Fire Island is only 60 miles outside of Manhattan, but for Mitch Willey, the owner of a handsome contemporary home on the island's eastern shore, it might as well be another universe. "I'm constantly amazed that one of the busiest cities on Earth is so close by," he says.
When he found a house for sale on the island's highest elevation with 270-degree views of the ocean and Great South Bay, he grabbed the opportunity to remodel it in deference to the untouched setting. Enlisting architect Andrew Kotchen's help, he flipped living areas from the first floor to the second, where the views go for miles. Here, the pair reveals secrets for creating a house with a seamless connection to its surroundings.
The varying wood textures on the lower deck mimic the color and feel of driftwood. Laying the cedar planks in different directions (horizontal for the flooring and vertical for the outdoor shower) helps break up the vast area.
Willey hung vintage fishing rods, which he originally found beneath the house, above a cozy daybed in a small first-floor room as a reference to both the home's location and some of his guests' favorite pastime. It's a tiny detail that reels them in every time.
A spiral staircase on the back patio is as lovely as it is functional. When it's not being used to access an upper deck that offers an expanded rooftop panorama of the beach below, it serves as a sculptural addition to the home's exterior. Its minimalist, see-through construction joins the tinsel wire rail system in being relatively unobtrusive, allowing the wide water views to shine.
Get the look: The chairs and ottoman are from Room & Board.
The kitchen is free of upper cabinets to preserve clear sightlines to the view, so Willey had to get creative to satisfy his storage needs. A rack hanging from the ceiling above the dishwasher holds delicate stemware, and lower cabinetry accommodates the microwave, clearing up precious counter space.
Willey chose a 1960s glass dining table for its transparency and low profile, which keep the multiuse space from feeling crowded. Its aqueous green edge complements a custom Art Deco chandelier. The candlesticks, like other reflective accents in the rooms, are silver or crystal to amplify the sparkling light.
Kotchen and Willey decided on an open plan for the home's second floor, knocking down interior walls so that the living, dining, and cooking areas could all benefit equally from the natural light and breathtaking views. Neutral furnishings and finishes, like the soft pickled pine walls and rafters, draw the attention outside, where the blue sky and water are the main attractions.
Shop the room: Get this breezy, contemporary look.
Because the newly relocated master bedroom on the home's lower level looks out onto Great South Bay, Willey opted to echo the blue seas via the bedding—a lovely contrast to the sandy driftwood tones on the walls, ceiling, and custom upholstered headboard.
The floor and walls in the bath are clad in Carrara marble tile to resist trapped moisture and tracked-in beach sand. The cool, monochromatic color scheme gives the room a soothing, spa-like feel. For a touch of whimsy, Willey converted a 1960s chrome dental cabinet into a stylish perch for towels and toiletries.