Mary Giaquinto, along with husband of fifty years, Al, established their reputation as luxury home builders back in 1982, when they founded Plum Builders. Their eureka-moment idea for The Modern Barn®, an offshoot of the original company, was conceived when Al Giaquinto and David Sherwood designed a great room in an East Hampton home. Its concept of an open floor plan — a 14-foot kitchen island, and the successful integration of kitchen, dining, and living areas into a single, harmonized space — secured their building legacy.
Plum Builders has been around since 1982. What’s the timeline and when did The Modern Barn come to be?
Plum Builders’ first office in 1982 was at 69 Main Street in East Hampton. As general contractors, we worked with every one of the practicing architects on the East End of that time, including Gene Futterman, Francis Fleetwood, Frank Hollenbeck, Bill Reese, Peter Price, Harry Bates, and subsequently with those architects who succeeded them. Al’s passions are design: architecture and fashion. He is educated about construction and in accounting and business practices. Those three strengths are behind our longevity.
The Modern Barn came to be in 2007 when, with Dave Sherwood, AIA, we designed a house where the main feature was a 24 by 48-foot gathering space with a 28-feet high ceiling with exposed trusses and 10-foot walls. The entire south-facing side wall was all glass sliders. The space was anchored on one end by an oversized stone fireplace and on the other end by a full kitchen with a 14-foot island.
Everyone that entered that room had an emotional reaction, broke into a full faced smile, and wanted to stay in that space! We took note and we called that The Modern Barn room; that volume of space full of light expanded the physical potential to everyone who came. The sheer size and open structure set people free to imagine their own future in the house.
How is it working with your husband, Al? Do you delineate who is in charge of what?
Yes, we concentrate on our own strengths. Al’s passion for design has been a consistent drive. We recognized early on that excellence in design and in execution was critical to success. I have a degree in English literature, and words are natural to me, so I’ve gravitated toward marketing and contracts.
I also have a Certificate in Construction Project Management from NYU. Al has an MBA in finance and has practiced as an accountant. He has also earned the NAHB certifications as a Graduate Master Builder, Certified Graduate Remodeler, and a Certified Green Professional.
Do you differentiate between Plum Builders and The Modern Barn enterprise? Or are they the same company?
Plum Builders, Inc. owns the trademark for The Modern Barn. The Modern Barn is a particular architectural style made different because of its predominance of glass and its floor plan of flexible open space supporting a homeowner’s pursuit of the modern lifestyle. Plum Builders, Inc. is a “Design-Build” firm.
What is the “Design-Build” process?
There are two steps. The pre-construction phase is between owners, designers — engineering, expediting — and construction and is a structured process that encompasses design, planning, and budgeting. It’s an intensely collaborative well-integrated phase that ends with a fixed price construction agreement. The second step is the actual construction activity itself.
Can you explain what “The Modern Barn” is exactly?
It’s modern luxury of space, volume, and light designed to bring the outside in and inside out, supporting natural human connection as well as the social integration of modern life, notwithstanding the current role of our electronic devices.
Why did you make the decision to trademark “The Modern Barn?”
The United States Patent and Trademark Office defines a trademark as “a word, phrase, symbol or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.”
In 2010, Plum Builders was reconfiguring and reallocating residential living space and re-emphasizing and expanding the amount of glass or natural light in the architectural designs they were developing for the speculative market. In so doing, they separated themselves from what was the current and popular architectural shingle-style of the day.
Those choices were seen by the USPTO as unique and original and they granted Plum Builders the right to call their designs The Modern Barn. The decision to apply for a trademark was a step in communicating to the real estate market that what Plum offered was a departure from what was currently available in the price points in which they operated. The Modern Barn responds to the changing tastes of the market in fixtures and finishes, while its emphasis on space and light remains unchanged.
Plum Builders has won numerous awards. Are any particularly meaningful for you?
One special Contractor of the Year award was a restoration of a century-old Sag Harbor waterfront home that contractors said could not be saved from a deteriorating foundation. Plum was able to rebuild the foundation of the house and to restore it to its extraordinary history.
Plum Builders today finds steady interest in converting traditional homes into Modern Barns by knocking down the walls of small, outmoded rooms and adding space and volume to create The Modern Barn room. When The Modern Barn room opens to the outdoor spaces and the pool, it becomes the luxe gathering space for families and friends to meet and socialize.
Are the architects of the homes also in-house?
We have an architectural powerhouse, in-house, in John Larmor, who has wide ranging experience in modern architecture and a unique talent. We have been fortunate to work with many gifted architects, near and far, and continue to be inspired by the amazing work created in this field.
Is there a home you’ve built that you’re particularly proud of?
A bay front home in Noyac we completed in 2018 is a spectacular example of “design-build.”
If dreams came true, what would Plum Builders build?
We would continue to build The Modern Barn in specific markets nationwide. We believe that it is 21st Century architecture for modern life.
Have you noticed any trends our readers need to know about that excite you?
We’re excited about the innovative and creative lighting fixtures and uses for LED lighting that have come about as a result of the energy efficient revolution. In cabinetry, the trends are towards gloss, metallic, and glass finishes with integrated pulls (no hardware) for a clean look. The latest trend in tile is dimensional glass in whites, grays, or blues. In color palettes, blue is the new gray, and the trend is toward lighter colors in flooring.
As for Plum Builders, we’re designing “paneling as art,” with custom finishes to complement interior choices.
To learn more visit www.themodernbarn.build or call 631-329-1300.