A Jersey Shore house ravaged by Hurricane Sandy is reborn on Barnegat Bay with nautical flair and shipshape élan, thanks to interior designer Joe Lucas.
Caitlin Kelly: This is one of those classic Jersey Shore homes, isn't it?
Joe Lucas: It's actually brand-new — an updated version of the 1926 Shingle Style home that was here when the current owner bought the property in 2009. It's down at the shore where I grew up, in Mantoloking, New Jersey, a family-oriented, multi-generational town where you ride your bike to the beach. My parents still live two houses over. As a kid, I played with the former owners' grand- children, who visited every summer from Chicago. I remember scarfing down chocolate cake in their pink Formica kitchen.
What prompted the teardown?
At first, the client planned to partially renovate the original house. But then Hurricane Sandy hit. This town was flattened by the storm — many homes were completely washed away. We had to start over and re-create the house in a new and modern way. It is now situated higher up to avoid flooding, allowing for an eight-foot basement. The siting was reoriented so that several rooms now have a view of the bay. The rooms are slightly larger, and we added spaces that are useful today, such as a media room and a mudroom for dropping off flip-flops, beach towels and sailing gear.
Did anything make it through the storm?
We salvaged the dining chairs, two armchairs and a sofa, which we reupholstered. We also saved my favorite furnishings from the old house — the living room's consoles, which we found under three feet of water. Their brass legs took on a kind of patina because of the water damage, but somehow the effect looks beautiful.
Who is the client? He clearly enjoys the water.
He's an avid sailor who loves knowing where the wind is coming from. So, hand-painted on the dining room ceiling is a compass rose with eight points and a brass arrow connected to the roof's weather vane that lets you see the wind shift from east to west. On a windy night, it's like a Ouija board! Nautical references are very much a part of my aesthetic. I use seafaring materials like rope, sisal, jute, sea grass and teak. The family — he has three adult daughters — is often out sailing, so we added metal storm shutters to the porch. They're controlled by an app that can be activated as soon as the clouds roll in, even from miles away.
The aqua palette also seems fitting.
I've always been a sucker for cooler colors, for greens and blues. Growing up in an East Coast beach town was a huge influence on the way I see color, and it continues to be, although I've been based in California for the last 20 years. It's in my blood. Maybe that's why I still get hired to do beach houses back east.
And that kitchen! That's a powerful hue.
"No white kitchens" is a rule for me. When you're in a house with other colors going on, a white kitchen looks unfinished, like it's just been primed. Color in a kitchen is grounding, especially since most people spend a lot of time in that space. These walls are a really punchy indigo, and the backsplash tiles were custom-colored to our specifications in Morocco.
You used several of your own designs as well.
Yes, from the master bed to the cocktail table in the living room. My showroom, Harbinger, in Los Angeles, carries fabric, furniture, wallpaper, and art. It's very eclectic, with a lot of color and items made by artisans, including ceramists.
For a home that is the essence of summer, why a dark-walled, moody library?
It's the client's full-time residence, and the library is where he gets cozy in the winter months. The fabrics — the sofa's linen-cotton velvet, the wool plaid on the tufted chairs — add warmth. The paint color was inspired by the room's artworks — the painting over the fireplace and the watercolor over the bar. It's a silvery platinum that changes in the light. The bar is mahogany, with a copper insert for ice; the shape is like the hull of a boat.
Was the project smooth sailing?
It's the fourth house I've done for him, so we have a very trusting relationship. Even though it's a waterfront home in a beach town, it's a great fit for him year-round. In the winter, thanks to the new deep basement, he can now store his dinghy and rowboat beneath the house. So he's surrounded by all of his favorite toys.
This story originally appeared in the July/August 2017 issue of Natipernavigare.