In 2013, Thom Sweeney, the brilliant creative genius all of the interior design of the Bonnet Island Estate, Mallard Island Yacht Club, the Ashford Estate, and most recently, the iconic Hotel LBI, received a voicemail message from a woman who had seen his work while shopping around for venues for her daughter's upcoming wedding. Like-minded in taste and enthused by his style, she had casually inquired if he would be interested in helping her with the selection of furniture and a few window treatments intended for her newly built home in Loveladies on Long Beach Island. Sweeney agreed to meet with the prospective new client, but not until he pulled up to the gates of the property for the very first time did he realize that this location was actually “the one”—this monster mystery mansion was creating so much buzz within the LBI area as the largest new residential construction on the island at the time. Speculations swirled: first the owner was a political dignitary, then a famous celebrity; the rumored footprint of the home kept escalating from 10,000 to 15,000 to 20,000 square feet. Double digit bathrooms. It was unofficially being referred to as the Versailles of Long Beach Island—and for Thom Sweeney, he was going to see precisely what the fuss was all about.
Taking only an astonishing 1 ½ years to complete from beginning to end, this home [with 240 feet of bay-frontage] is situated on 1.43 acres in Loveladies and officially has a footprint of more than 20,000 square feet—not including the gatehouse apartment with three-car garage and pool/outdoor entertainment quarters. After driving through the allée of trees down a path that leaves the home virtually invisible from Long Beach Boulevard, one is quick to notice that the glorious home features a majestic turret, intricately pitched roofs with vaulted and coffered ceilings throughout the dwelling, and one of many grand fireplaces that is two stories in height. The detail of the architecture is clearly French-inspired, pulling from a mixture of Chateauesque, Belle Époque, and Provincial, even including tiny nods to Baroque intricacies via small details throughout. Its façade is arched and regal, with a sea of glass [windows], engulfed in magnificent stonework and slate roofing, then blended with subtle areas of cedar shakes that harmoniously nestle its aura cozily with the seaside setting of LBI. “The architecture of the home is unlike anything else on LBI,” shares Thom Sweeney of his first impression of the estate. “From the moment I entered the foyer, with its sweeping circular staircase and back-lit leaded glass rotunda, I was instantly aware that I was now entering a home like few others. You glimpse at the dramatic view of the bay as you enter the living room. To your left is a truly spectacular hand-carved limestone fireplace that soars two stories, and opens on the reverse side to the kitchen...and that's for openers,” he continues. The formality of the design carries throughout from the exterior to the interior, where details abound, and a casual elegance takes over.
Although the homeowners prefer to remain anonymous, one can gather that their exquisite taste and refined palate has earned the reputation of their home being referred to as LBI’s local palace of sort. The estate was designed by the Beer Architectural Group LLC and although exact cost of the construction process is unknown, one can imagine that such attention to intricacies is the hallmark of an exceptionally expensive home. So, what exactly does this say about the interior décor? Sweeney shares that the formal, yet comfortable aesthetic was very easy to attain. “The client gave me her vision of the project, and even after one meeting, I knew we were going to hit it off. She had a highly developed design style and she knew exactly what she wanted,” he shares of his first encounter with the homeowner. As a designer, he divulges that this is always a relief with a new client, as he has had his share of what he refers to as "I'll know it when I see it"-type clients. “The more we worked together, the more I realized what a rare color sense and color memory she had.”
First, Sweeney began with the window treatment designs for his client. “Do you have any idea how many windows are in a 20,000 sq. ft. house,” he chuckled, “a lot.” About 88 windows to be precise, which does not include the numerous slider doors. Thom and his team scoured all of the leading purveyors of decorative fabrics, upholsteries, wallcoverings, trimmings, and furnishings around the world for this client, the likes of which included Osborne & Little, Scalamandre, Beacon Hill, Stroheim and Thibaut. They sourced only the finest quality silks, jacquards, damasks, luxurious wovens and hand embroidered fabrics, and payed careful attention to ensure that the use of delicate fabrics such as silk included the pieces being fully [inner] lined with flannel to protect against shattering. “We worked very well together, as it was very easy for me to pick up on what she was feeling, the aesthetic she was going for, the feelings of the shapes and the fabrics,” adds Sweeney. The designer notes the exquisite details and attention that was paid to the trimmings as well, sharing that it was often made of crystals, glass beads and even abalone shells, in addition to the finest quality tassels, borders, braids, gimp, fringes and more. All of the poles and curtain rods are custom made from the rings to the knobs, pullbacks and hardware, most of them solid wood with a gold finishing. At the foot of the window treatments is yet another personal touch that the homeowner was keen on, the drama of a voluminous puddle of fabric that requires an additional 18 inches of fabric after the treatment has reached the floor.
Since the homeowners have 5 children and (so far) 2 grandchildren, one would imagine that entertaining family and friends ensures the kitchen is a highly trafficked area. Not only do the homeowners love to prepare and gather for meals together, but Sweeney can attest to the fact that the lady of the home is actually a fabulous cook—which naturally means that this space is a fully-equipped, top-of-the-line chef’s grade kitchen, complete with a butler’s pantry and the opposite side of the two-sided, two-story fireplace that is such a stunner of the family great room. This kitchen of what dreams are made of features three islands, a sixty-inch Wolf range with an attached deep fryer and wok burner, five sinks (including the bar sink), four dishwashers, a Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer, with three additional refrigerator drawers and another three freezer drawers. The adjacent turret-shaped breakfast room with soaring second-story ceilings also happens to have its own fireplace and a breathtaking, unobstructed view of the Barnegat Bay.
No entertainment home is complete without a full-service in-home movie theater with luxurious recliners all built in as stadium seating for twelve, a phenomenal commercial grade full-sized gym, wine room, cabana/sauna/sunroom and an additional covered outdoor kitchen entertainment area adjacent to the inground pool.
Last but certainly not least, we would be remiss not to discuss the 100-foot long hallway leading to each of the 10 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms. Sweeney sourced an exquisite hundred-foot long Oriental rug to line its flooring, and goes on to divulge that each and every bedroom was custom designed to the respective inhabitant. For the men it tended to be more about designing elegant interiors with masculine undertones: rooms that convey warmth, strength. He used dark, richly stained woods, sizable furnishings and strong design statement pieces to convey a better sense of the people who live in them. For the women, much attention was paid to details—every room had custom furniture with custom fabrics, trimmings, etc. The stains were lighter tones and vibes overall softer, and more feminine. The master suite is the crowning jewel of this home. With floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the bay, the homeowners wake up to a breathtaking view every morning and even have a golden telescope to explore the views of the night sky.
"When I tell you that this project was every Interior Designer's dream, I'm not kidding,” shares Sweeney. “First of all, the client was great fun to work with, and because she recognized and expected uncompromising quality, we were able to deal with some of the best names in the business, and that's always a treat for a designer,” he adds. As a designer, you know that you've pleased your client when she calls and asks, can you help us with the house we just bought in Palm Beach? “What do you think my answer to THAT one was," concluded Sweeney with the smile of a job well-done.
About Thom Sweeney:
Thom Sweeney is a member of ASID and the founder/owner of Thom Sweeney Interiors, located at 849 West Bay Avenue in Barnegat, New Jersey. The firm offers a full range of services to residential and contract clients. You can follow Thom on Instagram via @ThomSweeneyInteriors and contact him via 609-622-2950.