If you have ever set foot inside one of Sandy Gingras’How to Live® shops on Long Beach Island, you immediately become transported into another realm. Visitors are inspired by the blissful world of life on the beach as it should be, full of nature and timelessness where wise, decorative, thought-provoking quotes and smirk-inducing trinkets you-never-knew-you-needed come to life. It has the magical power of making you forget about that urgent email sitting in your mailbox or that important meeting next Tuesday, and you feel inexplicably compelled to slow down, unplug, bask in sunshine and tune in to the therapeutic sounds of the ocean. Kind of like the side effects of actually being on a beach. Her books, gift items, beachy clothing, baubles and home décor accents delightfully cover every square inch of the store—and any space remaining is enchantingly decorated with florals, native plants and other greenery. It’s almost impossible to believe that Gingras’ home is bare-walled and rather simple. But make no mistake, there is nothing dull about this artist’s quaint and charming bay-front Holgate home.
In a surreal way, one is overcome by all of the same emotions induced by a How to Live shop upon entering the Gingras family home—even without all of the wonderful curiosities and dreamlike knickknacks scattered across the walls. As if in a parallel universe, a person begins to understand just where the inspiration for her cult-classic books such as “How to Live in Flip Flops,” “Beach Wisdom,” and “Lessons of a Turtle: The Little Book of Life” originate: this sense of simplicity, peace, connection with nature, reflection with self, and good ol’ fashioned appreciation for life on the beach.
Owner Sandy Gingras laughs, “I love to watch visitors’ reactions when they enter my home for the first time. They are almost always expecting to walk into a space that aesthetically mimics one of my shops, and I can tell, whether it be by their grin or a chuckle, that they find it amusing having made that assumption.” What follows is usually a deep breath and sigh of relaxation—as was in my case—because taking a look around this wonderful space just feels good.
Somehow Sandy has managed to perfectly execute a new home structurally that also happens to skillfully embody the façade of one that has been on the island for over 100 years. Echoing one of the many historical dwellings that could have easily been built on LBI in the late 1800s or early 1900s, this weathered cedar shake-sided building is large and gracious with vaulted ceilings, and has a beautiful wrap around porch area with patios off of (what seems like) every doorway of the house. She commissioned Jay Madden of Harvey Cedars, an architect who specializes in historic beach homes, to help her meticulously carry out her vision of a lived-in, rustic beach home with true LBI-heart. “I knew I didn’t want to build a house that was modern or formal,” Sandy shares, “I just wanted a cozy, warm and inviting home,” reminiscing of the characteristics of the charming beach cottages she grew up summering in on the island.
Having drawn inspiration from an architecture book entitled, “The Not So Big House,” by Sarah Susanka, the idea of a quality-over-quantity-approach to home design resonated strongly with Sandy. It is clear through how she planned her home that Gingras embodies that ultimate “sense of home” that we all seek—something that actually has almost nothing to do with square footage. “The book was written in response to the McMansion craze; the author is an advocate of warm, intimate, human spaces—places where people feel comfortable doing, well, “people-stuff.” She doesn’t represent lonely, vast and spacious, but hard-working, simple, kind and gentle living. Right up my alley,” notes Gingras, an obvious huge proponent of the book.
Among many of the delightful vintage touches to this 2,000-square-foot home are reclaimed porch posts that were salvaged from an old farm in Iowa within the dining area, a century-old piano near the entrance hall and even Sandy and her dad’s actual wooden stadium seats from the original Yankee Stadium—which may I add perfectly complement the rest of the Gingras’living room area. In a truly artful manner, Gingras has managed to interconnect the nostalgia of old with the functionality of new, and her common areas are living proof of it.
Sandy’s nod to a retro-style kitchen also adds warmth to this custom “historical-but-not” home. The aesthetics of her appliances offer a fun 1950s feel, whereas the contrast of her white cabinetry with bright seaglass-green tile backsplash are also the hallmark traits of a fashionably retro kitchen. And no fifties-style kitchen is complete without the laminate countertops, which of course Gingras expertly paired with a butcher-block top island. The balance is never lost between the old-school charm and modern-day functionality.
It’s no surprise that Gingras connects most with what is often referred to as the metaphorical “heart” of a home. Her artist studio can be found on the second floor, in a kitchen-like area with a green refrigerator and an old apron-sink. She sits and draws right there, on the kitchen island, with all of her painting supplies and work equipment kept below in the base cabinets and drawers. “I’ve always worked in a kitchen, so when I built this house, I created a second-kitchen-like area to be my studio. Unlike many artists who like a closed-off work space, I like to be in the middle of things,” Sandy says of her casual, bright and airy workspace.
The bedrooms are scattered with distressed hardwood flooring in bright, whitewashed shades—again appearing to have been worn by foot traffic but in actuality having been hand-sanded by Gingras in order to achieve that weathered look. The furniture is a mix of antique shop scores and chic pieces from Pottery Barn and West Elm—but the pairings are so harmonizing that one can’t even tell them apart. The shiplap wall paneling only adds to the sweet allure of this home, its crisp white color keeping the ambience clean and contemporary, while its texture maintains the relaxed vibe of the interior.
But perhaps one of the best qualities of this home is the exterior living areas. The wrap around pergola porch with custom bar-seating constructed by Gingras’ husband, Victor, offers the most beautiful views of Barnegat Bay. Not only is the wooden construction of this element a gorgeous, rustic feature on the exterior of the home, but the nature-enthusiast in many of us will appreciate the grapevines and trumpet vine flowers twisting and climbing their way up through the span of the pergola and shading all who sit beneath it. It’s nestled in the most perfect spot over the bay, and known as the place to gather, share a meal—or even just snacks and cocktails—to watch the gorgeous unobstructed, scenic view of a classic LBI sunset.
A quotation from Sandy Gingras’new card and print design entitled “Happy Beach House”is the perfect way to sum up all of the ultimate beach house feels #goals. IT embodies what she thinks a beach house should be. “That’s the house I wanted to create when I built mine. That’s what I wish for people in their beach houses,” adds Gingras. The perfect little quote is:
“May you love in this house and remember yourself here. May you laugh in these rooms, kiss and tickle and play, nap and yawn and read, bask and dream. May your friends and family gather here. May you live it up together! May you relax here—let the hard stuff soften, let the harsh things fade. May you go out on your porch, sit on it and just breathe. May your dreams come true here. May all the goodness of the beach be yours...
-Sandy Gingras, “Happy Beach House”
Visit Sandy Gingras at one of her How to Live® storefronts at 7 South Bay Avenue or directly across the street at 100 North Bay Avenue, in Beach Haven. Follow them on Instagram via @how2livelbi and facebook.com/howtolivelbi. For more information about author/illustrator Sandy Gingras check out her IG @gingrassandy or www.sandygingras.com.
Keep an eye out on the www.howtolivelbi.com website, which is debuting an e-commerce shop this Spring 2019