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A home the Steelman’s designed in Southold. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

In 1990, when The Suffolk Times interviewed Tom Samuels and Nancy Steelman, the husband-and-wife team behind Samuels & Steelman Architects, the couple said a Danish influence permeated their work.

“I think it’s kind of an intangible thing — a simplicity of line, a purity of form, a reliance on a kind of natural light,” Mr. Samuels said at the time.

More than two decades later, the New Suffolk couple said that design philosophy still rings true — as does their desire to build properties that blend seamlessly into the traditional landscape of the North Fork.  

“We’re looking to solve people’s problems in a beautiful way,” Mr. Samuels said. “Our clients want the latest and greatest but they want their homes to look like they’ve been here a long time.”

“We’ve always tried to respect the North Fork,” Ms. Steelman said. “I think a lot of our architectural style is based on the historical buildings in the area: farms, old houses on Main Road, classic beach cottages.”

In the 28 years since they launched their Cutchogue firm in 1986, Mr. Samuels and Ms. Steel-man have been at the design helm of countless residential and commercial properties.

During the late 1980s the pair, who met in college while studying abroad in Denmark, designed and added a large wing to Southold Free Library.

They’ve also designed and built several North Fork wineries, including Bedell Cellars and Pellegrini Vineyards, both in Cutchogue, Sparkling Pointe in Southold and, most recently, Kontokosta Winery in Greenport.

“Our clients at Kontokosta said they really wanted [the property] to look like a barn from the outside but be a little more urban inside — almost like SoHo,” Ms. Steelman said. “It was an interesting project.”

Legends co-owner Diane Harkoff outside the New Suffolk restaurant. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)
Legends co-owner Diane Harkoff outside the New Suffolk restaurant, where the facade was designed by Samuels & Steelman after a storm. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder, file)

A modern interpretation of a 19th-century New England barn, Kontokosta Winery is made of 90 percent recycled-content steel and boasts floor-to-ceiling windows — a feature Ms. Steelman said enhances the 180-degree views of the vineyard and Long Island Sound.

Currently, Ms. Steelman said, the firm is working on a combined 30 or so projects, including a restaurant and winery in Southold whose identities they can’t yet disclose.

Most of the couple’s jobs, however, are residential — and they make it a point not to collaborate on projects.

“That’s how we’ve been able to stay married all these years,” Ms. Steelman said with a chuckle.

“And get a lot done,” Mr. Samuels added.

The architects, who work closely at their firm with Ural Talgat, an architect who oversees their projects’ site plan work and landscaping needs, said their goal is to “raise the design standard of the North Fork” while respecting the region’s innate sense of simplicity.

“I think it’s fair to say we would like to avoid the Hamptons’ sense of excess,” Mr. Samuels said. “We don’t want it to become that. We live here, too.”

And while they’ve designed prominent estates for numerous clients from Laurel to Orient, Mr. Samuels and Ms. Steelman are perfectly content with their own home, a renovated four-bedroom, two-bathroom 1840s farmhouse.

“We respect the old, for sure,” Mr. Samuels said of the house, which they’ve revamped “room by room” over the past 25 years. “But there are limitations. We don’t have the big, open kitchen we design for everyone else.” “But we love our house,” Ms. Steelman said. “Oh, yeah,” Mr. Samuels said. “We’re never going away.”

As North Forkers themselves, the couple said they’re particularly adept at creating properties that reflect their customers’ unique needs. “It’s not about style and flash or outdoing the neighbors,” Mr. Samuels said. “It’s about their lives and making them comfortable and happy here — for themselves and for their family. Our clients are looking to fi t in here and make a life on the North Fork. That’s our goal.” Ms. Steelman nodded. “Yes,” she said. “That’s exactly right.”

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