It comes into view in stages - street-side, front-on, poolside, and, just steps away, oceanside: A sprawling, three-story Nantucket-style home with dark-shingled exterior that seems to be planted exactly where it belongs. A kind of ageless, timeless testament to the best of seashore life.

"We wanted a happy house," Marcy Dash Friedman says of the beachfront Margate, N.J., dwelling she and husband Brian, a real estate investor, bought in 2002.

"I fell in love with the site," explains Marcy Friedman, a Cherry Hill interior designer.

"Initially, I wasn't quite as interested," Brian acknowledges. But once he took a good look at the potential of the home his wife so admired, he caught her enthusiasm.

After two summers in the vintage 1950s property, the couple (no relation to this writer) began a massive renovation they agree has exceeded their expectations.

The grand finale came in 2005, when the elderly owner of the house next to theirs decided to sell. Marcy and Brian had already visualized clearing that lot for a swimming pool with spectacular views of the beach and ocean.

The Friedmans and son David, who works with his father in their Gibbsboro real estate company headquarters, use the Margate house often. Another son, musician-composer Eric, lives in California but is here as often as possible.

Five bedrooms and six bathrooms allow company to be comfortably accommodated.

Splashed with color, light, charm, and endless surprises, the house caters to a seashore lifestyle - but with panache.

Step inside on the first level, and a huge mirror with ceramic adornments seems to encapsulate the cheerful, often whimsical, mood. Also on that level are the Friedman sons' original bedrooms, which they are still happy to return to, and a living room/hangout space.

Up one flight is an open, expansive space with dramatic ocean views. This level incorporates a complete kitchen, a large family room, a dining area and state-of-the-art bar, and an aquarium that creates its own drama.

Floors are mostly Brazilian cherry with maple inlays, wedding beauty with practicality.

Brian takes particular pride in a theater installation with a screen that descends from a soffit and disappears into it.

"Blocking the light was a challenge," he says, "but was well worth the effort." Watching sports events and movies here can turn rainy days into delightfully diverting ones.

Because of Marcy's interior-design skills, each area of the house is unique. Yet somehow the fusion of moods and spaces meshes. Her love of color has resulted in a palette that may introduce bright orange in one area, muted pales in another, then bursts of color again.

Her own favorite room is a cozy den, just off the main second-floor area, that is filled with art, and where splashes of gold and orange suggest a spectacular sunset.

"This is my hangout space," she says.

Up another stairway is the home's prime space when it comes to ocean views. A vast master suite where vibrant colors yield to pales allows the ocean to have star power.

Light is abundant by day, but with the flick of a switch, screening window covers descend, so that dawn does not necessarily mean rise and shine.

Two bathrooms and a laundry area also find a place at the top of the house. An elevator was installed as part of the renovation.

Balconies and decks seem to have been placed by Mother Nature herself. And the beach and the ocean steal the show even in a house where every detail is thoughtful.

Case in point: a sink whose bowl tells a hand-painted tale.

"I love detail," says Marcy. "I love to bring in little surprises."

Particularly special at the Friedman Shore home are two annual events.

Thanksgiving dinner by the sea is celebrated with immediate and extended family at a dining room table that easily seats 14.

Girls Golf Weekend is an annual midweek summer rite to which about 10 of Marcy's friends have flocked for the last eight years. All the bedrooms are filled, and there's a lot of singing, laughing, great food, and great talk.

"This was part of my dream," says Marcy. "I wanted everything about this house to suggest joy. And whether it's just the two of us or the house is filled with people, that's exactly what we feel here."