From the April/May 2024 Issue  

Ocean County Couple Build a Guest House on a Lot Next Door

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Stephen Govel  |  Architect Philip J. Iannitto, AIA  |  Builder Robert Monetti  |  Location Seaside Park, NJ  |  Design Architecture and Interior Design Asifa Tirmizi  |  Landscape design Beth Pellegrini

They build a fully functioning home for friends and family who visit them in Seaside Park


The guesthouse property, which shares a pool with the main house, features several balconies and two roof decks. “We also had to have room for the mechanicals, which we ended up fitting quite nicely on the roof behind a screen wall so that essentially every square inch of the building was left for living space,” builder Robert Monetti says.

Every owner of a Shore home knows that beach houses attract visitors; but not everyone would take hospitality to another level like the owners of this Seaside Park, New Jersey, property, who bought the adjoining lot and built a dedicated guesthouse. Builder Robert Monetti of Monetti Custom Homes explains: “The clients entertain throughout the summer months. They purchased the property next door with the intent of creating a ‘compound,’ sharing a pool.” The project involved razing the existing home on the newly purchased lot to create a brand-new 4,000-square-foot guesthouse.

Robert Monetti
Monetti Custom Homes

The Builder
DNJ: What is the style of this home?
RM: The aesthetic of the home was driven by a modern theme with lots of natural elements. There is an extensive use of natural stone, ipe wood decking, white oak walls and ceilings, and other interesting elements, such as the large floating concrete hearth on the fireplace in the cabana as well as the geometric hanging ceiling in the gymnasium.

DNJ: What rooms/spaces make up the guesthouse?
RM: The goal was to build a first-floor cabana and gymnasium with exterior patios leading to the deck and pool. The second floor has large kitchen and living areas overlooking the pool and original house. There are four bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. (Two are shown in the drawings. The third and fourth are on the third floor.) Finally, the flat roof presented an incredible possibility for not only one large sundeck, but also a very private sundeck to the southwest accessible by a spiral staircase. Almost all mechanicals were placed on the roof and hidden by a screen wall.

A wall of windows in the “cabana” slides open to the pool deck. The ceiling treatment extends from inside the cabana to the overhang. “I wanted to integrate the inside/outside experience,” design architect/interior designer Asifa Tirmizi says. “The black beams run through the glass wall and continue onto the overhang to create a connection.”

DNJ: How did the fact the two houses would share the pool affect the design?
RM: The pool was built during the complete renovation of the main house, before the owners had even considered purchasing the property next door. The pool was placed as close as possible to the westerly property line on the same grade as the main house. However, the street where the guesthouse is located slopes continually several feet from the ocean side down toward the bay. We could not lower the home to be at walk-out level with the pool due to flood restrictions and, as such, several illuminated stone landings/steps were added from the guesthouse to the pool patio.

The cabana fireplace surround is made from concrete. “We could have chosen a less expensive tile,” Tirmizi says, “but there’s an authenticity and purity to this that elevates the look.” The bar features cabinetry that “disappears” into the wall, while the Amazonite Quartzite backsplash tile stands out. “I wanted to include a special stone that would pick up the colors of the landscape at the beach.

In addition, there were set-back limitations to retaining walls, code-required fencing that could not exceed a certain height, and a vegetable garden, all of which we had to work around while tying both properties together. This was accomplished with the genius of general architect Philip Iannitto, New York design architect and interior designer Asifa Tirmizi and Beth Pellegrini of Edward Clark Landscape Architect. We were able to schedule the project in such a way as to allow the owners to live in and enjoy the original home with the pool (and safety fence to meet code) right up until the day we pulled the fence and matched the patios to immediately allow the property to become a single compound. In all my years of custom building, meeting the challenge of making this project so seamless has been one of our proudest achievements.”

Asifa Tirmizi
Tirmizi Design Studio

The Designer
DNJ: What aesthetic were the homeowners looking for in the guesthouse?
Asifa Tirmizi: They wanted something clean, simple and modern but very warm. And because it’s the beach, everything has to be durable.

DNJ: How did durability/stylishness coexist?
AT: Each finish in the house was carefully selected to accommodate the climate next to the ocean. We used a large-scale porcelain tile at the first level for the cabana, gym and corridors. It’s durable and finished with a slight texture to avoid any slips with wet feet, and yet it looks and feels warm and spa-like and creates an elevated, luxurious vibe. It’s a neutral color, so it seamlessly transitions from the exterior natural stone. We also decided to use outdoor rugs for all of the interior spaces to again accommodate wet feet.

A balcony off the living room overlooks the pool area. “The aesthetic of the décor in this home is contemporary but very warm,” Tirmizi says.

In the cabana, the armchairs are made from a woven material that’s got elasticity; it holds its form really well around an aluminum frame. I wanted the ceiling to be the same as the walls. However, the ceiling extends out to the covered patio so one of the challenges was selecting a material that could withstand being inside and outside. We went with a synthetic material — TruExterior Nickel Gap Shiplap siding—which repels moisture and bugs. It comes in a woodgrain texture, primed and ready for painting.

The homeowners have a lovely view of the guesthouse from the main house pool deck.

DNJ: What was the inspiration for the interesting ceiling in the gym?
AT: Ceilings are so important in a space; they can be decorative elements. In the gym, we wanted to do something different from the rest of the house. We wanted to use wood but not make it so heavy. The grid with light fixtures incorporated enhances the space. It’s refined and suggests an elevated vacation experience.

“The walls of the gym are glass or mirrored so I really wanted to incorporate something different,” Tirmizi says of the ceiling treatment. “I wanted to use wood, but not make it so heavy. This grid and the light fixtures incorporated in the design gives the space a luxury feel.”

I believe, even at the beach, you can give rooms a more luxurious feel. The clients’ aesthetic is a little more refined, and that plays into the durability we discussed. They wanted to buy higher-end furnishings that would las, that are tough-wearing rather than flashy. There’s a level of luxury that comes with that selection.

Editor’s Note: For a look at the main house, see “Inner Strength.”