The 55th annual Seashore Open House Tour is back at the Long Beach Island Foundation of the Arts and Sciences in Loveladies in a new socially distanced format, featuring professional videography and live lectures from architects on six houses selected for their unique design.
The virtual house tour will take place every day from Sunday, Aug. 1, through Thursday, Aug. 5, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m, with new houses being presented each day. Attendees can watch the videos in person at the LBIF or livestream the event from home.
Despite the tour’s virtual format, viewers can get a great sense of the selected homes through videos, as well as plentiful interior, exterior and aerial photos that will be on display during presentations given by architects, according to House Tour chair Ginger Black.
“I really think that between the two, you have a true essence of the house,” Black said. “Then if you want to, you can go back and see it all again on Thursday, as a recap, which is nice, because sometimes you see it and you think ‘Oh, I’d like to see that again.’”
The videos for this year’s tour were shot by LBI commercial videographers Christine and Michael Harrington and feature views of the homes as well as interviews with the architects, according to Black.
“It starts out with the architect or the builder talking about the process and the house, and then, as you do that, he is slowly walking through and showing you exactly what he did and why he did it, and what the homeowner wanted, and the collaboration in the decorating, and how they came to those conclusions,” Black said.
As always, this year’s tour features a variety of unique historical and contemporary homes around the Island.
But for an inside look at what’s to come on the tour, consider a Loveladies lagoon-front stunner by architect Samuel Gordon of High Bar Harbor. Newly completed last summer, the house brings together mid-century modern inspiration, environmental consciousness, and influence from the owners’ love of art, cooking and travel.
“I designed corner to corner, front to back – the whole property,” Gordon said. “It’s not just the house on a property. It’s the whole thing.”
The detail-oriented design is clear from the first footsteps into the house, when guests find themselves in an entryway facing a half wall inlaid with antique translucent glass. The “vestibule,” as Gordon calls it, directs guests either into the open floor plan with wide water views or up a half-flight of stairs to the master suite.
“It gives you a place to enter the house, or to greet guests – and to compose yourself. You don’t want to pop through a wall and, all of a sudden, be in the main room,” Gordon said. “My designs are a very efficient use of space, and very clear patterns of circulation. So where we just came in was actually part of the hallway to the master suite.”
The house certainly takes into account this big-picture layout and is dominated by open spaces and clean edges. But it is equally concerned with all the details that create a harmonious whole, from custom mirrors to stone veins perfectly aligned on either side of the kitchen island’s waterfall-edged countertops.
“I located each and every tile in this bathroom. There’s nothing there by chance,” Gordon said. “That’s the kind of detail I pay attention to. You know, the light switches are 36 inches above the floor, not 48 – that’s to give more room for artwork.”
The house’s use of its lagoon environment is also a highlight, evident in a screened porch off the kitchen, which features a fully retractable glass sliding pocket door. When the door is opened, the screened porch fully melts into the main room, expanding the living space and carrying fresh breezes through the entire first floor.
On the exterior, overhangs around the porch were designed to keep out excess sun and lower the house’s energy use – an idea called passive solar design, according to Gordon.
“I design a lot of net zero energy houses, which cost zero dollars to heat and cool. This is missing one component: We didn’t do the solar panels yet,” Gordon said. “I’m not designing a box independent of its environment; I’m designing a piece of the environment.”
Elsewhere in the house, nature is celebrated by connecting with the outdoor space, which includes several distinct areas for lounging and cooking, as well as in the master bath, where a glass slider in the indoor shower opens up to a spa-like elevated outdoor shower with high windows bringing in lagoon air.
Like all the other homes on the tour, the design process for this one was highly influenced by the owners’ input. For example, the house includes spaces to showcase artifacts from the owners’ many travels, such as intricate African masks on the shelves and a mosaic door from Morocco that rolls across the master suite’s entryway.
Ultimately, one of the most exciting parts of the tour is to see owners’ and architects’ artistic visions come together, especially in a way that supports the LBIF, according to Gordon.
“I’ve been going to the Foundation since I was 6 years old, and it means a lot to me,” he said. “It’s so important for this community.”
Those hoping to get an even closer look at the Island’s architecture will want to stick around after each film is presented at the LBIF for a live Q&A with each featured architect. Even attendees who choose to stream the tour from home can call in with questions, Black said.
This year’s tour will also feature a brand-new Home Show at the LBIF on Friday, Aug. 6 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., free to the public. Especially exciting for those looking to take on a home building or renovation project themselves, the Home Show will bring architects, builders and decorators from the tour together to meet with guests and answer their questions.
Admission to the full week of Seashore Open House Tour events costs $50. Tickets can be purchased at the Foundation or at lbifoundation.org.
While the LBIF hopes to be back with an in-person House Tour next summer, this year’s event is still a celebration of Island architecture and seems poised for success with quality videos, according to Black.
“We’ve had to really work at trying to get houses that were going to be ready to be filmed,” Black said. “It’s really a nice cross section of different kinds of architecture on the Island.”
— Kirsten Garino
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