When Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast in 2012, it devastated the Jersey Shore, hitting the 5-10 miles surrounding the town of Seaside Park particularly hard. But in the past 3-5 years, there's been a revitalization in the area, with younger families and people from New York City investing in homes in Seaside Park and in turn investing in the town itself. This includes MyDomaine's own Vice-President/General Manager, Leah Wyar, and her husband.
"The effect on the community was so real and still feels so raw," Wyar explains. "And there are so many beautiful towns in Jersey where we could have found a place that didn’t need this much work, but we're really proud to be contributing to the community and helping it revitalize. People invest in the area and all of a sudden it starts to have a bigger life—we love it because we’re seeing that happen in a way that feels like it’s bigger than you."
The couple purchased a 5 bedroom, 3.5 bath house in the area in 2016, and proceeded to fully renovate it and make it their own. Now, their growing family spends every weekend enjoying the home in the summer, and just about every other weekend there in the off season.
People invest in the area and all of a sudden it starts to have a bigger life—we love it because we’re seeing that happen in a way that feels like it’s bigger than you.
And while most of the house needed considerable work to truly feel like the the city escape Wyar and her husband craved, Wyar fell in love with it the second she saw the paneled porch with views of the bay and the Yacht Club.
"That room is what I bought the house for," she explains. "I walked into that room and it was exactly what I wanted. It's a relaxing room, we will have people in there for drinks and it's just a very calming and relaxing space."
And while the porch didn't need nearly as much renovation as other rooms in the house, it did serve as inspiration for a lot of the other design decisions the couple made during the process.
In its first life, the Seaside Park home was a Boarding House in the '40s, a space where people from the city could come down and rent single rooms while enjoying the shared kitchen, living areas, and bathrooms. Remnants of those days remained when Wyar and her husband bought the home, even though the previous owners had done some work to modernize the space.
The Kitchen Before
According to Wyar, the room that needed the most work is without a doubt the kitchen. Not only did the couple knock down the wall that separated the space from the dining room, they moved a staircase that led to the garage into the living room, and reconfigured the entire layout to make it airy, bright, and open.
Oh, and they were lucky enough to find original wood floors once their contractors started pulling up the existing tile.
"We had a tile picked out and we had everything ready to be put down, and then when they started to lift it they were like 'Oh my god, you can't cover this, you have to keep it," Wyar says.
The Kitchen After
Now with the dining room and kitchen combined into one open space, Wyar says her family spends about 70% of the time in that area.
"We always have family and friends over and we're big cooks, so that's a big part of the reason why we didn't go cheap at all on appliances because we knew we were going to use them," she explains.
The Dining Room Before
Before the renovation there was an overwhelming presence of cherry wood throughout the dining space that made the room feel dark, heavy, and dated. So, to freshen up the area, Wyar went with white walls, a modern chandelier, and a sleek white dining room table her husband designed and commissioned from their contractors.
One key piece that remained the same though, is the twin built-in cabinets flanking the window.
The Dining Room After
"The main reason I preserved that cabinetry was because every door in the house, including those, have original crystal doorknobs," Wyar explains. "I felt like if you took those away it kind of took the continuity of the house away."
To make the most of those cabinets, which feature triangular shelves, Wyar commissioned custom, handmade baskets from Amish Baskets, which fit the openings perfectly.
The dining room was far from the only space plagued by dated lighting and dark tones before the renovation though, that vibe carried over into the living room as well.
The Living Room Before
"We did preserve certain things in the house, but we really wanted to remove the heaviness and anything that felt dated," Wyar explains.
"We really just wanted to make everything light and airy," she continues. "We wanted it to be way more whites and grays."
The Living Room After
And while white and gray tones abound throughout the house, there's another overarching theme present as well: Surf Culture.
"The inspiration was surf culture, which I think is completely different than beach culture. So to me, surf is a little more punchy and poppy with colors. You can see throughout the house there are pops of yellow and turquoise. It's a little more sporty in a way and modern for that reason too. I wanted it to be minimal, but with pops of personality."
The inclination to incorporate surf culture into the house wasn't just driven by aesthetics though, there's a familial connection as well.
"My husband used to be a competitive surfer, so that is inherently in our lives," Wyar explains. "He still surfs and my five-year-old just learned how to surf this summer. So it's a big part of our lives."
The Deck Before
And while the couple finished the bulk of their interior renovations within six months of purchasing the house, the exterior is a little bit more of a work in progress. According to Wyar, they like to tackle one outdoor project a year. So far they've updated the landscaping and paving, but the biggest change is yet to come.
"This year coming up, what we're looking to do is take the current deck and wrap it around the back," she says. "What we noticed is that when we have people over in the summer and we're out on the deck, the kids will be in the backyard but you can't really see what's happening back there, so we want to extend it."
The Deck After
Another project on the docket is re-shingling the house, which Wyar predicts will happen within the next 10 years. But in the meantime, she's more than content to share the space with her family and friends, soaking up the sun in the summer and enjoying each other's company in a space that feels at once storied and modernized.