Calm And Coastal: Inside A New Jersey Beach House Built For Family


white colonial house

After the original home on this Spring Lake, New Jersey, site burned down, the owner hired architect Richard Graham and designer Joan Enger to rebuild the structure. From the outside, the new house looks much the same with a white hue and colonial style.

coastal halllway

Inside, the new nature of the house is revealed. A mix of modern and vintage items combine to create a crisp, contemporary beach-house vibe. In the entry, a brass wall sconce by Visual Comfort, a bespoke wool rug and a painting purchased at auction set the tone.

built-in banquette

On the second floor of the abode, a banquette seat cushion features a Lee Jofa fabric underneath window shades by Hartmann & Forbes. Visual Comfort sconces frame a Palecek pendant fringed with abaca rope.

blue and white sitting room

One of the owner’s favorite spaces is the sitting room, where a grass-cloth-covered midcentury table is surrounded by four chairs upholstered in a Kerry Joyce textile. Two are vintage, and the other two replicas commissioned by Enger. The large dome light is Palecek.

breakfast nook woven chairs

The breakfast nook off the kitchen features a custom cerused-oak table paired with Homenature chairs. The banquette cushions are made with Holland & Sherry fabric, and the window shades with a Hartmann & Forbes textile. The tiered chandler is Visual Comfort.

gray kitchen brass hardware

The kitchen cabinets have Rejuvenation Hardware handles and are painted Sherwin-Williams’ Crushed Ice, a subtle shade picked up by the Fireclay Tile backsplash. A California Faucets tap curves over the sink and Visual Comfort sconces are on either side of the window.

blue and white bedroom

A tailored bed in the primary bedroom is covered with Rogers & Goffigon textile. The bench is upholstered in a Rebecca Atwood ikat and the window shade is crafted with a Radish Moon fabric. The Dottie lamp is by Arteriors.

marble bath

In the primary bathroom, artwork by Jean Wolff and a Schoolhouse Electric towel bar hang above a marble-sided tub. The Lucite bench is a vintage piece, and the window shades are made with a Holland & Sherry fabric.

Sitting on the back porch of this Spring Lake, New Jersey, home, you’ll hear the quiet roar of the Atlantic and the cries of seabirds slowly pinwheeling above the waves. Everything about the crisp, white colonial-style dwelling and its surroundings speaks of tranquility—yet just a few short years ago, it was anything but calm and quiet. After serving as a beloved family getaway for 33 years, the original house was destroyed by an electrical fire. When the flames were extinguished, friends urged the matriarch, who had built the first home with her late husband and raised three children there, to move on. She refused: “People told me, ‘Take the insurance money, sell the property and buy a new house,’” she remembers. “I said ‘No, I have to rebuild this for the family, it’s their legacy.’”

For her, constructing a new abode meant rewriting, not strictly recreating, history. “The house I stayed in while we were rebuilding after the fire was much more open” she says. “It gave me new ideas.” Since the family makeup had changed as well—the children are now adults with offspring of their own—it was a good time to rethink how the dwelling would be used.

She hired Richard Graham, the original structure’s architect, to create a residence that would look much the same from the exterior but, once past the front door, appear and feel very different. “Looking at it from the outside, it’s hard to tell it’s not the same building,” notes Graham. “But inside, designer Joan Enger, general contractor Gary Blank and I refined things.”

This fine-tuning process included simplifying the layout and moving stairwells to open the floor plan and allow light to pierce the interiors. The team also created three en suite bedrooms for the children and their spouses, and designed irresistible, grandchild-worthy spaces such as a basement outfitted with a bunkroom, and the top floor family room equipped with a mini fridge for soft drinks and a cabinet for snacks. As the architect warmly notes, “Who wouldn’t want to go to Grandma’s house now?”

However, the way spaces are apportioned is only part of the new narrative. “The home pays homage to its history, but in an updated way,” explains Enger. “The owner wanted things to feel light and airy, referencing the house in Something’s Gotta Give. We avoided anything too trendy and used classic materials like marble, beautiful wood and shiplap paneling.” Of note is what the designer didn’t select—anything that, in her words, “screamed beach house.” By using pale colors (pastels paired with warm earth tones) and loads of natural materials and textures (caning, grass cloth and sea grass) Enger achieved a mood that’s less “beach cottage” and more “coastal vibe.”

To keep the abode feeling like a cozy family home and not an entirely new dwelling, the designer also judiciously placed vintage and antique pieces throughout. A round, midcentury coffee table recovered in linen is at the center of the new sitting room, while antique chairs wear fresh upholstery in the guest rooms, and the dining room and hallway feature artworks purchased at auction. “New pieces tend to have larger proportions, the scale can be a bit off” notes Enger. “We like to buy vintage elements and mix them in. That’s what keeps things balanced.”

But the most treasured reclaimed items are a pair of mirrors that have been reflecting family faces for many years. “The one in the entry was part of my bedroom suite when my husband and I were first married,” shares the owner. “The other one was in the old house’s foyer and survived the fire. Now it hangs in my bedroom.”

Just as nature regenerates after a wildfire, goodness arose from charred ruins. Today, as it has for many decades, the house serves as a touchstone for three generations of the family, with the homeowner happily hosting all summer. “The best thing about this place is that all my kids love being here. We like to sit on the back deck and talk while listening to the ocean,” she says. “It’s so peaceful that everyone who comes here—including me—doesn’t want to leave.”