616 SHORE WALK
Architect: MARCEL BRETOS and DAVID NAPOLI, 1971.
Occupying a prime lot at the edge of the Fire Island National Seashore Preserve, 616 Shore Walk unfurled in an L-shape that held a swimming pool and the forest in its embrace. With no other homes to its south or west, the home enjoyed a feeling of complete privacy that was unusual for the Pines at the time. Elevated horizontal windows up front cast an aloof gaze upon the public boardwalk. But for the lucky friends who were granted admission to this exclusive domain, a very different sort of home revealed itself. With pool benches that combined into a table that sat up to eighteen guests, 616 Shore embodied the shift from the intimate, candle-lit vibe of the Sixties to the more frenetic social scene of the Seventies. Client Mel Fante told House and Garden “I want a house where I can express myself, see my friends, and have a great good time.” As the high-living Vice President of Design for American Airlines, Fante epitomized the wealthy cohort of jet-setters that was drawn to the Pines by sea plane service from Manhattan. A number of Fante’s corporate resources were utilized for the home’s construction, down to the built-in American Airlines ashtrays beside each toilet.
Architect Marcel Bretos (1931-86) was born in Casablanca to a French father and a Greek mother. In addition to his architectural training in Paris, Bretos studied stage design and lighting in Italy. He opened a design office in Rome in 1960, but the peripatetic architect relocated to New York ten years later. Partnering with interior designer David Napoli, Bretos and Napoli Associates was founded upon his arrival to the U.S. Benign nepotism dictated Mel Fante’s choice of designers, for Napoli was his lover.
Bretos’ Mediterranean roots and theatrical training are reflected in the design of this home. Blocky white volumes (now clad in cement board) and handmade French tile floors enlivened the weathered cedar Pines vernacular. Napoli established a color scheme of red cushions, white Formica cabinets, and swimming-pool-blue accent walls. Enormous sliding doors disappeared into pockets, revealing a double-height living area with a proscenium that hosted drag performances. A low, horizontal slash of reel-to-reel audio equipment filled the space with “quadrophonic” sound, while directional lighting adjusted the mood from above. Half of the room was left unfurnished, for dancing. The home was disposed upon three levels: a living area aligned with the swimming pool, an intermediate story that sheltered a master bedroom suite, and an elevated guest wing that took in the sunset.
Rendering: William Murphy. Photos: Tom Yee. Plan: Christopher Rawlins.