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New houses look old but offer utility and green features

IVY is creeping up the walls of the stone neo-Georgian Revival-style manor house on the harbor here. Towering old oak and pine trees and a 35-foot blue Atlas cedar punctuate its lushly landscaped lawn. The seven-bedroom residence, with arched dormers, a columned portico with a fluted cornice design, transom windows, a slate roof and a widow's walk with a Chippendale railing, looks as if it has been there for a century. It was finished last summer.

On an island where the traditional is king, most residences can easily be dated -- Capes to the postwar Levittown era; ranches, split levels and then high ranches in the '50s and '60s, cedar-sided contemporaries in the '80s, and during the McMansion boom in the late '90s, "colonials on steroids."

Over the last decade, many architects and builders have veered toward a more ageless, classic approach.

Some of the materials used to achieve that nostalgic charm, however, are increasingly 21st century, more energy efficient and durable. The exterior trim on the stone manor is a resin-based material called AZEK that looks like wood but is rot-proof. Ira Tane, the president of Benchmark Home Builders in Huntington Station, recently completed a gabled Victorian in South Huntington with fake cedar siding, a cultured stone facade on the front porch, authentic-looking but modern windows with "simulated" divided light panes, AZEK-type trim, fiberglass porch columns; composite porch rails and decking, "all of which contribute to a look that will stand the test of time."

Homeowners stick to traditional styling because "there is a real comfort zone in what is very familiar," Mr. Tane said. "It conjures up a warm, fuzzy feeling. For eating, we have comfort food. For homes, we have comfort architecture."

New construction provides the turn-of-the-last century look with 21st century amenities, like large eat-in kitchens, huge closets, computerized systems and energy efficient, green features like spray-in insulation and geothermal heating and air-conditioning to reduce costs.

Pat Trunzo III, a custom builder in Wainscott, is building a four-bedroom stucco Tuscan-style cottage in East Hampton with vintage curb appeal. But it's "a very modern house in terms of construction," and green, Mr. Trunzo said, with geothermal air-conditioning and solar hot water panels recessed on top of a dormer so they are not visible from the ground.

Building New, Looking Older
Published: July 14, 2011
Over the last decade, many architects and builders have veered toward a more ageless, classic approach using materials that are increasingly 21st century.


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