Photography by Paul Bartholomew of Bartholomew Studio
A Summit family dreamed of a Jersey Shore beach house that was all about the fun, both inside and out, a place where family members of all ages and their friends could find laughter, warmth and sometimes solace—as sure as an ocean breeze.
“We’ve come to use it all year round now that there are no kids in high school,” says Jeff. He and wife Laura are the parents of three, but they’re grown now. “We do entertain a lot—typically 10 to 20 people there every weekend.”
Location sold them six years ago on a traditional Cape Cod-style beach house built in 1988 right on Barnegat Bay in Bay Head, just a two-minute bike ride to the Atlantic. It was the best of both worlds, but the family explains that they planned a major reno for this red-cedar-shingle retreat.
It would be accomplished in two phases over two years, starting in 2018 with just what the family needed to settle in—designing the bedrooms before beach season, for instance. Phase two featured a third-floor addition with a super-kid-friendly entertainment center, the reno of five bathrooms and much more.
For such an ambitious undertaking, the couple had just the designer: Kingsley Knauss, ASID, of KBK Interior Design in Westfield and Manasquan. Knauss had renovated their Summit colonial many times over the years. “Kingsley knows us very well,” says Laura. So, they knew she’d follow their thinking—that this was a beach house with fun at its heart—as she tackled everything from millwork to cabinetry.
The revamp kicked off with the installation of a PebbleTec-finish Gunite pool for a dramatic transformation where no pool or deck stood before. There’s eye candy such as a hot tub waterfall and a combo of teak decking and custom-cut bluestone, but practicality as well with an indoor pool house. With the cabana’s bifold door opening the entire wall to the pool, it’s a snap to grab a towel or catch the game from the strategically placed TV. KBK Interior designed the Benjamin Moore White Dove cabinets and book-match shiplap ceiling against deep tropical royal blue walls. (Design trick: Hidden in the daybed is off-season storage.)
Facing the bay, where the family added a dock, there’s an outdoor kitchen and seating clusters, but nothing cookie-cutter here. Knauss considered the Shore’s infamous gusts in her choice of the “super heavy” Knoll Collection outdoor furniture by Richard Schultz, also sprinkling in furniture brands Vondom and JANUS et Cie and using Perennials fabric to withstand the elements.
Moving to the inside, the plan, Jeff explains, was to expand the house from roughly 4,500 square feet and four bedrooms to 6,000 square feet and five bedrooms (six if one counts the daybed in the pool house). This is, after all, a multi-generational retreat, where friends are always welcome.
Knauss worked to keep the colors neutral—a rendition of ivory, blue and black mingled with greens and yellows—for an organic flow, one that showcases the couple’s contemporary art. Expanding on her design mission, she says, “We had an underlying philosophy to repurpose where we could and provide universal elements to benefit all ages and disabilities”—a working elevator, for example. One challenge she mastered was keeping the architectural charm while introducing a transitional vibe.
A shining (literally) example of repurposing is the Grecian-style dolphin faucet, salvaged from the old design and the “funky” inspiration for the powder room’s blue-and-gold punch with turquoise trim. “We had some fun in the powder room by reusing this dolphin spout on a mid-century navy vanity,” she says, “and then picking this wild tropical wallcovering by Lee Jofa with a turquoise seaweed pattern and metallic triggerfish.” Unlacquered brass lends a patina gold touch to the pivoting mirror by Arteriors and milk-glass-shade lighting by Visual Comfort.
Because the powder room is off the mudroom, Knauss united the rooms with a black herringbone tile floor, also seen in the cabana. After the old mudroom (primarily a pantry) was gutted, the new space became the master of utility concealed in style. KBK Interior’s custom white cabinetry with teak countertops has life-friendly features like a broom closet hidden in a tall cabinet, an overflow pantry and a cloaked charging station for bicycle lights. “We tried to make every inch of the mudroom functional,” she says. “What I think is really fun is that we did add shiplap but only three-quarters of the way up the wall, and at the little seating area we used rope hooks to attach the back cushion.”
The family room was built for good times, with standout features such as a game table with tie-dye fabric matching the pillows on the pale gray sectional. It’s a light and airy spot—adieu to dark paneling—for socializing over board games or a blockbuster. “We also eliminated the gas fireplace to accommodate a larger TV and provide for the needs of the family room,” says Knauss, who designed a bar area into the coastal feel built-ins. An indoor/outdoor acrylic rug over an oak floor and Perennials fabric are practical protection from wet bathing suits, given the location near the cabana.
Taking on a new kitchen was a bit much for the family after the third-floor addition, so they favored a “facelift” rather than a gut job, with the cabinetry simply modified to meet their needs. The designer focused on creating seating areas—one by the fireplace and another a main dining area. “What we did to make the kitchen feel more current was add transitional furniture,” says Knauss, with a nod to the modern woven-wicker chairs by Palecek and hewn oak table by Restoration Hardware. Other highlights are the white metal and driftwood-like chandeliers and indoor/outdoor sisal rugs for warmth and definition.
In her master bedroom design, Knauss had some help from spectacular views of both the pool and bay that make up two sides of the room, which also features a wraparound balcony. “So, they’re not waking up with the sun” and for privacy, Knauss installed motorized blackout-lined white linen panels with marbleized banding. For a transitional/coastal vibe, she used a woven lampakanai rope bed by Palecek and white linen-wrap nightstands as well as spa-like hues. The designer conquered the challenge of exposed ductwork by creating false beams and then a tray ceiling with board planking. Brushed-brass swing lamps free up space on the nightstands.
Bay views, seen through a spherical window, also infuse the guest bathroom with a sense of the unique and inspire the room’s circular motif. The mosaic shower tile features a spiral pattern, and the mirror over the transitional vanity is a mid-century orb in rattan and white. “We kept the colors light and airy again to keep the room feeling as open as possible,” she says, noting an effect the frameless shower door perpetuates.
“The idea was to make it a comfortable fun beach house, and that came through in each room,” says Jeff. Apparently, award judges got the idea too. The project won Knauss first place for design excellence with the New Jersey chapter of American Society of Interior Designers in 2022.
Even more important is that it’s a winner with Laura and Jeff. The design is never crowded, Laura says. “There are many spaces in the home and outside of the home that different groups can gather… and we’re all having a great time. Kingsley really made that happen.”
Design By Kingsley Knauss
Photography By Paul Bartholomew
Text By Donna Rolando