After an apprenticeship with a local firm, John Laffey launched his own and has not looked back since. With a practice of over 20 years, he has mastered the classic Hamptons shingle-style, cementing himself as a leader of the East End’s architectural style.
How has being a Long Islander benefitted your firm?
Growing up on Long Island gives me a unique understanding and perspective about the changes I have seen in regards to increased development, population, zoning, and lifestyle out here on the East End. We try to balance our clients’ requirements for modern day living with a sense of history and understanding of community. I design homes that fit well into the architectural vernacular of the area.
Most people pass by my clients’ homes and assume they have always been there.
How would you describe your architectural design style?
I have always considered myself a traditional country architect. I strive for my designs to blend into the surrounding environment and the community. I am mostly known for my shingle-style country homes, but I have designed a wide variety of architectural styles from traditional homes to transitional and modern homes.
What drew you to becoming an architect? Was it a building you admired, a city?
Working with my father on residential projects ignited my imagination and love of the building process. I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be an architect. I have always loved sketching, solving problems, and working with people who build things.
Your homes are the epitome of Hamptons architecture. How did you master this style?
Prior to opening my office I had worked for traditional architects and studied the masters of shingle-style country homes. I have always admired the homes of the Gilded Age and I am continually learning through years of studying, observation, and practice.
Do you indulge in a lot of discovery with your homeowners so that their lifestyle plays a role in the design?
Absolutely. Listening, understanding a client’s dreams, goals, and aspirations for their new home is key in understanding their ultimate goals. Distilling a list of program requirements for the project is to create a roadmap for the design process. We need to consider their current home needs along with a 10-year outlook on how the house will function for them as their family needs change and evolve over time. The key to a successful project is designing a unique, beautiful home that fulfills all your client’s specific family needs.
Do you ever have to steer them gently away from a request because it wouldn’t work in the region?
Interesting question. I am open to any architectural style my client may desire. My job is to mold and articulate their architectural dreams into a cohesive realistic home that they will all be proud to live in and call their own. The Hamptons have such a rich and diverse architectural vocabulary that all styles of architecture are represented on the East End.
Do you have a favorite building on the East End? Or anywhere?
Wow. From the Montauk Lighthouse to the Sydney Opera House? I appreciate and admire buildings that are unique, well designed, well sited, and handcrafted. My favorite buildings are usually ones of historical relevance. The Hamptons have always attracted the very best and brightest architects from every generation, from the architects of early colonial days to today’s most noted modern architects. We are all blessed to be able to see and experience such a plethora of architectural expression unique to the shores of eastern Long Island.
Is there a project you loved designing that you would like to share with us?
While I love designing country homes, my most rewarding and unique project was for the Our Lady of the Hamptons community. The project included attaching a new gymnasium, elevated running track, and new classrooms to the existing school. I was also the architect for the renovation and restoration of the historic 100-year-old Our Lady of Poland Church. I like to think my work and that of Steve Lemanski, the builder, will help preserve and influence the future of this outstanding community.
Are you seeing any trends that are new that our readers should know about?
The breakthroughs in product efficiency and building technologies have been amazing over the past 20 years. Making homes more energy efficient and having the opportunity to specify products that will hold up well to the environment is top on my list. The most noticeable trend is the opportunity to have much more glass in our home designs that give way to having open concept themes for blending indoor and outdoor living spaces.
Your firm also designs renovations. How does that work? Do you work with certain contractors or builders for renovations?
My firm designs both new homes and renovation/addition work. The design process for a renovation brings in a different set of criteria, problem solving, and regulations. Consideration to the existing home’s history, zoning, condition, and location, all have a place in shaping the renovation or addition. In the past 15 years or so I have certain builders and contractors with whom I’ve worked with on renovations. However, every project is different and I am always interested in meeting and expanding my firm’s building experience with new contractors.
How do you market your firm? Do you feel the digital landscape has had any impact on your firm’s growth?
The majority of my new commissions come from word of mouth. I do a little marketing locally in the form of taking out ads that support local community events and organizations. The digital landscape has definitely helped spread the word and awareness of my work beyond the small sphere of influence of the Hamptons and New York City markets. I don’t know that it has necessarily helped my firm’s growth, but I see it is a good tool that has amazing potential for growth opportunities. I find it fascinating to see people who follow my Instagram account from far-away places like Australia, Ireland, and Russia.
If you weren’t an architect, what would you have become?
Very unhappy. I can’t imagine not experiencing the joy of fulfilling my life’s passion of being an architect.
What do you do for fun when you’re not building show-stopping homes?
I savor spending time with my wife, family, and friends. I enjoy playing a little golf, going to the beach, and bike riding around the East End enjoying the natural beauty — and looking at houses.
To learn more about John Laffey, call 631-726-5108 or visit www.johnlaffeyarchitects.com.