- The Hamptons
- Los Angeles
- New York
- Orange County
- San Diego
- San Francisco
- Washington, D.C.
Janelle Zara | Photo: Daniel Gonzalez | August 28, 2013
For Hamptons architect Peter Cook, designing a home means creating something that’s as beautiful inside as it is out. “Our clients buy these properties because of the views, so it’s very important to capture them as you move throughout the house,” says Cook, whose Water Mill-based firm has been known for multimillion-dollar residences on multiacre tracts of land since 1987 (though they pay the same meticulous attention to detail to projects of all sizes). On the surface, the gabled roofs and earth-tone exteriors of his shingle-style homes evoke 19th century Americana, but peering into a newly designed abode on Jobs Lane—brimming with spacious, light-filled rooms and strategically placed windows that overlook stunning vistas—it’s clear that his interiors tell a more modern story.
Since its founding years ago, has your firm developed a distinct aesthetic?
We’re not what we’d call a “stylized architectural firm.” Some architects find a niche they’re happiest in, and if you hire them, that’s what you get. But our work is inspired by our clients, and they don’t have that herd mentality—for them, their home isn’t a place to summer, it’s an expression of themselves.
Aside from your clients’ requests, what main factors do you take into consideration with the layout of a home?
Orientation of the sun dictates a lot. Take a swimming pool, for example. You want to sit in the chair and face the sun without having your back to the pool. That decides how you place things on the property. The spaces you move through—the hallways, stairways, rooms—should have light and natural views that allow you to really experience the property. The kitchen is a room for the daytime, the screen porch is for later afternoon—you can track the day in your rooms.
What have been the greatest influences on your practice? You worked for several years under the late architect Eugene L. Futterman.
He understood how his clients lived, and had a real joie de vivre—that’s a strength I have as well. It’s essential to understand your clients’ lifestyle in order to understand what their house needs. Also, I grew up in a town that was rich in 19th century shingle-style architecture, and interned in Colonial Williamsburg. I was even a carpenter myself for a couple of years, so I know how things come together.
Building on beachfront property comes with unique sets of obstacles: environmental zoning restrictions, protecting against flooding. Are there reasons you prefer to build here rather than in the city?
Absolutely. Environmental issues and permitting can take one or two years—there’s a lot of administration in the architecture out here now. But here, you can start with a clean slate, take a piece of property and create all the conditions, the exposures and the use of the land around it. The zoning and the clients’ demands are your parameters. In the city, unless you’re building an entire building, you’re constrained by someone’s preexisting walls and ceilings. We’ve had some true patrons in the art of architecture who’ve hired us over the years and allowed us to be very creative on their behalf.
You’ve said you take great pride in your attention to detail. How does that affect your process?
We’re very intense during construction and detailing, so those things are important for us. You have to do your best work opposite the toilet. That’s where people sit, and if there’s a crack in the wall, or a painting that’s not straight, people sit and focus on it.