Barn-raising

Welcome to my world. At the moment it is very small and focused on only one thing – keeping my home. It used to be a much bigger world, especially back in the 90s when finally, after working since the age of sixteen and saving virtually every penny earned, I was able to achieve my dream of having a house “down the shore”. Even that was not as neat and orderly as it sounds; as in so many stories, there were twists and turns along the way.

I wanted to buy an old house, not build one, but after searching for years, writing letters and even knocking on doors of the remaining bay front homes still rich with character and charm, it became obvious the last ones standing were much-loved and not for sale. In 1998 I bought a 60’ x 110’ plot of land in New Jersey on the seven-mile barrier island shared by Avalon & Stone Harbor, a plot on which there had never been a house. For a while I tried to move an old cottage onto the lot, but cottages were few and far between and the lot had two beautiful trees that would need to go in the face of a house, even a small cottage, being dropped on site.

My next idea was to hire an architect to re-interpret and design for me a riff on a Craftsman bungalow I’d rented for several years, a real charmer with porches and gables and knee walls. The architect and a very capable builder were hired and we were good to go – until I lost my high-paying job of eleven years. Sitting at home stewing and reading newspapers, I tried to figure out what to do next in my life. While perusing the classifieds in a local paper I saw an auction ad – it included two barns that were to be dismantled and moved in order to clear the land. I went to the auction preview toying with the notion of buying one of the barns, dismantling it and moving it to my lot on the bay. My architect and builder were called in to review and endorse this idea; instead they politely pointed out the barns were termite-ridden and if I really wanted a barn, they could build something designed to withstand salt water and bay front weather.

A barn was sketched on a cocktail napkin, turned over to the architect for engineering plans and off we went. As the house took shape, I developed a concept that evolved with the construction: somewhere there was a “big house” owned by a moderately well-to-do family living in the 50s and 60s, and as they improved the big house, the cast-offs were relegated to the barn. Things like a cast iron skirted tub from the 20s, a GE monitor-top refrigerator from the 30s and a Chambers range from the 40s. Each of these components and many more vintage features were integrated into the home, with a master carpenter on-premises for over a year. I went to San Francisco for another big job, flying home on weekends to supervise construction of my beautiful barn, leaving post-it notes and books filled with barn details and other inspiration scattered amongst the construction. The house was completed in May, 2000 to critical acclaim. It is not reflective of the McMansion style of building overtaking Avalon and Stone Harbor.

The house was featured as the cover story in the September-October 2001 issue of Coastal Living magazine. It was also featured in The Avalon Garden Club Tour of Homes in September 2001.  

In 2006, the house was included in the book Island Living by Linda Leigh Paul. Island Living was published by Universe Publishing, a Division of Rizzoli International Publications, Inc. 

In July, 2008, the house was part of the Jewels of the Island Avalon Yacht Club Auxiliary 12th Annual House Tour and Luncheon.

The footprint of my home is 19.5 ft. x 30.0 ft. The house sits on pilings 11 ft. above ground atop a 360 degree deck. The first floor features a galley kitchen, an open living/dining area and the bathroom. The second floor consists of two bedrooms.

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