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For this local architect, clarity is the key to good design

11/08/2015 2:00 PM |

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Clean, simple lines and a focus on sustainability: These are the concepts that inform the work of Mattituck architect Meryl Kramer.

“I’m trying to get a little more modern,” the 51-year-old said recently. “It’s the clarity of design that’s very important to me.”

For Ms. Kramer, whose small, eponymous firm is headquartered in Greenport, this means incorporating increasingly popular materials like metal roofs alongside her elegant yet uncomplicated designs — something she said is easier said than done.

“It’s much more challenging because it takes a lot more work to make something look simple,” she explained. “Everything needs to be precise.”

Ms. Kramer has been honing her architectural precision for more than 20 years. A Brooklyn native, she graduated from Cornell University with a bachelor’s degree in her field in 1987 and moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked for the firms Smith Blackburn & Stauffer and Skidmore Owings & Merrill.

It was during her tenure at the latter — where she helped design skyscrapers, schools and hospitals — that Ms. Kramer realized she preferred doing residential projects.

“I think there’s more opportunity [in it],” she explained.

After moving to the North Fork in the late 1990s, Ms. Kramer joined the Cutchogue firm Samuels & Steelman. She launched her own firm quite by accident, after the birth of her eldest son. (Ms. Kramer and her husband, John Carter, have two children.)

“People started asking me to do things when they heard I was on maternity leave,” she said. “I had the full intention of going back to work with [Samuels & Steelman] because they’re great people to work for. There are a lot of great architects on the North Fork.”

Despite the area’s considerable pool of design specialists — something Ms. Kramer attributes to the North Fork’s rural, maritime environment — clients who have chosen Ms. Kramer say they were attracted to her portfolio, but also her personality.

“I liked that she was very precise,” said Lucy Silles of Orient, whose 1880 farmhouse has a new kitchen and bathroom designed from scratch by Ms. Kramer. “It was clear to me that she was very thorough and conscientious.”

While modern designs excite Ms. Kramer, not all projects, including the one in Orient, fit that bill. And for good reason.

“I try to be contextual and have things blend with the environments around them,” she said. “That’s important to me.”

But it’s also important, she said, to remember that “we’re now in the 21st century and have modern materials.”

Therein lies Ms. Kramer’s interest in using sustainable materials whenever possible, an effort she described as “designing an efficient building envelope that will minimize energy consumption.”

One of the most important ways to accomplish this, she said, is through spray foam insulation. Another is with solar panels.

“I’m very interested in [solar panels] but I have to find people who are also,” she said. “I think people have a hard time making that initial investment.”

Another thing that interests Ms. Kramer is maintaining the blog on her website. There, she posts photos of projects in progress, like the shed dormers at a Greenport home currently under construction. But it’s not all architecture: Also an avid cook, Ms. Kramer has shared photos of ricotta-stuffed squash blossoms on her blog.

“Instagram is kind of fun, too,” she said of the smartphone photo-sharing application. “These are things that are available now to people so that they can get to know what my passions are — not only as an architect but as a person.”

Looking ahead, Ms. Kramer can’t think of anything she’d do differently. 

“I’d like to keep doing what I’m doing,” she said. “I really like the direction in which my firm is going.”

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Photo caption: Architect Meryl Kramer on site of a home she designed and is under construction in Greenport. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch)

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