The Mirrored houses of Suga. Est. 1977-79.
400 & 426 Ocean Walk.
Yusuke Suga was a Japanese hair stylist who was well known in New York fashion circles.
Suga, as he was known professionally, was born in China, After graduating from high school in 1962, Suga, whose older sister, Yasuko, worked as a hairdresser on movie sets, decided to learn the craft too. “Mother was very unhappy,” he says. “She wanted me to do something white-collar.” Instead he went to Tokyo’s Yamano Beauty College and by the mid-1960s was honing his talents in a salon that catered to bar hostesses. “I also had to sweep the floor,” he remembers.
Suga packed his electric rice steamer and emigrated to New York in 1965. There he camped temporarily in a small, leaky room in a Buddhist temple on Riverside Drive and quickly discovered that the best hairstylist in the city was Mr. Kenneth. Within 10 days he had wangled an interview at Kenneth’s lavish East Side salon. “They kept bringing me model after model to do,” he remembers. “I never even met Kenneth. Finally they said, ‘Okay, you’re hired.’ I was in heaven.” Three years later he struck out on his own. “We have a saying in Japan that if you sit on a rock for three years something may happen. So I stayed exactly three years,” he explains mysteriously. (Asked about his complimentary copy of the new book, Kenneth (right) replied stiffly, “It was very nice of Suga to send it along to me.”)
The idea for these two homes came to Suga and his partner Daniel Issert when they decided to build two houses on a double lot that would share a common deck and outdoor living area. The owner of the lot interpreted this concept as a condominium and refused to sell. At that point the two had to decide to either abandon the project or continuing and build on two separate lots. Choosing to move forward they chose architect Jon Evans of Peter Wilson Associates to design one house that could be built twice..
Suga gained recognition for his high-fashion hair styling for such magazines as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan. In 1972, he opened his own salon on East 70th Street and created the ”wedge” haircut worn by the skater Dorothy Hamill in the Olympics. His clients included Candice Bergen, Marie Osmond, Lauren Hutton, Faye Dunaway and the designer Hanae Mori.
I’d had short hair my whole life. It was more practical for skating. I was always trying to find somebody who’d give me a stylish cut other than that Dutch bowl. (Once I went to a salon in London while I was touring and had my hair cut by this gentleman who’d cut Julie Andrews’s hair. I was a big fan of hers. He did it so it was an inch long all the way around and I remember going outside and just crying.) For a couple of years I’d tried to get an appointment with this adorable, wonderful hairstylist, [Yusuke] Suga. Before the 1976 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria, my father called the salon manager and asked if Suga could cut my hair. Suga was brilliant, a master at the precision cut, and, as it turned out, a huge fan of figure skating. He had a way of doing my hair so that it fell back into place when I skated. It was a complete shock when it became such a fad.
The plan for these mirrored houses was extensive, including 3 bedrooms, a sleeping loft, yet the permissible building area amounted to a thirty by twenty six foot rectangle on a very small lot. Federal State, and restrictions also affected such aspects as roof pitches and heights, and the height of the first floor off the dunes. All of which meant that the houses literally became a tall order. The design is based on the core kitchen, stairs, and bathroom- to a 30 degree – 60 degree axis. This rotation creates a expected assortment of cramped corners and odd spaces, but in return it also gives a totally unexpected diversity of orientations, both inside and out. Architect Evans imaginative approach to the problem whose massing, for all its height is not overwhelming, and whose interiors are enormously spacious.
Daniel Issert’s house (426 Ocean) was completed first in 1977, and 400 Suga’s in 1979.
All angled walls are covered with cedar siding to contrast with others with painted sheetrock. Inside to reinforce the difference between the angled core and the perpendicular walls of the house, all angled walls are covered in cedar to contrast with others which are white painted sheetrock. The living room becomes a combination of intimate cedar clad seating areas near the fireplace and an expansive two story area closer to oceanfront windows.
The next level, angled and therefore cedar clad, overlooks the kitchen and living areas, and encloses two bedrooms , a bathroom, and an extra sleeping balcony. At the very top of the stairs is the master bedroom, a multi leveled eyrie under the eaves. It all flows together smoothly. The stairs and the shaft of the space that rises with them, are the major features of the house. The ties that bind.
Outside, the house belies its rather modern design and assumes the air of an older structure clad in weathered grey siding (albeit vertical siding). The impact of the front porch at Suga’s house is increased by the dramatic flight of outdoor steps that rise to meet it at the boardwalk.
What did the architects and owners gain from repeating the house? The owners sought to save the cost on a single design, as well as the ease of making two decisions at once at every turn in the design process. The end result was two of the same homes with the mirror image of each other.
There were slight architectural changes. Suga chose to carve out a porch adjacent to his bedroom, Daniel chose to have a bathroom relocated near his bedroom. More important was the style of each home. Suga’s home reflected Japanese simplicity. While Daniel’s was busy with a clutter of everyday objects.
The homes drew much criticism from the community. Only 200 yards from each other the scale, size and roof shapes were liked as well as disliked. What may have galled the neighbors was not so much he relationship between the two houses, unusual as that is, but their stylistic disregard for the surrounding houses.
1990. Yusuke Suga, a Japanese hair stylist who was well known in New York fashion circles, died on September 14th Thursday in Tokyo. He was 47 years old and lived in Manhattan. In 1981 he opened the Suga Salon on East 57th Street.
He is survived by his mother, Sakiyo Suga, two sisters, Yasuko Katsuki and Tamiko Takahashi, and a brother, Hajime Suga, all of Tokyo.
Indoor photo’s and info courtesy of Bob Howard.
420 Ocean Walk. 426 Ocean Walk.