They say Home is Where the Heart Is, but this little treasure proves that sometimes, it’s really the heart that makes the greatest home.
Amidst all of the mind-blowing architecture and breathtaking craftmanship that can be viewed on Long Beach Island, every so often there is a home that stands out from the rest. Stunning ocean views from airy exterior porches and decks, beautifully coordinated natural elements of brick and cedar impressions, details at the hand of the craftsmen such as open eave-designs and exposed rafter tails… as if all of these gorgeous details weren’t enough, Rich and Judy Steinbach are in the process of learning the legal formalities so that the dream of opening their Holgate home to people of limited mobility or critical illnesses via organizations such as Make-A-Wish® Foundation can become a reality.
“We have been very fortunate over the years,” shares Judy Steinbach, resident of Holgate, NJ. “But if you can’t share your blessings with others, you’ve missed the joy of your good fortune?” she professes. Her husband, Rich adds, “A beach house is just a thing if you don’t share your experiences in it with other people… the object itself won’t bring happiness.” The Steinbachs basically had two requests when constructing their new home: that the house be handicap friendly and wheelchair accessible, but that it didn’t aesthetically broadcast those characteristics. While interviewing builders the pair sat down with the owner of Thomas J. Keller Building Contractor and immediately they knew working with Tom and his team was the perfect fit.
Little did the Steinbachs know (before the meeting) that Keller and his wife, Daphne, were actually equally as devoted to a variety of organizations in line with their own endeavors. The founder, Tom’s, heart is dedicated to veterans who have served our nation and may have been wounded or disabled in action, as he supports both the Wounded Warrior Project® and Team Rubicon. He is very involved locally with the annual event ‘Semper Fish’ in which Tom, along with other boat captains/volunteers, take a group of (mentally and physically) combat wounded marines and their families out on the water fishing for the day and then treat the families with a BBQ including food, music and enjoyment at the marina. Daphne Keller is involved with Night to Shine, an annual event that offers a wonderful prom night experience for the special needs community of all ages through the local church and the Tim Tebow Foundation. In addition to children’s organizations including St. Jude, Shriners Hospitals for Children and Ronald McDonald House, after their niece was born with the genetic condition Williams Syndrome—which is the spontaneous deletion of 26-28 genes on chromosome #7 during conception and is characterized by medical problems including cardiovascular disease, developmental and intellectual disabilities—the couple is most passionate about raising funds and awareness particularly for the Williams Syndrome Association. The two families had an instantaneous connection, developing a mutual respect and long-standing bond as a result of their like-minded values. Tom spoke Rich’s language, and the builder knew exactly what the couple needed—and how to get it done.
The Steinbachs wanted a Craftsman-style home with a sense of the beach, and that is exactly what they received. The entire house is open concept, and every little detail from the space between the doorways and throughout the halls to the ability for a wheelchair to make a full swing when accessing different areas of the home was meticulously planned by both architect and builder. Keller was able to deliver a natural-esque exterior with a modern interior. The woodwork throughout includes intricacies such as case molding on the windows that blend beautifully with the crisp details of industrial pendants and a glass hood range. The marriage between craftsman and contemporary contains just the right balance of each, offering a relaxing, clean and simple ambience. Not only is the home functionally capable for handicap persons, but it is aesthetically beautiful. “We truly have the best of both worlds,” describes Judy.
In addition to sizing of hallways and doors and the obvious elevator access, the showers are handicap accessible. All this required expertise from the architect plus knowledgeable recommendations from the Keller team based on their comprehension of the proper specs to meet criteria for individuals with limited mobility.
The Steinbachs had an opportunity to utilize these features for the first-time last year when a family friend with limited mobility stayed at their home. The outcome was wildly successful. This person enjoyed everything from the gorgeous sunrise views via an exquisite raised balcony to the outdoor shower. All made possible by design considerations including low step showers, grip placements, and other accessibility-focused characteristics of the home. The couple also praises the Long Beach Township Beach Patrol for their Beachwheels (or Surf Chairs®) Program that enables beach mobility to handicapped persons. The Beach Patrol staff was incredibly accommodating with Surf Chair drop off and pick up for the week free of charge (reservation required – see http://www.lbtbp.com/programs/beach-wheels).
With two children of their own who have since left the nest, Judy and Rich look forward to this new home serving as a gathering place for family and guests. “We have enjoyed LBI vacations for many years. We hope to offer the same wonderful beach experience that we have been lucky enough to have, to a family who would otherwise be unable to do so,” the couple expresses. People seek downtime at the ocean for many reasons, not the least of which is to refresh the soul, renew friendships and lift morale to overcome life’s challenges. The Steinbachs partnered with the Keller team not just because they build beautiful houses but because they understand these intangibles of a coastal home.
Architect: Craig W. Brearley