Good Things Come in Small Packages - 27 East

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Good Things Come in Small Packages

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Joe Farruggio, right, and his daughter, Sienna, at their East Quogue house.  BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

Joe Farruggio, right, and his daughter, Sienna, at their East Quogue house. BRENDAN J. O'REILLY

The Farruggios' East Quogue house, just over 1,000 square feet.  JOE FARRUGGIO

The Farruggios' East Quogue house, just over 1,000 square feet. JOE FARRUGGIO

A propane fire pit and seating in the backyard.  JOE FARRUGGIO

A propane fire pit and seating in the backyard. JOE FARRUGGIO

The backyard dining table.  JOE FARRUGGIO

The backyard dining table. JOE FARRUGGIO

The open kitchen and living area.  JOE FARRUGGIO

The open kitchen and living area. JOE FARRUGGIO

The master bedroom, with built-in drawers.  JOE FARRUGGIO

The master bedroom, with built-in drawers. JOE FARRUGGIO

Drawers built into the master bedroom walls. BRENDAN O'REILLY

Drawers built into the master bedroom walls. BRENDAN O'REILLY

Bunkbeds in the second bedroom. BRENDAN O'REILLY

Bunkbeds in the second bedroom. BRENDAN O'REILLY

The Farruggios' East Quogue house, just over 1,000 square feet.  JOE FARRUGGIO

The Farruggios' East Quogue house, just over 1,000 square feet. JOE FARRUGGIO

Brendan J. O’Reilly on Apr 3, 2024

While large houses offer more space to spread out in, a new home in East Quogue shows that a house that is below-average in size can be just as comfortable and convenient for a family to share.

The house is the second home of the Farruggio family of Whitestone, Queens. It’s two stories tall, with 1,080 square feet of living space above ground, plus a 600-square-foot finished basement, on an undersized lot. They developed the property themselves as a retreat from the city.

Construction began in 2020, right before the COVID pandemic emerged. Fortunately for the Farruggios, the house was framed and the electrical was roughed in by the time New York shut down. Closures plus restrictions on how many people could work on the site at a time slowed things down a bit, but the project was spared the supply-chain issues that came later.

“It’s a small house, too,” Joe Farruggio said. “It’s not like you’ve got so much stuff to do. There are pool houses out here that are probably triple the size of this thing.”

He recalled that the framer he hired told him, “I haven’t framed a house this small probably in the last 20 years.”

Farruggio said they knew the house would be a “touchdown spot,” where they could go to get out of the city and visit the beach.

“You can’t have a ton of people here,” he said. “After eight people here, it starts to become a little tight. So we tried to do some more stuff outside. We paved the backyard, put a big table back there. So at least you can get what you kind of lack inside.”

His parents, in-laws and cousins may visit for a beach day and come back home to barbecue, he said, but, overnight, it’s typically only Farruggio, his wife, Alexis, and their two children, Sienna and Vincent, who stay at the house.

It was Farruggio’s father, Vincenzo, who bought the property, then vacant, 18 years ago. The parcel is roughly 40 feet by 100 feet, slightly less than 4,000 square feet, or a 10th of an acre. It is in an R20 zoning district, where the minimum lot area typically required for a single-family home is 20,000 square feet.

“The property had a variance on it a while back, so that’s the reason why we’re able to build on it because the zoning doesn’t allow it,” Farruggio said.

He said they are really happy with what they ended up with and explained that they tried to fit as much as they could into the space that they had. They weighed making it a two-bedroom house, and keeping the entire first floor open, but it wasn’t going to be practicable with two teenagers in the house. “You can’t stick them in the same bedroom,” he said.

So, on the first floor, they included a small bedroom, a full bathroom and a living room/eat-in-kitchen area. And, upstairs, they included the master bedroom, another bedroom and a bathroom.

The kitchen offers counter seating, with room for four people. There is no dining room table indoors, but the large table on the backyard patio can easily seat eight.

“We built the big table so we can have everybody eating,” Farruggio said. “We’re Italian. We like to eat.”

Because the house is small, they opted for higher-end finishes that would have been cost-prohibitive had they built a larger home.

“We wanted something that was going to last,” Farruggio said. “And so we put some good tile down, we put radiant heat. We tried to make it as energy-efficient as possible. So we have radiant on all three floors, which is awesome.”

Farruggio said they liked the look of wood but not the maintenance of it, so they put down wood-look porcelain plank flooring. The stairs, both going to the top level and down to the basement, are white oak with a Bona finish that he said comes close to matching the tile.

Rather than boxing in the stairwell, he kept it open and used Viewrail cable railing rather than spindles to allow the space to look more open.

The basement has polished concrete floors, with a walkout on one side and a large window, set down low in a deep window well, on the other, allowing in natural light.

On the top floor, the master bedroom uses space efficiently with drawers built into knee walls, in lieu of dressers. However, Farruggio pointed out that one pair of drawers is actually a dummy to conceal the radiant heat manifold.

Throughout the house, he used pocket doors where he could. Where he used swinging doors, he only did so because plumbing or other things in the walls meant pocket doors were not an option.

The roof is mostly asphalt shingles, with a standing seam roof accent. A transom window is above the front door, which is Yosemite blue, a color that pops off the white house with black windows.

Because Farruggio didn’t want to worry about maintenance of the siding, he opted for fiber cement Hardie Board with PVC trim. “PVC was definitely more money, but you’re never going to paint it. It’s never going to rot,” he said.

He also chose galvanized steel gutters that are both functional and decorative. He said he’s always preferred this half-round style to the traditional K-style gutters, and when building such a small house, the dollar difference was not a big number.

The one time the supply chain stalled them came after the house was built, when they decided to add a hot tub to the backyard patio. They waited a year for it.

Landscape designer Patricia Hopkins laid out the backyard. In addition to the dining table, the patio also includes a built-in propane grill and refrigerator, a propane fire table and seating for around the fire. Rather than a fence, the backyard is lined with about 100 arborvitae that were tiny when first installed and a bit taller now but still too short to block sight lines. Farruggio said privacy was not a big concern; he doesn’t mind waiting for them to grow in.

Farruggio is not a home builder or developer by trade — he sells and services commercial office furniture — but he built his primary home 17 years ago and also built his parents’ home and has helped friends.

“It’s not what I do,” he said. “It’s kind of like a guerrilla DIY-er.”

His father-in-law, Paul Bonfilio, an architect, designed both this house and their primary home. Farruggio joked it’s like the family has “an in-house architect.”

Farruggio said Bonfilio is a super-talented, old-school type of architect who draws by hand. He’s also a model maker whose model of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater” is on display at the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan.

Farruggio found building in Southampton Town refreshing when compared to his experiences in New York City.

He said people would say to him, “The Town of Southampton is a pain in the butt. They’ll bust your chops about this.” But he said he had the completely opposite experience, with inspectors who were “nothing but helpful.”

He said that to be honest he wishes it was a little bigger as their kids get bigger and have friends over, but they are happy how it turned out.

When they come for the summer, the house is to eat and sleep, he noted. They really come out to enjoy the area, visiting the beach and going on their boat, which they keep nearby at Aldrich Boat Yard & Marina.

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