Homeowners Anthony and Carolyn Buoscio and their four teenage kids loved vacationing on the Jersey Shore in the family-oriented town of Lavallette. While renting various houses, they dreamed of the day when they’d buy their own little piece of beach heaven. One of their rentals—the property of interior designer Miriam Silver Verga, who co-owns the Westfield-based Mimi & Hill with Hillary Kaplan—felt particularly homey and served as inspiration.
“Carolyn would always say, ‘When I get a beach house I want you to design it,’” says Silver Verga, who notes that they were all already friends from Westfield, where the Buoscios have their primary home. “We were the first phone call after they got the house.”
The homeowners, whose main residence is a five-bedroom, 4.5-bathroom Dutch colonial, were excited to create a completely different look and feel for their getaway haven. “I think with a second home you can have a lot more fun and take more chances than you did in your primary home,” Carolyn explains. “I love color, and I knew I wanted the beach house to feel happy, crisp and vibrant.”
“Our challenge was to take this traditional beach house and transform it within a five-month span without resorting to much construction, just design,” says Kaplan of the two-story, coastal-style colonial with five bedrooms, 3.5 bathrooms and a two-car detached garage. “They are an incredible couple with great personality. She’s a cool rock-star preppy type with a real sense of humor, and he’s a fun-loving extrovert and true patriot. (He’s that guy who wears American flag pants.) We wanted to invigorate the house with their exuberance and turn it into a home that exudes happiness.”
The dynamic energy embraces you as soon as you walk into the welcoming foyer or “entrance lounge,” which also serves as a favorite gathering spot. “Miriam and Hillary surprised me with a bright orange lobster wallpaper,” says Carolyn. “When you enter, it gives the house a bold pop of color, which continues throughout the entire first floor.”
Before the project, the walls were bland and boring. Space, a premium for a large family that loves to entertain, was not being used to maximum advantage. For instance, a kitchen peninsula ran through the middle of the first floor, creating a structural and sight obstacle. “Miriam and Hillary had the vision to cut the peninsula down and create an island, clearing space for a dining table,” says Carolyn. “It was a wonderful investment to make that change upfront, because it opened up so many options for function and design.”
The new dining space now flows freely into the main floor’s multipurpose living area. Rather than feeling cramped and cluttered, this 25-by-30 communal hub is comfortable and cozy, offering various points of connection with lots of flexibility. Most of the lightweight furniture is easy to rearrange and repurpose. The clean, utilitarian lines of the new oak-top dining table with an airy Lucite bottom are the perfect fit for the coastal-casual style. Sidestepping the need for space-hogging chair legs, a backless bench runs along the length of one side of the table to squeeze in visiting cousins in close comfort.
More guests? No problem! A banquette-type seating area seamlessly offers extra room for overflow dining, gaming and TV viewing, while a nearby sectional sofa and lightweight chairs can be easily shifted around to make sure everyone’s in on the fun. Upholstered in faux leather, the vintage coffee table works equally well for additional seating or as a relaxed place to prop up your feet. Bringing everything together is the Phillip Jeffries raffia wallpaper and a color scheme evident in features such as the gray sofa from ABC Home and a Southwest-inspired area rug from West Elm that subtly punctuates the pink, gray and tangerine shades so artfully interwoven throughout the house.
Family togetherness is priceless, but so is some alone time. The first- floor guest bedroom gives the grandparents a private space they can retreat to when the grandkids get too rambunctious. Along with a queen-sized bed, the room features a wall-mounted TV and a loveseat sofa. In keeping with the bedroom’s soothing minimalism, airy shelves hung on the wall on either side of the bed serve as substitutes for bulky nightstands, providing safe, unobstructed paths to the adjoining bathroom; attractive Ro Sham Beaux sconces impart ample lighting to help avoid things that go bump in the night.
For the upstairs bedrooms, the designers kept things bright, bold and breezy. The boys’ room shines with a lighthearted, sunny spirit in beachy blues and tans, and a playful multicolored surfboard border. The girls’ room is crisp and preppy, with raspberry and pink bedding and coral wallpaper, all by Serena & Lily.
“I love that the house feels bright and happy, and that it accommodates our extended family,” says Carolyn. “Our parents take the downstairs bedroom with full bath; our sisters and their kids fit comfortably in queen, bunk and trundle beds upstairs. Everyone has a comfortable space to sleep, and there are several extra areas that Miriam and Hillary carved out for living.”
Nowhere is creative use of space more evident than in the garage- turned-rec room. While the main house’s design might be the domain of the lady of the house, in the garage the man of the manor’s vision rules. He wanted a space that celebrated his love for all things Americana and Jersey Shore yet wouldn’t deviate too much from the rest of the home’s look and feel. He pictured the two-car garage with glass-paneled roll-up doors as a place where the kids could hang out and he and his buddies could kick back as well.
“The aim of the room was to be kitschy, not tacky,” says Kaplan. The designers embraced the husband’s patriotic passion and took it to a new level. There are six different shades of blue paint in various geometric shapes dispersed throughout, while the supporting beams salute in a vibrant red. An American flag is proudly displayed, serving as cover for a Murphy bed. Steps away, a blue-painted ladder leads to a loft with room to spare for boisterous sleepovers. A map of the United States, crafted from pieces of state license plates, hangs from one wall, while another displays several Jersey Shore-inspired pieces—a framed image of Tillie, the iconic Asbury Park mascot, vintage pennant-shaped yacht flags from the owner’s collection and a replica of an old roulette wheel paying tribute to the state’s casino history. Jersey pride also gets its due with state-and Shore-themed decorative pillows, as well as a “Thunder Road” sign referencing The Boss.
Because the space is open to the outside, the designers used all indoor/ outdoor fabric and furniture. Lightweight and practical, all of the pieces can be—and are—easily moved when the Murphy bed needs to be pulled out at night or whenever it’s time to take the party outdoors. Add some stand-up video and shuffleboard games, beer on tap and mini fridges stocked with goodies, and you have an ideal hangout that combines the best of indoor-outdoor leisure.
“The garage and the whole house check off all the boxes,” says owner Anthony. “Carolyn and I envisioned a place where we could bring our kids to create memories and happy times. It’s so fun to think of the future and imagine all of our grandkids running around and enjoying it with us.”