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When many people picture a home in the Hamptons, the beach house in the Nancy Meyers movie Something’s Gotta Give immediately comes to mind. With its white-on-white decor, oceanfront location, and brown-shingled exterior, the house embodies the iconic Hamptons look. However, the East End also has a long history of modernist designs.
In the early 20th century, the Hamptons became a destination for artists, architects, and their patrons. By the 1950s it had also become a destination for leading names in modernist art and architecture, including Jackson Pollock, Willem de Kooning, and Le Corbusier. In his book Weekend Utopia, architectural critic Alastair Gordon argues that the beach house is “the sonnet form of American architecture.” According to Gordon, architects of the 1960s and ’70s—like Charles Gwathmey, Peter Blake, and Norma Jaffee—were able to try experimental concepts out in small summer houses. And it was with these houses that young architects established their reputations. The East End houses these architects built were anti-Hamptons in many ways: They were modest in size and often featured humble wood exteriors with large expanses of glass.
The aesthetic and spirit of those modern pioneers live on today. We scoured the rental market from Southampton to Montauk for seven beach houses that embody the modern aesthetic of those architects of the ’60s and ’70s.
A bright & modern A-frame
Photographer Ben Fink Shapiro was drawn to this airy East Hampton Springs A-frame for its open plan and natural light. While the house does not have a pool, Shapiro has set it up for outdoor living with tons of deck space, a hot tub, and an outdoor shower. The house comes with paddle boards, kayaks, and bikes at no extra charge. Three bedrooms, one bath; prices start at $300 per night.
Designer Robert McKinley has outfitted this 1970s Montauk ranch house to be just as chic as nearby hotels Ruschmeyer’s and the Surf Lodge, both of which he helped create. And if you like what you see during your stay, everything in the place is for sale—right down to the paint. Three bedrooms, two baths; prices start at $695 per night.
Sag Harbor village modern
The ’70s vibes are strong at this Sag Harbor split-level. Located right in the village, this house offers a modern retreat in the historic town center. It’s also got a gorgeous yard complete with a 60-feet-long Gunite pool and a deck for al fresco dining. Three bedrooms, one and half baths; prices start at $457 per night.
Midcentury waterfront house
Located in East Hampton, this 1960s house is all about the location—and the view. Perched at the edge of Hog Creek, a saltwater inlet in Springs, you can launch one of the house’s paddleboards or canoes right from the backyard. Because of its west-facing view, you can also watch the sunset from the porch of the second-story living room. The original wood-burning fireplace adds major vintage charm. Its three bedrooms and two and a half baths average $1,000 per night.
An artistic Southampton house
Filled with Pop Art posters, midcentury furniture, and even vintage home accessories, this Southampton house has a groovy, artistic vibe. The property sits on a full acre, giving guests tons of green space, it’s a 10-minute walk from the beach, and it’s located just east of the Shinnecock Canal, making it as close to the city as a Hamptons destination can get. Three bedrooms, two baths; prices start at $399/night.
This 1970s home has been renovated top to bottom by its architect owner, Yaiza Armbruster. Laid out on three levels, the house has a laid-back vibe, but with higher-end finishes than you’d expect in a rental, like Italian-marble counters and custom glass shower enclosures. It’s located in Springs, within a short distance of bay beaches. Four bedrooms, two and a half baths; prices start at $500 per night.
The homeowner describes this 1963 house as a “one-of-a kind design by German architect and New York-based designer Alejandro Alcocer.” The current furnishings and recent remodel are a contemporary spin on the house’s original era, filled with warm, natural wood and tons of midcentury-inspired furnishings. Three bedrooms, three baths; prices start at $587 per night.
Know of a cool modern beach house we missed? Tell us in the comments.