More than 10 acres of rolling meadows bordered by mature trees and lush vegetation surround this Long Island, N.Y., house, but they were physically and visually ignored. “There was no relationship to the outdoors in this house on a beautiful site with nice views and lots of outdoor space,” explains architect Audrey Matlock. So she devised a plan to link the house to its environment without tearing it down and starting over. “We took living spaces and made entire walls into operable doors, and next to those we created outdoor spaces that are usable.”
A 700-square-foot pavilion is the focus of these new outdoor spaces. The airy destination draws people out of the house into a protected yet open-air room that accommodates all manner of activities. “Its purpose was to provide space for dining or entertaining, while engaging the house visually and experientially with the landscape,” Matlock says.
A kitchenette anchors the end wall adjacent to the house. Rugged mahogany doors suspended on sliding hardware neatly enclose the compact culinary center, which contains a refrigerator, sink, and storage. At the far end of the pavilion, a built-in grill takes its place next to the capacious fireplace. The 4-foot-wide firebox sits level with a custom mahogany and steel dining table for warmth and fire watching. But if the heat gets too intense, the table can be simply wheeled away.
Overhead, painted white ceiling trusses supported by black steel beams express the new trim and hardware Matlock used to spice up the home's plain vanilla exterior. Discreet audio speakers and low-voltage uplights sitting on the beams are at the ready to set the mood for evening entertaining.
“The pavilion also mediates between house and pool, which was sitting away on its own island,” Matlock explains. The pool was enhanced with the addition of a spa that spills warm water into the unheated pool to extend the swimming season. A generous lawn between pool and house was re-graded so that it segues directly into terraces on the same plane as interior floors.
A perennial garden frames the view from the house looking across the pool, while tall yew hedges define the landscaped lawns and exterior destinations. “The hedge is key,” says Matlock, “because buried in those hedges are deer fences that you can't really see but that protect the gardens.” A long section of black steel fence rolls out of hiding from behind the hedges to enclose pavilion, pool, and perennials. Within that section there is an operable gate that gives easy access even when the rollaway fence is closed. Matlock notes that the height and density of the yew not only conceals the fence, but also prevents the deer from seeing what they can't have. Like most creatures, if they can't see it they won't want to get to it, reasons the architect. “On other parts of the property deer can roam, but we wanted one spot where we could have a more developed landscape with plants that you can't normally grow with deer in the area.”
The reinvention of this formerly inward-looking house is all about interconnecting architecture and landscape. To that end, individual pavers spaced symmetrically within the grass tie all of these outdoor areas together. All along both sides of the pavilion, homeowners or guests can step down at any spot and follow a flagstone path to the pool or indoor rooms adjacent to the lawn. That physical link helps make outdoor spaces approachable and comfortable for people passing through or stopping to linger.
Project Credits: Builder: KP Dutcher, Watermill, N.Y.; Architect: Audrey Matlock Architect, New York City; Landscape architect: Site Design Resources, New York City; Metal fabricator: Vortex, Brooklyn, N.Y.; Mason: Sam Piro, Wainscott, N.Y.; Cabinetmaker: Grosso Woodworkers, Hicksville, N.Y.; Photographer: Mick Hale; Illustrator: Harry Whitver.