A new mansion is being built at the intersection of Cobb Road and Cobb Road West in southern Water Mill, and, wow, is it ugly.
It is being developed by Ark Katselnik of the K&K Group whose website doesn’t show any other free-standing houses. Is that a clue?
Anyway, this house provides a great opportunity for a brief architectural lesson.
First and foremost is the gambrel roof whose proportions are not quite right; the top is too tall and the bottom is too short. The gambrel roof has been so overdone out here it is like a song you hear over and over and over on the radio until you become sick of it. The number of authentic homes with gambrel roofs have probably been overtaken by now by the number of contemporary homes with gambrel roofs, but I’ll bet you that every single one of the older gambrels have beautiful proportions and details.
Second is the chimney design. There are two of them, and they are extravagantly fancy, almost Tudoresque with their hexagonal volumes over a squat base, topped with leaded chimney pots. Properly executed Tudor-style chimneys would have been more slender, taller, paneled, and the chimney pots would have been brick.
Third is the Federalist elliptical window incorrectly placed over an arrangement of fenestration wider than itself and sitting within an arched dormer with a completely different radius and jack arch trim detailing. While there are always exceptions, arched dormers are usually associated with the Beaux Art or French Eclectic style buildings, which are normally masonry clad structures.
Last is the tower and the finials. In the immediate area are a couple of original water towers and a windmill, all of which have better proportions. This tower seems to have been scalped, probably due to height restrictions, but then to accentuate the matter, it gets clad with shiny metal and topped with a gargantuan finial. I sure hope it, along with its smaller relatives on each of the gambrel ridges, are securely anchored. Can you imagine them blowing around in the next hurricane? Talk about projectiles.
This new house is surrounded by so much high-quality historic architecture that a simple walk or drive around the neighborhood would have provided any designer with a lot of inspiration and contextual information. Out here there are loads of lovely examples of the shingle style, Colonial revival, Greek revival, Queen Anne, and Italianate styles, among others. This house is none of these styles. It has successfully made up its own style by mixing together tweaked details from other eras. Let’s hope it’s a “one hit wonder.”
Some of you may be jumping to the conclusion that I am against houses built on spec; nothing could be further from the truth. Speculative houses have been built on the East End since the 1870s, as real estate has been and still is the name of the game out here in the Hamptons. Even the Pollack-Krasner House in East Hampton is said to have been a spec house. If I had the means I, too, would enter the speculative market. It is not a dishonorable occupation; it’s only that too few of the developers employ talented designers.