An Avalon Beach House Gets a Stunning Makeover
With the help of Blue Octagon’s Krissa Wichser, one Malvern family created a Hamptons-inspired retreat.
The vision for this Shore retreat began with an open floor plan on the second floor and continued with beachy yet sophisticated touches throughout. Photographs by Floyd Dean.
A Malvern family of five dreamed of a home on the Jersey Shore, but they didn’t want it to look or feel like their more traditional primary residence. Instead, they wanted it to be coastal, with the relaxed formality of the grand shingled cottages of the Hamptons.
“We started with an open living area on the second floor and then knew we wanted the first floor to be a space for the kids to hang out with their friends,” recalls the owner. “The interior style we were trying to create was a sophisticated, but comfortable look.”
The couple had already begun construction on an open-concept, two-story house in Avalon, N.J. A shopping trip for a sofa at Malvern’s the Blue Octagon helped solidify a vision, thanks to store owner and designer, Krissa Wichser. “She came back with her drawings and we began talking,” says Wichser.
While the owners didn’t want the décor to be overtly beachy—“No anchors or turtles,” Wichser recalls—they did want to weave elements of the ocean into the design.
In the powder room, a round mirror framed in shells, reminiscent of a porthole, hangs on a wall covered in shimmering metallic aqua grasscloth. Instead of wall-mounted sconces, sparkling pendant lights flank the mirror.
In the living room, another mirror is wrapped in nautical rope. End tables are covered in aqua shagreen, a leather made from the skin of sharks and sting rays. Vibrant wallpaper in a coral motif brightens a bath.
Elsewhere, a palette of neutral furnishings is accented with pops of aqua, blue and gold. To bring it all together, they commissioned a painting by Main Line artist Maggie Hagstrom, who created a vibrant abstract canvas that hangs above the sofa. “It’s a true statement piece,” Wichser says.
A Room With a View
The tailored, sand-colored sofa that began the design process sits across from a fieldstone fireplace in an open, second-floor gathering room with soaring beamed ceilings. Large ginger jars wrapped in rope flank the hearth.
Originally, the beams were intended to be dark, stained wood. “With the stone fireplace, wood beams would have felt too much like a lodge,” Wichser says. “Painting the beams and shiplap ceiling white makes the whole space light and airy, just right for a home near the ocean.”
The woven cable pattern rug in the sitting area is pale beige, “like a fisherman’s sweater.” Throughout the space, white oak floors are treated with a custom grey-beige stain. “They are matte, not shiny, with a very organic feel,” Wichser says. “We wanted the feeling to be warm.”
An open dining area offers sweeping views of the ocean thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows and French doors that access a wraparound deck. Inside, there’s a 72-inch round table crafted from glossy white lacquered wood and a ship’s wheel chandelier, 40 inches in circumference, hung so as not to obstruct the view. Six large chairs with washed wood frames, upholstered seats and woven backs surround the table.
“They’re heavy and substantial—not a typical dining chair,” Wichser says. “The homeowners wanted something that was big and comfortable.
The first floor is a designated space for the couple’s three children, with three bedrooms and a second family room. French doors provide access to the pool.
“Having the pool access right off the downstairs family room and mudroom provides a great access point for the kids to come in and out without traveling through the entire house,” she says.
The kids’ family room is more casual, with a large blue sectional sofa anchored by a striated carpet in bands of blue, green, aqua and white. “We put in a big white faux leather ottoman, something the kids could actually put their feet up on,” says Wichser.
Extra seating is tucked away under a console table wrapped in rope. Plus, there’s a pair of stools upholstered in turquoise linen with looped fringe skirts. “Someone once said they look like a hula skirt. They’re very fun,” Wichser says.
In the girls’ room, turquoise grasscloth wall coverings, bright white lamps and bed linens create a vibrant and colorful atmosphere. A nightstand lacquered in fuchsia and pillows covered in a whimsical fuchsia-and-white flamingo print complete the look.
On both floors, walls are accented with crisp white wainscoting. In the public spaces, windows and doors are left uncovered to usher in sunlight and views of sea and sky. Windows in the private spaces are outfitted with plantation shutters for a streamlined yet welcoming environment.
“We had a vision of how we wanted our Shore house to look, feel and function,” says the owner. “When we’re in the house with our family and friends, it feels every bit as wonderful as we hoped it would.”