They Love Their $14.95 Million Hamptons House. The Problem? Their Dog Hates It - Kanebridge News
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They Love Their $14.95 Million Hamptons House. The Problem? Their Dog Hates It

Bryan Graybill and Daniel Dokos built their dream home in Sag Harbor but are now selling it because their goldendoodle Rufus gets “pouty” when he’s there

By E.B. SOLOMONT
Thu, Apr 18, 2024 9:27amGrey Clock 4 min

Shortly after Bryan Graybill and Daniel Dokos moved into their dream home in Sag Harbor, N.Y., in 2022, the couple realised they had a problem: Their beloved Covid dog, a redheaded goldendoodle named Rufus, didn’t like the house.

“He was sort of a little pouty,” said Graybill, an interior designer, who said they adopted Rufus from a dog breeder in Montecito, Calif., where they rode out the pandemic.

Now, the couple is doing what any self-respecting dog parents would do: They are moving.

“I’m slightly ashamed to admit that we’ve become ‘those people,’ making life decisions around our dog,” said Graybill. And yet, he said, “He’s the joy of our life.”

The house is coming on the market for $14.95 million, said Preston Kaye of Hedgerow Exclusive Properties, which is co-listing the property with Noble Black and Erica Grossman of Douglas Elliman . Graybill and Dokos, a lawyer, who also have homes in East Hampton and Montecito, plan to split their time between the two. They also have a place in New York City.

Before Rufus, Graybill said the couple thought the newly built Sag Harbor house would be their “forever home.”

When they got married in 2015, they lived mainly in East Hampton and began building a house there. During construction, they rented a place in Sag Harbor and unexpectedly fell in love with the area and bought property there, too. “It’s sort of a vibrant little town, even in the middle of winter,” Graybill said. They wound up renting out the newly built East Hampton house until recently.

 

In 2018, they paid $2.65 million for a nearly ½-acre property in Sag Harbor with about 110 feet of frontage on Upper Sag Harbor Cove. Graybill said at the time, the property had a modest, roughly 1,600-square-foot house built in the 1950s.

Graybill said he initially assumed the house would be overly-complicated to renovate because of its proximity to the water. “Buying the property was a roll of the dice,” he said. “We didn’t know how much we could do.”

As it turned out, they could do quite a bit.

Diving into historic research, the couple learned that a stretch of the now-defunct elevated railroad that once ran from Bridgehampton to Sag Harbor crossed a corner of their property, which was also home to a warehouse during the area’s whaling heyday in the 1800s.

With approval from local officials, Graybill and Dokos substantially renovated the 1950s home, building a roughly 4,200-square-foot house with five bedrooms in its footprint. “It required a huge feat of engineering acrobatics to figure it out,” Graybill said. Because the house is set back 12 feet from the water, they were able to add a pool, a pool house and a two-car garage between the house and the street.

Graybill said the property’s original 1880s building inspired him to commission a warehouse-like structure with loading dock doors, high ceilings and open spaces. Part two of the design was to convert the industrial space to a home, using features like interior window walls. Permitting took about three years, and it took another two years to complete construction.

Graybill said despite being smaller than their East Hampton home, which is about 6,500 square feet, the house in Sag Harbor felt “intimate” and had all the amenities they wanted, including a pool, a pool bar and an office that looks west over the cove and north over a marsh and bird sanctuary. Graybill, who trained in London under the late restaurant designer David Collins , said he adopted certain U.K. sensibilities in the Sag Harbor home, such as high-set windows to maximize natural light, and a “boot room” near the front door where visitors can sit and remove their shoes and coats. The large kitchen is a “working” kitchen with pots and pans hanging within reach. “It’s not a relaxation area,” he said. “You’re in the kitchen to cook.”

 

They spent about $8 million on construction, landscaping and hard and soft costs, Graybill said. “I thought it would be our forever home, so I really leaned into everything being custom.”

Graybill said they “went a little indulgent” on interior finishes like light fixtures, paint, plaster and kitchen appliances, and the windows were made in Charleston, S.C., by a company specialising in historic windows.

The median sale price in Sag Harbor was $1.9 million during the fourth quarter of 2023, down 12% from the prior-year period, according to real-estate appraisal firm Miller Samuel. But sales were up 61.5% year-over-year during the quarter, while inventory rose 16.8% compared with the fourth quarter of 2022.

Graybill said they designed the house before adopting Rufus, so there are no doggy amenities. “Gosh no, and as a result he sleeps in the bed with us and walks freely on whatever furniture he wants,” he said. After a romp on the beach, Rufus also bathes in their tub. (Graybill said part of the decision to move to East Hampton is that the house there has a covered porch where they can put a dog sink.)

Like other pet owners, Graybill and Dokos adopted Rufus during Covid when they were living in Montecito and spending more time at home. “Dan had never had a dog,” said Graybill, who grew up with poodles and lab retrievers and was initially reluctant to get a dog because he knew how much responsibility it would be. “We like our freedom,” he said.

But Graybill said one night as they lay in bed, Dokos texted him a picture of a local breeder’s two golden doodles. “One was William and one was Harry,” he recalled. When they went to see the dogs the next day, Harry—the smaller of the pups—ran right up to Dokos. They brought him home that afternoon and named him Rufus, which means redheaded in Latin. The trio fell into a new routine that included daily jaunts on the beach.

Graybill said when they moved to Sag Harbor, Rufus’ joyful demeanour changed.

They took him to nearby bay beaches, but they were narrow and a bit rocky. “The dog was constrained,” Graybill said. He couldn’t run as fast or as far as he had in California. “He couldn’t dig.”

Graybill said he and Dokos thought Rufus would acclimate until they drove to East Hampton one day and the dog was back in his element. “The smile on his face—if dogs could smile—I said to Dan, ‘I think the dog is happier in East Hampton,’” Graybill said.

Graybill said he has no regrets about deciding to sell the house, in part because he and Dokos enjoyed the building process together. “I’m giving up this life we wanted to build in Sag Harbor,” he said, “but I’m gaining this daily ritual of going to the beach with my husband and dog, and I just really cherish that.”



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I.M. Pei was the confident visionary behind such transformative structures as the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong and the Louvre Pyramid in Paris, but he was also humble, and for years resisted a retrospective of his work.

Pei, a Chinese-American architect who died in 2019 at 102 , would always protest any suggestion of a major exhibition, saying, “why me,” noting, too, that he was still actively at work, recalls his youngest son, Li Chung “Sandi” Pei. A decade ago, when Pei was in his mid-to-late 90s, he relented, finally telling Aric Chen, a curator at the M+ museum in Hong Kong, “all right, if you want to do it, go ahead,” Sandi says.

A sweeping retrospective, “I.M. Pei: Life Is Architecture,” will open June 29 at M+ in the city’s West Kowloon Cultural District. The exhibition of more than 300 objects, including drawings, architectural models, photographs, films, and other archival documents, will feature Pei’s influential structures, but in dialogue with his “social, cultural, and biographical trajectories, showing architecture and life to be inseparable,” the museum said in a news release.

As a Chinese citizen who moved to the U.S. in 1935 to learn architecture, Pei—whose full first name was Ieoh Ming—brought a unique cultural perspective to his work.

“His life is what’s really interesting and separates him from many other architects,” Sandi says. “He brought with him so many sensibilities, cultural connections to China, and yet he was a man of America, the West.”

Facade of the Bank of China Tower in Hong Kong in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© South Ho Siu Nam

Pei’s architectural work was significant particularly because of its emphasis on cultural institutions—from the East Building of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., to the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar—“buildings that have a major impact in their communities,” Sandi says. But he also did several urban redevelopment projects, including Kips Bay Towers in Manhattan and Society Hill in Philadelphia.

“These are all places for people,” Sandi says. “He believed in the importance of architecture as a way to bring and celebrate life. Whether it was a housing development or museum or a tall building or whatever—he really felt a responsibility to try to bring something to wherever he was working that would uplift people.”

A critical juncture in Pei’s career was 1948, when he was recruited from the Harvard Graduate School of Design (where he received a master’s degree in architecture) by New York real estate developer William Zeckendorf.

With Zeckendorf, Pei traveled across the country, meeting politicians and other “movers and shakers” from Denver and Los Angeles, to Philadelphia, Washington D.C., Boston, and New York. “He became very adept at working in that environment, where you had to know how to persuade people,” Sandi says.

During the seven-year period Pei worked with Zeckendorf, the developer fostered the growth of his architecture practice, supporting an office that included urban, industrial, graphic, and interior designers, in addition to architects and other specialists, Sandi says.

When Pei started his own practice in 1955, “he had this wealth of a firm that could do anything almost anywhere,” Sandi says. “It was an incredible springboard for what became his own practice, which had no parallel in the profession.”

According to Sandi, Chinese culture, traditions, and art were inherent to his father’s life as he grew up, and “he brought that sensibility when he came into America and it always influenced his work.” This largely showed up in the way he thought of architecture as a “play of solids and voids,” or buildings and landscape.

“He always felt that they worked together in tandem—you can’t separate one from the other—and both of them are influenced by the play of light,” Sandi says.

View of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, on the mesa, in a photograph commissioned by M+ in 2021.
© Naho Kubota

Pei also often said that “architecture follows art,” and was particularly influenced by cubism, an artistic movement exploring time and space that was practiced in the early 20th century by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, and the sculptor Jacques Lipchitz, among others. This influence is apparent in the laboratory at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., and at the Everson Museum of Art in Syracuse, N.Y. “Those two buildings, if you look at them, have a play of solid and void, which are very cubistic,” Sandi says.

Yet Sandi argues that his father didn’t have a specific architectural style. Geometry may have been a consistent feature to his work, but his projects always were designed in response to their intended site. The resulting structure emerged as almost inevitable, he says. “It just was the right solution.”

Pei also intended his buildings “not only to be themselves a magnet for life,” but also to influence the area where they existed. “He never felt that a building stood alone,” Sandi says. “Urban design, urban planning, was a very important part of his approach to architecture, always.”

After he closed his own firm to supposedly “retire” in the early 1990s, Pei worked alongside Sandi and his older brother, Chien Chung (Didi) Pei, who died late last year, at PEI Architects, formerly Pei Partnership Architects. Pei would work on his own projects, with their assistance, and would guide his sons, too. The firm had substantial involvement in the Museum of Islamic Art, among other initiatives, for instance, Sandi says.

Working with his father was fun, he says. In starting a project, Pei was often deliberately vague about his intentions. The structure would coalesce “through a process of dialogue and sketches and sometimes just having lunch over a bottle of wine,” Sandi says. “He was able to draw from each of us who was working on the project our best efforts to help to guide [it] to some kind of form.”

The M+ retrospective, which will run through Jan. 5, is divided into six areas of focus, from Pei’s upbringing and education through to his work in real estate and urban redevelopment, art and civic projects, to how he reinterpreted history through design.

Sandi, who will participate in a free public discussion moderated by exhibition co-curator Shirley Surya on the day it opens, is interested “in the opportunity to look at my father anew and to see his work in a different light now that it’s over, his last buildings are complete. You can take a full assessment of his career.”

And, he says, “I’m excited for other people to become familiar with his life.”