In Sea Girt, the Ultimate Home for Poolside Parties

Krista and Frank Speno are often found entertaining family, friends and much of the neighborhood in their picture-perfect backyard.

sea girt home

The Spenos on the front stoop of their Sea Girt home. Photo by John Bessler

Krista and Frank Speno love a party. More specifically, they love to host a party, which is why they went all out to create the ultimate party place in their Sea Girt backyard. “We built this so everyone would come,” says Frank. “It’s an open invitation.”

The Spenos bought their spacious but nondescript house on a corner lot in 2018. The location was perfect, a block from the beach and just down the street from where they lived. The interior of the 6,500-square-foot, seven-bedroom house “was fine, but it was plain,” says Krista. “It wasn’t decorated.” The couple called on interior designer Ann Terwilliger, a neighbor and friend, to take on the project. Terwilliger set out to blend two aesthetics. “Krista loves color and pattern and texture. She’s very traditional,” says Terwilliger. “Frank likes quiet and comfortable—a more casual beach vibe.” 

The Spenos gave Terwilliger carte blanche. She sourced all the furniture, staying in a mostly blue colorway. “It’s timeless,” she says.

The backyard is party ready. The outdoor living room boasts a fireplace, a television (behind reclaimed wood doors), a bar counter and an outdoor kitchen (off to the left). A bench hugs the outline of the house, providing extra seating. Photo by John Bessler

In the kitchen, which had been recently updated, Terwilliger changed the color scheme, removed a desk area and added decorative lighting. She found an “awesome” radial table that expanded outward like a blooming flower. “It can accommodate as many as 12,” she says, which is important since there’s no formal dining room in the house. A butler’s pantry/bar area was created in the hallway that connects the kitchen to the outdoors.  

And it’s the outdoor space that make this the ultimate party house. The original yard had just a small pool and compact patio. “It was not built to entertain,” says Frank. “But we had a vision.” 

The parents of three nearly grown daughters—one in college and two others in “various stages of getting married,” says Krista—the Spenos desired a house that the girls couldn’t resist coming back to. “We wanted to build a kiddie trap,” jokes Frank, “so they’d all come back, with husbands and grandkids and all their friends.” It’s not just the kids, though, the Spenos admit; they can often be found entertaining much of the neighborhood.

sea girt home

The expansive, rectangular pool is central to the Spenos’ backyard. Photo by John Bessler

Frank and Krista wanted to create a space for everyone. Enter Sea Girt–based pool designer Adam Steele. “Frank was looking for something different,” says Steele. “And he wanted a firepit. This is precisely what I specialize in: water and fire.” Steele designed a large, rectangular pool with a ledge for sunbathing. The shallow end is more expansive than your average pool, Steele says, “so it’s perfect for hanging out.” Wide steps are another place to sit and cool off. The adjacent hot tub has 36 jets. “I use it every day,” says Frank. 

The focal point of the yard is the dramatic fireplace wall. “It took us forever to build,” says Steele, but it was clearly worth the effort. “It throws off a ton of heat.” 

[RELATED: A Showstopping Waterfront Home in Brielle]

For those who’d rather stay dry, the Spenos created an inviting dining area/family room/outdoor kitchen featuring a grill, wet bar, wine refrigerator, refrigerator drawers, ice maker, fireplace, television, cozy seating, a dining table, chaise lounges and a spacious bar. A custom wooden bench wraps around the perimeter of the house for overflow seating. “People can sit around the pool, around the bar, around the dining table, around the benches,” says Frank. “It’s never overly formal, and there’s room for everyone.”

Photo by John Bessler

Another unique feature is the Astroturf  lawn, a clean yard solution that prevents dirt and grass from being tracked into the pool. “It’s fake grass that stays beautiful year-round,” says Frank. Still, the Spenos installed a sprinkler system—“it goes on for 10 minutes every day to clear away the dog’s mess,” says Krista.

With construction complete, the Spenos look forward to hosting a backyard wedding for one daughter, and most Thursdays, all summer long, they host Thirsty Thursdays. “It started with a dozen people, and it’s now up to about 35 people every week,” says Frank. 

Terwilliger had a special party flag custom made for the couple as a housewarming gift of sorts. “We fly the flag just about every Thursday,” says Krista. “It’s our way of saying, It’s on.” 

RESOURCES: Designer: Ann Terwilliger, A.T. Interiors, Sea Girt, 973-479-9412. Pool and fire wall design: Adam Steele, Steele’s Signature Pools, Medford and Sea Girt, 609-850-0111. Architect: Christopher Rice, Rice and Brown Architects, Sea Girt, 732-449-9055. Landscape design: Environmental Landscape Design, Wall Township, 732-974-7215. Builder: Kevin Casey, Kevin Casey Builder, Toms River, 732-415-2077. Custom woodwork: R2X Building Solutions, Waretown, 908-670-4570. Outdoor furnishings and pergola design: Bain’s Outdoor Living, Rumson, 732-530-3210. Fireplace and outdoor kitchen cabinets: East Coast Energy Products, West Long Branch, 732-870-8809. Caterer: Carol Ann McLaughlin Catering, Allenhurst, 732-239-7618.

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