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Local Architecture Makes a Splash in the Design World

Written By Lisa Simek

Long Beach Island’s fortes have always included the finest and freshest bay scallops, heavenly clam chowders, and good old-fashioned hand whipped fudge. And while surfing and fishing are customary pastimes, in recent years the local LBI art scene has also illuminated the island’s assortment of homegrown photographers, artists, and craftsman. But as the current building and construction movement continues to grow, there is a Long Beach Island paradigm being born, this time in the architecture design realm: the LBI-style home.

From North to South, the architectural evolution of homes on Long Beach Island has taken us everywhere from bungalows built for two to majestic seaside retreats. Over the years, just as the Hamptons-style home was formed in Long Island and the Cape Cod-style home developed in Massachusetts, LBI’s family dynamics have shifted and homeowners’ tastes have collectively evolved—all amalgamating into this new, quintessentially LBI style home. “For many owners, their LBI home serves as a dream home—as something intended to be very different from where they live year-round. They tend to be more creative and relaxed at the beach…so the resulting design is more playful and imaginative, yet tranquil,” shares Michael Pagnotta, founder of Ship Bottom’s Michael Pagnotta Architecture & Construction, who has been designing homes on the island for almost three decades.

So what are the design characteristics of a newer LBI-style home? “The most prominent features on the island are related to family lifestyle and communal living: open and efficient reverse-living floor plans, creative roofscapes, and internally accessed roof decks, along with additional outdoor living areas,” describes Pagnotta. He adds, “The island is quite narrow, so a large percentage of homes have great views. This naturally results in generously sized windows, sometimes even floor-to-ceiling glass for panoramic views of the water.

The most common characteristics of an LBI-style home include:

Reverse-living with stair towers and elevators to maximize views

Fewer structural columns and soaring ceilings with natural light

Stair towers to break up stairs into half flights and landings, making the vertical procession more pleasant (and safer)

Efficient floor plans comprised of smaller bedrooms with the living/communal spaces disproportionally larger

Roof decks that are internally accessed (as opposed to the spiral stairs of the past)

Large decks and comfortable outdoor living areas

Expanses of windows to maximize views

A cedar shingle look often achieved using low maintenance materials including vinyl, Azek, and cellular PVC siding

Lots of fiberglass for deck surfaces, weatherproofing, flat roofs, etc.

Gas fireplaces due to the increase of year-round residents

Open floor plans where the kitchen is at center stage reative roofing such as gambrels has also become popular and addresses a specific issue on LBI. This roof form gives a home a sense of verticality. When trying to maximize the heights of interior spaces, the resulting roof pitches become flatter and flatter, which can be unattractive. The gambrel roof is a type that involves two roof pitches, one being the actual shallow flat roof, and the second being an applied steeply pitched roof that gives a home a taller appearance.

“The toughest battle here on LBI is working with stringent height restrictions, while trying to adhere to flood requirements and the demand for higher ceilings,” admits Michael. At times, budget and zoning constraints may affect the extent of artistic vision within the architecture, but Pagnotta admits he does enjoy the creative challenge. He considers site locations, zoning ordinances, state CAFRA regulations, client functional needs, style, taste, and budget all as parameters that serve as filters when overcoming any design obstacle. The imperative is to create architecture that embraces personal values, appreciates the island’s natural wonders, and simultaneously reflects and influences the local LBI culture.

Michael Pagnotta AIA established his architect-led design/build firm on Long Beach Island in 1990. Over the past 27 years his firm has been responsible for the design and construction of over 500 homes on LBI. Pagnotta graduated from the University of Texas and is a licensed architect, licensed planner, and registered builder. For more information on Mike and his firm, visit or follow them on Houzz via Michael Pagnotta Architects pc, Instagram @michaelpagnottaarchitects, and

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