When a Main Line couple decided to build a second home in Avalon, they envisioned an expansive family retreat with a casual vibe for holidays and frequent visits during the offseason. They already had a great location—a prime lot with views of the bay. The couple shared a clear mental image of the house: lots of light, an airy feel and no heavy colors, with an emphasis on multiple gathering areas. And they were intent on a design that offers high-style and low-maintenance.
Enter Wilmington-based interior designer Megan Gorelick, who’s worked on everything from Manhattan studio apartments to Palm Beach estates. She also spends summers in Stone Harbor, N.J., with her husband and their three young daughters. “The first questions Megan asked me were: What was my vision? What did I want from this home in terms of lifestyle and design?” the owner recalls. “From there, her focus was to help us achieve an interior that fit our lifestyle, desired look and comfort.”
As the youngest of six siblings, Gorelick understands family dynamics and creating environments that meet everyone’s needs. Her interpretation of coastal design involves a palpable sense of place, with pieces that evoke nature and whimsical, locally inspired accessories set against a palette of sea, sand and sky. “We recognize that people work their whole lives for a beach house,” she says. “We want to make if fun.”
“The bath is spa-like, with a white plank ceiling and quartzite countertops. I like to think of it as a great hotel suite,” Gorelick says.
Gorelick designed an open-concept gathering space that encompasses a family room, dining space and spacious kitchen. The architectural focal point is a soaring cathedral ceiling and a fireplace wall clad in white beadboard. An oversized whale tail dappled in blue is mounted above the fireplace, adding a fanciful sculptural element. “We started with a smaller white tail,” says Gorelick. “We ended up picking a bigger one and customizing it with all the colors in the room.”
White plantation shutters open to a view of the bay. Rattan stools tucked under the console table behind a tailored beige sofa add texture and extra seating. Custom nail-head trim makes the table a unique piece. “Customized doesn’t mean more expensive,” Gorelick says. “It means it’s just for you.”
In the expansive kitchen, multiple cooks can work without bumping into each other. It’s clean-lined and classic, with white Shaker-style cabinets and a subway-tile backsplash. Glass-fronted upper-tier cabinets display blue-and-white ceramics. A wood step-down tabletop on the center island provides a spot for casual dining. Milky, gray-veined quartzite countertops were quarried by laser in Brazil. “It’s a natural material that’s harder and more durable than marble,” the designer says. “It’s so hard that, until recently, they haven’t had the technology to excavate it.”
A long table in the formal dining room seats 10. Lacquered in white, the side chairs are slightly smaller to accommodate more guests. The two at the head of the table are upholstered. “Comfortable chairs encourage people to hang out longer,” the designer says.
Shiplap and millwork installed on the ceiling of the third-floor master suite accentuate the angles in the rooflines. It’s cozy yet elegant, with walls covered in silvery grass cloth reminiscent of a cocoon. Antique mirrored glass panels give the nightstands a glamorous touch. The bath is spa-like, with a white plank ceiling and quartzite countertops. “I like to think of it as a great hotel suite,” Gorelick says. “The sink is blue, like the water. All the fixtures are polished chrome.”
The home was a collaborative effort between Gorelick, the architect, the builder and the hands-on owners. “I was able to share my input on everything from colors, textures, furnishings, tile, fixtures, lamps, carpets, and wall art,” the owner says. “My husband engineered several features, including under-the-house storage and unique laundry room drying racks hidden in pull-out drawers when not in use.”
By staying engaged throughout the process, the owners were able to make small tweaks as the plan unfolded. Having a great team in place minimized the stress and inconvenience that comes with the adjustments. “Some things were added or even eliminated,” the owner notes “But picking the right people along the way afforded us the ability to collaborate in the building and furnishings.”
Throughout the house, the design reflects the family that congregates there. The office’s sliding barn doors have glass panes for increased natural light. In the powder room, a lantern-style chandelier above the sink is a sophisticated alternative to sconces and allows for the placement of a larger mirror on the wall. The Cole & Son Melville wallpaper has a metallic rendering of whales, and kids’ drawings are displayed like fine art in the den.
A home gym can readily be converted into a bunkroom, and the house is outfitted with an elevator that makes it easy to transport groceries and visitors. Vintage beach tags and T-shirts are displayed in frames. For custom signs and plaques commemorating family events, Gorelick’s go-to resource was My Subway Sign in Avalon, “a great place with a Jersey Shore and Main Line following.”
In a project of this size and scope, installation day can be a major production. For these homeowners, it was the culmination of a multifaceted creative collaboration. “They sat with their feet on an ottoman, smiling ear to ear,” Gorelick recalls.
And they’re still smiling.
“This is a dream home—a beautifully comfortable house to play and relax in,” the owner says. “It’s a place where all are welcome.”