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Coastal Connections in Avalon

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Rachel McGinn  |  Designer Amy Forshew  |  Location Avalon, NJ

This vacation home borrows the best of two seashore styles

The home’s neutral palette extends to the front porch, where comfy chairs beckon on summer evenings.

“We tried to balance the look of two coasts,” designer Amy Forshew says of the aesthetic in this Avalon vacation home. The dual-regional approach appealed to the clients, as the designer, owner of Wayne, Pennsylvania-based Proximity Interior Design, knew it would. “This is the second large-scale project we’ve done for them, so we know them pretty well. She’s a California girl but has lived on the East Coast for a long time.”

According to Forshew, “California-beach-house style typically has a lot of light, natural unfinished woods; a pale or neutral color palette; and a very organic feel. The East Coast tends to be much more preppie and tailored, with bolder colors and nautical themes.”

An understated foundation sets the stage for the home’s West Coast-style infusion. “The homeowners love neutrals and a softer, more organic color scheme,” Forshew notes. “So we stuck with tans, creamy whites and grays throughout the main living areas.” White is the predominant tone in most of the spaces, particularly the great room, where the only hints of color come from light gray throw pillows and wood and woven accents.

Woven island stools add texture and interest to the neutral kitchen. A large, yet barely there light fixture above the island packs a decorative punch while keeping sight lines undisrupted.

Likewise, in the kitchen, white cabinetry and countertops create a subtle contrast with the Zellige backsplash tile. “The color of the tile is called “Snow White,” Forshew says, “but there’s a lot of color in there — almost like mother-of-pearl.” The space is accented with organic tones and textures in the woven island stools and the beaded, jute light fixture and woven rug in the dining area.

“The bamboo dining chairs and the trim detail on the window treatments are very preppy, very East Coast,” designer Amy Forshew says.


The great room is a serene space swathed in white with a few subtle hues for contrast. “The homeowners have English Cream Golden Retriever dogs so a light palette with performance fabrics are key!” Forshew says.


Window treatments for this project were given a lot of thought. “We carefully selected window treatments in each room. While our clients enjoy the natural light and a nice view, the sun is strong and bright. Woven shades are seen throughout the house for an organic, coastal look.”

In the primary bedroom, Forshew used unique architecture to her advantage and created an organic focal point on the ceiling. “We wanted to make the primary bedroom special. Wallpaper was a challenge with all the low angles where the ceiling meets the walls. What you see on the ceiling is wallpaper made from thinly sliced wood.”

“You need to work with the best installers for this,” Forshew says of the ceiling wall covering, which is crafted from thinly sliced wood. “The clients absolutely love it. It’s even more stunning in person.”

Though the ceiling in the primary bedroom exemplifies the organic West Coast vibe, other accents in the space reflect the tailored beachy motif popular on the East Coast. Crisp, white window treatments are edged with blue trim, as is a matching throw pillow on the bed. The fabric of the bed itself — both headboard and base — is a delicate, watery blue featuring wave-like patterns in a deeper shade.

The TV room, where the clients’ college-age kids hang out and entertain — is one of the few spaces in the home with deep color. The ocean hues reflect an East Coast sensibility. The wallcovering is “a loose interpretation of a stripe,” Forshew notes. A row of faux turtle shells adds whimsy to the room.

The TV room boasts even darker blue tones. “It has a bolder look,” Forshew says of the space, which the family uses as a hang-out for their college-age kids and their friends. Here, again, the designer used interesting wall covering to offset an architectural deficiency. “It has one of those annoying bulkheads that houses ductwork. We minimized it with the wallpaper, which draws the eye away from it.” The wall covering pattern comprises stripes in various shades that reference the hues of the ocean: blue, white and gray. The nautical theme gets an added boost with the addition of four whimsical faux turtle shells. This is clearly a room meant for fun, and Forshew ensured that the young adults who use it can relax and enjoy it. “We added a gigantic sectional where everyone can pile in for movies. The round ottomans add more seating and can move easily with hidden casters. The coffee tables are made for the outdoors and can take a beating.”

“We couldn’t remove the tile in the [primary] bathroom, so we made it work with interesting and durable vinyl wallpaper,” Forshew says. “We changed the light fixtures and mirrors to totally transform the bathroom for an updated, coastal look.”

Durability is, of course, essential in a beach house. Forshew says, “The clients love to entertain and the first floor ultimately became the kids’ hangout, with several guest rooms and the fun TV room that is a passthrough to the pool. We wanted to make the spaces comfortable and inviting, yet able to stand up to high traffic and wet bathing suits!”

A guest bedroom features a poster bed. “Everyone loves that style, but rarely is there room for one,” Forshew says. “Here, it fills the space nicely and gives it so much more personality.” The ladder near the window is made from tree branches. “My clients love it. It is very ‘California’ and organic. We put one in every bedroom!”