From the June/July 2011 Issue:

Revamp on the River PART 2

    Writer: Larry Daniels | Photographer: Patricia Burke |

A second renovation turns a weekend home on the Shark River into a full-time retreat for a former New York couple

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enlarge | The owners reconfigured the entry with a gentle nod to the Arts and Crafts movement using board-and-batten trim, a standing-seam metal roof and tapered columns atop cultured-stone bases. They replaced worn cedar shingles with straight-line polymer shakes, and used natural stone pavers to align the path to the new entry.
You may recall Design NJ's June/July 2005 profile of the renovation to the Shark River Hills home my wife, Marsha, and I purchased as a weekender while maintaining a New York apartment for our daily commute to work in the city.

That renovation focused on the back of the compact, single-story, three-bedroom house. The back overlooks the Shark River in a sweeping panorama that includes a state-preserved estuary — home to swans, ducks, snowy egrets, cormorants and a seemingly lone but well-fed osprey. Back then, the idea was to transform the underused layout into one that would take full advantage of the expansive river views and largely untouched surroundings. Other Phase 1 renovations included relatively minor upgrades and cosmetic work. The one addition we made was a small mudroom liberated from a portion of our rarely used front porch.

This time around, we focused on the porch area. We really needed a guest bathroom and extra closet and also wanted a foyer and larger dining area in place of walking directly into the kitchen and having to break up seating for dinner parties. As basic as this plan initially sounded, it quickly — and predictably — mushroomed into a major renovation that touched just about every area of the house. The justification for the scope of this work: the house would shift from being a weekend retreat to our permanent home. It also was the last time we’d want to undertake a construction project of this magnitude with its associated dust, debris, interruptions and, of course, cost.

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enlarge | Landscaping — some new, some to replace compacted damage caused by construction vehicles — frames the home. An underused front porch was removed to make way for a generous foyer with a guest closet, mudroom zone and powder room.
Planning & Prepping
The first step was to get a handle on just how much of our vision we could afford to undertake. Marsha’s years of costing experience in the garment industry became an undeniable asset as she doggedly researched people, products and services, ultimately arriving at a workable budget that would serve as our game plan.

With inspiration pulled as much from imagination as from the pages of countless magazines and site visits, we began to adapt what we saw in other residences to our own vision. Once we felt comfortable with the direction our project was taking, we engaged Passman-Ercolino Architects in Ocean, which helped us on the first renovation, to refine our new concepts into a workable blueprint. Through the trial-and-error process that marks any successful design effort, we came up with a way to maximize our space without altering the structure’s footprint—an important consideration in terms of budget and timely approval of construction permits.

We chose Mark Lutz of Lutz Construction Inc. in Wall as the builder. He also worked with us on the first renovation and became a trusted adviser and friend in the intervening years. When the time came for the second renovation, he worked closely with us in preparing a menu of construction and design options to fit our wish list and budget. Finally, with all of the necessary paperwork submitted and approved, we were ready to roll. A family house in nearby Belmar served as our interim home-away-from-home during the four-plus-month construction period.

One of the biggest architectural challenges was incorporating another gabled roofline into the seven created during three previous “sisterings” to this original midcentury structure. And while it’s a given that the primary job of any roof is shelter, we were acutely aware the new plan also had to work visually with the existing gables. In the end, the result was not only visually proportional, but also a truly distinct and appealing addition.

To ensure that the engineering was on par with other more visible aspects of the renovation, we also upgraded the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems.

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enlarge | Thicker trimwork replaced skimpy crown and chair rail molding in the main living area. A previously messy and often smoky log-burning fireplace was converted to a remote-controlled gas-fired unit. Rebuilt with the same low-stacked cultured stone as used on the front porch, the fireplace façade is lighter in tone than before, creating the dual illusion of greater depth and airiness. The mantel was reinforced to support a 40-inch flat-screen TV. Recessed surround-sound speakers complete the new entertainment center.
The Results
Once the renovation was complete, we said goodbye to New York and moved down the shore full time. Since then Marsha has settled in as a co-manager at Ann Taylor in Monmouth County, while I phased out my design business along with my Park Avenue rent and five-hour daily commute to concentrate on running an online gallery (

While we stay connected to the city through friends and family, the shore has come to hold a very special place in our lives: the gorgeous sunsets on Shark River, the variety of birds and wildlife, the proximity to the ocean and all it offers, and our “just-right-sized” home — a compilation that often prompts Marsha to ask me, “Can you believe we actually live here?”

Larry Daniels is the founder of Escapes, a picture-perfect collection of designer-inspired display photography for home and office.


SOURCES Overall: architect, Passman-Erco­lino Architects P.C. in Ocean; general contractor, Lutz Construction Inc. in Wall. Exterior: siding, polymer shakes in Hearth­stone by Certain­Teed; light fixtures, Kenroy Home. Kitchen /Dining Area: cabinetry, Brandy­wine cherry from Decora’s Artisan Square Collection through Artisan Kitchen & Bath Studio in Long Branch; countertops, Raven Caesar Stone; KitchenAid Artisan II series stainless steel appliances and a Sharp stainless steel micro­wave drawer, Eatontown TV & Appliance Co. in Eatontown; tile backsplash, Marble Unlimited in Farming­dale; alabaster pendants, 1Stop Justice Design; dining table, Bassett Furniture in Brick; orange leather chairs, Pottery Barn. Breakfast Nook: chairs, Ballard Designs. Living Area: sectional, Pottery Barn. Bathroom: fixtures and accessories, Kohler; Ronbow vanity, Ferguson Appliance Kitchen, Bath & Light Center; light fixtures, Restoration Hardware; tile, Marble Unlimited.

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