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A Modern Classic

Photos by John Martinelli

Traditional forms meet modern function for stunning views of the bay

Ed and Ellen Freeman have called Long Beach Island home for 20 years. They raised three kids at 706 S. Atlantic Ave., in Beach Haven—the third of the noteworthy Seven Sisters cottages built in the mid-1920s. Now that their kids are all out on their own, the Freemans were ready for a change when an empty, Bay-side lot in Ship Bottom came on the market.

Standing empty and measuring roughly 83 by 67 feet with bulkheads on the south and west sides, 1915 E. Bay Ave., Ship Bottom, seemed the perfect blank canvas. The only hitch was that the lot’s buildable footprint, as set by the Coastal Area Facility Review Act, was fairly small, including a height restriction of only 32 feet. At this point, the Freeman’s choice of architect was key.

Enter Michael Pagnotta, who is the architect at the head of a true design-build firm based in Ship Bottom that specializes in custom shore homes and has experience designing for narrow and otherwise-challenging lots. Pagnotta and the Freemans met to discuss the project, including the Freemans’ tastes, lifestyle, and preferences for building materials. When the Freemans saw Pagnotta’s plans for the design of the house, they agreed to have his construction firm build it as well. “We were a lot more comfortable dealing with the builder that designed the house; then we wouldn’t encounter any surprises,” explains Freeman.

“The house is designed from the inside out,” notes Pagnotta. “We made sure that form follows function, and the forms are arranged to maximize views and facilitate day-to-day living. We maximized the space and created an open great room consisting of kitchen, dining, and living functions, all of which required views to the bay.”

And the view is what Freeman likes best about this house: “I have a couple boats, and it’s nice to have access to them, but what is nicer is having that water shining through all the windows? When you look out the windows, you don’t even see the ground; all you see is water.”

“Once the interior was laid out, the exterior started to take shape,” continues Pagnotta. “The Freemans sought a classic authenticity with a coastal casual feel. By using short pilings that would put the home above base flood elevation without making it too tall for its height restriction, I was able to work in both high ceilings in the great room and steeper roof pitches.”

Indeed, the main exterior focal point is a gambrel roof, a classic detail of shingle style homes along the eastern seaboard. Another classic detail in this home is the Freemans’ choice of building materials. Eschewing the popular low-maintenance synthetics necessary for coastal vacation homes, they chose cedar siding, mahogany decking for the porches, and American cherry for the interior flooring. “For natural materials, they are low maintenance. They are what we use in coastal environments because wood does well in moisture,” says Freeman.

In less than one year, the Freemans went from bare lot to bayfront beauty, and give the credit to Pagnotta. “Mike understood the property and the orientation of the house to the water. He designed the house and basically nailed it with minor input from us. Plus, he quoted us eight months start to finish, and it was done in eight months. We feel very fortunate that we chose Mike,” concludes Freeman.

This home has a timeless design that will sit comfortably on the bayfront for generations. The interior layout is contemporary in its openness, and the exterior has classic touches that recall the history of Long Beach Island.

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