When interior designer Sheila Todd-Silverstein and her husband, Cory, began their search for a weekend retreat away from their Summit home, they checked out the Hamptons first, then quickly rejected Long Island in favor of the Jersey Shore. They started looking in Spring Lake, then turned their sights south, eventually homing in on Bay Head. “We thought we discovered somewhere that no one knew about,” says Shelia. They were surprised to learn that so many of their friends and neighbors were no strangers to the mile-square Ocean County town. “We knew this was where we wanted to focus,” she says.
The couple had spent nearly a year looking at real estate when they were first shown the rundown Mediterranean-style house they were fated to own. “We didn’t want anything to do with it,” Sheila says. “It was a big stucco house and didn’t have all the charm that Bay Head offered.” But once inside, she spotted the spiral staircase and concluded she’d found her home. “The spiral staircase was like a piece of art. I knew I could do something amazing with this house.”
Work began after the couple closed on the property in October 2008. Because of the strict local building codes, they were required to keep a certain portion of the existing structure. They didn’t tear it down but thoroughly gutted the inside. “It was all white and boxy and contemporary inside,” Sheila explains. “It reminded me of throwback Miami.” There was a lot of interior damage and rot, so a large part of the inside had to be removed regardless of its aesthetic. The idea was to take down most of the walls and create one big, light-filled, open space.
At first, the overall plan was rather limited, but “like all projects,” Sheila says, “it grew. We didn’t think we’d be doing half the things we ended up doing.” But the couple had a goal: They were hosting a family party to celebrate her father’s 80th birthday in mid-July, with 30 family members planning to bunk over the weekend—so the entire team worked diligently to stay on schedule. Sheila and Cory brought in an all-local Jersey Shore team, including Manasquan-based architect Paul Lawrence and Wall Township-based general contractor Gary Blank. “We definitely wanted local people who understand the Shore environment,” says Sheila. “We were pretty clear on what we wanted, and they got it. Everyone was fabulous.”
Priority number one was creating a maintenance-free, natural setting, where the lines between indoors and out were blurred. When selecting materials, Sheila went as organic as possible. “I wanted it to be very much in the environment. We’re at the beach, so it should be natural,” she explains. “The materials aren’t affected by the sand and salt air.” Floors are heavy-duty porcelain tile that doesn’t scratch or chip, fabrics are indoor/outdoor material that are stain- and sun-resistant and accessories are a mix of natural metals and woods.
The living-room colors are neutral grays, chosen by Sheila to tone down the glare of the streaming sun. “It’s cool and inviting,” she says.
The contemporary open kitchen picks up the colors of sea and sand. The focal point is the large piece of driftwood that Sheila found and immediately knew she wanted to incorporate into the kitchen. She and Asbury Park-based kitchen designer Angela Shannon were able to plan the island with the driftwood as a sort of support leg; atop it is a round steel tabletop that doesn’t rust or rot in the sea air.
“My goal was to bring the outside in—actually bring the beach into the house,” Sheila says. And that’s just what she has done. “There’s sand everywhere. The central vacuum is certainly a blessing.”
After a busy eight months, the house was ready just in time for the family gathering. Since then it has become a favorite getaway for the couple and their three children: Danielle, 28, Trevor, 19, and Alexa, 17. Mom and dad have already hosted prom night and countless teen gatherings. Says Sheila, “We wanted it as a place for friends and family to hang out, and that’s exactly what it’s become.”
Architect: Paul Lawrence A.I.A., 732-292-4755; contractor: Gary Blank, Beach Craft Construction LLC, 732-292-2920; landscaping: John Robertson, Bay Head Landscaping, 732-892-0793; interior design: Anne Goldsmith Interiors, 973-326-1816, and Sheila Todd, 908-400-8382; kitchen design: Angela Shannon, Atelier East, 732-988-8301; floral designer: Christine and Joe Scalise, Petal Street Flower Company, 732-295-0600. Dining room chandelier: Ironware International, ironwareinternational.com; living room sofa: Verellen, verellenhc.com; outdoor furniture: Barlow Tyrie, teak.com; bedroom dresser: Design Workshop Incorporated, designworkshop.us.com, 910-293-7329; bedroom curtain: Duralee Fabric, duralee.com; custom range hood: Rangecraft, rangecraft.com; wicker lounge chair and coffee table: Padma’s Plantation, padmasplantation.com; wood dining table: the Groundwork Group, LLC, 4groundwork.com.