How to succeed when your goal is to do as little as possible: Restoring and renovating historic modern American architecture.

On July 30, 2021 in Amagansett, New York, the architects at Worrell Yeung completed a full gut renovation and restoration of a seminal Charles Gwathmey (1938-2009) house—originally called the Haupt Residence—from the 1970s.

We’re big fans of Gwathmey – particularly his early stuff,” says Max Worrell, co-founder of Worrell Yeung.

So we were very excited when we got the call about the house. Especially given that it was in its original condition, totally untouched.” He continues, “Our intention, at first, was really to do as little as possible,” he added.

House in the Dunes is a four-bedroom, raised residence situated across a one-acre site nestled in the dunes with ocean views.

The large rectilinear structure is clad in gray cedar siding and punctuated by voids cut into the building’s facade vis-à-vis doors and windows.

Each room is skillfully carved from the large exterior volume and is filled with natural light.

The house’s interiors have a direct connection between the indoors and the outdoors, extending beyond the polygonal pool to the ocean.

With Gwathmey’s original drawings in hand, which served as a guide, Worrell Yeung carefully implemented upgrades and subtle modifications to create a more functional and useful home to meet the needs of the new owner while maintaining the integrity of the original design.

At every stage of the process we were asking ourselves, ‘What would Gwathmey do?’” says Worrell.

The exterior scope of the renovation included a full replacement of the building envelope including the roof, cedar siding, doors and windows, skylights, and pool deck—all designed and detailed to preserve the essence of the original design.

The interior scope involved a considered rethinking of the kitchen area to create more openness and connection to the adjacent living spaces and outdoor pool deck.

To achieve this, Worrell Yeung removed a half wall that divided the kitchen from the living room space and opened the space in plan. This small move was one of the most significant changes made to the original structure.

The material palette and finishes throughout the house were reinterpreted by the architects to reflect Gwathmey’s original designs.

From the white pine trim to the kitchen counter laminate, (which Worrell Yeung replaced with a similar looking material) the attention to detail is unmatched.

Photography by Naho Kubota.

See Worrell Yeung website.

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