The Angelo Donghia/
Ron Chereskin / Howard Goldfarb Home.
74 Bay Walk. Est. 1964 – 2005.
Like many designers who were drawn to the Pines designer Angelo Donghia was no different. The word was out about the new hip Pines community, and all were coming. Architects, Interior designers, and artists of every kind were creating a melting pot of everything creative.
Angelo Donghai was a high achiever since childhood, Donghia was president of five organizations in High School. He later went on to the Parson’s School of Design, and upon graduation in 1959 he decided to apply for jobs with three interior designers: Michael Greer, Yale Burge and Billy Baldwin. He happened to call Yale Burge first and was offered a job on the spot, which continued until Burge’s death in 1972 after the duo had formed a partnership, Burge-Donghia. It was Yale who introduced Angelo to Fire Island Pines as he himself had a home here. A home that Angelo would later purchase and expand. It was during their partnership that Vice Versa was formed exclusively for Donghia’s rug and fabric designs. Gifford designed the “towers” house for Yale Burge as the master suite, connected by a bridge, to their main house next door. Burge died unexpectedly and Angelo Donghia bought the “towers” side of the house and took down the bridge.
The original house was sold by the Burge family and was remodeled.
To display his fabrics he used the furniture he had designed for customers, which he eventually sold through the same outlets. By the age of forty-five the creative polymath had amassed four distinct corporate entities : a fabric company (Vice Versa), his eponymous furniture company, a licensing company and a growing collection of design showrooms to the trade throughout the country – all successfully without so much as fracturing his reputation in the eyes of high profile clients the likes of Halston, Ralph Lauren, Mary Tyler Moore, Barbara Walters, and Liza Minnelli. Particularly rare among his peers of that era, Donghia successfully navigated the creative waters of high style interior design with assured business acumen, securing his success and longevity. His design and business models have since inspired a host of designers, providing a framework on which to build their growing businesses into successful enterprises.
Stylistically Donghia stood out from the crowd. From his early designs we are witness to the influence of his classical training that segued into a brief fascination with bohemian exoticism in the later 1960’s until arriving at his unparalleled classic-contemporary vocabulary. By the 1970’s he had defined his style, introducing overscale furniture like none seen before it into spare yet glamorous backdrops in which to showcase select pieces. A product of the times, his rooms were as sexy as his Studio 54 clientele. He approached color in much the same way one would to dress themselves, enveloping his clients in the same colors they felt comfortable wearing. His preference for neutrals allowed the nuance of form and texture to predominate while providing a quietly elegant backdrop in which to display important pieces. He was, as is now, particularly known for his use of large-scale, “fat” furniture, men’s gray flannel suiting for walls and upholstery, and reflective high gloss painted walls and silver-foil ceilings. Many of his furniture designs are still in production and near vintage pieces can be found on sites such as 1stdibs and Viyet.
The Fire Island house would be designed by noted architect Horace Gifford. However theirs would be a difficult relationship that would end badly.
The home would be a joint venture for Angelo and close friend fashion designer Halston.
Angelo Donghia passed in 1985.
In the 1987 Menswear designer Ron Chereskin and his partner Howard Goldfarb bought the home. In 1994. they would begin an extensive renovation with noted architect and Pines resident Hal Hayes.
Ron Chereskin is a legendary name in the menswear industry. Starting out in the 70s, he was responsible for transposing his illustrator’s sensibility to the fabrics that were newly available thanks to modern production techniques.
“When I started, I was not trained in menswear or fashion. I was a magazine illustrator,” “I was discovered by a shirt and tie manufacturer – they wanted to put illustrations on ties. In the 70s, illustrated shirts were one of the last amazing menswear success stories that ever happened. We did menswear with matching polyester leisure shirts and suits. It was like a uniform.” His graphic arts training hadn’t prepared him for the speed that the menswear industry moved at, but he liked it: “To me as an artist, I was like ‘wow!’ It was so quick and successful. Before that, I had been doing book jackets and journals and being an illustrator, but this was something else,” he said.
Ron Chereskin 1970’s Graphic illustrations on paper and Scarves and Ties.
I loved the energy so much that I went on to discovering sweater machines and got the [Coty and Cutty Sark] awards. Because of my background in art, I used colors never before seen in menswear, like pastels. Back then, men didn’t even wear cotton sweaters, but I started to make them.”
The Coty and Cutty Sark awards were fashion industry awards intended to promote American designers, both of which werediscontinued in the 80s when their sponsors determined that American fashion was already so big that it didn’t need any more promoting. Chereskin took home the Coty Menswear Special award in 1980, and the Cutty Sark award in 1981.
Today using home as his canvas, Ron brings his vision and a new dimension to a wide range of home products with RONChereskin HOME.
1994 begins the renovation of the home with architect Hal Hayes.
The bayfront modernist house of Ron Chereskin and Howard Goldfarb was a landmark quality icon on the block. This Horace Gifford house had a great pedigree typical of the Pines of its time. Architect Hal Hayes recalls: “When Ron & Howard first approached me about the house, they were completely open and flexible to all options…”
“During the initial phase of the design, I was researching Gifford and other early 1960’s homes. I came across a design of Le Corbusier for a monastery in India with the exact same proportions of barrel vaults for the monk’s cells that Gifford used for the structure and bedrooms of this house. The Coincidence was great. I surmised that Gifford had seen it and it increased my desire to preserve part of the structure and spirit of the original design.”
“The original house took advantage of the bay view. However the lush gardens on the south side was completely cut off from the living spaces of the house and the view of the pool was blocked. The small monk bedrooms and two tiny baths were far too small for Ron & Howard’s needs.”
The design concept Hal developed was a two story addition which wrapped over the north, south and top of the original structure which was gutted to become an open pavilion with large new openings to the pool deck and entry to take advantage of the view, landscape and outdoor living areas.
A new second floor became a luxurious master suite, setback from the structure below for privacy. A structural change at the center of the existing house became new double height atrium and stairwell. The result brought light and air into the middle of the house.
The space also has a sensor-activated clerestory windows and acts as a natural heat chimney for ventilation during hot summer days. The full height and width glass walls and french doors of the main living space eliminate the need for anything that would diminish the spectacular views.
Ron has described these glass walls as “two beautiful paintings; one of the water and one of the garden.”
The House is and continues to be both a haven and a place to entertain for Ron & Howard and Riley.
Sources: Fire Island Modernist- Christopher Rawlins.
2009 FIPAP Hal Hayes House Tour.