Amanda DeGenova renovated her house in Cape May Court House with the help of Phoebe Schuh of PS and Daughters, based in Northern Liberties.
They were not just designer and client. DeGenova and Schuh are sisters.
Natives of Wayne, they and their parents vacationed many summers in Avalon. When Amanda was 19, she met her future husband, Mark. Years later, the couple married and settled at the Shore.
The DeGenovas were expecting a second child and felt space-constrained. Why not convert the garage into a family room.
"I was eight months pregnant when the work began, converting the garage into an open space that extended the kitchen into a family room," said Amanda DeGenova. "I needed people whom I could trust and who could work quickly."
They already had a toddler, Gennaro. It was November 2013, daughter Celeste was due in a month, and DeGenova needed help.
Enter her designer sister, who stepped in to pick out colors, furniture, shutters, and money-saving details like a beadboard ceiling instead of drywall.
"Budget played into it, but she wanted beachy, light, and bright, plus a half-bath powder room for guests, with laundry space," Schuh recalled.
Meanwhile, family friend David DeLosso, a contractor and carpenter, set about demolishing the existing drywall, installing ceiling and new laminate floor throughout the kitchen and old garage space.
"She wanted a beach feel, and that's what she got," said Schuh, who also had a new baby on the way and understood the desire for open space.
To save money, DeGenova chose the pre-primed beaded tongue-and-groove vaulted ceiling, which was cheaper and easier to install than drywall. They bought flooring at Shaw Flooring at a discount, and Mark DeGenova and his brother installed it, saving on labor costs.
Steve Corrado Painting in Cape May Court House, owned by another family friend, did the interiors in Benjamin Moore's Maritime White. Nathan Hand, also of Cape May Court House, completed the plumbing.
DeLosso constructed a new closet for laundry appliances and one for electrical panels, as well as a custom built-in cabinet area with a TV wall.
The sisters each had a daughter - and the name of Schuh's design company became reality.
"In my line of work, you see a lot of trucks with names like 'McCormick & Sons' painted on the side," Schuh said. "I've always liked that. When I started my studio, I thought, 'Why should they have all the fun?' "
That play on a common industry naming convention culminated in the birth of Paloma for Schuh and husband Matt. She designed the nursery in their Northern Liberties home, and has clients now in Ocean City and Ventnor.
Schuh kept the nautical style going in the DeGenova house with a massive, pillowy sofa from Kensington Furniture in Northfield, "to lounge, not to have a conversation"; a white Lowe's standing cabinet for the kitchen; a rope chandelier and ottoman stools, and ikat-pattern pillows.
DeGenova hung nautical maps of the British Virgin Islands, where she and her husband learned to sail, and of Stone Harbor beach, just eight miles away. The black, aluminum Bahamas shutters she chose came from Awnings by Bill Lloyd in Avalon.
"Being pregnant, we had to do this renovation kind of fast, because I felt super-crazy!" DeGenova said, laughing.
"We didn't want to move, but we'd been living here for over 10 years and wanted to improve the space. It went from dirty man cave to beachy family room."
She and her husband set the budget at $25,000. They were able to expand the 1,600-square-foot, two-bedroom/three-bathroom house into one with 2,500 square feet and 2½ baths without expanding the footprint.
"In four months, our contractor got it done. He was motivated!" Schuh agreed, finishing her sister's sentence. "They wanted to add value to the house. Plus, Amanda had friends in construction and me in design to bounce off her ideas."