The best place for their August wedding, Dave Bossi and Sarah Ann Miller have decided, is right on the deck of their house in Barnegat Light, completed last year.
It's not your typical Shore deck. From this vantage point, you get the Long Beach Island trifecta: arguably the best view of Barnegat Lighthouse, the inlet, and Barnegat Light State Park.
The couple's design journey here paralleled their relationship. Dave, an IT consultant and local councilman, bought the property in 1993, living in a house dating back to the 1940s. When he and Sarah Ann, owner of Inman Realty on the island, became a serious couple in 2007, they decided to tear down his place and build the house of their dreams.
That meant a year and a half of planning and building and living in several rental homes as the work was being done.
"We both had built houses with our ex-spouses, so we weren't afraid of doing it again," says Sarah Ann.
They found an architect who had spent summers on Long Beach Island and designed six other beach houses - Doug Barber of Edgewater Park - and immediately hit it off. Dave and Sarah Ann gave him a big wish list.
"They owned a home in Nantucket and wanted this one to be different than that - contemporary, but not too slick," says Barber. "They really gave me free rein. Most people want the most square footage in a beach house - they had that desire, but didn't want a mansion either."
Among the must-haves: radiant heat for the floors; an office for Dave, who works from home; guest suites that are private; good-size decks; windows that don't require curtains, and, last but not least, an elevator for their elderly dogs - Lucy, 15; Morgan, 13, and Shadow, 11.
"To take advantage of the views, they wanted to be able to stand on their third-floor deck and feel like they were the only ones on the street, and yet not impose on their neighbors," says Barber.
The geometric footprint was a challenge.
"We didn't realize it until we had the site plan - the site is shaped like a piece of pie," says Barber. The result is a house that is triangular on the north side, but square and long when you look at it from the street.
On the first floor are the garage, a workshop, storage space, and the elevator. On the second are the office; two guest bedrooms, each with a bath; and a master dressing room and bath that leads to a Jacuzzi deck. The third floor features the master bedroom on one side and the kitchen, living room, dining room, and powder room on the other.
Unlike a lot of beach houses, this one has few front windows.
"The facade is secretive," says Barber. "You don't know what to expect. Inside, it's a surprise. The spaces with windows and views are at the back of the house."
Sarah Ann, who has collected art and antiques for years, has deftly decorated in ways that challenge all the beach cliches. She likes buying from local galleries and artists, and Barber created areas for pieces such as the dining-room table she had crafted by a Nantucket furniture maker.
The couple asked Barber to give them built-ins for the living room - a sofa and shelves and cabinets for electronics and books - and the space is a little reminiscent of the inside of a boat.
Dave and Sarah Ann love to cook and entertain. "We're fireplace people in the winter and deck people in the summer," she says.
The kitchen features her favorite colors, blue and white, in a modern interpretation. The couple found a "Ferrari blue" oven from Bertazzoni, blue granite countertops, and blue and white glass tile for the backsplash.
The idea for the recycled blue glass underfoot came from an unusual place: the Fort Lauderdale airport bathroom. The couple had the same reaction: "Did you see that floor?"
Before moving in, Dave and Sarah Ann tackled their own project: They built a front courtyard bordered by a 71-piece privet hedge.
On one side of the bluestone patio inside the privet is a 20-foot zinnia bed where Sarah Ann plucks stems to make summer bouquets. On the other side is a raised perennial and herb garden. It's a private spot that's also great for entertaining.
But the deck is the place where most everyone wants to be, where you can see boats coming in from the inlet and in the winter watch snow falling on the majestic lighthouse at night.
"They are so in love with the view," says Barber.
Dave agrees. He gets a lovely shot of the inlet from his second-floor office, where he is surrounded by the dogs taking a midafternoon nap.
"It was really quite a process - moving six times between local rentals and Nantucket, plus a great deal of time spent making sure the house and gardens turned out exactly the way we envisioned," he says.
"In the end, it was all worth it, and the effort we invested makes us appreciate it even more."
Is your house a Haven?
Tell us about your haven by e-mail (and send some digital photographs) at firstname.lastname@example.org.