It was the beach that drew Jeanne and Pat McGuiness and their four children to Spring Lake summer after summer. But when the couple decided to move permanently to the Shore town famous for its tree-lined streets and gracious old homes, the one thing they didn’t want was a beach house. “Since this was going to be a full-time residence,” says their designer, Alma Russo, “the homeowners told us from the start that they wanted it to look as beautiful during the winter holidays as on a summer beach day.” Thanks to Russo’s deft mix of textures and colors and a transitional design, the custom build—which Jeanne McGuiness describes as “kind of cottage-y but with a Southern flair”—is a four-season home that’s as visually arresting as it is inviting.
There’s plenty of white to create a sun-washed coastal feel, but it’s warmed by a variety of woods and deep blues and textures that you wouldn’t expect to find in a summer home. In the dining area, for instance, Russo installed a fireplace mantel and ceiling beams, all crafted from reclaimed wood, and a painted shiplap ceiling. Instead of hardwood, which is used throughout the rest of the house, the floor in the dining area is reclaimed brick. Together, all these elements give the space a feeling of lived-in comfort and make it feel more like a historic addition than part of a newly built house.
Wood is definitely the predominant note in the second-story reading nook. There’s a wood console table against the wall and a standing lamp with a driftwood base—these work as perfect counterpoints to a wicker chair with a very modern vibe. “We layered in all the textures,” Russo notes, including a hide rug, a cashmere throw and a herringbone-patterned wood floor. The railing has spindles of black metal, a material that recurs throughout the house, particularly in the lighting and the four-poster bed in the master bedroom.
Fabrics were chosen for their year-round appeal as well. A quartet of custom ottomans are upholstered in a pale blue tweed, and there are two deep-blue velvet upholstered chairs in the living room. “Velvet wouldn’t be our go-to for a summer home,” says Russo, “but it’s absolutely something we’d want for a four-season home.”
Vibrant colors, especially blues, complement the white walls, kitchen cabinetry and master bathroom, as well as upholstered pieces in various shades of white, like the living-room sofa and a quartet of chairs in the dining area. The inspiration for the palette of blues came from an oversized piece of stunning Murano glass wall art the family brought back from Italy that now hangs in the living room above the blue velvet armchairs. Its complex blues recur throughout the house: in an ombré curtain and several paintings in the dining space, a pair of pillows on the living room sofa (and a painting above it), a color-swirled surfboard in the reading nook and a leather bench in the master bedroom.
For all its beauty, this is a very user-friendly house too. In the living room, for instance, four custom ottomans fitted with castors are corralled beneath a low console, ready to be pulled out for anyone who wants to kick their feet up. The console itself has a weathered finish that’s impervious to sweating glasses or spilled drinks. Just beyond it is a window seat fitted out with a cushion and ample pillows, a spot that works as both extra seating for guests and a place for leafing through a magazine or sinking into a good book. Perhaps the most comfortable locale, and Jeanne McGuiness’ favorite, is the area in the dining space just in front of the fireplace, where four rocking swivel chairs invite relaxation. “Everybody who comes here sits in these four chairs—they’re super-comfortable,” says the homeowner. She notes that the area’s informal feel, with a hide rug and wicker table, makes it especially inviting. “In my old house, friends would always gather around the island,” she says. “Now they gravitate toward those chairs in front of the fireplace.”
Which isn’t to say that the home’s kitchen is uninviting. The large island, for instance, offers comfortable seating and achieves a sense of airiness through the use of furniture styling: Two table legs give it an airiness missing from most kitchen islands.
And the master bedroom is a study in light and air. The high peaked ceiling is covered in white shiplap, and windows let in ample sunshine. The simple four-poster bed, in dark metal, leads the eye upward and, like the blue bench at the foot of the bed, complements the room’s predominant whites. As in the rest of the house, the mixed materials here—metal bed, wicker head- and footboards, woven rug, cloudlike linen bedding—work together to make the room feel timeless, seasonless and—above all—stressless.
Text by Leslie Garisto Pfaff
Design by Alma Russo
Photography by Raquel Langworthy