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Designing A Lifestyle

Before the foundation of your new construction is poured, there are months, even years, of work that go into building a home from the ground up. But after your dream lot is secured, you’ve hired a builder and architect who work in unison and have captured your vision, and the blueprints are coming to life before your eyes, your work still isn’t done. Before the walls of your home are completely framed, consider the interior design of your new abode—the element that truly turns your new house into your new home.

Oftentimes, interior design is seen as a second half play—not quite an afterthought, but not always brought into the beginning stages of planning, especially when it comes to new construction. And while that’s not an issue for most interior design firms, there is an advantage to including your designers in the initial planning conversations for your new home.

For this new, ocean-front home in Brant Beach, Donna Grimes, owner of Serenity Design in Ship Bottom, was hired before work crews began breaking ground. “A lot of times, homeowners don’t get design guidance from their architects,” Donna says. “When the interior designer is a part of the conversation from the beginning, we can work together with all the contractors and trades and incorporate custom design features from the start,” she shares.

There is no shortage of customization in this contemporary three-story home. A unique scenario, the design of this home needed to incorporate the luxuries of a shore house combined with daily livability, since the homeowners’ intention was to use this new house as their home base. “This is their home, but it’s also a beach house. We worked together to create a casual, relaxed setting with a modern and sophisticated element…that’s also dog-friendly,” Donna says laughingly.

Armed with the task to create a modern beach haven suited to their clients’ everyday lifestyle, Donna, with her daughter, Victoria Grimes, an interior designer who has worked alongside Donna for the past three years, got to work.

Highlights of the home include unique spaces dedicated to daily routines, hobbies and entertainment. One striking room is the custom wine cellar on the first level, lined with beachy, vintage-looking, whitewashed brick on the ceiling and floor for an enclosed, cave-like feel. Temperature-controlled with a framed glass door entry-way, the walls hold approximately 1,400 bottles in custom, floor-to-ceiling wood shelves, decorated with old wine crates. Tying the room together with a tasting table in the room, the cellar is the perfect blend of design and function.

Moving toward the staircase of the home, the homeowners knew they wanted to do something special. White wood topped with durable but luxe high-end vinyl in a wood tone that’s perfect for scurrying paws, the stairs are accompanied by a white wooden railing reminiscent of a barn fence, with three slats running the length of the railing. “It’s unique, and I haven’t seen anything like it down the shore,” Donna says of this treasured piece. Finished with a durable and versatile beachy, woven indoor/outdoor runner that looks just as perfectly placed inside as it would on a patio, the stairs themselves are a subtle statement. Accentuating the staircase is an eye-popping painting of a school of electric blue fish, selected by the homeowners, mounted on a custom feature wall of shiplap —an add that Donna and Victoria were able to incorporate by meeting with the contractors early on.

Feature walls are a recurring theme throughout the home, adding interest through color and texture. Through their involvement from the beginning of the home-building process, Donna and Victoria were able to communicate their vision to the builder and architect from the start, like in the master bedroom on the third floor. Behind the bed, the duo suggested a wooden wall treatment, segmenting the wall into large square panels, painted white to let the texture speak for itself. Contrasted with the white oak wooden ceilings, the traditional paneling took on a new twist, topped off by modern gold and white light fixtures on either side of the headboard. More vinyl flooring is found in the master and other bedrooms of the house, crossing every day style with shore home comfort.

Another striking feature in the master, though not built in, is an antique walnut dresser, a family heirloom topped with marble and accentuated by vintage lions’ head pulls that have seen better days. Together with the homeowner, Donna and Victoria decided to restore the dresser with trusted partners. After a fresh coat of shiny white lacquer and rounds of wire brushing on the handles to restore the original sheen, the beautiful piece found its rightful place in the master, looking just as good – if not better – than the day it was built.

On the third floor, the living area, topped with more white oak on the ceiling to bring an element of warmth to the 11-foot-high ceilings, is arranged as an open concept with areas that are distinctly separate. “Each space is defined in an open plane—we didn’t want it to feel like you’re in three rooms at once,” Victoria says.

The multi-functional space is split between a living room, dining room, kitchen, and closet-turned-bar area. The architect originally had incorporated a storage space, but Donna felt it would be better suited to a bar area, which was one of the homeowners’ must-haves. “We shifted directions, removed the closet and converted it to a bar,” Donna explains. The bar, complete with worn-looking subway tile, a concrete-style quartz countertop, and custom floating shelves of reclaimed pine wood shelves, ties into the details of the other areas, like the fireplace mantle in the living room, and kitchen hood, all made of the same pine wood.

The kitchen feels easy-going and livable—still on trend with the light colors of this decade, but not stark white and clinical. The cabinets are finished with cream brushstrokes, contrasted with frosted glass backsplash in an ice mist blue, complimented by a textured, gray beige and cream pebbled concrete countertop, tying in with the impressive, 10-seat concrete dining room table on the same level.

The third-floor powder room offers another glimpse at a feature wall, lined with anything-but-basic V-groove wood paneling, installed vertically and painted powder blue for a vintage beach house vibe. Complete with a small but mighty, white, distressed wood vanity paired with more artwork hand-selected by the homeowner, the powder room offers a pop of color and cheer in an unexpected place.

In addition to the design consultation on the built-in aspects, Serenity Design also worked with the homeowners to curate most of the furniture and linens throughout the home. “We really get to know our clients through a lot of front-end interviewing,” Donna explains. “We go through a series of questions about lifestyle, textures, cleanability, how the house will be used, and use this information to create proposals for the clients,” she adds. For this particular home, a soft palette of blues, greens, creams, some gray and natural wood tones was the finishing touch on a year-long project.

“At Serenity Design, we design our houses to be different and special, and when someone is creating a custom home, we want to take custom to a different level,” Donna says.

The Shoppe at Serenity is located at 1102 Long Beach Boulevard in Ship Bottom. For inquires, email, and follow the firm on Instagram @serenitydesign.

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