As one walks through the front door of the Sakwas Haven Beach home, the eyes are immediately drawn up towards a vast entry ceiling highlighted by an extravagant basket chandelier that harnesses the soothing charms of the ocean. Thick strands of tumbled, petite, blue-green sea glass adorn the unique light fixture structured with a gold leaf body, whose brilliance shimmers even with only the natural sunlight beaming in through the picturesque great window above. When your spellbound gaze is finally ready to descend back to earth, it is escorted downward by a giant custom wall mirror encrusted with a thick border of perfectly placed and polished, natural oyster shells. To its side, a witty little sign that reads “Welcome Family and Friends.” And in that sunny, serene moment, you find yourself fighting the urge to kick your shoes off and declare every day in this home a beach day.
Even after a closer look into Abby and Steve Sakwa’s perfectly poised home, you would never guess that the couple actually had no idea where or how to begin to decorate their newly constructed dwelling. “I knew what I liked and what I didn’t like, but I didn’t know what I wanted,” shares Abby Sakwa, of her interior design roadblocks early on. “I really just needed help tying all of the pieces together of what I liked to attempt to execute my style,” she adds. Often times homeowners may not have the time, means or expertise to conceptualize and execute all of their design desires cohesively. And naturally, after one has invested a significant amount into a new home, they want to be able to showcase it to look its best. This is where the professionals come into play— and for Abby it all started with a casual visit to the Oskar Huber Furniture and Design showroom in Ship Bottom, NJ.
Russ Heckman, designer with Oskar Huber for almost a decade and a half now, recalls his first meeting with Abby and her husband Steve last fall. “Her husband popped into the store by chance, we got to talking, and he insisted he return with his wife. As many customers tend to feel during such a great undertaking, I could tell that Abby was overwhelmed with regards to figuring out how to best furnish her new space,” Heckman recalls. “She needed a professional assessment of what can be done with each space, and that ultimately lead us to a solid, enjoyable plan of action,” he concedes. With a little guidance “and a lot of hand-holding,” Abby jokily admits, the experience of working with the Oskar Huber design team was one she now recommends to all of her family and friends.
One of the initial concepts that the team were able to settle on right away was that the Sakwas wanted a “classic beach” look, with lots of blue and white accents. Heckman with his associate, Heidi Delbeau, took the Sakwas through a tour of the 20,000-sq. ft. Oskar Huber showroom and after reading their cues and observing certain objects they might have picked up—or others they might have passed right by—the designers were able to get a better understanding for the aesthetic the couple naturally gravitated towards.
Once the general theme and inspiration of the décor was decided, Russ and Heidi got to work. They brought in drawings, sketches, fabric swatches, catalogues, samples—you name it—tirelessly offering one idea after another, suggestions and recommendations to help the homeowners think outside of their usually décor comfort zone. Since working with a designer offers an extra set of eyes, (that are trained to see and notice things that the average person may not) his insight offered the counsel Abby and Steve might not have found elsewhere. Heckman was able to present ideas that Abby might not have typically considered for herself, like when it came to the mission-style bedroom furniture, sofa shapes or sizing of the unconventional, one-of-a-kind coffee and accent tables. The order of items when furnishing a home is also important, and simple things like determining the perfect couch fabric swatch and wall paint color had to be done chronologically. “The last thing you want to do is be limited on a couch color because you already painted the walls a certain tone,” notes Heckman, as he points out that furniture should always be selected first. Once Abby selected her Sunbrella fabric furniture, Russ matched her wall colors to the furniture. The designer made sure to enroll the couple in Oskar Huber’s “Guardsman Program” which replaces damage to any fabrics for up to 5 years, as well as overseeing the interior painting of the entire home, an undertaking Abby was relieved to wash her hands of.
Other decisions that were facilitated by the expertise of the designer ranged from little things like not backing the furniture up against the walls, or adding variety touches such as decorative succulents and accent artwork. Selecting their solid wood dining room table with or without self-storing leaves was a big decision the couple had grappled with, and of course, how to lay out the rooftop outdoor living space. Little did the Sakwas know that Russ’s suggestion of a fire pit feature table, which at the time they didn’t care much for, resulted in the creation of their absolute favorite place to unwind and host guests. Another suggestion was the color and fountain feature in the lower level pool area, which the designer now cheekily refers to as “The Bellagio.”
Make no mistake, all work and no play can make a designer dull—which is not the case with Mr. Heckman. Thanks to his imaginative ceoncepts and darling project nicknames, which Abby grew fond of, the homeowners decided to keep the names when charmingly referring to rooms. One room with solid maple grey wood and blue-violet furnishings is known as the “Indigo Room,” and another with custom surfboard lamps, Cali-style adornments and bright, striped fabrics is named the “Surfer Room.” The stand-out room in the Sakwa’s home, however, happens to be on the ground floor—adjacent to the outdoor inground pool. Referred to as “The French Room” for its allusion to the French Riviera, this room truly transports you to the infamous Mediterranean’s Blue Coast. With crisp white walls and a vintage lace-colored stocked bar adorned with antiqued Parisian accents, all the vibrance of the pool water –which deceiving looks like it flows right up to the room by means of the view from the oversized slider—flow throughout the French Room with seafoam sofa upholstery and artwork reminiscent of Claude Monet’s most popular ocean portraits. The finishing touches are in the inlaid seashell and mother of pearl round drum accent tables, which shimmer with iridescence in the sunlight, adding that Côte d’Azur glowing ambience to this part of the Sakwa’s home.
Another inescapable lure of the Sakwa’s home is the array of endearing little beach plaques and signs scattered above doorways, on random walls and along the fancy wall cadding and ledges. Heckman chuckles, “It’s her thing,” of his client’s fascination with vintage little beach signs. Abby explains that she began collecting them years ago, but just couldn’t decide between the bulk of them, so she decided to use them all as an element of the ultimate design direction. Some have funny beach sayings, others have famous ocean quotes, there’s catchy wordplay about flip flops, and clever euphemisms about the sand, sentimental words or advice about savoring time with loved ones and even some custom artwork with the Sakwa family name. They are a way for Abby to add her own personal touch to Russ’s work, noting the project’s processes have always been collaborative ones after all.
“Working with Russ and his team has really helped me achieve that “wow” factor I was looking for,” shares Abby, adding, “the skill that the Oskar Huber team possesses truly is an artform that enhanced not only our home but the quality of life we are able to have inside of it.” The couple shares that visiting friends and family are amazed as they enter each room, expressing how each is more magnificent than the last. As the Sakwas may attest, teaming with the right designer translated all of their thoughts and ideas into expression, to help tell their visual story best. Who can think of a better reason than that to work with the designers at Oskar Huber.
Oskar Huber Furniture and Design was founded on the virtues of exquisite design and quality craftsmanship. Whether in their Ship Bottom, NJ or Southampton, PA store location, clients will find the finest quality furnishings, custom upholstery, home accents, and one-of-a-kind collectables curated from skilled artisans from across the globe. For more information please visit oskarhuber.com or call 609-494-8127. Follow them on Instagram @oskarhuber and Facebook.com/OskarHuberFurnitureAtTheBeach”