“The excitement one feels at the prospect of designing a new house is really the promise of an adventure. Adventures, by definition, take us beyond the world we know, beyond the world we can easily predict. Adventures bring us face to face with new challenges that expand our universes to give us new perspectives on ourselves as individuals. And architectural adventures are no different.” – James Merrell
James Merrell came to architecture by way of art and the history of ideas – rather than engineering and design. Over 30 years, Merrell has designed an impressive collection of decidedly architectural, vibrant and beautifully appointed residences from the firm’s home-base on Main Street in Sag Harbor, NY. Today, the practice is comprised of a collaborative, talented team of highly-regarded architects who work closely on a variety of projects that are primarily located on Eastern Long Island and in the Western United States.
With the firm’s creative team, Merrell has established a tradition of engaged discussion and creative dialogue to explore the boundaries between conventional rules and artistic license. Without a pre-determined vision or set architectural “style,” JMA-designed homes are carefully executed statements of individuality and self-expression.
Having grown up in Southeastern Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia, Merrell describes an early connection to a more hands-on approach to design and construction, that serves to inspire his own architectural practice, “We would dam the creek and build things with wood... And I think I missed that, and I came out here because it put me back in touch with hammers and nails.”
Merrell studied at Trinity College, Hartford, CT (Bachelor of Arts in American Studies), and completed his initial architecture education with the Institute for Architectural Studies and Urban Studies, New York City, under the tutelage of architect Peter Eisenman. He received a Master of Architecture degree from the Yale School of Architecture, New Haven, CT.
Merrell’s professional experience started at the Juilliard School in Manhattan, where he designed and built theatrical sets and scenery. He spent time working with sculptor James Turrell on the installation of an early work at PS1 in Queens, NY. After completing his architecture studies, Merrell worked at some large New York City firms before relocating to East Hampton, NY, to work for Nagel & Lesser Architects. He founded James Merrell Architects in 1988.
When not drawing houses, writing about houses, or thinking about houses, Merrell sails a Europe-class, single-person dinghy. He is married to novelist Susan Scarf Merrell.