Architects: Specht Architects
Project: Beachfront House
Lead Architects: Scott Specht
Location: Beach Haven, Long Beach Island, New Jersey, United States
Area 2500.0 ft2
Photography: Taggart Sorensen
Text by Specht Architects
This beachfront house is located on the Atlantic coast in New Jersey. The lot is on the beachfront, but very small, tucked away from the street, and had many code-regulated square-footage and height restrictions. The challenge was to create something open and light-filled that takes advantage of its beautiful setting, yet uses every available square inch of buildable area allowed by law.
The house was initially designed in 2012, and construction had just begun when Hurricane Sandy swept through the area causing major damage and beach erosion. Shortly thereafter, FEMA changed all the regulations regarding beachfront houses, which required a “start from scratch” redesign of the whole house. The clients, obviously, were not happy, but understanding, and we reworked the design in accordance with the new regulations. It is the only modern beachfront house in Beach Haven that was designed in accordance with these new rules, and a model for how a house can be resistant to winds and storm surge, yet still remain very aesthetically appealing.
Many (if not most) houses built to current regulations on the coast are basically traditional styles, elevated on pilings to the required flood level. Even when the pilings are covered with panels, the proportions often are not pleasing, and they appear awkward or ad-hoc. Our intent with the Beach Haven house was to embrace the fact that the house had to be elevated on what are basically telephone poles driven into the sand, and use these as major design components, to be expressed and highlighted.
The beachfront house was designed for a family of five. The upper level features a beachfront master suite, and each child has their own, uniquely styled “ship’s cabin”. The lower level includes a guest room / office, lounge, elevated hot tub area, and a large living / dining / kitchen space. We drove a series of pilings at the perimeter of the house that remain exposed, and form linear colonnades that integrate with the overall form of the house. All of this fits within a compact 2500 square foot envelope.
This is first and foremost a beachfront house. It not only responds to the client’s needs, but to the extreme environmental conditions of the Jersey Shore. The house packs a lot of program into its relatively small envelope, while maintaining an interior that is bright and open. Clerestory windows or narrow slot windows are used on the sides facing adjacent houses, and full-height glass looks to the sea.
Techniques that are often used in boat building were used in the construction of the house. The roof is all fiberglass, and the exterior components all stainless steel. Windows are of the highest hurricane-rating available. The form of the house was developed by extruding the entire buildable footprint to the maximum height allowable, and sculpturally carving the resultant mass. We also used a combination of eastern white cedar and western red cedar as the exterior cladding, stained and bleached to create different shades and textures, to emphasize the sculptural quality of the house. Cedar has proven over time to be extremely durable in a beach environment.