Image: Jacob Snavely | Design: Susana Simonpietri
After a rough start, a classic modern beach house blossoms into the perfect place for a young family to build happy memories.
When destructive Hurricane Sandy came barrelling up the eastern U.S. seaboard in 2012, a young family’s Bay Head, New Jersey, beach house suffered critical damage. The New York-based family had owned the dwelling for only one month – and had spent only two weekends there. They were devastated, but determined to return it to its former glory so they could start building new sun-kissed memories.
Enter a trusted resource with whom the family was already familiar: interior designer Susana Simonpietri of Chango & Co. She teamed up with contractors to reconstruct the beach house on a larger scale and transform it into a five-bedroom 2,118-square-foot raised bungalow-style retreat. “I’d worked with the family on their primary residence,” says Susana, “so I easily understood their mandate: They sought a comfortable getaway that felt relaxing yet fun.”
It took one and a half years of hard work, wrestling with mould that had set in and dealing with insurance companies. But now, the quaint cottage-inspired architecture encompasses sloped ceilings, cozy bedrooms and an open-concept main living area that sets the scene for this casual coastal space that’s just a block away from the Atlantic Ocean.
To honour the seaside locale, a white-painted shiplap envelope was enlivened by punchy nautical patterns and fresh bold hues – evidenced by the bright red lobster-patterned wallpaper in one of the bathrooms, the blue-painted front door and the vivid toss cushions in the guest rooms. “Throughout the house, we maintained a contemporary nautical look that focuses on a primary palette against a crisp white background, set off with shiny polished nickel fixtures and rope accents,” says Susana.
Natural materials, from the bleached-wood floors to the jute rugs to the woven baskets, temper the bolder elements, warm up the space and make it feel like a place you can comfortably enter after a day at the beach. No rooms are off-limits – which is perfect for this family with two young daughters. “Jute and hardwood can withstand wear and tear (they look great as they weather), while shiplap is easy to wipe clean,” says Susana. “Sandy wet towels and sticky sunscreened fingers aren’t a problem.” Meanwhile, the furniture throughout is minimal and comfortable, with hard-wearing Sunbrella fabrics and washable slipcovers.
Determined to design a place that maximized every square inch and was easy to keep ship shape, Susana incorporated lots of practical built-ins. These include an L-shaped banquette with storage space in the seat in the breakfast nook and a kitchen island with cupboards. And most functional of all is the mud room that runs the length of the entryway hall. It boasts hooks and cubbies for storing the family’s beach accessories, as well as benches with cushions in a durable material.
“Barefoot and carefree summer living is what we had in mind,” says Susana. And, in the decor, at least, the home’s hurricane-struck history is long forgotten and the path is open for new memories to be made.
M In the breakfast nook of this seaside vacation home, light blue Tolix chairs boast contrasting dark blue seat cushions for a modern look. The comfy banquette wraps around a lacquered table and provides storage in the seat, while an adjacent built-in serves as a sideboard with even more space to stash stuff. Glass bubble chandeliers, meanwhile, deliver an element of the unexpected.
The mudroom is the perfect reception area for those coming in from the beach. Durable jute rugs cover the floors and catch sand; built-in benches have nooks beneath for stashing flip-flops and espadrilles; hooks are perfect for hanging wet towels while above, woven baskets hold fresh ones.
Black soapstone countertops, stainless steel appliances and dark blue Tolix stools break up the all-white kitchen, while the globe pendant lights, striped runners and shiplap wall treatment feel both cottagey and coastal.
Alongside rope-framed mirrors, vibrant red lobster-patterned wallpaper feels fun, young and unexpected yet in line with this home’s modern nautical theme. Since this guest bathroom is also used by the kids, double sinks mean that they can brush their teeth before bed without competing for space.
With three comfy bunks, a whimsical rope-and-wood ladder and a gallery wall of playful prints, the kids’ bedroom is a chic place to host sleepovers and play dates. Bright and bold textiles patterned with waves and stripes make it clear that this is a children’s room but echo the home’s scheme.
“We included a lot of primary colours in the guest rooms for a summery feel,” says interior designer Susana Simonpietri. This one is all about blue stripes and pops of red in the bedding and table lamp. The play of stripes feels confident and modern, while the woven headboard is warm and organic.
Get the look:
Bring the beach house look home with this bold and pretty palette full of juicy hues and pattern play. Red, blue and white, stripes and natural elements will lend the space a nautical edge. Opt for durable outdoor fabric, which is the best bet for a beach house. A playful wallpaper with a wavy print calls to mind a sea, and polished brass hardware adds a touch of glam to a cottage look.