From the August/September 2019 Issue  

Make Your Shore Home Less Shore, More Midcentury

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer John Ferrentino  |  Designer Tracey Butler  |  Location Cape May, NJ

The soft gray of the front door offers a gentle contrast to the surrounding white siding.

A Cape May, NJ, home has a midcentury feel enhanced with hints of beachy style

Fond memories of childhood summers spent in Cape May, New Jersey, were the impetus behind the purchase of this residence, Tracey Butler says. “The mom grew up going to this beach,” says Butler, owner of b. home Interior Design Studio and R. Home Interior Design Store, both in Livingston, New Jersey. Now she wanted to share those memories with her two teenaged children.

“It’s a very vertical house,” designer Tracey Butler says. The Cape May, New Jersey home has views of both the bay and the ocean.

According to Butler, the owners entertain often at their shore home, which was built in 2015. To accommodate extended family members and other guests, the owners wanted Butler to “create a sophisticated but comfortable home to use year-round.” They also requested that the style be “not specifically beachy or nautical or stereotypical. They wanted it to feel like a home away from home that happens to be at the beach.”

Though not interested in a conventional seashore look, the wife did want an organic feel to the spaces. “She was conscious of the materials chosen,” Butler says. “She likes natural fibers and natural texture.” The designer furnished the spaces accordingly, incorporating natural elements throughout the spaces. “I did grapevine-branch lamps in the living room and other things that are not typical of a beach house.”

Butler and the owners chose a midcentury-modern style, reflected in low-slung furnishings and geometric lines in the living room and in the seating area off the kitchen. “The midcentury-modern scale of things typically sits low so the windows will be uninterrupted.” That’s a particularly good strategy on this property. “The home is surrounded by water—the bay and the ocean. None of the furnishings competes with the windows and the views.”

The look, however, was a bit of a departure for the wife. “Her other home is more traditional,” Butler explains.

“I definitely pushed her out of her comfort zone. She was thinking more traditional in the pictures she gave me for inspiration. I pushed her into midcentury modern.”


The entryway is a perfect place for towel storage. Vivid colors add flair to the neutral space.

The designer took a slightly different tack in the kitchen. The owners “wanted the kitchen to be like a modern farmhouse.” Butler suggested white Shaker-style cabinets, a honed black granite countertop and polished-nickel pendants above the island. “Then we modernized it by adding gray barstools. The sitting area to the right of the kitchen—with its low-sitting, armless linen matching sofas and circular marble cocktail table—also made the space more modern.”

  • The kitchen’s farmhouse style is reflected in its Shaker cabinets. Gray barstools add a modern touch.


  • Deep, armless sofas in the kitchen seating area keep the windows—and the view—unobstructed.


  • Low-slung furniture and geometric designs are hallmarks of midcentury-modern style.


  • Throw pillows and artwork add pops of color to the neutral foundation in the living room.


The kitchen and most of the other public rooms are predominantly neutral. Butler says the homeowners “wanted the spaces to be sophisticated and timeless. We kept everything in pale grays and blues.” Butler livened up those pale tones by adding vivid accessories—an approach to palette that’s a hallmark of midcentury design. In the living room, for example, a white sectional is ornamented with throw pillows in shades of blue, green and yellow. In the stairwell, a matching pair of abstract water paintings picks up the blue from the living room.

  • “I used a lot more color for the kids’ spaces,” Butler says. Here, in the kids’ television room, she says, “I like the accents of copper mixed with orange.”


  • The son’s room features bright stripes against a neutral palette. A painting of a baseball play reflects his love of the game.


  • Bright patterns in a wide assortment of colors bring a youth­ful exuberance to the daughter’s room.


  • The sunroom can sleep five. The sofa pulls out to a bed, as does the coffee table. The art over the sofa features flamingos, a nod to the wetlands outside the window.


In the private spaces, Butler upped the color quotient. “The third level [of the residence] is dedicated to the kids, and they wanted a lot of color.” That’s evident in the lounge—a separate television area for the kids, which Butler carved out of a wide hallway. It features bold orange furnishings and copper accessories.

Grapevine branch lamps create a focal point on the living room credenza.

The daughter’s room is just as bold, with hot pink bedding and carpeting against neutral walls and white lacquered furniture. “Her theme was very Bohemian with a modern flair,” Butler says.  The son’s room is painted in the same soft tone as the daughter’s room, but here, the pale color is augmented by bedding in deep blue and green stripes. The striped theme continues in an armchair opposite the two beds.

The teal linen daybeds in the guest room convert to double beds. The seagrass-covered cocktail table is one of the designer’s favorite furnishings.

A guest bedroom is done in varying shades of blue with furnishings that have a practical application at a beach house, where visitors abound. “Those teal linen daybeds are cool,” Butler says, “because they flip up to be double beds.” The coffee table is a particular favorite of Butler’s. “I like the sea-grass covered cocktail table. The owner wanted a nod to the beach without being obvious about it.”

  • In the master bedroom, the homeowners allowed their beach sensibilities free reign. A coral pattern on the bedspread carries the theme, along with a dresser and side table with driftwood drawer panels.


  • The master bedroom desk area includes a natural driftwood standing lamp (foreground, left).


  • The master bathtub overlooks the marshy terrain.


The master bedroom, however, is where the wife went full-on “shore.” “This was where she wanted her traditional desires to come back,” the designer notes. “We went with bedding featuring a coral print and with navy and white in varying stripes around the room.” The dresser, side table and bed are composed of white lacquer with driftwood panels. “This was how we balanced modern with traditional,” Butler says. The balance extends to the office area of the space, which features a cobalt blue lacquered desk set against striped window treatments and carpet.

The desk, used primarily by the wife, is situated to take advantage of the view. “She can see the ocean from the double window,” Butler says. “And the oversized chaise lounge lets her kids be with her.” The kids and the ocean—that’s what this home is all about. It’s a comfortable, stylish vacation haven for a busy family.