Michael Stillman has long enjoyed an appetite for success. After stints in the kitchens and purchasing departments for the Smith & Wollensky Restaurant Group, he played a pivotal role in opening that companyÂ’s restaurants in Houston, Dallas, and Boston. In 2007, he founded Fourth Wall Restaurants with his father, Alan. The New York-based restaurant group owns, manages, and develops unique restaurant concepts, including Park Avenue, Quality Meats, Maloney & Porcelli, The Post House, and Smith & Wollensky New York. But it is StillmanÂ’s lifetime love of the ocean and his familyÂ’s retreat in the Long Island village of Sagaponack that allows him to break away from the crazed life of the restaurant business from time to time. Whether itÂ’s driving to the local corn stand, playing bocce with friends, or going for a swim twice a day, Stillman finds that this escape is not only great for his state of mind, but also for his business.
WhatÂ’s the back story behind this home?
My mom and dad started going to the beach on Long Island in the late Â‘60s, and they spent a lot of time on the dunes of Amagansett, which is a little more rustic than East Hampton or Southampton. They really liked that atmosphere, so when they began looking for property, that was the goal. And Sagaponack, which has now become more of a hot spot, wasnÂ’t as built up at the time. So they built the house there in 1982. My Francophile parents actually ended up building a small vineyard in that area. And let me tell you, that was a disaster of all disasters! It was a little too close to the ocean.
How often are you able to go out there?
I still get out to the house a lot in the summer, whenever I can. The restaurant business is really crazy. So for me, itÂ’s an unbelievable break, even if itÂ’s only for a day. Because my father and I still work together, it sort of turns into an office away from home at times.
As restaurateurs, are you entertaining a lot, even on your weekend breaks?
We are natural entertainers and we love to have people over, but itÂ’s very, very casual for us at this house. We love driving around and going to our special corn stand. Buying local and seeing the people that weÂ’ve known for 30 years is the greatest joy of being there. And then we cook in a very casual manner, all outdoors, if possible.
What are some of your other rituals?
We built a sand bocce court, and sometimes we do that as a family, which is kind of bizarre, but a lot of fun. And I go in the water every single day that IÂ’m out there, sometimes twice. I go in the ocean a little earlier in the season than most because I like the cold of it. IÂ’m not someone who suns myself on the beach a lot, but I love being in the ocean. ItÂ’s surprising what great restaurant ideas you can come up with out there.
If you were to design a house of your own, how would it differ from this one?
It would maybe have a more contemporary and functional feel, but something I like about the house is the natural wear and tear that comes with being on the ocean. Living near the water physically changes the way a house ages. And thatÂ’s something I love. — Nicole Vecchiarelli
The Stillman estate in Sagaponack, NY was built in 1982 and features four bedrooms, four bathrooms, a bocce court, an antique rotisserie in the kitchen, an outdoor pool with a cabana, and a private suspended walkway leading to the beach.