From the October/November 2017 Issue  

Beach Scene

Writer Denise S. Valenti  |  Photographer Patricia Burke, Peter Rymwid  |  Designer Laurie Burke-Boice, CID, ASID  |  Location Union Beach, NJ
  • The homeowner’s dog, Clancy, enjoys the natural vibe and coziness of the living room, which has evolved over the years through his owner’s professional relationship with designer Laurie Burke-Boice. The stone fireplace is a recent addition, with a simple, clean, modern design that retains a beachy feeling. Photo by Patricia Burke

  • The owner prefers a casual living style, so Burke chose a farm table and window bench for the dining area. The kitchen was in excellent condition and was given only a minor tweak: a glass-tile backsplash with colors echoing the sea and sky. Photo by Patricia Burke

  • One of the first assignments Burke received from her client was to decorate the bedroom of this New Jersey shore home. Years later she was asked to give the room an overhaul, choosing new colors and accessories and replacing a lacquer bed frame with a more natural-looking headboard. She did, however, reuse a few items from her original design—the drapes, side chair and drum table—at the owner’s request. Photo by Patricia Burke

  • ENTERTAINMENT ROOM | A second-floor entertainment room was built from scratch, occupying the open space that was once the high ceiling of the living room below. It is well appointed with custom cherry woodwork surrounding the fireplace and bar, and it’s packed with amenities such as a Kegerator, entertainment system and billiards table. Photography

  • Personal touches abound, including a custom crest etched into door glass and barstools outfitted in blue leather with gold tacks—a nod to the owner’s love for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Photography

Designer Laurie Burke-Boice brings casual sophistication to a Union Beach, New Jersey home, not to mention dividing a tall space in half—horizontally—to create entertainment space above the living room.

Some people approach interior designers for help choosing one-off pieces; other times they need assistance decorating an entire room or house. Then there are those who maintain the relationship over years, much as they would with a hairstylist. In those cases designers get to know their clients’ preferences so well they can almost do their thinking for them.

Those relationships are special, and they’re often rewarding for both parties. Laurie Burke-Boice, a certified interior designer and professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers, enjoys many of those associations, and one in particular has helped a Union Beach, NJ client to evolve his house along with his needs for more than a decade. “It’s almost like it’s my own home,” says Burke, owner of L.D. Burke Designs in Monmouth Beach, NJ. “I know every inch. I know why things were done a certain way, how decisions were made.”

She also can anticipate budget, taste and lifestyle changes—all of which are factors in choosing appropriate furnishings. “This is a dream client for many reasons,” she adds. “He owns his own business. He trusts my opinion. He tells me what he wants, what he doesn’t like. It’s a really comfortable thing.”

The homeowner first approached Burke in the mid-2000s after finding her through a magazine ad. Her initial assignment was to decorate the master bedroom. She chose window treatments and bedding, and she also purchased a side chair and drum table for the space. A couple of years later, the homeowner called again, this time seeking to refurbish two guest rooms. “It’s the best compliment anyone can give me when I get a call back,” she says.

It wasn’t until 2009 that the client asked Burke to plan a more substantial renovation. The living room had a 2½-story ceiling that gave the room lots of drama—and lots of drafts. The room was literally and figuratively cold, and the homeowner rarely used it as a result. He wanted instead to reclaim the high ceiling as part of the second floor, building an entertainment room above the living room.

The new room is the ultimate lounge, with elegant, custom woodwork and a fully equipped bar. An entertainment system is concealed in cherry cabinetry that surrounds the fireplace. There’s also a billiards table that can be used late into the night thanks to insulation that was added into the walls to reduce noise in the adjacent master bedroom. “He’s a great friend to have,” Burke says of the homeowner. “Sometimes when he entertains, he goes to sleep and lets everyone hang out.”

In 2011, Burke redecorated a den at the front of the house. Then she received a frantic call in 2012 right after Hurricane Sandy hit the New Jersey shore. The homeowner stayed in Union Beach during the storm. He boarded up his windows and doors, and he was able to mop out some of the rising water. “He saved a lot by being home,” Burke says. His yard, steps and outdoor kitchen were destroyed, and the French doors in the living room came crashing in. But that was the worst of it.

Burke helped him find someone to refinish the floors, and she arranged to have the living room drapes cleaned and restored. While the work progressed, it seemed an opportune time to add a fireplace to the living room. A long console Burke commissioned during the 2009 renovation had occupied that spot previously. Replacing it with a fireplace and stone mantel gave the living room an attractive focal point that’s also visible from the kitchen. It also made the room that much warmer and inviting.

The first floor underwent further transformation in 2013 when the client decided to make over the dining area, which opens to the kitchen and living room. “We wanted to make it the more relaxed, casual environment he prefers,” she says. Burke replaced a formal table and chairs with a wood-plank table and a window bench. The space overlooks the ocean and beach, so Burke chose nature-inspired materials and picked soft greens, blues and grays right out of the magnificent view of the shoreline.

She brought that same upscale, yet beach-casual vibe to the homeowner’s bedroom, which she decorated for the second time, in 2014. She replaced the laminated platform bed with a wicker headboard, chose new bedding and changed out the side tables, lamps and accessories. The curtains, side chair and drum table she originally purchased for the client remained. “He wanted to reuse them because he already had invested in them,” she explains.

Over the course of 10 years, she as designer—and the house itself—have come full circle.

“His house is pretty much done now,” she says.

Denise S. Valenti, a regular contributor to Design NJ, is a Cranford-based writer.