When tasked with renovating a centuries old Mattituck farmhouse and barn, veteran contractor Jim Naples, owner of East Bay Builders, had one thing to contemplate.
“When you enter into a project you have to make a decision,” he said. “Are you going to demolish and rebuild? Or are you going to restore? On such a historic property, there is only one choice: You restore it.”
The 135-acre farm complex once belonged to the Tuthill family, whose deep local roots date as far back as 1612. The current owners discovered East Bay Builders through word-of-mouth recommendations. The project started with the old working barn behind the main farmhouse. The goal was to transform the aging structure into a fully functioning living space with enough room to accommodate guests comfortably while still maintaining a rich agricultural heritage.
“We wanted it to be a finished space while showing the integrity of the old barn,” Naples said. “To do that, we used a lot of the old timbers and the wood that was already there. There are a lot of materials lying around on a big farm property. For example, we found a big pile of old wood and restored pieces to make floating shelves in the kitchen.”
The formerly uninhabitable barn would be transformed into a spacious 2,200-square-foot mini-farmhouse with two bathrooms, an open concept downstairs floor plan and grand upstairs master suite. The first step was securing the structure.
“We had to support the roof,” Naples explained. “By using a dormer to raise the roof we were able to provide more space in the second-floor bedroom. We also added a lot of windows because the bedroom over looks the farm fields. It is a beautiful view.”
Antique beams were installed to support the ceilings above the main floor living space. Elements from the original home and other reclaimed materials on the property were then incorporated into the design. Old barn timbers were repurposed to create the staircase handrail while the trim outlining the doors and windows was milled from discarded wood, much of it pine and spruce. Under the staircase, a former workbench discovered in the barn was refinished into a functional display table often topped with flowers.
“If we could salvage it, we did,” Naples said.
The homeowner played an active role in the design. It’s her affinity for rustic chic that informed the finishes. The walls are an eclectic mix of sheetrock interspersed with barn board and wood-panel accents. The kitchen was outfitted with commercial grade appliances and bar stool seating with a built-in reclaimed beam serving as its tabletop. The vinyl plank flooring was selected as a sturdier alternative to wood in the main living areas, while porcelain tile floors and subway tile walls bestowed a simple, chic aesthetic in the baths.
“It makes a whole project go so much better when you have a client that is so interested in the process of restoration,” Naples said. “We do all sorts of jobs with different styles, so when you build rapport with the people you’re working for, it’s a really good thing.”
Naples, who grew up in the construction business, has been in the industry for 40 years. In that time, his Center Moriches-based company has executed everything from large-scale commercial projects, such as supermarkets, to multimillion-dollar residential renovations. (Naples is currently overseeing construction of Howard Stern’s former Old Westbury estate.)
After starting work on the barn in 2017, the homeowners asked East Bay Builders to sign on to restore the property’s main farmhouse, well house, shed, potato storage building and even the chicken coops.
For the sake of coherence, all the structures were capped with a standing seam black metal roof, which provides a textural element from its visible ridges.
The three-bedroom, two-bathroom main house faced structural issues similar to the barn’s, and was modeled in a similar aesthetic, with an upgraded kitchen and old farmhouse finishes.
The most intriguing part of the main home, Naples said, is the cigar room located off the kitchen. Believed to be a part of the original Tuthill home, the space boasts a double-sided, indoor/outdoor stone fireplace.
The discoveries made while restoring the historic complex were the highlights of the project, which was completed earlier this year, Naples said. So, too, was doing construction on a working farm.
“With the animals on the property, we used to have chickens going into the trucks,” Naples said with a laugh. “It made it that much more of a great project. We had a lot of fun working there.”