501 Bass Walk

Staying true to one architect's vision on the Great South Bay.
July 27, 2012

(The great room and the sunken conversation pit)

501 Bass Walk

Fire Island Pines. In the last 10 years, Fire Island Pines has seen its share of gut renovations and complete rebuilds, replacing an island full of ratty beach bungalows into one packed with style-conscious mansions. But for native Coloradoans Michael Patten and Gary Groff, 57 and 59, staying true to their bayside home’s unique Northern California-inspired architecture is what makes their home so special. Originally designed and built by William Zeph Ginsberg in 1978 for his family, 501 Bass Walk transitions from its interior to exterior spaces with great ease, offering beautiful views of the Great South Bay and plenty of ambient light. “The house reminds us of The Sea Ranch north of San Francisco with its shed roofs, cedar siding, built-ins and use of natural materials,” explains Patten.

The Chelsea couple bought the house in 1998 after years of renting, and have taken care to keep some of the home’s signature features, like a sunken conversation pit, large sliding barn doors to the exterior living spaces, a Euro- pean-style courtyard and, most notably, Ginsberg’s freestanding second-floor architecture studio, which they have transformed into a library.

Though they have made slight renovations over the years—including the addition of a pool in 2002—the couple have chosen materials that blend effortlessly with the existing structure. And despite the home’s flow with the summery outdoors, some of the couple’s favorite memories of the house have been in the off-season, like their annual Valentine’s Day party. “In the off-sea- son access becomes very limited,” explains Patten. “But in a way that limited- ness creates a unique winter community and close relationships. We all depend on one another. The winter is incredibly beautiful on Fire Island and we feel lucky to experience it. The most rewarding aspects are the friendships that we have developed over the years.”

(The master bedroom with its adobe-style fireplace)

(The inviting red doors of the main entryway)

(The view of the Great South Bay from the pool)

(The second-floor “studio”)