Seabrook Beach Blues
October 8, 2019
Text by Meaghan O’Neill Photography by Jared Kuzia
For a house with an elevator, it is perhaps ironic that a staircase would be the backbone of the interior design. But at Tracy Byers and Bill Hurtado’s residence on Seabrook Beach in New Hampshire, it’s a soulful blue balustrade that brings everything—and everyone—together.
“I will never forget the discussion about the staircase,” laughs Byers. “I went out on a limb,” says Kristina Crestin, about pitching her idea for the stair, which features a geometric X-design and is painted an audacious blue. Byers was sold, but her husband was not. “He said, ‘No way—you guys are crazy!’ ” Byers recalls. “Now, he holds it up as the reason you should always trust Kristina,” Byers adds with a laugh.
When the couple began construction on the house, which sits on a skinny slice of land facing the ocean, they knew they wanted a modern coastal vibe. But because the dunes beyond the property’s lawn stretch out roughly 100 yards, views are limited from the ground and second floors. Builder Ray Holmes and architectural designer Lucy Gorham turned out a reverse-living design that maximizes vistas by placing the open-plan kitchen, living, and dining areas on the top floor. (The elevator solves for issues like lugging groceries upstairs.)
When Crestin joined the project, most of the building’s functionality had already been laid out, so she began by imagining interior elements that would reflect the family’s aesthetic—modern, crisp, and clean, but not overly summery. “We didn’t want a kitschy beach house,” says Byers, who envisioned herself hosting traditional holidays for their blended family of six, including one teenager still living at home.
Crestin first turned her creative focus to the stairs and millwork throughout. In addition to the bold balustrade, she added board-and-batten to staircase walls. Riffing off the seaside motif, the designer also used shiplap for kitchen cabinets, kitchen and living area ceilings, and mudroom walls.
The stair’s adventuresome hue—softer than navy, but not quite royal—is repeated on cabinetry in the kitchen, where a large island is topped with a weighty mitered-marble slab. To lighten up the space, the designer left out upper cabinets in favor of open shelving, while vaulted ceilings also add loftiness. (The latter left little room for electrical wiring and HVAC ductwork, however, which Holmes cleverly hid in false beams and rafters.) Rustic stools and leather pulls warm up the space and connect it to the dining area, where a reclaimed-wood table sits under cage-like metal light fixtures.
To understand Crestin’s inspiration for the interior palette—a mashup of briny blues, sea-grassy neutrals, and pops of orange—simply look out toward the dunes at dusk. Tones and textures create a captivating reflection of the view. The living area, for example, sports a woven rug the color of sunset, reclaimed wood tables, and shibori-dyed textiles. One floor down, the master suite’s plush seagrass rug and marine-hued drapes continue to pull the outdoors in.
From the bedroom level, the omnipresent staircase descends to ground level, where a super-functional mudroom skips custom cabinetry in favor of rolling bins and oversized hooks that corral towels, sunscreen, and other necessities. A full bath ensures that salt and sand get washed off near the entry, while the remainder of the footprint is dedicated to a mother-in-law suite for Byers’s mom, who visits frequently.
The top-down approach, which emphasizes both spectacular views and pragmatic programming, hits all the right notes for the family. “There’s nothing that we would change,” says Byers of the design. “For us, it’s the perfect year-round house that happens to be on the beach.”