From the wood paneling to the white Cadillac chairs, this bungalow looks like it just stepped out of the '60s―exactly what the homeowners wanted when they overhauled the house.

By Brice Gaillard
September 11, 2008
Deborah Whitlaw Llewellyn; styling by Brice Gaillard

While other Manhattanites flock to the Hamptons to escape the city, William Francis and Skip Stano take an alternate route (with half the commute time) straight to the Jersey Shore. Both spent summers there as children, so when they decided to buy a vacation home, it seemed only natural to choose one on the beach they knew and loved.

Finding the right house proved more challenging than they expected. William and Skip wanted a classic beachfront bungalow, but many of the original structures they remembered had been replaced by colossal houses. After a summer of searching, they spied a small 1926 cottage on the Internet. Less than a week later, the fully furnished home―complete with shag carpet and light-blue exterior paint―was theirs. "We kept a few pieces of furniture, some vintage Pyrex, which Skip collects, and a few cork coasters," William says. "Everything else had to go."

They decided to renew the home's original cedar-shake style, drawing attention to the small proportions, beamed ceilings, and knotty pine walls, ceilings, and floors. "We wanted it to look like a place one family had owned ever since it was built," Skip says. So he and William called in New Jersey builder Lou Padula and architect Gregory Cox to devise an updated house plan within the existing footprint.

After taking the home down to the studs, Gregory added large windows to maximize views of the Atlantic, and converted the ground level―which originally served as a garage―into living space. He also combined two small bedrooms to create a large master suite, and turned another into an office. To give the home a historic feel, Lou installed new pine and trim details on the ceilings and walls to replicate the original knotty pine. "Even our painters said, 'No one does a totally wood house anymore!' But we love the way it reminds us of the summer houses of our youth," Skip says.

For the interiors, Skip and William asked Kathryn Saunders and Elizabeth Cleary of Kathryn Saunders Design to combine the classic look of a luxury liner with a fun, beach-weekend feel. "We really wanted to bring in the colors and mood of the beach," Kathryn says. She and Elizabeth chose saturated blues and greens to pop against the all-wood interiors, and comfortable yet resilient fabrics such as faux leather, terry cloth, wool, and linen. Each room has slipcovered furniture, pillows, and window treatments that can be switched out seasonally. On the living room chairs and sofa, nautical blue-and-white terry cloth makes way for a cozy tartan wool in winter. "We won't ever feel the need to redecorate," Skip says. "We get a change every six months."

William and Skip took their time with the renovation, making sure everything turned out just right. "We moved at a nice pace, with plenty of time for ideas to develop," Kathryn says. Together, they came up with a mix of old and new that made the home feel as though it evolved over time. "A neighbor called us folk heroes," William says with a laugh. "Everyone was concerned we wouldn't be able to resist the temptation to build an enormous statement, but now we hear things like, 'Now this is what a beach house should be!'"