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Five Elements of the Coastal Beach House

| Photography John Martinelli

Architect Michael Pagnotta shares his tips for getting the most out of your home at the shore

Michael Pagnotta knows a lot about living at the shore. An Ocean County native, he has been the lead architect in his namesake design/build firm in Ship Bottom since 1990 and has helped a lot of people build their dream beach house. “A home at the beach should be a background to your life at the shore,” Pagnotta says. “I call it Coastal Casual: A great, well-designed home that is simply your stage on which to tell your stories, cook your fish, live your life!”

Pagnotta’s coastal casual beach house has five key elements that he says apply to any size home on any size lot:

1) Great space to come together Pagnotta sees the kitchen as the home’s common center. “Whether you have one person or twelve, the kitchen is the hub around which all energy flows.”

2) Room to breathe The usual sequence of levels in a beach house is reversed: gathering spaces are on top and light-filled bedrooms are one floor down. “I design from inside out so a two thousand square-foot home might live like twenty-five hundred square feet,” he says.

3) Maximize the views Although not every lot can be waterfront, and most beach lots are narrow, Pagnotta starts with maximizing the site. And well-placed windows, balconies, and roof-top decks help to connect the house with the outside.

4) Low-maintenance materials The beauty of the beach comes with harsh elements. You could spend your days repainting and repairing, or have a house designed for the weather. “We try to keep our architectural designs simple,” Pagnotta says, “with clean forms that avoid trapping water.” He also builds using modern, low-maintenance materials so homeowners can spend more time enjoying the elements and less time fighting them.

5) Streamlined process for getting there Building or redesigning a home at the shore can be a complicated process involving many different contractors and complicated building codes. Pagnotta recommends a true design/build firm. “When an architect leads the process and has his own, in-house construction company, he can value engineer the whole project to save the client time and money and honestly, get you on the beach faster.”

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