Designer Natalie Kraiem first met her clients over eight years ago when they hired her to design several rooms at their home in Brooklyn. In 2019, they tapped her again for a second residence in Long Branch, NJ.
The house is just a half block from the beach, on a charming, quiet street. “Every house on the block has similar characteristics, with the same coastal beach look, with shingles siding, small cozy backyards and a relaxed look,” Natalie tells us. “My client bought the house in the year 2004 and got married a year after. When he hired me in 2019 with his wife and three beautiful children, he was concerned about changing every aspect of the house. He loved his home for the laid back and charming feeling of a beach summer house and was afraid to lose that. However, as their kids grew, the house got smaller and older, and it needed the update we did.”
The embarked on a gut renovation of the house in two stages. “We first transformed the backyard, adding a small pool and gutting the existing run-down garage, turning it into a pool cabana,” the designer tells us. “We preserved the cabana architecture and style, installing new shingles siding, sliding doors, an expansive bar for outdoor entertaining, a powder room and bicycle storage. We maximized the space, measuring and making sure every inch went to good use.”
Next up, the house itself and room by room, the home was transformed. “I really enjoyed designing the family room, which was an extension to the original house,” Natalie says. “We installed floor to ceiling, side to side windows to connect the room with the pool area. We made sure all the fabrics were water and stain repellent, as the goal for my client was to embrace the two areas together. I love the natural mix of materials and textures.”
The kitchen was possibly the largest transformation. “We gutted the original old kitchen from the ‘50s, which had 7-foot ceilings and was very compact,” Natalie explains. They connected it with the playroom to design a much larger and efficient kitchen. The design is practical and detail oriented. “We thought of every detail, as the kitchen is not very big and they wanted to maximize and get everything they needed such as a concealed cabinet for the toaster oven, coffee maker, and other small appliances. We also stayed with a grey and white color scheme, sourcing porcelain tiles to make a checkerboard floor and natural marble countertop and backsplash protected by a clear film from Tuffskin to prevent any stains or scratches.”
Natalie’s signature style is classic and timeless—while keeping her clients’ needs at the top of mind. “The design style for each house, is inspired by the feeling that each client wants to have while living there,” she says. “My job is to translate that feeling into an experience.”
The project took roughly two years to complete between the first and second stage. “The clients were so happy and still are and they really enjoy the house with their children,” Natalie says. “The husband that was afraid of renovating the home due to all the memories and attachment is now so appreciative to see how the home was maximized.”