When their kids were young and they yearned for an occasional summer getaway, Debra and Ron Accomando shared a modest seashore rental cottage in Avalon, N.J., with another couple who also had young children.
At the time, Ron was building a business near the family home in Lititz, Lancaster County, and the goal was to spend modestly on everything else.
As time passed, the business — now a major trucking and transportation company — grew exponentially from one driver (Ron) to 400 employees.
Likewise, their Avalon accommodations expanded as they purchased larger homes for more family time and space. To maintain the economic balance, the Accomandos initially rented to others during prime season, setting aside a couple of weeks in August for themselves.
"We absolutely fell in love with Avalon," says Debra, "and we did dream about more expansive space and longer vacations someday."
Someday has come.
As their family grew, they realized they also wanted closer proximity to the beach. The Accomandos' three children — sons Nicholas and Patrick, and daughter Alexis — were now young adults. But two members of a new generation — Nicholas and wife Christina's toddlers, Patrick, known as "Patch," and Georgiana — made a daily hike to the ocean daunting.
"We would gather up the strollers, the chairs, the toys, and the other gear, and by the time we got to the beach," Ron says, "the babies were exhausted, and so were we."
In August 2015, with the help of longtime friend and local real estate agent Jack Binder, the couple decided to have a look at a spec house near theirs but much closer to the beach.
They didn't love that house, but spotted a lot next door that had only a foundation. It was a "Eureka moment," they say. Both loved not only the location, but also the notion of diving into the process of creating a family vacation home for three generations. They partnered with Stone Harbor builder John Lashkevich of JPL Properties, and their dream house was completed within a year.
The home's lowest level has a central great room, the gathering place for their children and grandchildren. Complete with a mini-kitchen, it is furnished in childproof yet attractive materials — "but indestructible," says Debra, who has a keen eye for decorating and practicality.
The main level serves multiple purposes. Splashed with natural light, it's a place for reading, hanging out, and enjoying communal meals in an expansive kitchen-dining area — a far cry from the jammed shared cottages of former days.
Debra's insistence on installing a large, dramatic round window with a spectacular view won applause from even the builder.
A grand staircase adds instant drama to Debra and Ron's spectacular master suite, done in shades of purple and lavender — a choice encouraged by a designer friend who helped find some of the fabrics and accessories.
The owners created a mini-office for Ron with perfect views of the ocean. "It definitely makes 'going to the office' a treat," he says.
Seashore touches abound, but not of the souvenir variety. Debra, who walks up to seven miles on the beach every morning, has created a striking gallery of sunrise photos captured by her cellphone camera.
A collection of sea glass and light fixtures that blend modern art and sculpture came from a favorite Shore gallery and add an exotic touch to a home that has no "don't-touch" spaces and an abundance of "kickback" ones.
Count among those a deck and a pool in the back of the property. "We can enjoy one another and the little ones in a different way," Debra says. "It turned out to be another decision we're glad we made."
The home has turned into a place where this close family can share the kind of togetherness that seems like a rare commodity in modern life.
"There's a bridge we cross when we approach Avalon. For me," says Ron, "that's really a bridge from one world to another. The minute I cross it, I start to exhale. And that's when I know that I'm just where I want to be."