Beach Beauty

A Main Line architect brings coastal New England to the Shore.

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In Avalon, N.J., the most impressive castles aren’t the ones made of sand, but those nestled in the painstakingly preserved dunes on its southern end. Here, the wide beaches remain intact after last winter’s storms, the multimillion-dollar residences with ocean views shielded from the elements—and public scrutiny—behind a lush natural barrier.

Outside spaces take full advantage of stunning beachfront views.One such marvel is a two-year-old beachfront gem with white cedar shingles and a pronounced red cedar gambrel roof. It could easily be transplanted to the Massachusetts coastline, and yet it also fits perfectly among Avalon’s signature high-dollar abodes.

“That’s exactly what the client wanted,” says Peter Zimmerman, the Berwyn-based architect behind the project. “The home is reminiscent of Avalon beach houses of the 1920s and ’30s—many of which don’t exist anymore.”

Zimmerman’s Newtown Square client loves Nantucket, but the Shore was much more convenient for a family with four young children. With his already-solid residential reputation in Nantucket and Cape Cod, Zimmerman was tasked with designing something similar in Avalon—a “traditionally inspired, multi-generational family retreat.”

The result: a home with an exterior in the classic Nantucket style and an interior that’s quintessential Jersey Shore. Thick with beach grass, scrub oak and pine trees, Avalon’s protected dunes restrict ocean views from the first floor, so Zimmerman went with an upside-down layout, positioning the main living area on the second floor. “In Nantucket and the Cape, there are very few upside-down houses,” Zimmerman points out.

The second floor’s kitchen, living room and dining room had to be large enough to accommodate visiting friends and extended family. “It has an open floor plan that provides easy circulation and expansive views toward the horizon from every room, combined with expansive porches and decks,” says Zimmerman. “The design decision was made to leave the second floor as an open space punctuated with columns and mill work, reinforcing a sense of visual transparency from the inside out onto the porch and deck spaces and the beach beyond.”

Open decks and covered porches on three sides of the house can be accessed from every level; the largest expanses are located on the ocean side. There’s a covered al fresco dining area off the kitchen, and an open area for entertaining. The third floor has the best views in the house, with its smaller porches off the master bedroom and home office.

The home’s first floor is reserved for guests. It has three bedrooms and a lounge area with a television. A nook with a refrigerator and sink helps guests feel at home. A centralized stairway winds through the center of the house, linking the bedrooms above and below with the main living spaces on the second floor.

The third floor features three bedrooms—a master and two for the kids to share—and a home office. “The gambrel roof and dormers allowed us to maximize the interior volume and stay within the height limitations permitted by the zoning ordinance,” says Zimmerman.

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