Architect: HORACE GIFFORD, 1965.

With his customary dry humor, Horace Gifford began his design presentation to his client Murray Fishman by declaring, “You will now have twenty closets to come out of.” Twelve robust columns, containing closets above and below, lifted the Fishman residence into the air. Early Fire Island cottages squatted akimbo upon skinny pilings, evoking the architectural equivalent of “martini legs.” Gifford composed and selectively clad his own version of these posts, realizing a muscular base in harmony with the architecture that it supported. Gifford was indifferent, hostile even, to having all of these closets in a beach house, except when they served his desired formal effect. On that basis, the home was a breakout success that made its way into the pages of several magazines and a traveling exhibition sponsored by the American Institute of Architects.

Health issues caused Murray Fishman to sell his home shortly after its completion. Its next occupants were Marvin and Jo Segal, who called on Gifford to add terraces to the ground level. Marvin Segal would distinguish himself as an attorney for the most notorious of defendants, including Nixon administration Attorney General John Mitchell and numerous Mafia figures. Perhaps his rough-and-tumble milieu made him feel invulnerable, as he neglected to pay Gifford for his work. Undeterred, the architect got his money after a series of characteristically terse and fearless letters demanding payment. Segal’s accomplished wife, a fashion editor for Women’s Wear Daily, Sports Illustrated, and Look, was part of the Pine’s fashion coterie that included John Whyte, Geoffrey Beene, Giorgio di Sant’Angelo, and Diane von Furstenburg. She also became quite a fan of her architect, organizing the first Horace Gifford house tour in 1975.

This home is featured in Fire Island Modernist: Horace Gifford and the Architecture of Seduction.

Photos: Bill Maris. Plans: Christopher Rawlins. Black and White article: New York Times. Color article: House and Garden. Interior after plans: Horace Gifford courtesy Christopher Rawlins.

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