In the Hamptons, the real estate industry reigns supreme with key players that bring it alive with substance and style. These superstars include certain brokers, interior designers, landscapers, and builders. Michael Davis is the “Master Builder” of the Hamptons — his name affording each home his commitment to the highest caliber of design and construction.
We caught up with Davis, with his boyish charm and wide smile, at his home in Sagaponack, to talk about his contribution to the Hamptons real estate industry.
You relocated from England in 1985 — why did you choose The Hamptons to plant your roots?
Back in 1985, I rented a year-round cottage in Wainscott. I fell in love with the area and the weather. We enjoy four seasons in the Hamptons, whereas England can experience four seasons in a day! I also love how the farm fields run to the ocean. There’s a spirituality to the area. When you have time to tap into it, it can be a magical place.
In the past 30 years, you’ve grown from building to now designing and building your homes. How did this growth come about?
I started out building spec homes based on the design of turn of the 19th Century English country homes. Buyers liked my concept and starting buying the homes from design sketches. So, we morphed into being a custom home design-builder. I guess the growth came about organically through word of mouth, because I’m passionate about good design and functionality. After all, home is where the heart is!
Was there a learning curve or was the process streamlined after you started designing and building the properties?
As we perfected our service for owners, we began to offer not just design and architecture but also interior design, working together with the owner’s designer or our in-house design team. The design-build method of collaborating with the architect, designer, builder, and landscape designer makes for a more efficient and cost-effective way of delivering a new custom home or renovation.
Also, now we have introduced a service department and renovation division that provide both 24/7 servicing and home monitoring. Mechanicals and home automation are playing such a key role these days. So, who better to take care of this than trained professionals such as ourselves?
We are finding more and more that homeowners are tied to their properties, and as families grow over time, we renovate and add to the home to accommodate new needs. Renovation is a growing trend. We handle small, medium, and large projects.
How do permits affect your design sense?
Each town or village has its own building code. Certain municipalities have quite harsh size restrictions based on the size of the property. For example, Sagaponack counts an unenclosed porch as part of one’s house allowance. Hence, one tries to design an attractive house without losing too many bedrooms! Over the years, we have developed very good working relationships with the municipalities.
And how involved are you in the design? Do you work with specific architects?
The design aspect of our service is the most fun. Fortunately, I have 3-D vision which makes 2-D drawings very real to me. We have worked with our in-house team of architects for some 25 years but we also work with architects selected by our clients. We are client driven, so listening to their every need is very important right off the bat.
Tell us about some standout projects you have worked on.
Unquestionably, the crowning moment of my career to date was the creation of a 20-acre family compound in Bridgehampton. Having located the property for my client, we subdivided the field into five lots, setting 40 percent aside as a reserve to include a one-acre man-made pond.
My client entrusted me with putting together a dream team to complete the heart of the project within two years from putting pen to paper. Working closely with Historical Concepts Architects, Steven Gambrel, designer, and Ed Hollander, the landscape architect, I can honestly say we created a wonderful family retreat. Some of the unique features of this property are featured in our portfolio on our website.
I also loved designing and building a relatively small cottage in Sagaponack on a half-acre, also featured on our website. No project is too big or too small!
What is your signature style?
Shingle style with an English country flavor but with modern interior features. However, if a client wants, for example, a French villa or a contemporary mainly steel and glass house, we will happily do that.
Is there a part of the Hamptons you enjoy building in the most?
My first project was in Sagaponack and I live there too. The farm stands, the views, and proximity to the ocean make it the most perfect location to work. The area has it all, with open sky and forever views. However, every part of the Hamptons, from the ocean to the bay, have their unique attributes which makes my work so interesting and enjoyable.
When do you decide a home is officially done, and you’re ready to hand over the keys?
That’s the business end of things. Our schedule indicates the final walk through, after receiving the correct certificates we hand over the warranty book. But it’s never goodbye. In fact, I’ve remained friends with 99 percent of all my clients. Our service and home monitoring department are on call to help them out in every capacity.
My clients know that I stand behind my work and I am honored to have them as my clients. I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to work with such amazing people, both clientele and architects, designers and sub-contractors.
When you’re not building beautiful homes, what do you like to do for fun?
What don’t I like to do, is more the question. Fishing and playing golf come straight to mind. But around the home, I love cooking for my family and friends, and recently mastered the slow cooker . . . finding the right recipe that works for such a ready meal at the end of the day is rewarding.
Most of all, I love spending time with my wife, Terry Cohen, our children, and grandchildren. Our laughter reverberates throughout the house. It’s a happy place for us. I couldn’t ask for more!
Learn more about Michael Davis by visiting www.michaeldavis.com or call 631-537-4444.