Coming Home: Pretty as a Picture (Again)

In the wake of Sandy, destruction bred creative opportunities for improvement. A couple in Mantoloking focused their creativity on restoration.

Mantoloking Home
Using pictures, owners of this Mantoloking home are recreating its pre-Sandy look. “We lost all our furniture,” says the homeowner, “but it’s just stuff.”
Photo by Laura Moss.

For many Jersey Shore dwellers, the destruction of Hurricane Sandy created an opportunity to change and improve their homes. But for one couple on Mantoloking—one of New Jersey’s hardest hit areas—the impulse was to restore everything to its original state.

The homeowners (who asked that their names be withheld) spent the night of the storm in a nearby hotel. Wading back to their home the next day, the destruction was overwhelming. Their home on Barnegat Bay had been a showcase of contemporary design; it was even photographed for Architectural Digest. Now the entire kitchen was wrecked, walls and floors throughout the home soaked, carpets and furniture ruined. Outside, the home was mostly sound, but their dock on the bay was reduced to rubble.

Things took a positive turn when they learned they would be well covered by an excellent insurance policy. Luckily, they had photos from their 14 years in the home—including from the magazine shoot—to help them recreate the look.

“The storm was traumatic enough,” says the wife. “There was no way I was going to be able to make any decisions about anything, so we went on auto-pilot. We didn’t change a thing.”

The couple hired Joe Longo from Abatare Builders to restore their home. He and his crew had to work around the debris and wreckage that littered the streets of Mantoloking. For a period, the tiny barrier island community was closed-off to the outside world, guarded from looters 24/7, by the National Guard and then the state police. As tradesmen the crew received access passes to the town. They worked around the clock, repairing walls and sub-floors, then replacing the oak flooring and rebuilding the showcase kitchen. By March, Longo’s clients were back in their home.

The couple was among the first families to return to Mantoloking, which, as summer approaches, is still largely unpopulated and only marginally rebuilt. The homeowners give credit to their builder. “Here I am with my beautiful kitchen and there are people still ripping up moldy sheetrock,” says the wife. “I know I’m lucky.” The couple never considered turning their backs on the Shore. “I hope I’m not being naïve, but this was a 100-year storm,” says the wife. “It has to be.”

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