Roger Ferris, whose client list includes the likes of Blackstone CEO Stephen Schwarzman and art collector Robert M. Rubin, demurs at being dubbed “Architect to the Billionaires.” “I don’t know why I’ve been called that; I think that’s bad for my business, and I don’t get any calls from just the millionaires,” Ferris jokes, adding that he does all kinds of work at all kinds of budgets. “I try to be as diverse typologically as I can be,” says the designer.
Though his eponymous company, Roger Ferris + Partners, is based in Westport, Connecticut, the Hamptons is a second home for him. He is currently working on a master plan for avant-garde director Robert Wilson at the Watermill Center, an ongoing expansion project that will culminate with an underground library, and he recently completed the new facility at the East End Hospice in Westhampton. Ferris is also building an important new house in North Sea. “It’s for Stephen Ross, CEO of Related Companies, and I’m collaborating with Tony Ingrao. I’m doing the architecture, and Tony’s doing the interiors. I like collaborating with talented designers and clients; it’s all about collaboration. It’s a lot more interesting to design with others, with a group of collaborators, than it is to work in a vacuum.”
Ferris’s current Hamptons house is at the Bridge, Bridgehampton’s innovative golf club on 350 acres at the highest point on Long Island that he designed. The Bridge Clubhouse’s modern look concerned the neighbors at first. “The constituents in Sag Harbor thought that they would see a kind of spaceship up on the hill from downtown. There were people that were frightened by it and the idea of a very contemporary clubhouse or building,” he says. After the Clubhouse was built, he hasn’t heard any complaints.
The Bridge, which was unveiled about 10 years ago, is an ongoing project, which makes Ferris happy. “At the conclusion of a project, I’m always sad,” he says. “At the ribbon-cutting, I’m always the sad one. It’s like everybody’s excited, and I’m always like, Oh man, I’m leaving this, giving this away, so to speak.”
And then there’s his first book, Inventive Minimalism: The Architecture of Roger Ferris + Partners, out this August; about half of the projects included in the monograph are in the Hamptons. Publishers have approached him about doing a book for at least a decade, but Ferris was ambivalent. “Every building, every project has a kind of vitality, a kind of life,” he says. “It’s alive, and then incorporating [it] in between the covers of a book, and then it subsequently gets placed on a shelf, there’s a finality to it which is kind of a sweet and yet sorrowful thing.” Publishing this book is profound for him, he admits.
Meanwhile, Ferris still manages to find time to relax when he’s on the East End. He plays golf and tennis, but also likes just hanging out. “One of my favorite activities is going into any one of these towns, whether it’s Sag Harbor or East Hampton or Southampton, early in the morning, getting coffee and going for a stroll, and just watching it all evolve, watching it wake up, and watching people in this transformative state, where they’re relaxing.”