sides and across the street.

“The lots are fairly small, and lined up in more of a suburban way,” Mr. Oza said.

“The only place you could look and not see another house was out the back,” Mr. Sabbeth added.

From the living room, sliding-glass doors open to an outdoor dining space with a wood-burning fireplace.Credit…Conor Harrigan

A typical approach for such a lot, Mr. Oza said, would be to build the house near the street, creating a big backyard and installing just a few small windows on the sides. But they knew that wouldn’t achieve what Ms. Brezing wanted. So they decided to split the house into a few distinct components that could be assembled around outdoor spaces at the center.

“We decided to contain the views by creating these interior courtyards,” Mr. Oza said.

The 3,000-square-foot design they conceived has three connected volumes: The first, close to the street, contains three guest rooms. The second, also close to the street, contains the garage. And the third — connected to the first two by a glass-walled corridor that runs past planted courtyards — contains the main living and dining space, the kitchen and the primary suite. From there, a long pergola extends over an outdoor dining area with a fireplace and leads to the pool deck.

Each volume is clad in the Hamptons’ signature cedar shingles, but with an asymmetrical pyramidal roof topped by glass, creating a striking form on the outside and a high ceiling inside. And every part of the house is designed to respond to particular views, “like that outdoor seating area by the fireplace, or a very well-landscaped courtyard,” said Mr. Oza, whose firm collaborated with Geoffrey Nimmer Landscapes on the grounds.

Inside, the architects worked with Henrybuilt on the kitchen, bathroom vanities and closets. In the primary bathroom, they added steel reinforcements inside walls to support a hammock-like carbon-fiber bathtub from Splinterworks that Ms. Brezing found.

In the end, construction costs came to about $800 a square foot; Ms. Brezing took out a construction loan to pay for most of it. Modern Green Home broke ground in the fall of 2019 and completed the house in January 2022 after pandemic-related delays.

The grounds were designed by Geoffrey Nimmer Landscapes.Credit…Conor Harrigan

When it came time to furnish the house, Ms. Brezing interviewed a few interior designers before deciding to slow down.

“Truth be told, furniture is very expensive,” she said. “I wanted to be in the space for a little while to figure out what I wanted, but I also just needed to be mindful of how much money I wanted to spend.”

Rather than buying everything at once, she rented most of the furniture from Meridith Baer Home, and has gradually been replacing some of it with pieces of her own. The rental furniture has allowed her to figure out what works best for her lifestyle. The outdoor lounge chairs, for instance, came with cushions that get dirty and are a pain to clean, she said, “so I will not be getting permanent lounge chairs with cushions.”

As she figures out the furniture, Ms. Brezing has been spending as much time at the house as she can, with her sisters and friends. And the process of working with Oza Sabbeth was exactly what she hoped for.

“The house is really special, and it was really fun to work with them,” she said. “They were willing to take risks, and I was willing to go with them.”

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