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Heart of the Home

A kitchen is the heart of any shore home, setting the tone for the type of lifestyle housed within its walls. Whether you’re a seasoned home cook whose love language is shared meals, an entertainer with a passion for mixology, or in need of a laid-back space for weekend brunch with guests, the design of your kitchen should be a priority, not an afterthought.

Builders on the island know this, and that’s why for new construction in Ocean and Monmouth counties, Woodhaven Lumber & Millwork is a top partner for full-service kitchen design and installation, including cabinetry, countertops and flooring. Woodhaven has been in business for over four decades, working with both builders and homeowners directly, serving as trusted consultants. They believe that everything starts with a dream, and take it upon themselves to make it a reality, listening to their client’s needs, wish lists and budget.

There is a certain beauty to designing a kitchen from tabula rasa, as in the case of brand new homes—blank slates ready to be formed in the eye of the client. But equally as intriguing is a kitchen remodel, working within the confines of an existing structure to creatively analyze every inch of available space and reimagine the room’s potential in a whole new way. For both types of projects, Woodhaven’s designers are here to help along every step of the process, ready to bring your vision to life in a way that’s both functional and stylish.

These two elements—aesthetics and functionality— are top of mind for Woodhaven’s design team. With over 50 combined years of experience, design experts Yasmin Deren, Evamaria Sibilia, and Melody Ann Wells, members of the Kitchen Design team at Woodhaven, share their insights on kitchen trends and how to make the most out of any space.


One trend that’s here to stay is the creation of cohesive spaces connected to other rooms, allowing for a flow between the kitchen, dining area and living room, Deren explains. The most popular way to achieve this layout is with the addition of a freestanding island. “One level islands are the most popular—they allow the person sitting behind it to be working alongside the person in the kitchen. Plus, it creates less visual clutter than a two-level island,” she adds.

But what about for smaller kitchens, where a large, center island is simply not feasible?

“A peninsula is a great option if there’s just not enough room. You only need a 12-inch space to add a little knee wall,” says Sibilia, referring to a countertop overhang that’s perfect for creating a place for eating, or even a bar area.

No matter the size of the kitchen, the designers at Woodhaven agree: a shore home is a retreat, and your kitchen should include as many little luxuries as possible.

“I love when a client says, ‘My kitchen isn’t large, but I love to entertain,’” Deren shares. “We can still coordinate a small, minute part of the kitchen to tailor to their specialty, with elements like a glass cabinet for stemware that distinctly differs from the cabinets used for storing cooking tools.” Areas designated for wine cabinets, coffee stations with built in K-cup drawers and hidden appliances are all growing in popularity as people create their own personal oases in their vacation homes.


There’s more to seating than deciding between bar-height stools behind the island, or traditional chairs for a standalone kitchen table. Consider custom built-ins for added seating and storage. “We can look at cabinetry in a different way to get creative. Bench seating can be custom-made to coordinate with the rest of the cabinetry for homey eating nooks, or to accompany large tables,” Deren says.


There are two main factors when it comes to choosing your countertops: material and color. Man-made quartz and natural granite are both popular choices right now that will last you years into the future. “People are leaning toward these materials because of their durability,” Wells explains.

While quartz does have a slightly lower heat rating than granite does, it offers more options in color, especially when it comes to a clean white look with gold, gray or tan marbling. Meanwhile, a granite countertop will offer a higher heat tolerance, but the selection of color will be limited to what’s found in nature. (For most people, though, heat tolerance shouldn’t be a deciding factor—use of a trivet under hot pots, pans and plates is a recommended best practice for all countertops, no matter the material.)

Both are easy to clean, but depending on the color, you may need to worry about stains for granite. And as for marble? You will have plenty of options with colors, but its softer, porous material will make it more susceptible to scratches and stains, Deren explains.

Cabinets and Hardware

The biggest difference between a kitchen in a shore home and one in a primary residence is that you won’t find many deep-colored wood tones on the coast—that’s reserved more for a primary residence, Sibilia says. “Shore homes are an opportunity to have fun and create something bright. I don’t recommend wood tones in a shore home kitchen, unless it’s driftwood,” she adds.

Grays and whites continue to be popular, creating a sleek, airy and inviting look that’s timeless and sure to age well. Plus, lighter kitchens make the room feel larger. However, a white kitchen is not destined to be cookie-cutter.

“Decorative hardware makes a kitchen. For a while everything was brushed nickel. Now we’re seeing metal finishes like gold and copper coming up, along with chrome,” Wells notes.


For Wells, many of the flooring requests she receives are for engineered wood in beachy shades of gray, brown and tan. “The advantage of engineered wood is that it can be customized with wider boards and may often be more durable for shore living, especially with water and sand tracking through the home,” she explains. Still, others opt for hardwood that’s stained and sanded for a classic look.

It’s the pairing of floors with cabinetry where the advantage of using a one-stop shop like Woodhaven becomes extremely evident: a visit to one of their local showrooms can cut your decision-making time in half by helping you visualize your countertop, cabinet and flooring choices in one place.

Color and Texture

It’s clear that neutral tones are a winner for shore kitchens, but for those looking to go bolder, consider a palette of beachy blues or airy greens. “You can still do things that are fun, but timeless,” Deren encourages. “If you’re not ready to commit to a navy blue, consider a softer blue.” Whether it’s on the walls, countertop or cabinet colors, the right color can elevate a room to a new level of polished.

And for those set on a single-color kitchen, playing with textures is an easy way to add visual interest. Mixing up wood species in the same color offers variety without having to commit to a bold statement piece.

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when considering the amount of decision-making that goes into creating your dream kitchen—all the more reason to work with one expert, who can take care of the entire process and walk you through every step of the way, communicating with your builder, architect and other contractors, if necessary.

“We ensure our clients are getting the best customer service, and that everything goes smoothly. At the end of the day, the Woodhaven name is on the kitchen, and we take pride in that fact,” Sibilia says.

Considering that many residents on the island have a primary residence elsewhere in the tristate area, this one-stop shop approach to service is key to a smooth design experience. “We’re flexible,” Wells says. “We work nights and weekends. While we invite you to our showroom to help you visualize your options, we don’t keep ‘showroom hours,’” she adds. Woodhaven also encourages virtual meetings, especially for clients who live further away and are unable to meet in person multiple times a month.

But the ultimate sign of a job well done? Repeat customers and their testimonials. “We get a lot of return customers—they know to come to us for anything. A bathroom, a bar, a closet, and even for work in their primary residences,” Sibilia shares proudly.

As one happy customer said in an online testimonial, "I tell all of my friends that I swear by Woodhaven.” Your kitchen is an investment; invest your trust in a team that’s proven.

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