Clouds may shroud the sky in gloom and rain pummel the sand, but for one large family the atmosphere is still bright and cheery. Their Bay Head beach house was designed that way, with a harmonious flow of blues, greens and corals that evoke the Atlantic even on days best spent indoors.
Every weekend in a normal summertime, the eight-bedroom sanctuary across from the beach is bursting with activity, a good sign that the renovation designed by Kingsley Knauss of Westfield-based KBK Interior Design has met its mark. Because although this cedar-shingle-style colonial is an eclectic, three-story mix of vintage and traditional furnishings and Knauss saw to every detail, the real test was family.
“We have a big family,” says homeowner Eileen, a mother of five grown children and a grandmother too. “The house has to work aesthetically, but also practically.”
So it wasn’t enough for the heart of the home—the kitchen—to be picture-perfect with its impressive pale-turquoise island topped with light-gray quartzite and teamed up for contrast with Redford House woven-rattan gray stools over quarter sawn oak floors. Nor could the family be satisfied with the intriguing way the backsplash of blue-and-green rectangular glass plays against the bright-white custom cabinetry. This kitchen had to serve a crowd buffet style from its island and have a dining table nearby that could expand when the troops came marching in.
And while some might have no use for a family room, a sitting room and a sunroom, the three clusters of seating fit this family’s style of entertaining, with enough space to always have a table with a puzzle in progress.“We’re a very big puzzle family,” Eileen says. “Pretty much all summer long, there’s a puzzle.”
It might have been a big challenge for just any designer, but Eileen and her husband Bill had worked with Knauss before and could think of no one more talented to take on the project when it began in 2012. Owners of a vintage home in Oradell, the couple naturally gravitated to one of Bay Head’s older treasures, built in the early 1900s. “It was a classic house with great bones, but it had a floor plan typical of houses of that era,” says Bill. “We realized that while staying true to those lines, we could enhance and modernize it.”
To get the job done right, they gutted the place, knocking down walls for an open flow among the family room, kitchen and dining room. A new addition created the home’s 15-foot-by-18-foot master-bedroom suite—with its own balcony— as well as a sunroom, while the attic was transformed into three new bedrooms. They opened up the front porch and made it inviting with mahogany flooring. For accomplishing such a reno while preserving the home’s classic quality, the couple received an award from Bay Head’s historical society.
Although the footprint remained, Knauss had what was essentially a blank canvas for her creativity, which extends to many of the home’s custom features, and carte blanche to be colorful and playful in the true spirit of the beach.
A natural source of inspiration came from the Lilly Pulitzer Collection, known for bright colors that say “vacation” all year. “The family wanted to make sure the playful elements of beach life came across in the interior,” says Knauss. The solution? A classic seashore palette of mostly blues and greens, along with a master plan to flow these colors from room to room in different tones. Knauss explains: “We layer a neutral palette with colorful accent shades of blue, green and bits of gray and repeat it as a constant throughout the house.”
The trio of sitting rooms proves the point: The living room’s standout turquoise couch with floral chintz pillows teams up nicely with Eileen Gray vintage chairs and their plaid cushions against a gossamer-blue-wall backdrop accentuated with dove-white trim and furniture. The once-brick fireplace is what Eileen calls “clever” in its mix of handmade, seafoam-green-and-blue tiles with seashell accents coupled with panels and decorative sconces. An arabesque rug in pale green and ivory ties it all together over a quarter-sawn oak floor.
Knauss took a little more “risk” in the sunroom with rich turquoise walls, a pistachio side table with a turquoise lamp and blue-and-green custom pillows in Lee Jofa fabrics from the Lilly Pulitzer Collection for the furniture, which includes vintage rattan chairs. As Knauss explains, the mix of new and classic creates a comfy quality that would be lost with showroom furniture. “I love it to be eclectic, and Kingsley and I worked well together that way,” says Eileen.
The color story of blues and greens flows into the family room and also into the main-floor powder room; not to be missed is its lath ceiling, which gives the effect of gazing through lattice at the sky, and the convenience of the custom vanity’s open base for towel storage.
A master-bedroom suite should stand on its own, so while the palette remains beachy, it’s coral the homeowners are waking up to. It boasts a coral-painted ceiling, Solid draperies with bamboo-shaped ivory rods and a Somerset Bay king-sized bed with a floral headboard, the room’s inspiration.
Now that the project is over, Eileen and Bill are happy to keep extending the welcome mat. “It’s super-guest-friendly,” she says of the reno. “There’s always room for friends to stop in.” And, of course, there’s always room for family.