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Relaxed Style in Monmouth County

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Bartholomew Studio  |  Designer Stephanie Alegre  |  Location Monmouth County, NJ  |  Before photos courtesy of Keller Williams Realty

Walls came down to create this easygoing aesthetic

When the wall between the family room and the sunroom (at right) was removed, a joist was installed to support the ceiling. Alegre clad it in white oak to coordinate with the rest of the space.

Stephanie Alegre describes the interiors of this newly renovated Monmouth County home as “a combination of transitional and Midcentury Modern.” When embarking on this project, the homeowners had four aesthetic goals. “The clients wanted their redesigned spaces to be bright, clean, casual and comfortable,” says Alegre, principal designer at Stephanie Alegre Interiors, which serves Monmouth and Ocean counties.

Designer Stephanie Alegre added coffers to the living room ceiling. “Every room was remodeled down to the drywall or studs,” she says. “Everything you see is new.”

A few architectural modifications were required to establish the airy sense of spaciousness the clients desired. “We removed the walls and doors separating the living room, family room and sunroom,” Alegre says. That created an expansive, three-zone space, enabling sight lines from the front of the home to the back. There were, however, some technical issues that needed to be addressed.

Alegre explains, “Because of the load and span of the rooms, we needed to use a steel beam between the family room and sunroom.” The beam was non-negotiable; the house wouldn’t stay up without it. It was also not going to be invisible. “It was not possible to make the beam flush with the ceiling.” Still, Alegre wanted to ensure that this utilitarian element would also complement the overall design scheme.

Alegre removed walls that separated the living room, family room and sunroom, creating a bright, expansive space with zones distinguished by ceiling treatments.

“My greatest challenge was figuring out how to incorporate the massive beam into the design and make it look beautiful and intentional.” Alegre chose to clad the joist in wood to harmonize with the wood accents in the spaces. “We covered the beam in white oak panels, recessing the bottom panel for a bit of dimension and consistency with the built-ins and the architectural details.”

Alegre used light colors to ensure the spaces would be bright and cheerful. “All fabrics are durable and easy to clean. Most of the materials are also certified nontoxic, as this was important to the clients.”


“The idea of the hidden bar came about halfway through the project when the client wanted to surprise her husband with a small bar area in the living room,” Alegre says. “The doors are pocketed so they don’t interfere with the design of the built-in when open, and we incorporated a hidden pull-out marble surface for serving.”

Alongside the wood tones, Alegre used a muted palette of whites and grays to promote the laid-back atmosphere the homeowners requested. Tailored furniture reinforces the unfussy ambience, as does the host of natural textiles throughout the home — from a cane chair in the family room to a jute rug in the laundry/mudroom to a row of seagrass baskets in the guest bathroom.

Built-in shelving in the living and family rooms — also unfussy in crisp white with Shaker-style doors — is styled with a variety of artfully but asymmetrically positioned items such as baskets, vases, books, sculpture and plants. The “intentionally unintentional” placement adds to the casual atmosphere. The look is interesting and eclectic but not overdone — each piece has breathing room, allowing the eye to rest before moving on to the next accessory.

In the laundry/mudroom, a wall and closet were removed and space was taken from a hallway linen closet to create space for built-in cabinetry.

Porcelain backsplash tile in a geometric pattern adds interest against the simple, Shaker-style cabinets in the laundry room/mudroom.

The living room has a slightly more formal feel thanks to a coffered ceiling and a family-heirloom baby grand piano in one corner. But even here, straightforward seating options tone down the drama with simple silhouettes.

In the sunroom, plants large and small pop against the neutral hues and wood tones and give the space an earthy vibe reinforced by the views of the property through the abundant windows.

In the sunroom, there’s plenty of seating for dining, relaxing or game night.

The rooms feature plentiful, comfy seating layered with lots of throw blankets and pillows to entice friends and family to sit awhile and relax. “Including different textures adds depth to the design and makes the spaces feel more comfortable, versatile and lived-in,” Alegre notes. The understated style throughout the home lays the foundation for a soothing, welcoming environment. “We incorporated a lot of warm tones, beginning with those in the wide-plank, white oak flooring stained in a medium brown and in the natural, unstained steel beam covered in white oak. Those elements, along with soft paint colors, make the space light and bright, but also warm and inviting.”

The guest bathroom features a trough sink. Seagrass baskets create ample storage.