A home on the beach

A talented team designs and builds an oceanfront home for family-friendly living.



Photography by John W. Hession

Down the road from bustling Hampton Beach, near the Massachusetts border, is the quiet seaside community of Seabrook Beach. The mostly residential area fronts two miles of sandy shoreline along the Atlantic Ocean, affording spectacular water views and undulating sand dunes, an unusual feature for New Hampshire beaches. For Marty Gurry and her family, these views were the inspiration for her new oceanfront home.

"I was looking for views, views, views," Gurry says. "I grew up on Seabrook Beach and learned how to surf there. It has wonderful memories for me and my family."

Originally from Andover, Massachusetts, Gurry's family has owned property along Seabrook Beach for more than one hundred years. The original beach house, located on the site of Gurry's current home, was built circa 1905 and given to her grandparents on their fifth wedding anniversary by her great-grandparents.

Despite its beachfront location, the home wasn't built for year-round living and couldn't accommodate the large, family-friendly gatherings that the current generation wanted to host. In 2010, Ralf Amsden of Living Spaces Architectural Associates, llc, in Rye, Houghton Builders in North Hampton and interior designer Paul Stone of Hampton Falls were hired to design a new home to replace the old structure.

Vertical solutions

For Amsden, the challege was designing an elegant beach home on a small, five-thousand-square-foot lot with a thirty-foot height restriction. "With these types of restrictions, the houses tend to look like shoe boxes," he says. The solution was building up and using what he calls traditional beach house roof lines, a gambrel style, to break up the home's exterior design and create visual interest.

The four-floor, 5,200-square-foot home is designed for entertaining and easy beach living. "We wanted to make the house beach-friendly," Stone says. Granite steps lead to the home's main entrance, which opens to a foyer, with steps leading up to the primary living spaces on the third and fourth floors (an elevator provides additional access to all four floors). An outdoor deck is visible above the two-car garage.

The ground floor, accessed via the two-car garage or from the main foyer, is designed for guests and used primarily by Gurry's adult children, son Jay and daughter Abby. With four bedrooms-two on either side of the hall, connected by Jack and Jill bathrooms-the kids have living space for themselves and friends.

Contributing to the sense of privacy is a galley kitchen area with a microwave oven and refrigerator as well as a separate entrance from the outdoors. Both bathrooms have subway tiles and radiant-heated floors. The two back bedrooms feature views of the sand dunes behind the house.

Because of the home's proximity to the ocean and the subsequently high water table, a hydrostatic basement was constructed below ground level. The space encompasses a furnished family recreation room. Its walls are heavily reinforced concrete along with a concrete slab floor to prevent tidal water from seeping in.

Ocean views
Stairs lead up to the home's primary living and entertainment space on the third floor (newel posts at each landing are cleverly designed to resemble lighthouses with lighted prisms that double as nightlights). A small room off the third-floor landing doubles as Gurry's office and an extra sleeping area; there's also what Stone calls a "captain's room," which provides additional entertainment space. But it's the breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean that accentuate the third floor's open-concept space. "The former house had main living on the first floor with the second floor overlooking the ocean," Amsden says. "We wanted the third floor to not only have the ocean views but also be suited for primary living."

The open concept kitchen with its mahogany, dual-level bar counter and seating is built for entertaining, with
a gourmet stove and top-of-the-line appliances. The birch cabinets-custom-designed and built by Jamie Gowing Cabinetry of Hampton-are painted a soothing cream color, adding to the space's casual, airy feel. A more formal dining area off the kitchen includes a butler's pantry built into cabinetry, separating the dining and kitchen areas while providing extra storage. A deck for outdoor entertaining can also be accessed from the dining room.

Framed by three bay windows, an additional seating area with a table and woven rush-backed chairs is strategically placed to enjoy the outdoor scenery. Inspired by the home's ocean views and seaside theme, Stone selected his furnishings and accent pieces accordingly. The living room-positioned around a large stone fireplace-features casual, custom-designed furnishings in neutral colors with colorful, coral-patterned accent pillows. (Stones from a fireplace in the original beach home were incorporated into this new fireplace and one in the master bedroom, as well as in exeterior stonework by the front door.) Window seats frame the fireplace; Gurry's collection of seashells and sea glass adorn the mantel as well as the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves that make up one wall of the room. "My mother collected sea glass, and I've kept the collection going," Gurry says. "I love the ocean colors."

Listening to the waves

On the home's top level is the master suite, which opens to a private deck overlooking the ocean. Designed in shades of navy blue and white, the room continues the home's beach theme. The king-sized bed features a custom-made seagrass headboard and frame. Directly across from the bed is a stone fireplace with a painting over the mantel that masks a flat-screen television. The light-filled master bath features a vaulted ceiling and multiple windows as well as a large shower and radiant-heated floors.

A year after moving in, Gurry is still thrilled with the house. "Everyone involved with the construction deserves tons of credit," Gurry says. "The house is solid and built with care." She and her husband are interested in moving here permanently. Her tentative name for the home is "Paper Buoy," a tribute to her family's newspaper publishing legacy (her father owned the Lawrence Eagle Tribune in Massachusetts) and the home's oceanfront location.

"I love being able to have all of my friends and family here," Gurry says. "But I really enjoy being able to relax with a cup of coffee and gaze out at the ocean."

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