Estatements: Building Bespoke
Photo 1: Adam M. Miller, Susan Breitenbach, and Michael Lomont talk luxury kitchens, baths, and technology.
Photo 2: An outdoor kitchen is one of the draws at this Ocean Road compound in Bridgehampton, one of Susan Breitenbach's listings.
REAL ESTATE EXPERT MICHAEL BRAVERMAN LEADS A PANEL OF AREA BROKERS, DEVELOPERS, AND DESIGNERS WHO DISCUSS WHICH HOME AMENITIES ADD VALUE AND THOSE THAT ARE EXCESSIVE.
Michael Braverman: Let's kick off with kitchens-we see them inside, we see them outside; we see prep kitchens, we see catering kitchens.
Jeffrey Colle: I think kitchens are one of the most important parts of the home today. People who come [to the Hamptons], they want to stay at home and entertain. Having an indoor kitchen and an outdoor kitchen makes it possible.
Dan Thorp: People do seem to want more and more with their outdoor kitchen: stainless steel appliances, ice makers, beverage centers, wine coolers. Pretty much anything they want inside, they want access to outside, too. In the event that there isn't an ideal kitchen, people renovate, [and] what I see on the back end is when they go to sell, issues come up in regard to lack of permits. It's important to consult the proper local experts.
MB: What about the more private spaces, like bathrooms?
JC: People want his and hers bathrooms. Most of the times hers is bigger than his and more elaborate-French limestone floors, radiant heat in the walls of the shower and the floor. We've also had stone tubs carved in Italy out of a block of marble or limestone, and the excess from the block is made into tile, so it's guaranteed to match.
Michael Lomont: [A bathroom] doesn't have to be large to be grand-it can be a smaller space and terrific with the right design aesthetic and materials.
Harald Grant: The master bedroom suite has to be beautiful with a large bathroom or a his and hers bathroom. That sells the house. The rest of the bedrooms then should have their own en suite bathrooms. Another factor we're finding today is that the first hall should have a junior master suite as well. Builders are recognizing that sometimes people coming in are older or the in-laws are there. It's nice to have a junior master for your guests on the first floor as well as the second floor.
JC: The closets have also gotten unbelievably big, with library ladders to get to the second tier, beautiful hardwoods, and hanging storage for shoes. MB: Everything seems to be getting bigger, and I have to say, more wasteful of energy. How do you reconcile all of this with environmental concerns?
JC: In the more traditional homes you can do geothermic heating, which uses well water and is very efficient, especially when air conditioning the house-it can reduce your bills quite a bit. Most people want to use gas right now because it's more efficient. The other thing that I'm finding is if we use spray foam insulation on the exterior walls and the roof, it saves a huge amount of heat and energy.
DT: Revegetation has become a hot word in landscape architecture, because with all of the land disturbance around these big construction projects, landscape architecture is often brought in to bring the property back into conformance with the local conservation regulations.
Aram Terchunian: We have setbacks or requirements that are dictated by local or state code, and then there's the area between the setback areas and the house, which people want to develop into their own living space. One of the real challenges is to integrate those two things. We create buffer zones that are required under conservation law, but we integrate those buffer zones into the landscape that the owner wants to create.
H G: If you've signed a property that has a waterfront, ocean, pond, or lake-there's landscape restrictions. People come in and want lawns straight down to the water and that's when you're put in a bind because you have to be totally honest and forthright. At that point you bring in a landscape architect, so the buyer will understand that there are certain regulations they have to follow. As a broker you know your limits, and that's when you start including other experts.
Susan Breitenbach: When we're selling anything, it's very important to have local counsel because a lot of people don't know the local zoning laws, and there are a lot of problems in the end.
Adam M. Miller: What's critical is that the broker be able to point these things out. Whether people buy properties with legal [issues], that's their decision. Although I'm there to identify these issues, I'm not the decision maker, and I think that clients respect that. If you looked at half these properties, you'd find legal [issues). Our goal is to identify them and just let clients make the decision.
MB: What about media and electronics?
HG: You'd think today, with technology the way it is, that everything would become more Simplified; I find it's [more) complicated. These homes today have push buttons for this and that; and half of it doesn't work. Going back to/basics would be a better marketing tool.
SB: When I go in to show a house, I'm pressing all the buttons, things are~ going on and off-it's not the best thing. But we have
a lot of young people who are so into technology. The house we're sitting in right now has iPads on the walls-people love that. They put the heat on from New York, they turn the pool heater on-it's a wow thing.
JC: Some people want simple systems, and some want the most complicated systems they can get. What we do is wire the house, so they can pick and choose. With the systems I put in, I find that it's all about the engineering, the design, and especially the program. When everything is programmed right, I haven't had an issue at all.
MB: Suppose I'm this homeowner, eating in my various kitchens, sitting around in my media room, lounging in my huge shower-how do I keep in shape?
ML: The gym is a huge part of our projects recently, and I think that one of the challenges is to make these spaces accessible and appealing, but also to make them [easily hidden) using pocket doors, sliding walls, or things of that sort, so people don't feel guilty when they're not using them. On a lower level, the challenge is how to bring in daylight.
SB: The gym isn't always in the lower level. I have a listing in East Hampton that has a separate barn. The doors open up on either side and it's a gym outside, because people do like the light.
JC: It is very important to understand that the downstairs level is not included in the footprint of the house, so if you can make the lower level as large as you can, you can bring in the light. The gymnasium, theater, lower-level bedrooms that have egress, it all feels part of the house, and it's all added space.
HG: I'd like to finish with the statement that because we're sitting here with brokers, landscape architects, and architects themselves, the most important feature in a house is the "wow factor." We help put that together. When you drive up to a house, the first thing you want to see is a beautiful home that you know you can live in. If it doesn't have the "wow factor" to begin with, there's no reason to go inside.
ML: Whether you're buying a new house, building a house, or renovating an old house, you need to have a team of professionals that covers all the angles. You need the attorney, the landscape architect, and the architect, with the owner as the quarterback of that team. We've found that that is a tremendously successful formula because so many owners really know what they want; they just need help to direct them.
Susan Breitenbach, senior vice president, The Corcoran Group 7936 Montauk Hwy, Bridgehampton, 899-0303; corcoran.com
Jeffrey Colle, owner, Estates by Jeffrey Colle 87 Newtown Lane, East Hampton, 324-8500, jeffreycolle.com
Harald Grant, senior global real estate advisor and associate broker, Sotheby's International Realty 50 Nugent St., Southampton, 283-0600; sothebysrealtycom Michael Lomont, partner, Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects 48 Foster Ave., Bridgehampton, 537-0079; stelleco.com
Adam M. Miller, founder, The Adam Miller Group, Pc. 2462 Main St., Bridgehampton, 537-7755; adammillergroup.com
Aram Terchunian, principal, First Coastal 4 Arthur St., Westhampton Beach, 288-2277; firstcoastal.com Dan Thorp, associate, LaGuardia Design 860 Montauk Hwy, Water Mill, 726-7403; laguardiadesign.com