Love at First Sight: A Monmouth Beach Oasis

There’s room for everyone, adults and kids alike, in this tidy riverfront home designed for family gatherings.

Family First: Joan and Stephen Park's Monmouth Beach home is designed for family gatherings. Perched 15 feet high on a bluff overlooking the Shrewsbury River, the house has water views from virtually every window.
Photo by Joe Pollilo

Eager to downsize, Joan Parks still wanted a Shore house that was kid friendly and could accommodate large family gatherings—large being the key word. After all, she and her husband, Stephen, have five children and nine rambunctious grandchildren. That means Sunday gatherings can be hectic. And while family time is important, the Parks—who are retired and spend the winter months in Florida—also wanted a summertime home that would work for their everyday needs. And they wanted a home that reflects their taste for contemporary design. With careful planning, they were able to have it all.

After 10 years in the West End neighborhood of Long Branch, the Parks put their 5,800-square-foot, three-story home on the market in 2011. “We needed to simplify,” says Joan. “We wanted a small house, all on one floor.” But, she adds, they wanted to be on the water and take in the beautiful views. While that may seem like a tall order, the couple happened upon a ranch in nearby Monmouth Beach with the potential to fulfill all of their desires. “The minute we drove down the driveway, we knew it was what we were looking for,” says Joan.

The location was ideal, but the house itself needed an upgrade. Although the house was situated on the banks of the Shrewsbury River, the interior had virtually no water views. It was dark, with small rooms and a choppy floor plan. A complete renovation was required. For help, the Parks called in Robert Adler, an architect in West Long Branch. “He knew what bothered us,” says Joan. “The living room had sliding glass doors, but you got no sense that you were on the water.” With Adler’s guidance, they took the house down to the studs, maintaining the same footprint, and started anew.

“The house was sitting out there on the water with an opportunity for panoramic views,” says Adler. “That view should be presented right from the front door.” So that’s what they did. “We took down walls, rearranged the floor plan and put everything back in a different place,” he says.

Removing walls meant eliminating a half bath and an office. Ultimately, Adler created a large open area in the center of the home that includes the living room, dining room, family room and kitchen. The space is flanked by the roomy master suite on one side, and Stephen’s office, a guest room and a full bath on the other—all in a tidy 2,600 square feet.

The concept was to bring together the indoor and outdoor spaces, Adler says. “We wanted to experience the beauty of the site from the indoors and the way it connects to the outdoors.” It’s that integration that makes the home feel much larger than it is. “The veranda, the pool, the trellis are all one continuous open space,” says Adler. A wall of windows adds to the expansive feel and ties the rooms together.

Once the open floor plan was set, the Parks asked interior designer Ivee Fromkin, a longtime friend, to help create a sophisticated interior that suited their taste. “I wanted a clean, crisp, simple, contemporary interior,” says Joan. “I had done beige my whole life, so my husband said, ‘Enough with the beige.’ He wanted gray.”

And since the Parks had sold their West End home with all of their furniture in it, they literally had a clean slate.

Fromkin developed a monochromatic color scheme, creating a simple, streamlined interior. “It’s a very soothing color combination,” says Fromkin. “It’s light and bright and clean.”

Speaking of clean, Fromkin offered some tried-and-true ideas for easy care of the busy home. “Some of the upholstery is ultrasuede. That’s key,” she says. “It’s totally washable.” And the paint? It’s Benjamin Moore’s Aura line. “It proves itself over and over again,” says Fromkin. The products were put to the test at the Parks’s first dinner party, when a guest splattered a glass of red wine on a dining chair and the adjacent wall. “You can’t even tell,” says Fromkin.

Lucky for the Parks, the house sits on a high bluff and, unlike many homes in Monmouth Beach, escaped damage from Hurricane Sandy. “The water came all the way up the lawn and over the pool, but not in the house,” says Joan.

Summer family gatherings now take place inside and out, and there’s space for everyone. “This is a kids-outside, adults-inside house,” Joan says. “There are a lot of rules inside, but outside is all chaos. It can get crazy.”

Adds Fromkin, “This is a little house with a big attitude.”

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