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Architect:  UNKNOWN, 1961. Renovation: JAMES STREACKER & SCOTT ALBHORN.


A typical early 1960’s cottage by an unknown architect, 219 Bay Walk transcends its humble origins through the meticulousness of its restoration and the addition of a modernist landscape. The house was built in 1961 for Harry and Helen Kraft. Harry was an engineer for Grumman Aircraft and a long-time Pines Fire Department volunteer. Helen served as its dispatcher. During the summer months, they lived on a boat in the Harbor and rented their house.


Upon purchasing the home in 2000, James Streacker and Scott Albhorn undertook a series of subtle improvements with outsize results. An accumulation of gestures--none of them showy, all of them poetic--result in a pleasing diversity of outdoor spaces, from a raked sand garden culled from the Harbor dredging, to the perch of an upper deck with low benches, to a slate-lined valley below. Nature is everywhere, yet nothing is left to chance. One example is an inviting bench at the entry porch, painted to match the leaves of the adjacent Japanese maple. Best of all, the homeowners refrained from erecting a tall fence around it all, thus capturing the original spirit of Fire Island Pines as a public place to enjoy private architecture.


The new architectural gesture inside is a dining room that was converted from a bedroom. Carefully composed openings in its wall maintain a zone of privacy amidst all of the admiring passers-by. In its un-fussy way, the original architecture is also well suited to the beach. A raked ceiling leads to clerestory windows that draw breeezes through the main space. A rich palette of wood and tile, including hard-to-find “wormwood,” warms the interior. The kitchen will resonate with fans of Mad Men: Betty Draper would feel right at home chain-smoking around its Formica peninsula.


Photos: Tom Sibley.

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