Sand, Sea and Soul: These Architects Follow Nature

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IN 1980s SAGAPONACK, a village in the Hamptons, new houses were awash in shingles and classical columns, to the dismay of the architect Fred Stelle.

“It was raging postmodernism,” he said, still sounding bewildered. He took modest architectural jobs expanding old houses with contemporary extensions and bided his time. Finally in 2001, he said, a Manhattan creative director requested a fully modern 2,500-square-foot new house.

Then came one client after another. Some are famous like Calvin Klein, Aerin Lauder and Michael Kors, sprinkling stardust on a firm that is housed in a converted potato barn in Bridgehampton.

As the business expanded, Mr. Stelle added three partners, Viola Rouhani, Michael Lomont and Eleanor Donnelly. Their firm, Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects, quietly became known for a brand of beach modernism that sits lightly in nature, with million-dollar water views of sea grass and open skies.

This East Hampton home overlooking the Three Mile Harbor is one of the creations by Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects.

This place to relax in solitude sits near one of the houses designed by Stelle Lomont Rouhani Architects.

The houses grew, along with the business. “Sometimes they got big,” said Mr. Stelle, 77, recalling one with 30,000 square feet.

Up and down the Eastern Seaboard, where the pleasures of a sunny day can dissolve into a roiling superstorm in the course of an afternoon, a confluence of laws and constraints point away from traditional architecture. Flood maps from the Federal Emergency Management Agency dictate construction, low-lying structures must sit atop steel posts to let rushing water surge safely underneath, and local height restrictions leave scant room for an attic, let alone a sloped roof.

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