THE PROPERTY ON JOSEPH STREET IN LAVALLETTE wasn’t large, but what it lacked in size it made up for in sun-dappled water views and spectacular sunsets. Its new owners, Hank and Jeannette Hirsch, had admired its bayfront setting for years, envisioning a traditional two-story home that conjured vistas of New England. But their first conversation with Manahawkin architect Craig Brearley effectively quashed those visions. “He told me that we had limited space and suggested we use a design that would help us utilize the space most efficiently, which I understood,” says Hank. Those lovely traditional houses, it turns out, were designed with all manner of angles that essentially wasted horizontal space. What rose on the property was a sleek, modern two-and-a-half story dwelling, with clapboard-type siding and a pitched roof that offers a nod to New England and an abundance of large windows that maximizes those spectacular water views.
When the build was complete, they faced the challenge of furnishing the house with pieces that were beautiful but durable enough to withstand their active family of five and—most important— didn’t compete with the bay that glittered from virtually every window. For that, they enlisted the skills of Lavallette designer Joanne Marino, whose shop, The Beach Home, was filled with furnishings she describes as “coastal chic.” “They wanted comfort in a sophisticated manner,” Marino says. “First and foremost, because this was a beach house, it needed to be comfortable for family and guests. And because they have a swimming pool, we took it a step further and made sure we used performance fabrics throughout to protect the furnishings from sun and water.”
They started with a white sectional sofa that would be the largest piece in the open-concept great room, situated on the second floor to take advantage of water views. While the choice of color was Jeannette’s, the custom piece was carefully designed to hit the back of Hank’s neck in the sweet spot, for maximum comfort. One part of the sectional faces the TV and fireplace, while the other looks directly out on the bay through a set of floor-to-ceiling, accordion-style doors. When those doors are completely open, they connect the great room with an expansive terrace, effectively blurring indoors and out. In front of the sofa is a large, round coffee table, whose glass top reflects the light that pours into the room even on the grayest day.
In fact, besides the bay itself, light is the home’s dominant design element. There are no fussy window treatments to block or detract from either light or view—just motorized shades that are hidden in the window frames until needed. Marino and the homeowners chose blue as the predominant accent color, in a variety of hues that calls to mind the ever-changing water of the bay. Two gray-blue upholstered swivel chairs flank the fireplace, and the pale hardwood floor is softened by a large blue-and-white Annie Selke rug. The room’s most dramatic accents are a pair of sculptural blue-and-white ginger jar lamps that sit atop a console behind the sofa in front of a south-facing window.
“I really look at those as pieces of art,” Marino says. Rather than detract from the view, though, they actually draw the eye toward it.
The one item in the living area that Marino didn’t choose was the mantel, a rustic repurposed railroad tie that Hank fell in love with. To echo both its color and its farmhouse feel, Marino installed a natural-wood ceiling fan and rattan pendants over the kitchen island, and chose two sets of counter stools, one pair with wooden legs and the other solid acacia wood. Initially, the homeowners wanted a set of five identical stools, but Marino realized that traditional stools on the side of the island closest to the refrigerator, laundry room and bathroom would impede the flow, so she chose a pair of backless stools that can be pushed completely under the countertop.
Of course, this is a beach house, and so the outside is at least as important as the interior—in fact, it’s Hank’s favorite part of the design. Ultra-comfortable rattan lounge and club chairs offer the family and guests a choice of escaping the sun in a covered section of the patio, gathering around the firepit, watching the outdoor TV, waiting comfortably on the dock for the boat to come in, or—hands down, the most popular option—kicking back in expectation of yet another perfect sunset over the bay.
TEXT by LESLIE GARISTO PFAFF
DESIGN by JOANNE MARINO
PHOTOGRAPHY by TORI SIKKEMA