nestled among the custom multistory vacation homes of a small beach community on the New Jersey shore sits a subtle one-story retreat. As the third home of a busy professional who splits his time between Toronto and Philadelphia, an uncomplicated and low-maintenance space where he could also entertain was a must. Enter Philadelphia's Marguerite Rodgers, an interior design firm, and Sean O'Connor Associates Lighting Consultants, who joined forces to create just that.
The 1,600-square-foot home, which was expanded from 1,515 square feet by pushing the bay-facing walls of the center space out two feet, comprises a joint living room, dining area, and kitchen as its central core, flanked on the west by a master suite, and guest quarters with a screened mahogany-clad porch on the east. Taking advantage of the sweeping bay views, floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors line the north and south walls of the residence, allowing access from the inner courtyard out front and the pool area in back, as well as uninterrupted views through the house.
An elegant Japanese-inspired design brings a simplicity and purity to the space through the use of rich natural materials and luxurious fabrics, seamlessly uniting each room and creating a sense of warmth throughout the home. In keeping with this minimalist design, Sean O'Connor Associates integrated the luminaires into the architecture wherever possible and used the lighting to accentuate surface textures, highlight contrasts, and create light and shadow play. 'With the lighting, objects become more of a feature than they otherwise would be,' says Meg Rodgers, founder of Marguerite Rodgers.
At the entry, a raised wooden platform, running from the guest suite along the north side of the house to the master suite, acts as a reception area and circulation space. This was the starting point for the lighting design, where the reflection of a series of in-floor uplights lining the walkway 'read as a continuous entity along the ceiling,' says Sean O'Connor, principal of Sean O'Connor Associates, 'tying together the three areas of the main space.' Also emphasizing the walkway's linearity, the uplights accentuate the texture of the bamboo window treatments and, from outside where they are visible through the expanse of glass, express the home's height and volume from street elevation.
Extending below the elevated entryway lies the central section of the home, where groupings of strategically aimed 4-inch-square adjustable flush accent lights with flangeless beveled 'pyramid' trims provide gentle glowing niches in the ceiling. The effect adds yet another layer to what O'Connor calls the 'Japonesque aesthetic' of the house. 'There was a certain level of integration that we strived for, so it wasn't just a chaotic distribution of downlights in the ceiling,' he explains, 'but the creation of spaces by how the fixtures are arranged. There's a rhythm to it.' In addition, decorative lamps placed throughout the space provide scale and vertical illuminance. 'The design wouldn't be complete without them,' says O'Connor. 'We're big fans of portable lighting, glowing sources in seating areas to bring light to people's faces.' To create a change in ambiance, lighting scenes are programmed through a central control system, accessible via tabletop or wall-mounted controls.
Because the kitchen is an extension of the living and dining areas, its custom walnut cabinetry was designed to resemble tansu-wooden storage chests or drawers fashioned in traditional Japanese style-in order to make it look more like furniture. 'One of the main objectives in the kitchen,' explains O'Connor, 'was to have light and shadow play with the ribbing in the sliding tambour doors of the millwork.' This is achieved with a row of closely spaced recessed accent lights at near grazing angles that provide a vertical illuminance on the face of the cabinets. In addition, a large decorative pendant visually anchors the stainless-steel kitchen island. The luminaire provides a warm uplit glow from incandescent sources hidden inside each candle, as well as a downlight component.
The guest suite comprises two bedrooms and one bathroom. In the bathroom, frosted Pyrex strips containing multiple 10W lamps are mounted vertically through the mirror and a recessed trimless glowing niche in the wall provides soft illumination. At the end of a hallway, along which the guest rooms are situated, access is granted to perhaps the most unique space in the house-a screened porch constructed entirely of mahogany. Here, recessed adjustable MR16 accent lights highlight an antique wood carving over the bar, and recessed steplights under the vintage Nakashima shelf provide task lighting. Together, with an uplight sconce, these details create an ambient lighting environment Rodgers compares to that cast by a glowing fireplace.
The Japanese influence also extends outside to the landscaping, where pebbles, reeds, and wooden walkways line the perimeter of the pool. At the southern edge of the garden is an illuminated wall of reeds. 'Instead of a fence,' O'Connor explains, 'the punches of light create the yard's visual boundary.' This light, however, is deceiving. On top of the deck, a series of 25W incandescent marker lights seem to be creating the splashes of light, but it is really 150W quartz floodlights concealed directly below the deck that provide the illumination.
In a space where so many textures, fabrics, and details are vying for attention, the success of this design is in its unwavering balance. 'There were things that were knocked back so they weren't shouting at you,' says Rodgers. 'No one detail was necessarily leading another.' With the thoughtful placement of luminaires and a less-is-more mantra, the lighting design is seamlessly integrated into each room, embodying the home's elegant simplicity of style and low-maintenance charm. sallie moffat