Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A "Darena" Postscript

I got an interesting comment on my blog on Friday, but rather than to just let it quietly sit there, I thought I could be more elaborate in my response by turning it into a follow-up blog post to the recent one about “Darena” at 195 Ox Pasture Road. Here is the comment:

“There is no point in speculative homebuilders looking at the proportions of this house, because the massing and arrangement of the house is now illegal. You can't build houses that tall any more, and they can't have three floors. Asking a developer to somehow learn from this is inviting him to make a miniaturized version on only two stories. Distortion is precisely what's wrong with most developer houses.”

I corrected the spelling errors out of respect and an appreciation for dialog, and I’m sensing a little anger in that comment, but you never know with email, so let’s ignore that and give them the benefit of the doubt.

This person, whoever he or she may be, is plain wrong on many counts. First, 35 feet is the maximum height of a principle structure in Southampton Village, which is pretty high. I’m not sure how tall “Darena” is but I’ll bet its close. Second, third stories are absolutely allowable, they just have to be sprinkled to be legal, and of course have two means of egress, etc. Third and most important, the assumption that a smaller, or “miniaturized” structure with a gambrel roof would be distorted somehow is wrong and there are loads of lovely examples throughout the village to prove this point scattered about in this post. (Even Sunnymeade is in this post, which is 33 feet high.) So any assumption that smaller homes can’t have good proportions or a high quality of architectural style and detailing is silly.

Last, having disproved the “distortion” argument, I think what’s actually wrong with “developer” houses is not something that can be answered simply but is normally attributed to a poor overall quality of style. Some are too big, some are too crazy in the way they incorporate every kitschy overused “Hamptons” detail, and more than often they are just boring and generic. Coming up, more Village history, and a post about a beautiful home on Prospect Street.


  1. Your energy and enthusiasm for architecture are commendable.

    However, many of your confident declarations are essentially your own subjective opinion.

    There are no immutable rules of scale or proportion that enable an observer to scientifically determine whether a design is "good" or not. What I find beautiful, you may not and vice versa. This is a good thing. It makes the world a more interesting place.

    Yes, there are houses around Southampton that I consider ugly. That's my opinion. I don't think I have a right to force my "style" on anyone else, and I certainly wouldn't want anyone else forcing theirs on me.