For two generations, a Shore home to share

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The Keller home at the north end of Ocean City, after major renovations. The original house was built in the 1940s.

It's a living arrangement that brings startled reactions from two generations:

A grandmother and granddaughter sharing seashore digs in Ocean City? Really? All that togetherness for almost three months, including most meals and lots of shared downtime?

To 16-year-old Allison Schurr and her maternal grandma, Sharon Keller, it makes perfect sense.

"It works, and it works beautifully," says Sharon, a soft-spoken woman who is delighted to go back to her own Shore roots - she grew up in Margate, and it's one of her happiest memories.

"I know some of my friends are surprised that we do this, but once they see us, they understand," says Allison, Sharon's fourth-oldest grandchild of six, who is entering her junior year at Moorestown High School.

Add to the summer-share arrangement the fact that Sharon lives only a few minutes away from Allison in Moorestown. For some, this would be way too much togetherness,

Sharon and Allison don't buy that.

"We really don't get tired of one another," says Allison, who commends her grandmother for driving her back to a Moorestown stable every week so Allison can continue her serious equestrian training.

Both agree that Sharon's Shore house itself is one of the stabilizing features of this lifestyle.

It didn't start out that way.

Located in the Ocean City neighborhood known as the Gardens, the original house, built in the 1940s, was a bit forlorn when Sharon and her husband, Jerry Keller (now deceased), spotted it back in 1995.

"It needed just about everything - and Jerry was the perfect candidate to correct that. He loved planning and design, and he was good at it," Sharon says.

With his background as a real estate developer, Jerry envisioned a bright cheerful house with open spaces and a complete rethinking of the layout.

The "upside-down" floor-plan arrangement, popular in many seashore homes, meant using the first level mostly for bedrooms and the second level, with its sweeping views of the beach and the ocean, as the more expansive living space.

"Once we did that, the whole house was totally changed, inside and outside," Sharon recalls - a transformation done with the help of a contractor who understood the owners' vision.

Beyond the home's graceful, exterior contours and interesting elevations is a light, airy sitting room replete with seashore icons such as a working slot machine and a miniature replica of a lifeguard stand. A cabinet is filled with beautiful model lighthouses Jerry purchased in one fell swoop. On another wall is a wooden boat replica, a reminder of Jerry's love of sailing.

Also in this first-floor space is a small auxiliary kitchen, for those times when family and friends are visiting.

Three bedrooms, one with an adjoining alcove, and two baths, provide more guest space - and also a private bedroom area for Allison.

Upstairs, a large open area allows for the spectacular views available from this first house off the beach. A spacious deck is a favorite gathering place for the two permanent summer residents and for visitors, including Sharon's sister from Boston and her clan, who are frequent and grateful guests.

One of the reconstruction's most dramatic turns was the removal of a wall in this second-floor area that had completely blocked the best view of all: the Atlantic Ocean.

"It just made no sense, and that change completely altered how the house looked and felt," Sharon says.

The cheery open kitchen and its dining area can accommodate crowds, or just grandma and granddaughter.

A large master suite done in seashore pastels had to make a minor sacrifice - the loss of some closet space - to allow for an elevator that makes Shore life seem even more indulgent.

This is a house where laughter and love live, some of it lavished on Sharon's Havanese, Oreo, the smallest female in residence.

"I really enjoy being with my grandmother. We've grown really close, and I feel so lucky to have her in my life as I grow up," says Allison, who already has decided that when that happens the seashore will be her permanent home.

Though she has a part-time summer job at a nearby amusement park, Allison is on the beach and in the ocean whenever her work schedule allows.

And Grandma Sharon?

"Not so much. I'm happy just to be out on the deck seeing the views that I've loved all my life: the beach and the ocean.

"And to share it all with Allison," beams Sharon, "is just about as good as it gets."

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