Annette Choolfaian House

East Hampton, New York
1986
Nagel + Lesser Architects

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Completed in 1988, the Choolfaian House is a small weekend house located in East Hampton, New York.

Set in a wooded clearing, the central feature of the house is a large, curving proscenium wall intended to make an otherwise modest house very grand. Scaled up to the motor court, the wall is high next to a standing figure, as well as solid, planar and little-penetrated. The main entry, reached by an unnecessarily ramped but nevertheless monumental stair, punctures the wall on the central axis, as does a single "picture" window along the stair ascent.

Rising above the wall, the only large space in the program – the living-dining room - thrusts a clerestoried roof plane, suggesting both its glassy openness and its arboreal theme. Once inside, it is a double-columned hall with a man-made canopy, likened to the magnificent stand of tall pines that the living space looks upon just beyond the house.

Along one side of the hall, the main circulation forms a spine along which the rest of the program is linearly arrayed in flanking pavilions. To the East, the "unfinished" growth end of the house has first the kitchen with its protruding breakfast bubble, then the guest rooms and service entry, all leading to the pool. To the West, the master bedroom suite, introduced by a library den, is the fixed end, visually and spatially anchored by the inflected sloping roof of the main bedroom area.

The pool deck, with its gazebo and gardens, forms the uppermost level in a succession of terraces that are one natural result of placing the entry axis of this linear house perpendicular to the rise of its gently sloping site. The house and its immediate decks are the level intermediate to the motor court, below which a future tennis enclosure is planned, to be entered of course at its middle on the central axis.

Intended for an individual and her occasional guests, and thus a very simple program made very much of for the sake of its owner, this house would have had a landscape developed after Vignola if the budget permitted.

Besides a greeting balcony on the east front, more ceremonial space is squeezed between the curving wall and the spine and the hall. Though wide and a bit long the wrong way, the entrance foyer is marbled, as is the powder room, to be palatial. At the entrance porch, the rail inflects into a sculpted balustrade, while the foyer ceiling spills into the hall with a cloud-like painted soffit overhead. And beyond the powder room to the West, the web-like extension of the roof is penetrated by an oculus too big to water the little sculpture garden below but just big enough for its Pantheon pretension.