For a couple with four young children (and another on the way), the family-friendly stretch of sand known as Stone Harbor along the southern New Jersey coast struck just the right chord. Having summered there as a child, the wife knew it came with all the right nostalgia. But the town's easygoing location—outside the high-energy bustle of busier Shore towns—was ideal, too: no frills or Ferris wheels, just water, sun, and spectacular sunsets, all of which offered inspiration for the radiant hues in this happy vacation home.
The Philadelphia-based owners hired designer Michael Murphy, with whom they had worked on several previous projects, to shape the interior and exterior details of the 2,700-square-foot, cedar-shingled house. "The trick was to not make the house feel overly decorated, but to still keep it colorful and livable," he says.
Get the Look: The trim of the cedar-shingle/stone house is painted Decorators White by Benjamin Moore.
Having spent childhood summers in Stone Harbor himself, Murphy tapped into personal memories from life there in the 1960s and '70s to come up with a plan for inviting and vibrant rooms, like the kitchen's surprising jolt of retro Granny Smith green. "I wanted something unexpected, a fun hue that would almost act as a time capsule. When I was growing up, people had those green kitchens. They were so chic," says Murphy. The punchy hue is tempered by organic elements like reclaimed barnwood floors and a large white-oak island, which Murphy custom designed and paired with sleek metal counter stools and light green cushions.
Upstairs, the wife had a singular request: to create a lounge area that feels like you are stepping into the sunlight. Thus the mood on the second floor is bright and warm, with zippy hues such as mustard or tangerine that are "definitely out of the ordinary," the designer explains. The room opens up via sliding glass doors onto a beachfront deck outfitted in vermilion cushions. "The sunset is magical from out there," Murphy says. "We wanted it to feel like the colors of the sky are being pulled into the house, like you are standing in rays of light." Once the sun goes down, the Roman shades and blackout curtains can be drawn, transforming the luminous room into a family movie theater by night. "All the lounge upholstery is indoor/outdoor, so they can eat and drink whatever they want and not worry about a thing," says the designer.
Making the home functional and organized for seven people in a relatively tight footprint was an exercise in creativity. Murphy designed more than 70 custom built-ins throughout the house, including the boys' bunk beds that reference a classic railroad Pullman car and include shelving for easy access to books and games. The need for practicality, however, didn't hamper his sense of whimsy.
Get the Look: The boys' bunk room is painted with exterior white paint by Benjamin Moore.
A diamond-patterned painted floor, for example, grounds the playroom in fun, seafaring colors (like aqua, green, and navy) and is complemented by striped teal shades lining the windows. Overhead, a collection of vintage surfboards attached to the ceiling rafters pays homage to the family's hang-ten hobby, while a hand-carved crab game table completes the marine montage. The kid-friendly space can be closed of from the kitchen/den area by 7-foot-long barn doors.
Get the Look: Stained pine paneling sets a beachy vibe in the playroom, where vintage surfboards hang from the rafters. The shade fabric is by Donghia, and the Papa chair is vintage.
Indoors and out, Murphy ensured the family's living spaces adapt well to entertaining friends. For instance, everything on the first floor—the kitchen island, the solid oak dining table, the Sister Parish–inspired sectional sofa (designed by Murphy)—can be rolled aside to make one large, open room for entertaining.
Likewise, on the main deck, a picnic table can be rolled anywhere along a 50-foot bench that spans the length of the space and borders a lush expanse of beach grass that separates the house from the sand. With movable bench backs and cushions, the family and their guests can follow sun or shade. The area becomes an extension of the den and kitchen, with a pass-through outdoor service window for free-flowing living and entertaining in the fresh air.
Get the Look: A slate patio and teak bench stretch along the ocean side of the home. The cushion fabric is by Perennials.
"We added decks and sitting areas everywhere we could," Murphy says, noting that the family's foremost goal is to enjoy the sunshine.
Get the Look: Adjacent to the sundeck is a shaded outdoor lounge. The globe fixture is by Rejuvenation.
Drawing upon nostalgia, creative design ideas, and bold colors, Murphy has created a playful yet practical retreat for this active young family of surfers, fishermen, and sand castle builders. Every available space offers storage; every room offers smiles. Sunshine abounds, as do coastal references such as crabs and surfoards, as well as one very impressive fish gate. "The owner requested a fishing reference, and I said, "Oh I can do better than that!"" notes Murphy, who created the gate from an icon he salvaged from Manhattan's South Street Seaport. From sunset-inspired fabrics to retro cabinet colors, the home reflects the family's long love affair with Stone Harbor. More than anything, Murphy explains, "we wanted to keep the home true to the Jersey Shore."
Get the Look: Designer Michael Murphy custom designed the swing on the screened porch. The wicker chairs are vintage.