617 SHORE WALK
Architect: HORACE GIFFORD, 1963. Renovation: BILL MELNICK and ROB SOUTHERN, 2010.
Horace Gifford penned an elegant homage to the work of Mies van der Rohe and Paul Rudolph at 617 Shore Walk. It was composed of four bays, each measuring nine feet wide by nine feet tall, with floor-to-ceiling sliding doors and deep overhangs. Hidden, ingenious shutters incorporated into the piers allowed client Marjorie Dell to completely seal her home against the elements in five minutes.
Like his first Fire Island house design--whose plans could be purchased through Better Homes and Gardens--Gifford originally designed this as a spec home for 523 Snapper Walk. The structure remained in original if slightly forlorn condition until 2010, when it was purchased by Bill Melnick and Rob Southern. They stained the exterior black, added a pool, enlarged the bar-shaped home into a “T,” and raised it from increasingly swampy depths. The transformation was controversial among purists, but its newfound height probably saved the house from Hurricane Sandy in 2012. Inside, the original cedar-clad walls are “slipcovered” in white oak. Vintage furniture looks back, while a vast new kitchen bows to contemporary standards of comfort.
Photos: Peter Murdock. Sketch: Horace Gifford archive, courtesy Christopher Rawlins. Magazine article: The American Home.