Justin Marinoff meets us at his latest build at 163 Old Farm Road in Sagaponack on a bright July day. The home is listed by Patrick McLaughlin of Douglas Elliman at $5,195,000. From the outside, the six-bedroom home has the atmosphere of the modern barn-style with its expansive windows and a style that is both contemporary and traditional. The “Hamptons Hybrid” trend has taken off so much on the East End — its identifying walls of glass invite the landscape in, a look that fits right into the scenery without being stodgy. It’s a style that has attracted summering New Yorkers for the last decade.
As we move to the back, where a large pool glistens in the intense sunshine, the pool house is being finished by workers. It is a thing of modern art. “I drew that on a napkin one night and knew it was perfect for this house.”
Instead of a roof, it features an open-air space, though a barn-door will be installed to close it from the front where it faces the pool. To the left is a modern-tiled shower and a changing room to the right. It might be something you would see in a glossy magazine that features uniquely beautiful spaces. We spoke as we got a tour of the sweeping 7500-square-foot home.
You come from a long line of builders. Can you tell us about this?
I’m a third-generation builder. My grandfather and father specialized in restoring homes and buildings that were damaged by fire, water, and general disrepair. I’ve been around construction sites since I was a little kid. The progression of me building custom homes was gradual, but inevitable.
Where did the name “Mercer Built” come from?
My first apartment with my wife, Faryll, overlooked Mercer Street in downtown Manhattan. We spent a lot of time there, and if you haven’t been there, the area is really creative and the opposite of cookie cutter. Cookie cutter is a taboo word in custom building, and is everything I try to avoid in my projects.
How would you describe the style of your homes and work?
Clean, modern, uncluttered, and relatable. I try to create spaces that are modern and cutting edge, but I always keep in mind that styles and trends change. I want things to have a long lifespan — that in 20 years, someone doesn’t laugh and say “Wow, what were they thinking?”
Do you ever spec-build?
I do. But I always want my spec homes to feel like custom homes as soon as a homeowner walks in. I completely understand that inserting your own creativity may not align with some potential buyers, but the ones that love it realize they aren’t buying a cookie-cutter new construction home.
How have you been marketing your firm?
We recently completed a sky writing/blimp campaign. It worked out great!
Just kidding! My clients have found us almost entirely by word-of-mouth and social media. Social media for me started out as somewhat of a joke a couple of years ago. I was just posting regular photos. I did a project for someone who is extremely successful in the social media space and she gave me the advice to be completely authentic. If your photos are authentic, clients and potential clients see that. In construction, it’s not all glossy edited photos in magazines.
Do you work with specific architects or is it a bidding situation? Or a combination depending on the job?
I do work closely with a couple architects that share the same style and aesthetic as I do. I do also work with clients’ architects that they already have on board.
Does your team specialize in anything such as millwork or green building?
All of our millworkers are in-house. We absolutely enjoy taking those parts of the build to the next level. We avoid doing the same thing twice (one project to the next). In the age of Instagram, it’s really easy for clients to come up with initial ideas and visions, but we try and take that idea and make it our own.
Speaking of green building, have you been incorporating this movement into your projects?
Absolutely. Our last couple of projects have had solar power systems. My father is on his second Tesla. He has not stopped talking about it for four years, so now we put in electric car-charging stations.
When meeting with homeowners, how do you suggest incorporating their lifestyle goals into your build or is this done through the architect?
Custom building and renovation projects have so many components. I understand and appreciate how much of a financial investment they are making. Oftentimes, clients are locked up with anxiety over what they need and want and they’re afraid of making wrong decisions. I try to relay the feeling that it’s a home and to try to enjoy the process. We come up with the real needs and the end-goal of each space. We always create something special through the process.
Do you have a project you’ve built of which you’re particularly proud?
From the beginning of this project, at 163 Old Farm Road, we wanted to make it a special home. It’s a spec home, but we wanted to exceed the expectations of potential buyers in this price point. Nothing is overdone, every inch is really well thought out. The cabana feels like something you would see in a hotel versus a suburban home.
What are some trends that you’ve taken note of that you can share with us?
I really like the unexpected mixing of materials right now, and that less is more. I especially love using natural materials because it adds subtle but natural textures to the space.
Do you have any favorite websites or periodicals you follow for inspiration?
Zillow. I like to look at all homes across the East End. But I really love spending an hour looking at homes across the country. I spent an hour yesterday exploring Palm Desert, CA. It circles back to being authentic. Seeing real-life designs and then having a vision as to how to incorporate them is incredible.
What are some of the reasons why you love the East End?
Everything about it is designed and built for a laidback lifestyle. The homes, the restaurants, the shopping.
What do you do for fun when you’re not working?
My family and I ski as much as possible. And tennis!
Go to indyeastend.com/real-estate to view the full gallery of 163 Old Farm Road. To reach Marinoff or inquire about his properties or a custom build, call 917-797-3964 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.