No sooner did Kay and Dale Schoeneman empty the nest than they began to refill it—at least for the summer. “We spend all summer at our vacation house at Beach Haven, New Jersey, where both our married daughters and their husbands and children join us every weekend,” explains Kay. Thus far, their on-the-grow family includes three grandchildren, ages 6, 3, and 1. So while other retired couples downsize, the Schoenemans happily embrace the idea of bigger is better. “We needed to build a larger house to accommodate our growing family,” says Kay. “We wanted it family-friendly with soothing beach colors and enough space for everyone to spread out.”
Blueprints in hand, Kay called on her longtime designer, Mary O’Brien Cabaron, to tweak the plans and provide turnkey decorating that included interior architectural elements like paneling and interesting ceiling details. But this time, their meeting went a little differently. “I brought along both of my daughters,” laughs Kay. “Since they would be living there, too, we wanted their input.”
Their collaborative vision called for not one but three master suites, plus practical concessions like a TV in the living room. It also ensured an abundance of public spaces so no one would feel cramped and all could pursue their own interests. That meant a separate family room with a sprawling sectional upstairs, a multipurpose enclosed porch that’s a favorite hangout and casual meal venue overlooking the pool, a cheerful playroom in primary colors for the grandchildren, and a sparkling-white kitchen roomy enough for two chefs (Kay and one son-in-law both love to cook), as well as another kitchen outdoors. There are plenty of dining-area options, including the light-filled breakfast room, a slightly more formal beamed-ceiling dining room, and, of course, the enclosed porch. “Rooms are large enough for all of us to be in them at one time, but we can also spread out,” notes Kay.
Packing in so many features for what are essentially three separate families demanded a large footprint—around 9,000 square feet. “My challenge was to give Kay the cottagey style and homey feel she wanted in such a big house,” says Cabaron. “We introduced the cottage look using a lot of white with beach-glass colors and coral accents.”
But humanizing the scale required more than a pleasing palette. In the living room, Cabaron designed a ceiling grid to break up the big space overhead. Her genius was to alternate the direction of the flow of the beadboard within that grid. The result is a whitewashed patchwork that lives cozy.
Again, in the dining room a unique ceiling treatment is critical, bringing the large room down to earth. “You enter the room at an angle, and I laid the ceiling beams on that same angle. This tricks the eye into believing the room is not a big rectangle,” notes Cabaron. The brown beams also are a baby step toward formality; their darker color is reinforced by the brown trellis outlines on the draperies, as well as by the natural wood of the table. Even in this most formal room, however, the living is easy. “The table is so distressed it’s almost buckled,” says Cabaron. “It’s friendly to using dinner plates without placemats.”
In the upstairs family room, the expanses of blue walls—the deepest shade in the house—reach out like an ice-breaking handshake, thanks to Cabaron’s 3-D accessorizing. “Baskets, sconces, and thick-framed mirrors on the wall create depth,” she says. At the same time the 3-D accessories shake off any traces of big-room sterility, they create a collected look that’s a hallmark of the cottage style the homeowner loves. “I wanted a Nantucket look,” reflects Kay, “and Mary completely got that.”
Wavy window treatments in the breakfast room and the Schoenemans’ bedroom recall breakers on the shore. “I always hang the cornice as close to the ceiling as possible to enhance the illusion of more window, while hiding as little of the view as possible,” explains the designer.
For the breakfast room, she broke up the aqua cornice with brown pleats that fall in line with the window mullions. The brown pleats segment the sweep of aqua fabric for a cozier look, and they also knit the space together by tying into the brown on the banquette fabric just below.
A cornice above the bed in the Schoenemans’ bedroom follows the arch of the window. Cabaron finished the bottom of the cornice in a graceful wave, then created a counterpoint with a bed whose headboard reverses those undulations.
In every room, fabrics are casual cottons, linens, or blends of both, and all the furniture is comfortable. “Nothing is stiff. They use every room and sit on every furnishing,” says Cabaron. “It’s a very livable design.” Nothing less would do for a beach house brimming with three generations of family.
Photography: John Bessler
Architect: Robert Stack, Robert Stack, LLC, 287 W. Eighth Street, Ship Bottom, NJ 08008; 609/494-8429, stackdesignbuild.com.
Interior designer: Mary O’Brien Cabaron, Mary O’Brien Cabaron Interior Design, 105 W. South 34th St., Beach Haven Terrace, NJ 08008; 609/492-8216, maryobriencabaron.com.
Builder: Jeff Seddon, J.M. Seddon Contracting Co. Inc., 129 W. Seventh St., Ship Bottom, NJ 08008; 609/492-3707.
Kitchen design: Francie Milano Kitchens, 609/494-0011, franciemilanokitchens.com.
Landscape design: Living Landscapes, 609/698-1199, livinglandscapes.com.
Drapery workroom: Tina Lynn’s Inc., 856/825-0261.
Custom woodwork: Handmade Furniture Co., 609/597-2708, handmadefurniturecompany.com.
Ottomans (“Fusion” #2860-6450): Brown Jordan, 800/743-4252, brownjordan.com.
Ottoman fabric (“Gabriel”/Aqua #W8446, Courtyard Collection): Thibaut, 800/223-0704, thibautdesign.com.
Chairs (“Leeward Lounge Chair Swivel Glider” #786-86): Lane Venture, 800/235-3558, laneventure.com.
Chair fabric (“Linden Hill Stripe”/Aqua #W8437, Courtyard Collection): Thibaut, 800/223-0704, thibautdesign.com.
Throw pillows (by Kuk May): owner’s collection.
Lamps: Frederick Cooper, 252/446-2192, frederickcooper.com.
Area rug: Nourison Industries Inc., 800/223-1110, nourison.com.