Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas

As someone who grew up going to the Jersey shore during the summer, Kevin Bennert knows the number-one question on any beach house owner’s mind: How many people can we sleep? Bennert, the principal designer at OAK Design Project, is also aware that when you pack 10-plus people into one place, things get noisy fast. So when he and his fellow designer–slash–business partner, Rachelle Lazzaro, set out to renovate a three-story, builder-grade condo, they didn’t tear down a ton of walls. Actually, they put one up. 

“When someone is watching TV and there are other people at the dining room table, it can be hard to hear what’s going on,” Bennert explains of their decision to install a glass partition between the living and dining area on the main floor. While the homeowners had frequently rented out the spot in the past, their goal now is to host all their kids and grandchildren. The wall allows light to filter through the small space while acting as a sound barrier. Plus the structure triples as a backrest for the built-in bench. “It was just a vanilla shell before,” says Bennert. Ahead, the designers take us through the renovation and spotlight all the smart storage moments along the way. 

The Flexible Flooring

The living area, before.
Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas

One caveat to living near the ocean is that the moisture can warp wood. Lazzaro and Bennert had to be strategic about their flooring choice: They opted for custom boards that are a blend of hardwood and engineered wood. “The top three-quarters are a white oak surface and then it has an engineered backing,” explains Lazzaro. The fact that there’s real wood on top means the current (or next) homeowners could refinish them if they wanted, but it also won’t become distorted from the humidity. 


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The Work-Play Station

Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas
Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas

Lazzaro’s wood-savvy brother can be credited for the millwork throughout the home, including the built-in media center. The storage structure around the TV houses a wine fridge, a bar cabinet, and a pull-out desk (the front of the center drawer can flip down into a worktop). “We were designing it halfway through the pandemic, and the owners really wanted to have an extra place to work from home,” shares Bennert. The designers took a similar approach in the guest bedroom by tacking on a vanity to the new cane closet. 

Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas

The Not-Too-Nautical Kitchen

The kitchen, before.
Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas

The closest the designers got to incorporating seafaring touches into this beach home was with the new limestone bathroom floors, which have bits of shell remnants in them, and the dark blue range. Instead, their organic take on the theme shows up in the form of seagrass inserts on some of the kitchen cabinets.

Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas

In the U-shaped cooking zone, the pair once again streamlined function with a panel-ready refrigerator, trash pull-out, dishwasher, and pocket hinge doors that disguise a coffee bar. “That way, there are no blind corners,” notes Bennert. The wax-finished white oak cabinets, similar to the floors, are blended with engineered wood so they won’t contort due to the climate. 

The Bonus Bunk

Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas
Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas

Lazzaro and Bennert like to refer to the bunk guest room as the barracks—they squeezed as many beds in the space as possible, including one under the window (with a trundle underneath!) that functions nicely as a reading nook thanks to the addition of a backrest. “The homeowner is a grandmother and she was really excited to have the grandkids in there and read them a story at bedtime,” says Bennert. 


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The Post-Beach Bathroom

Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas
Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas

The first-floor bathroom had to be able to stand up to little ones running in and out, flinging wet swimsuits around, and coming in with sandy feet. That’s why Bennert viewed it as a wet room of sorts and clad all the walls in zellige tile. “You don’t have to worry about it so much,” he explains.

The Power Move

The primary bedroom, before.
Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas

The designers went the extra mile with their electrical plan by working outlets into (almost) every last surface. The oversize nightstands that double as dressers in the main bedroom (a solution to pack storage under the sloped ceiling) feature plug-in stations so the owners can easily juice up their devices after sitting by the water all day. “When people walk in, they can’t believe this is a beach townhouse,” says Lazzaro, “simply due to the fact that every room has these custom elements.” It’s the perfect place to recharge, literally.

Photography by Amy Batog and Jessica Canovas