After Sandy, A Bay Head Home Rebuilt Small and Smart

Rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy, this Bay Head family made every nook and cranny count.

Robin and Peter Naylor’s 950-square-foot Bay Head home was built high to adhere to new flood elevation regulations.
Robin and Peter Naylor’s 950-square-foot Bay Head home was built high to adhere to new flood elevation regulations.
Photo by John Bessler

When Superstorm Sandy headed for the Jersey coastline in October 2012, Robin and Peter Naylor weren’t particularly concerned. After all, the cottage they had owned for 18 years was 2 1/2 blocks from the ocean. For all those years, the Summit residents had summered at the cottage in Bay Head—a one-square-mile town at the mouth of Barnegat Bay—along with daughters Katherine and Brooke, now 21 and 17. “It was just a one-story beach bungalow,” says Robin. “It was really bare-bones.” But, like so many others along the Jersey Shore, they were caught off guard when Sandy roared through.

The Naylors’ cottage was flooded beyond repair from the storm surge. “Sandy wiped us out,” says Robin. Once the shock wore off, the Naylors began pondering their options. They didn’t have flood insurance (they owned the cottage outright, so it wasn’t required), and their homeowner’s insurance wouldn’t cover the damage. Still, they wanted to rebuild.

The initial intention was to design a more spacious home, but the town planning board, adhering to strict zoning regulations, put an end to that. The Naylors have a separate two-story structure in the rear of their property with a two-bedroom apartment above and a garage-like space below. Built on a slab, it had survived the storm. This gave them a summer refuge as they rebuilt. (Had they expanded the footprint of the cottage, zoning laws would have prevented them from maintaining a second residence on the property.) Devastated at first, Robin now says the town’s decision “was a blessing in disguise.”

Back at the drawing board, the Naylors planned small and smart. “We approached it as if we were living on a boat,” Robin says. “We maximized the space by doing a lot of built-ins and pocket doors.”

The new house adheres to the FEMA-recommended base flood elevation with a ground floor that starts 11 feet up. “We feel like we’re in a tree house,” says Robin. “We love sitting on the front porch and watching the world go by. It’s so close to the street, but there’s a ton of privacy.”

Inside, every inch was carefully planned. The open floor plan makes the home feel larger than it is: a compact, 950-square-foot, two-bedroom, two-bath cottage. The layout is simple. The sunlit open kitchen essentially creates the front hallway; its large center island functions as the dining room—spacious enough for 10 people. The cozy adjacent living room has just enough seating for the whole family. Every last detail was carefully planned. The kitchen stools fit flush to the counter so as not to obstruct traffic flow; glass-front cabinets add to the open feel; there’s even a designated drawer to house the vacuum cleaner. “We had to think of absolutely everything,” says Robin. The kitchen boasts twin refrigerator drawers and a wine fridge along with a full-size refrigerator/freezer, a microwave/convection oven and a four-burner stove. There’s a tiny home office built into a nook, with cubbies for paperwork. Even the gas fireplace—instead of wood burning—was chosen for a reason. “Where would we store wood?” she asks. “Everything here is hugely deliberate.”

The two bedrooms resemble berths on a boat; the girls’ room has bunk beds and a built-in dresser. The girls have their own bathroom in the hallway, which doubles as the powder room for visitors. Thanks to lots of built-ins, the master bedroom is spacious enough for an extra-long California king bed. There’s clothing storage underneath the bed and in a tiny closet. “The hardest thing for me is the shoes,” Robin jokes. (Here the planning falls a bit short. Robin piles her shoes on the closet floor.)

When it came to decorating, the Naylors stayed with neutrals. “In a small space, a monochromatic scheme is really important,” says Robin. “You can always add color, but you can’t take it away.”  She accented with touches of chrome, brass and bamboo. The flooring throughout is porcelain tile. “It’s great for a beach house,” she says. “Just sweep up the sand.”

Elevating the shingle-style house created bonus space underneath. Under FEMA regulations, this space cannot be used as living quarters. Instead, the Naylors planned outdoor spaces that nestle under the house. In the front, there’s a lower porch with hanging swings; in the rear, a lower deck that extends away from the house beneath an awning. There’s also an outdoor shower stall, an adjacent storage space for bikes and beach chairs, and a bar area for entertaining. The Naylors installed grills on the lower deck and on a small landing outside the kitchen. “It just makes sense with so many stairs,” Robin explains.

The house is now perfect, all four Naylors agree. While the outdoor spaces allow for frequent entertaining, inside, the limited living space restricts the onslaught of weekend guests. “It’s just our family gathering spot,” says Robin. “This is our favorite place to be together.”

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