“The challenge was to not make it look like we did too much—we wanted it to look like we didn’t do anything,” says designer and artist Jack Ceglic. He’s speaking of his recently completed two-year restoration of a 19th-century shingled house near the ocean in Sagaponack, New York, one of the quieter—albeit most sought-after—Hamptons hamlets. Though a gem of a project, Ceglic and his partner in life and in business, architect Manuel Fernandez-Casteleiro, carefully considered its scope before taking it on. And they were immediately struck by the property’s subtlety amidst its overblown-mansion neighbors. “That’s why we took the job, because there’s a certain simplicity and humility to the house,” comments Fernandez-Casteleiro, “and inside we made something extremely luxurious and beautiful.”
The home’s owner, composer and conductor Jonathan Sheffer, a friend of the couple who had secured Ceglic’s help on two prior projects—his East Hampton house, where he lived for two decades, and a townhouse on West 10th Street in Greenwich Village—knew they were the perfect match. Looking back, he says, “by respecting the house and its history and vintage, they really poured themselves into the style of the house as opposed to imposing any sort of rigor on it.” Indeed, a visitor to the home is, by design, not meant to perceive that an arduous “sculpting” process was involved in the renovation, which comprised removing a number of additions created in the 20th century so that all that remained was the 2,000-square-foot, original footprint (and one add-on built in the 1920s).
“The house had a very unusual appeal to me—I can’t really describe it, it just grabbed me,” says homeowner Jonathan Sheffer of his beach-adjacent Sagaponack, New York, home, originally constructed in the 1880s. “It still has tranquillity for a country road,” notes architect Manuel Fernandez-Casteleiro. The landscape designer, Edwina von Gal, had all of the plants removed and put back after the renovation. The lighting designer, Davis Mackiernan, installed very delicate downlights above the porch and in each of the dormer windows, “so the house glows in the evening,” says designer Jack Ceglic.
Sheffer had two initial requests of the design team, both of which had to be delicately turned down: Move the home back from the road, and paint it white. “We insisted that he keep it as a street house because it’s so unique in the Hamptons,” says Ceglic, a co-founder of high-end grocer Dean & Deluca, while sitting in a sunny parlor room at the apartment he shares with Fernandez-Casteleiro on lower Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Sheffer, the father of twin toddler daughters, and whose credits include the score for 1994’s Interview with the Vampire, now calls his request to move the structure “crazy,” thanks in large part to the “Japanese-screen purview of people jogging, walking dogs, bicycling, just in front.” When it came to the home’s palette, “Jonathan wanted to paint the wainscoting, and we said absolutely not—it was the only house in the Hamptons we’d ever seen that hadn’t been painted,” adds Ceglic. The fir panels lining the interior walls, with their nautical aura and slightly green cast, were meticulously removed and numbered during the renovation, so they could be reinstalled in place after the core was totally rebuilt. Soundproofing, central air, and delicate lighting, courtesy of designer Davis Mackiernan, were among the “invisible” additions.
Fernandez-Casteleiro poetically likens the way the home now opens up to a sea shell—a conversation between spaces that begins in the mud room and seamlessly expands, through the first floor, where original dividing walls were removed to create long 60-foot views, and out into the various outdoor spaces. “When you leave the house, there’s a big vista of the pool, then a big vista of the vegetable garden, then a big vista back to the house,” he says, “It’s like a DNA helix, or a nautilus, expanding with each new space.” The 1.2-acre property, which feels much larger thanks in part to neighboring protected fields, includes a toolshed turned studio, a pool house, a gym, and a barn-cum-guest house. A dramatic cement wall was poured, after much hemming and hawing on the part of all involved parties, to create a tucked-away secret garden protected from bracing ocean breezes, allowing otherwise delicate local flora to flourish within. The lush grounds throughout were conceived by famed landscape designer Edwina von Gal in concert with Ceglic and Fernandez-Casteleiro. Strictly averse to the use of chemicals, Von Gal brought in chickens and even a pair of goats, the latter of which ultimately had to be dispatched after becoming “too festive,” recounts Fernandez-Casteleiro with a laugh.
In the end, Ceglic is emphatic about the fact that, for this project and any other he works on, the focus is solely on the inhabitants and realizing for them what they perhaps couldn’t communicate for themselves. “It’s not a decorating story,” he says, smiling. “It’s a lifestyle story—about this man and his home.”