A Fire Island Retreat

NYC power couple Brian Atwood and Jake Deutsch craft a weekend home in their own likeness with laidback, easygoing warmth and an unapologetic dose of glamour.


Written by Sophie Donelson



Since the 1960s, Fire Island, New York, has welcomed fun-loving summer renegades who eschew more famous coastal communities for this barefoot one. Famous for its artistic and flamboyant denizens and its afternoon al fresco parties, it’s also a historic national seashore with deer roaming free alongside the piping plovers and billowing dunes. Two new residents, shoe designer Brian Atwood and Jake Deutsch, a media-friendly physician, were drawn here for the relaxed vibe and natural beauty but also the stunning homes – the two have a penchant for good living, house first.

Here on this slip of land just an hour outside Manhattan is a collection of influential homes built in the 1960s and 1970s. Modernist, minimal, and wrought of cedar, these homes, writer Fred Bernstein noted, “are not extensions of city life, with all its complications, but more like escape pods, with decks spread out around them like landing pads.” This particular one was at times home to iconic fashion designer Halston and music mogul David Geffen. (Can you even imagine the parties?)

So when the new owners wanted to elevate the pared-down wood interiors with bathrooms clad in eye-catching natural stone, there was precedent — this house was built to dazzle. “But we love a good bathroom,” says Brian. “When you stay at a hotel on vacation, it's always the great bath that makes your stay even better. So we know this was how we wanted to amplify the downtime experience for ourselves and for our guests.”

Committed to a thoughtful renovation, the two said they went back and forth on using stone. “We both love it but we wondered what would work, what wouldn’t feel out of place,” says Brian. A trip to the Ann Sacks showroom in New York solved it immediately. “Once we saw all the beautiful stone in person, the decision felt organic. We were immediately drawn to the colors — the green and purple right away."

Brave! some folks might be thinking, but Jake says going with colored stone is easy if you’re confident. The key to that, he cites, is having inspiring references and also trusting your design team. The guys oversaw the renovation themselves, working with local contractors and leaning on the Ann Sacks and Kohler showroom teams for design and product advice.

For their own bathroom, the gentleman jumped at the chance to use Nubo Verde, a breathtaking marble with a sweeping spectrum of green hues. “These greens seem to change beautifully as they respond to the changes of light during the day,” says Jake. The stone sheaths the walls and floors of their own glass-partitioned shower, creating a breathtaking room within a room.

Violet-tinged stone was the immediate next pick of the two. “You have to be a little bit bold to get an effect that says: Wow,” says Jake. In this guest bath the variations on Lilac include the show-stopping Belcaro Fluted stone enveloping the shower chamber. The bathrooms are a key feature of the tour the couple offers guests and friends passing through, they explain. “First we show the primary bath,” says Brian, “Green and gorgeous. Then they see that fluted Lilac and they haven't seen anything like it… they're blown away.”

A second guest bath pairs fine slate field tile and black plumbing fixtures with the same finesse that designers mix metals. These midnight hues work in chorus together. “It might seem that black is too severe, but in this setting with the cedar, it’s elegant, soft and modern,” says Brian.

“For some people, I think there’s a knee-jerk decision to choose a neutral or white for a bathroom,” says Jake. “But it doesn’t offer the same depth of feeling that another stone might.” Brian concurs: “Color gives a space life — it’s a no brainer in my mind.”

The fourth bathroom receives — for a private space — considerable attention. Sited on the lower level of the home and partially visible from the village boardwalk, this decadent guest bath is awash in the three-dimensional marble mosaic Catia Cube—walls, floors, and ceiling inclusive. “We really went over the top with it,” says Brian.

This “peek” of interior living is a hallmark of Fire Island modernism and the gentleman played it up by specifying down-lighting for the shower back wall, intriguing passersby to crane their necks up and over the greenery to catch a glimpse. For those who get to step inside, the effect is akin to entering an MC Escher drawing, a real-life fantasy of geometry and playful perspective. “We were so picky about the installation, we wanted the tiles to match perfectly to continue the illusion of depth, so it was hard to tell floor from bench from wall.” It worked. (Note: This is not a shower for your grandparents.) “It’s a cool little glimpse into the house that makes everyone excited and curious to see the rest of it.”

Fittingly, this is the final stop of the house tour but just the beginning for the guys and their houseguests, who get to enjoy the perks of actually living with blithe beauty. “The bathrooms being super special, it's like a little present every day,” says Jake. “It’s not just a morning or an evening routine, it’s a spa moment — a real indulgence.”

November 21, 2023

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