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Breaking the Fourth Wall

With an airplane-hangar door, a modernist villa in Long Beach welcomes the elements.


Photographs by Dean Kaufman

While its sugar-white sand is the same as in the Hamptons, modern architecture is not a hallmark of Long Beach’s streetscape. But when a client approached architect West Chin with a run-down clapboard cottage and dreams of a super-contemporary compound, Chin seized upon the opportunity to reconcile modern design with the traditional Cape Cod–style surroundings. His solution was in the sky: “Most people think of a modern house with a flat roof, but we sloped it in the direction of the ocean so that the roofline fits in with the rest of the street,” says Chin. “You don’t realize the size or the design of the house until you get right up to it.” Additionally, the client, a doctor with a large family and a love of entertaining, wanted a summer home with seven bedrooms and enough space to host large groups of friends. Chin knocked down the existing structure and filled nearly every inch of the property with a 6,000-square-foot house, plus a downstairs pool and patio area. His thinking: Who needs landscaping when you have the Atlantic Ocean just off your terrace?

Taking full advantage of the waterfront, West designed a living area that opened to the outdoors via a 26-foot garage-door-like wall. Instead of resting on a flat concrete foundation, the house sits on 100 piles, inserted into cores drilled into the ground. As a result, the living space feels as if it were floating over the ocean. Weeks after last summer’s move-in, that structural decision paid off functionally, too: The house didn’t even flinch during Hurricane Irene.

Home Design


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