From the October/November 2013 Issue:

Haute Beach House

    Writer: Iyna Bort Caruso | Photographer: Barry Halkin | Designer: Joseph Berkowitz, Allied Member ASID | Architect: Todd Miller, AIA | Builder: Mark Gallagher |

A shore home offers unexpected drama

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enlarge | High ceilings and floor-to-ceiling draperies give the living room a feeling of spaciousness. Linen-shaded chandeliers, columns and molding accentuate the height. The painting above the sofa is by Ross Gelman, an accomplished artist.
When the owners of an Absecon Island vacation home decided to build anew on the footprint of a home that had been razed due to damage from a storm, they settled on an architectural design not typically seen at the New Jersey shore, a southern plantation-style estate.

It wasn’t the only unexpected choice. After all, there are certain design assumptions that come with a beach home. Relaxed comfort. A pop of whimsy. The new home kept the former but rejected the latter, instead opting for a dose of drama.

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enlarge | A “school” of goldleaf fish mounted on wooden bases makes an artful centerpiece for the dining room table. Three types of seating—French bamboo chairs, upholstered host and hostess chairs and a banquette—create a more comfortable and less contrived look than identical chairs. Although the dining room is a pass-through between the kitchen and living room, the columns and moldings help define the space.
Grand Illusions
The five-bedroom home, with architecture by Todd Miller, AIA, of QMA Design Build in Ventnor and built by Mark Gallagher of Margate, was completed in summer 2012 on a corner lot in Margate. It maximizes the parcel by using virtually every square inch of footage and rising as high as local regulations allow. On the interior, the home has a surprisingly spacious feel. Tall ceilings are a part of it, but some of it is illusion. The deliberate placement of columns, lighting, molding and floor-to-ceiling drapery accentuates the height of the rooms.

Its the third time the homeowners have collaborated with Joe Berkowitz, an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers and owner of Joseph A. Berkowitz Interiors Inc. in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. Each home is in a different region of the country and each has a different design theme. What the three houses have in common, however, is a willingness on the part of the clients and designer to make some nontraditional choices. Berkowitz says once the architecture of this home was defined as southern and gracious, he suggested the palette stay more classic and less playful so it doesnt have the feeling of a typical beach house. There are no pictures of beach umbrellas and seashells that you would expect to see in many shore homes.

Yet the environment did come into consideration with design selections. The neutral floors resemble whitewashed wood but are actually made of porcelain for ease of maintenance and durability. The living room rug is made by a hammock company using the same natural fibers. And in a bar area of the room, a nod to the beach comes into play with the selection of the countertop. Berkowitz calls it a memory bar. He departed from traditional granite for a custom countertop of glass-covered drawer inserts that display shells, photographs and other mementos that encapsulate the familys vacation home experience.

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enlarge | The blue-gray finish of the distressed wood cabinetry and molding in the kitchen picks up some of the fabric colors in the living room and dining room. Above the range is a frosted window surrounded by handmade Israeli mosaic tiles to create a sculptural piece. The window offers light, privacy and a dramatic focal point and is placed high enough on the wall that you don’t readily notice the very close neighboring home.
Deconstructing Design
In many ways, the interior design plan is simple. Deceivingly so. Instead of decorating by layering, Berkowitz deconstructed the design as much as possible. With less to distract the eye, each element of a room—each furnishing, accessory and finish—has to be perfectly placed and well scaled. “Although it requires as much or more thought than many other layered-looking rooms, the goal was for it not to look so heavy. Even though there is a lot of furniture, there aren’t a lot of elements that fight each other. It looks peaceful and serene and comfortable,” he says.

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enlarge | The master bedroom suite is designed in soothing blues and creams that mix for­mal­ity and comfort in a way that doesn’t feel stiff or off-limits. As in other parts of the home, Berk­owitz uses color on the ceiling to finish the space.
Mix Master
Berkowitz’s approach is also eclectic, one he calls “an extreme mixture of furniture pieces, styles and materials.” Using a neutral palette and artful coordination of elements, there is flow throughout the home.

Lighting is a powerful factor in the design equation. “Lighting is a huge decorating tool that’s often overlooked,” Berkowitz says. Instead of relying on recessed and overhead lights, he opted for sconces and hanging fixtures throughout this home. Some, such as a beaded turquoise sconce in the master bathroom, provide a vibrant pop of color to a neutral palette. The color is strong but it doesn’t dominate. In the living room, meanwhile, two chandeliers shaded in free-flowing linen have the feel of fine drapery.

It’s the lighting as well as the drapery that buttons the home in sophistication. Berkowitz says his clients originally questioned whether the use of drapery, which is the window treatment of choice in almost every room, would make the home feel “too northern and less beach-like.” In fact, the patterned fabrics soften and complete each room.

The home manages to hit that sweet spot of high-style design in which colors, shapes and materials work hard to keep it all comfortable and easy feeling. In a way, it’s like a puzzle. “In a lot of homes, you feel like there are a lot of broken pieces that don’t all fit together as they should,” Berkowitz says. “In this house, no matter what room you’re in, you’re aware of same serenity and same style. It flows exceptionally well.”

Iyna Bort Caruso, a frequent contributor to Design NJ, is a writer based in Rockville Centre, New York.


Overall: interior design, Joseph A. Berkowitz Interiors Inc. in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania; architect, Todd Miller, AIA, of QMA Design Build in Ventnor; builder, Mark Gallagher in Margate. Living Room: sofa, high-back chairs and cocktail ottoman, custom by JAB Interiors Bespoke Upholstery in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania; television console, Modern History in High Point, North Carolina; chair with ottoman, Hickory White (Lillian August) in Hickory, North Carolina; chandelier, Troy Lighting in City of Industry, California; rug, through the designer; bar chairs, Creative Metal & Wood in Thomasville, North Carolina; drapery fabric, Kravet in Bethpage, New York. Dining Room: table, side chairs and buffet, Sarried Ltd. in Wilson, North Carolina; host chairs, Kravet Furniture in Bethpage, New York; fish centerpiece, through the designer; light fixtures, Troy Lighting. Kitchen: cabinetry, CVL Designs in Ocean City; mosaic tile on backsplash, Flooring by Design in Ocean City; countertop, Abruzzi Stone & Flooring in Cherry Hill; island stools, Menagerie Ltd. in Philadelphia; appliances, Art Handlers in Pleasantville. Powder Room: tiles, Wa-Kei Tile in Simi Valley, California; vanity and sink, Cole & Co. in Dallas; toilet, Artistic Hardware in Northfield; mirror, through the designer; shelf, Chelsea House in High Point, North Carolina. Landing: sconces, Troy Lighting; landing carpet and stair runner, Rosenfeld Carpet LLC in Boca Raton, Florida. Master Bedroom: side table, Bone Inlay & Interior Furniture in Rajasthan, India; bed, Creative Metal & Wood; desk and bed linens, custom by JAB Interiors; upholstered chair and chaises, custom by JAB Interiors Bespoke Upholstery; lighting, through the designer; sitting area tables, Chelsea House in High Point, North Carolina. Master Bathroom: tiles, Wa-Kei Tile; vanity and countertop, CVL Designs; beaded sconce, Currey & Co. in Atlanta; lighting, Troy Lighting. Master Bedroom Porch: furniture, Caluco in San Fernando, California. Third Floor Bedroom with Ceiling Beams: bedding, Legacy Home in Chantilly, Virginia; desk, Arteriors in Carrollton, Texas; chair, through the designer; window treatment, Dun-Rite Decorators in Philadelphia; rug, Sierra Carpet Mills in Resaca, Georgia; Third Floor Guest Room: headboards, Zentique in Norcross, Georgia; bedding, Legacy Home; rug, Sierra Carpet Mills; hanging light fixture, Uttermost in Rocky Mount, Virginia. Bedroom with Sea-Grass Headboard: headboard, Mandalay Home Furnishings in Garden Grove, California; bedding, Legacy Home; end table, Hotel Maison through Judy George International in Milton, Massachusetts; desk, Butler Specialty Co. in Chicago; wall art, JABZ� (Wall D�cor) in Penn Valley, Pennsylvania. Caribbean-Style Bedroom: bed, Eddy West in Atlanta; linens, Legacy Home; daybed and trundle, Ballard Designs in West Chester, Ohio; table, Hotel Maison/Judy George International. Guest Bathroom: tiles, Wa-Kei Tile, vanity, CVL Designs; light fixtures, Troy Lighting; mirrors, homeowners.

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