An Architect’s Distinctive Home on Shelter Island


William Pedersen spent much of his distinguished architecture career designing sleek, towering skyscrapers that stand out among crowded urban landscapes. Several of the world’s tallest buildings came from the drawing boards of his prolific firm, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates.

But when it came to building his own home — a weekend retreat on the east side of Shelter Island, N.Y., on eastern Long Island — he took a far more subtle approach, creating a low-slung, angular design meant to integrate with its nautical surroundings.

“The house really blends into nature as much as possible,” Mr. Pedersen said, “and almost creates a sculptural form that becomes part of the land, and not just sits on the land but rises from the land, almost like an island emerges from the water.”

The home’s emergence had been something of an organic process, too. After buying 2.92 acres along Gardiners Bay in 1981, it took Mr. Pedersen two decades to complete its design and begin building. “It was my weekend hobby, I enjoyed it intensely,” he said of the myriad design iterations for the house that he created over the years. A few miniature models sit alongside his sailing trophies from local regattas.

The house, which measures around 4,500 square feet and contains three bedrooms and three and a half baths, was finally finished in 2005. But with the death of his wife of 58 years, Elizabeth Pedersen, in July 2019, it is now up for sale. “I don’t need such a large home,” said Mr. Pederson, whose primary residence is on Central Park West in Manhattan.

The asking price for the property, at 91 Ram Island Drive, is $9.995 million, according to the listing agents, Jonathan Smith and Lawrence Ingolia of the Hamptons Group at Sotheby’s International Realty. Annual property taxes total $44,883.

The two-story structure has around 220 feet of direct beach access with views of both the bay and Coecles Harbor, where Mr. Pederson has kept his sailboats moored. The exterior is clad in dark-brown, oxidized copper panels, with the base, chimney and patios done in bluestone. The interior is filled with wood paneling crafted of Douglas fir, bush-hammered concrete and more bluestone. Much of the contemporary furnishings were designed by Mr. Pedersen, with artwork from his eldest daughter, Kia Pedersen.

The angular building is carefully configured to avoid obstructing the water and lighthouse views of neighboring homes, some of which Mr. Pedersen had also designed. “It’s absolutely unique,” Mr. Smith said. “It’s a fully habitable work of art.”

The home is entered on the ground level through a large glass door that leads to an open area used as a study. Past the study is a long hallway that leads to three bedrooms, two of which have en-suite baths of wood and steel, and another full bath. Each of the bedrooms has a sliding wood door that helps create an open-air vibe and exposed concrete on the ceilings and bluestone on the walls. The main bedroom also contains a large walk-in closet.

At the end of the hallway is another glass door that opens to an outdoor sauna and shower with stone enclosures.

A floating wood staircase with steel cables adjacent to the study leads to the entertaining space upstairs, where there is a living room with a wood-burning fireplace and a dining area anchored by a massive credenza-like wood structure. The eat-in kitchen is outfitted with wood cabinetry and paneling, with the main appliances hidden beneath them. The countertops and breakfast bar are of stainless steel. There is also a half-bath nearby.

Walls of glass lead out to a spacious patio of wood and bluestone that overlooks the bay, with areas carved out for dining and lounging. “The house is flooded with natural light,” Mr. Smith said, adding that most of its rooms offer stunning water vistas.

A two-car garage also sits behind the house.

Mr. Pedersen said he had enjoyed spending time at the house with his family. “They would join us on weekends quite a bit,” he said, noting that his younger daughter and her family also have a home on the island.

He and his wife had summered on Shelter Island since the mid-1970s, around the time he co-founded KPF. Ms. Pedersen was active in the Shelter Island Historical Society, serving as its president for eight years. The couple spearheaded the creation of the recently opened History Center, which houses collections and provides new spaces for exhibits and educational programs.

They also owned a smaller, shingled island house, about two miles away from the home on Ram Island Drive, to which Mr. Pedersen now plans to return.

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