Scottish native Kevin O’Sullivan and Southampton native Luke Ferran partnered up seven years ago after working side by side on an ocean front home in Sagaponack to form Kevin O’Sullivan & Associates (KOS + A) in 2001. In addition to this duo, their strong team consists of with Sean Madigan, Luiz Francisco, Jorge Gomez, Dina Abu-jawdeh, and Kate Wirth. With two offices, in Manhattan and Bridgehampton, KOS + A has been transforming the Hamptons landscape with their classical European meets modern design.
You’re originally from Scotland. How did you end up on the East End?
Kevin O’Sullivan: I moved here to United States in 1996, actually from Singapore where I had spent five years working for a very large architecture firm post-graduation from university in Edinburgh, Scotland. I came on a whim, deciding that I would really love to live in New York City, a place for me that felt like the center of the design universe!
I knew no one and had no job or anywhere to live and literally moved here with a backpack and some savings. I was fortunate enough to land a job with Gwathmey Siegal architects, where I worked until joining the early days of Sawyer Berson. I then started out on my own, working in the city initially from my apartment, designing town house interiors and apartments, doing interior design, and decorating.
Jim, my now husband, introduced me to the Hamptons when we first met in 1997 and I fell in love with it. Clients that I had in the city started asking me if would also design their houses out east and I jumped at the opportunity and started doing both city work and the Hamptons work.
Jim and I found a vacant, beech tree wooded two-acre lot in Amagansett Bell estate in 2007 and we designed and built a house for us, finishing it in 2009. Our completed house was a portfolio piece and I marketed it as an un-distilled version of what I could really do for potential clients. And the rest is history.
Your apprenticeships spanned worldwide. Based on what you learned from these international companies, what is the most valuable lesson?
KO: Design is in the details. I know it sounds like a cliché but it’s true. The work is never done . . . listening to clients’ aspirations and delivering the best design and experience as possible. Give the people that work with you a voice and make them feel that this is a collaboration, not quite a Vulcan mind melt but on the path. Live it, eat it, sleep it.
Your designs are very contemporary with symmetrical design. Do you have a signature touch?
KO: Scale, proportion, geometry, and balance are essential to harmonious pleasing forms and design. This is true for a flat roofed mid-century inspired modern design, a pitched roofed, transitional traditional home, or even a coffee table. We endeavor to realize our clients’ dream, and with that we strive to provide the best design from their inspiration and direction and our collaborative design discussions.
Where is your favorite region, from an architectural perspective?
KO: In the Hamptons, I would say from the woods to the beach. In the world, I would say Belgium and Denmark. I love the clean design, natural materials, and organic color palette.
Which is the home you are most proud of designing?
KO: Sounds like a cop out, but there are aspects of all of the projects that I have worked on that I am proud of. I would really say that I am delighted to have this wonderful opportunity to create positive change for our clients and leave a mark on the surface of the earth when I have gone.
The house that I designed for Jim and me though does hold a special place in my heart. It was the first one, and was designed and built with love, which I think shines through.
Do you work with specific builders?
KO: We work with a varied group of great talented builders and craftsmen (and women). It is essential that we work with people that understand the concept of collaboration. The best end product for our clients comes from a deep working relationship with the people that turn our designs into three dimensional objects that are a play of light and shadow.
Did you always want to be an architect, or was there a plan B?
KO: I originally wanted to be a painter and sculptor, and much to the relief of my parents who saw a future life of a starving artist, I decided early on to switch to the architecture program at Edinburgh university.
How many projects do you have in the works at a given time?
KO: Because we are a multi-disciplinary design studio that works on design of the exterior, interior, and decorating services, we usually have a couple of houses on the drawing board and a couple in construction at one time running sequentially through the design and construction schedule.
We still work in the city and usually have an apartment or two going at the same time, ranging from just interior decoration services to reconstruction interior design.
Trends come and go. Are there any that you see on the horizon for the East End?
Luke Ferran: I think you’re going to see the pendulum swing toward true minimalism and modernism in the traditional sense of the word. Where homes are living sculptures created with glass, steel, and stone, and where reclaimed barn wood is left out on the barn.
In another direction, our younger clients are bananas over the ‘80s-era, white-painted, vertical-wood contemporary houses that are all over the Hamptons. They were passé for a while, but you’re going to see a lot of great renovations and re-imaginations of them in the next few years, complete with the green and pink marble and Memphis Milano influences throughout.
Also, don’t count out Michael Graves-esque post-modernism from making a comeback. The younger client who can now afford to buy in the Hamptons has a lot of nostalgia for that look.