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sun, sand, togetherness

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Rebuilt after Superstorm Sandy, a Lavallette beach house becomes a happy haven for three generations.

Text by Donna Rolando Design by Pam Cooper Photography by Vic Wahby

This expanded Lavallette beach house sees plenty of action from three generations of family—and their friends—so Pam Cooper designed the great room with lots of seating vignettes. One solution is the custom bench that seats six along a 12-foot window. For the young at heart, there’s always a table ready for puzzles and games.

Cooper’s design of the great room, completed in 2019, was such a hit that “we wanted the dining room to be equally beautiful,” says family member Heather Hunkele. A thread common to both designs is the custom built-ins (right) by Ingrained Cabinetry of Freehold, an attractive storage solution this clan appreciates. Want a cool drink to grab and go? The refrigerated built-in offers that too.

Superstorm Sandy in 2012 didn’t care about tradition when it devastated a Lavallette beach house that had been in the Hunkele family for years. But this family not only bounced back from the loss of one of the street’s original bungalows, they expanded their homesite into an adjacent lot and hired a designer for a décor meant to entertain.

“We love to be outside, but we wanted the space we have inside to be accommodating to everyone,” says Heather Hunkele. She’s a member—along with her husband, Steven, and two school-aged children—of one of three families that share the house.

Perhaps that’s why they so love the gallery wall Pam Cooper of the Watchung-based eponymous design firm created in the great room. It’s a testament to beach smiles and their enduring value that each family member can embrace, starting with the original owners, Steven’s parents. The feel-good décor is another burst of sunshine for a dreary day, with its solid navy sofas topped with coastal transitional pillows. “It’s not overly nautical; the punch is on the pillows,” she says. Adding touches like a bowl of seashells on the coastal influence coffee table (Stanley Furniture), Cooper further resisted beachy overkill.

Meanwhile, the great room’s sandy color palette in Benjamin Moore Frappe welcomes pops of color. The blues, greens and turquoise bespeak Cooper’s vision “to connect the outside colors of the water and beach to the inside.”

Beyond style, the great room had to go the extra mile with seating vignettes where 20 people could comfortably mingle within view of the entertainment unit. Cooper mastered this tall order with several creative options, including bench seating under a 12-foot window and a high-top console with kid-friendly stools. The bookcases on either

Even gloomy days are filled with sunshine thanks to Cooper’s gallery wall of beach memories. And Hunkele’s mother-in-law, Jan, was glad to see her favorite rattan chairs reupholstered in Braxton Culler coastal patterns. Right: Ocean hues in geometric shapes provide the perfect pop against a sun-bleached white wood frame in this American coastal style. The turquoise cabinet from Liberty Furniture reflects the family’s affection for blues.

side of the window seat are great for storing puzzles and games.

The neutral wool sisal rug over the hardwood floors doubles as a soft spot for little ones to watch TV. “If sand comes in it’s very forgiving,” says Cooper, pointing to yet another goal—easy maintenance, which she accomplished with performance fabrics.

The dining room was born to feed a crowd with its 10-foot farmhouse table illuminated with rope chandeliers from Wayfair hanging from the shiplap custom ceiling. To complete the look, Cooper introduced Roman shades in a geometric pattern that complements the striping on the chairs.

Echoing a trend started in the great room, the dining room relies heavily on built-ins. There’s a place for everything, from serving plates to chilled wine, courtesy of this custom work by Freehold’s Ingrained Cabinetry, which includes a quartz-topped dry bar with natural wood on the wall.

Years after Sandy did its dirty work, this refuge for families from Chester and Mendham—in the family for some 20 years—has indeed come back stronger than ever. “We had to get up off the ground, and that was the only way—to rebuild,” says Jan Hunkele, Heather’s mother-in-law.

She credits Cooper with helping to create just what the family wanted: an open, airy space in blues and aquas reflective of the beach.

Says Cooper of what she’s wrought: “This is now a warm, relaxing home where they can leave the weekly stress behind.”

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