Michael and Farah Burns' modern house, enclosed in floor-to-ceiling glass windows reflecting the blue Absecon Bay in Margate, N.J., started out as part of a 1960s ranch-style development.
The couple, seeking better schools and more living space, moved to Margate from Brooklyn 11 years ago with their first child, Mayla, then 2. Michael gave up his law practice to enter the development business with his wife, a designer.
"We bought the house because it was a great property on the bay, and we cleaned it up so we could live there until we could really decide what to do," Farah said.
The original Margate house had lots of small rooms — a kitchen, dining room and den — all joined by a hallway, but no view of the beautiful bay to the west.
"The best view of the bay was from a coat closet in the downstairs powder room," Farah said jokingly.
For many years, the Burnses had envisioned an open floor plan and a design that would take advantage of the house's proximity to the water.
Then Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012.
Their house survived the storm with flooding in their area. Federal assistance to raise their house to avoid future floods became a catalyst for a larger renovation.
The couple hired Petra Stanev and Stephan Potts of Stanev Potts Architects to restore their house and design long-sought improvements. The Burns family now includes three children — Reed, 11, Graham, 8 and Mayla, now 13 — who all wanted their own rooms.
Stanev and Potts designed two additions — one for an entrance and a vestibule and a larger one for a master bedroom suite, den and garage. Together, the additions increased the size of the house by 1,800 square feet to about 3,500 square feet.
"We raised the house six feet and used stilts that ended up looking like Lincoln logs during construction," Potts said. "The brick siding just added to the weight of the house, so we stripped it off and added cedar shingles that are more contemporary and, with time, change to a grayish color and lend a warmer color to the building."
The architects opened up the kitchen and living and dining rooms, Potts said. "It seems when the house was built, people thought each room had a function and should have a separate room."
And now, the bay-side house takes full advantage of its location. A huge island in the kitchen is positioned so four stools face the water. The island sits about eight feet from a wall window stretching across the room. Next to the window is a walnut dining area that can seat 12.
"We want to make sure everyone can face the water while they eat," Farah said.
Just outside the window are a large covered deck and dock.
Next to the kitchen/dining area, the oak floor covering the first level drops down a few steps into the living room, where a wood-burning fireplace warms the space.
A den near the entrance hall displays a blue-and-green impressionist painting by artist Stephen Bagnell, which Farah inherited from her grandfather
A floating staircase with a steel railing leads upstairs to the master bedroom suite and bedrooms for the children and one for a guest. Most of the rooms have a dramatic water view.
A special touch in the master bedroom is a fireplace that opens up to the adjacent bathroom and warms both rooms at the same time.
"We love it," Farah Burns said. "The house centers in the kitchen, and there is also a view of the bay from almost every room."