After owning a charming Saltbox home in the woods of Wainscott, a hamlet in the town of East Hampton, NY, for 25 years, Joe Tringali was ready for a change – a dramatic one.
“He wanted to live in a glass case,” says his architect Reid Balthaser.
Mr. Tringali, now 66, bought the three-bedroom, two-bathroom salt box for $ 620,000 in 1992 and used it primarily on weekends and summer. But when he retired from his legal practice six years ago (now teaching at New York University and the University of Miami), he spent more time there. And small things that he once vaguely irritated became big annoyances.
Recognition…Eric Striffler for the New York Times
For example, his loft-style bedroom was on the second floor and had no door so he could hear everything going on downstairs. And the living room faced south but didn’t get a lot of light, so he rarely used it.
His tastes had also changed over time. The decor used to have a “strong Santa Fe influence overlaid with folk art,” said Robert Kaner, his friend and interior designer. It looked out of date now, Mr. Tringali decided, and needed a clean, modern aesthetic.
Mr. Balthaser offered him three options: sell the house and build a new one elsewhere. Demolish it and build a new one on the same lot. Or do what Mr. Balthaser called a “curated intervention” – a fancy way of suggesting colon cleansing.
Mr. Tringali took the third option and began a two-year process to transform the salt box into the modernist home of his dreams (while adding another bedroom and bathroom).
Mr.Balthaser’s strategy was to keep the shape of the original house while expanding it to create more space and light, using special materials to distinguish old from new.
“Everything that was new in the existing floor space” – including the extended living room, the larger guest bathrooms, the new guest suite and the terrace in front of the master bedroom – “we clad ourselves with thin cedar wood,” he said. “Everything that was there, we reworked in stucco.”
In the entrance area, vertical slats made of cedar wood form a dramatic canvas that rises up along the stairs instead of a solid wall – an element that Mr. Tringali calls “a work of art in itself”.
Bringing the cedar into the house was “a brave thing for a colonial salt box,” said Balthaser, but “it breaks the boundaries between inside and outside and helps make it feel contemporary and fresh.”
At the top of the stairs is Mr. Tringali’s new bedroom suite with a remodeled bathroom and, yes, a proper door.
Early in the process, Mr. Tringali introduced Mr. Balthaser to Mr. Kaner, a former attorney who was a partner in Mr. Tringali’s law firm and who had designed his home in Miami a decade earlier. Together they refined some finishes, and then Mr Kaner used the neutral palette of architectural elements to ground the interior design by creating each room around variations of a single color: blue in the living room, red in the den and green in the master bedroom.
Mr. Tringali, according to his interior designer, is a fan of colors that are “beautiful and sophisticated, but edgy – they are not in the Crayola box”.
Mr. Kaner has “a lot of creative freedom” when choosing the furnishings, he said, a task that he took on with the aim of creating a house that “isn’t only there for the summer – I think it’s a great address presented “in every season.”
Anyone who saw the house before the 1.5 million dollar renovation will hardly recognize it anymore. The floor plan is similar, but almost everything else is new, including most of the furniture and accessories. Even the pool was reconfigured.
One thing that survived: the non-working windmill in the back yard that came with the house when Mr. Tringali bought it.
Much discussed during the renovation, it is currently used as a warehouse. But Mr. Balthaser hopes that Mr. Tringali will eventually allow him to stage another curated intervention.
“I want to blow this up and turn it into a cabana room,” he said. “It would be the coolest bar.”
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