The architecture of Phillip Smith and Douglas Thompson.

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Photo by Erik Freeland

Few architects are able to evolve old into new while maintaining equal respect for both. Phillip Smith and Douglas Thompson are the exciting exception. The talented duo have had their work featured in several DWR catalogs, beginning in 2010 when we used their Manhattan office for a photo shoot. That was soon followed by a shoot at their East Hampton home and studio (above), a stunning property that showcases how they can nurture a structure with interesting historical lineage – in this case, a 1920s tractor barn – into one that’s more relevant to our time. For our January catalog, we returned to that very same house, as well as to a cantilevered residence they recently completed.

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East Hampton home dining area with folding wall and light-catching tower. Photo by Erik Freeland

East Hampton Home and Studio

Purchased by the architects in 1987, this property has been a work in progress and a place of experimentation for 30 years. “New additions are flat roofed, open and transparent, contrasting with the older sections which are gabled and more opaque with shingle siding,” writes Alastair Gordon in Qualities of Duration: The Architecture of Phillip Smith and Douglas Thompson. “The overall effect is pastoral and inviting while suggesting a certain degree of secrecy and restraint.”

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East Hampton home living area. Photo by Erik Freeland
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East Hampton home pool house. Photo by Erik Freeland

“When I was 6, I drew all the houses in my neighborhood, including the interiors of houses I’d never been in. That’s when I knew I wanted to be an architect.” – Phillip Smith

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Photo by Michael Moran

Smith and Thompson Gallery Building

Located in Chelsea, the architects’ Manhattan studio is also home to Jim Kempner Fine Art. Like their East Hampton home, this building has evolved over time, starting from an abandoned parking lot 25 years ago. “We’ve always been drawn to vacant lots,” says Smith. “One morning we were riding our bikes around Manhattan and we saw a For Sale sign on this corner lot and jumped at it.”

Set back from the street and accessible through a serene courtyard, the structure is constructed of steel I-beams and ten-by-twenty-foot sheets of cold-rolled steel in a cordovan color that’s often mistaken for Corten steel. Large windows ensure light-filled interiors while carefully chosen sight lines maintain a balance between privacy and exposure.

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Smith and Thompson Gallery Building. Photo by Michael Moran

“We are more interested in capturing sensual moments than establishing formal compositions,” wrote the architects in their introduction to Qualities of Duration. “Harmony is more important than symmetry.”

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Photo by Craig Macnaughton

East Hampton Cantilever Home

Recently completed by Smith and Thompson, this East Hampton gem is for sale. The 3600-square-foot residence features 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths and a pool. It’s set on a very private lot and overlooks a protected wildlife preserve. The large windows and spacious deck make for a true indoor-outdoor living experience.

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Cantilever house living area. Photo by Craig Macnaughton
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Cantilever house dining area. Photo by Craig Macnaughton
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Cantilever house deck. Photo by Alex Kusak Smith
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Cantilever house entry. Photo by Alex Kusak Smith

“One of the key moments in this house is when you leave your car in the driveway and walk through the gate into a private exterior room,” says Smith.

Located at 61 Spring Close Hwy., this home is all about how a space is experienced, whether that means the quality of light at a certain time of day or the way a room changes with a new season or how a space invites reflection, there are surprises to discover and enjoy.