From the June/July 2014 Issue:

Not Your Typical Beach House

    Writer: Robin Amster | Photographer: John Ferrentino | Designer: Tracey Butler |

A designer’s fresh approach results in a colorful, modern interior to match this shore home’s facade

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enlarge | Pale blue, green and white horizontal stripes warm up the foyer and make you smile, designer Tracey Butler says. A Chinese lacquer altar table echoes the cobalt blue of the front door. It’s paired with a sea-grass ottoman to soften the effect.
With its stunning futuristic architecture, this Ocean County home is not typical for the shore. It made sense then that designer Tracey Butler saw it as the perfect candidate for a new approach when it came to creating a design scheme for the interiors—one that would be as atypical as the exterior of the house.

Butler, whose firm is Essex Fells-based b.home interior design, calls that new approach “young, fresh and modern.” Her design is peppered with some whimsical features, yet the overall feel is one of serenity and calm. The color scheme is soothing and brings the outside in without being “obvious or typical,” Butler says. And there’s an absence of the usual beach accents—nautical or fish-themed—in favor of natural accessories such as driftwood and teak balls.

“The homeowners left it to me completely to interpret the architecture of the house and its surroundings in a way that would be calm and yet exciting enough that they’d want to be there,” Butler says.

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enlarge | Neighbors call this shore home the “bucket house” for its futuristic architecture, owner Lori Kaplan says. Designer Tracey Butler says the punch of cobalt blue on the front door and garage doors sets the tone for the color scheme inside.
The Backstory
One of the original homes in its shore community, the house has an interesting backstory. It was built about 1933 as a small, two-story center-hall beach cottage, Butler says. In the early 1990s the people who sold it to her clients undertook a massive renovation that ripped away everything but the original three bedrooms, tripled the size of the house and fashioned its new facade.

Current homeowner Lori Kaplan was no stranger to the exterior of the home. The owners responsible for the 1990s renovation were good friends of her parents and have a summer home just a few miles away.

With her three kids getting older, and following nearly 20 summers spent at her parents’ beach house, Kaplan and her husband decided it was time to buy their own summer home.

“For whatever reason, I had never been inside the house,” Kaplan says of her future summer home, known locally as the “bucket house” for a distinctive feature of its architecture. “When I walked in my jaw dropped. The one thing that most shocked me was how different inside it is from the outside. I didn’t expect it to be so open.”

While the home—both outside and inside—intrigued Kaplan, she says it was not an easy one to put together. She called in Butler, who had designed her primary residence and who “has never shown me anything I don’t like.”

For her part, Butler says the home’s architecture “was far from their [the homeowners’] comfort zone.” So she sought to “soften it a bit” with her interior design.

The designer accomplished that by limiting the amount of gloss on hard surfaces, providing a lot of upholstered pieces and using sectionals instead of separate sofas and chaise lounges instead of chairs. She also placed soft wool area rugs in the living room and wall-to-wall carpeting in the den and all of the bedrooms.

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enlarge | The color palette in the den—mostly lime green with blue accents—is the reverse of the living room’s. But like some furnishings in the living room, the blue cotton sectional and lime green velvet barrel chair are midcentury pieces. A white lacquer cabinet with stained teak doors graces one wall. The window of structural glass cubes is a nod to the 1980s and ’90s. The Japanese-inspired paper floor lamp lends a glow.
Water Colors
Color played an important role in the design. The bay is behind the home, and “I wanted to bring the color of the water in,” Butler says. “That said blue and green to me.”

Butler wanted the same colors throughout the home, but she alternated the primary and accent colors from room to room. The living room is blue with green accents, for instance, while the den is green with blue accents.

The foyer sets the tone for the color palette. Its walls of horizontal pale blue, green and white stripes warms up the space and “makes you smile,” Butler says. The color combination is also “a play on the colors you experience when you get farther into the house,” she adds.

The exception to the blue-and-green palette is the home’s three original bedrooms—now the kids’ bedrooms—and the master bedroom, which was added in the expansion. The master is one level above the living room and the kids’ rooms are two levels above the living room, so they are somewhat removed from the home’s public spaces.

Butler took her cue for the kids’ bedroom colors from their preferences—grass green and dark brown for one son, marine blue for another son, and pink and orange for the youngest child, a daughter. “I decided to pump up [the color here] to reflect the kids’ personalities,” Butler says.

For the master bedroom she chose a mauve-and-blush palette, which also reflects the seaside surroundings: “the dusky colors of the sunset and the pinks and violets that come out at night over the bay,” she says.

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enlarge | The youngest child wanted a complete fantasy bedroom so the designer did her room in pink and orange at her request, softening the effect with pink and coral walls. Paper lanterns lend a beachy feel.
Bored with White
Butler’s approach to color in this beach house is a reflection of her color philosophy in general.

“A lot of people these days are very interested in using only accents of color,” she says. “I wanted a more subdued color story [for this home], and yet I didn’t want the house to be flat. You want a house, especially a beach house, to be exciting.”

The designer uses colors that are close to each other on the color wheel. That makes for “consistency and calmness,” she says. “Green grows out of blue. If you go from a blue room right into a bright yellow room, that would be jarring and not what nature intended.”

Kaplan calls her home’s colors “amazing but not too bright.”

“I was brought up in a white house; even my mom’s beach house is blue and white,” she says. “I’m definitely not scared of color. I was bored with all white and more interested in colors. They brought the house to life.”

Robin Amster is a Madison-based writer and editor.


Overall: interior design, b.home interior design in Essex Fells; landscape, Hoch’s Landscaping & Garden Center in Barnegat. Foyer: Chinese altar table and ottoman, Zinc Door in Pasadena, California. Living Room and Kitchen: sectional, Room & Board; chaise, Ikea; media cabinet, Nuevo,; bar stools, Lee Industries in Conover, North Carolina; dining table, Z Gallerie in Los Angeles; dining chairs, b.home interior design; baker’s rack, Restoration Hardware; cocktail table, Global Views in Dallas; rug, Rugs Direct in Winchester, Virginia; artwork, b.home interior design. Master Bedroom: bed, nightstand and lamps, Z Gallerie; white chair, Crate&Barrel; carpeting, J&S Designer Flooring. Circular Room: sea-grass ottomans, Zinc Door; artwork, Ikea; carpet, J&S Designer Flooring in Morristown. Pink Bedroom: headboard, West Elm; paper lanterns, Pottery Barn Kids. Blue Bedroom: dresser, Ikea; carpet, J&S Designer Flooring. Green Bedroom: headboard and nightstand, Ikea.

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