As a teenager, Irvin Cohen fondly remembers, he spent many lazy, hazy summer days at a friend's house on Long Beach Island, decades before million-dollar mansions spanned the beaches.
"The real growth came after the 1960s," says Irvin, 89, retired founder of the worldwide Construction Fasteners Inc., based in Wyomissing, Berks County.
So after he and his wife, Lois, had their son and daughter, they rented houses on LBI for a few years. It was then that they became captivated by a modernist house in Loveladies sitting a few yards from the Atlantic Ocean, all the while imagining it as their own.
In a twist of fate, a friend mentioned to them one day that the house was on the market. They immediately signed on the dotted line.
"We had just started designing another property. Then we found out this one was available. It was the one we really wanted," says Lois Cohen, 87, who had admired the house during beach walks. "I remember thinking that the views from all the bedrooms must be lovely."
Stunning vistas aside, the 3,300-square-foot house breaks any cookie-cutter mold. Roof lines, windows, and stairwells create a linear-inspired dwelling. The aesthetics of the three levels flow cleanly and simply, allowing architectural elements and rooms to be bared and respected.
Inside, an open profile gives way to the main living spaces. The family room is dominated by understated, informal chairs, a sofa, and accent tables. The dining area is anchored by a granite table. Both are situated to capture the best ocean views.
The Cohens, who live in Reading but spend summer weekends here, are art collectors. Everywhere you look, something captures the eye and imagination.
Hallways and bedrooms are studded with works by Man Ray, Nicola Simbari, and Gregorio Prestopino. Jason Messenger's navy abstract tiles, which resemble cresting waves, lend flair. Reflecting light and drawing the eyes up, two wooden sculptures - one of a tall woman, the other of a black seagull - stand strikingly in the family room.
The kitchen was designed 20 years ago yet could pass as a recent redo. The white-clad galley, with Subzero and Miele appliances, is both dramatic and unfussy.
Throughout, shades of whites and blues establish a crisp color palette, a subtle gradation on the outdoor views of sea and sky. The main living area is tiled in lapis. Hallways and bedrooms are carpeted in beige.
The Cohens, who have been married for 65 years, share their love of the seashore with family and friends, who often fill the enclosed porch and adjacent deck during impromptu fish barbecues. Guests are accommodated by luxurious teak chairs and a dining table that seats 12.
The third-level master bedroom and two guest rooms are minimally decorated in beach casual. Helene Bludman, the Cohens' daughter, nods when it is pointed out that no amount of decor can compete with the commanding ocean views visible from each bedroom.
"It is really special, even when it storms. I read and do a lot of writing here," says Bludman, 62, a writer. She and her husband, Pete, 62, along with 3-year-old cat Lexie and 12-year-old dog Duncan, travel from their Bryn Mawr home to the low-key family retreat as often as they can.
Back in 1975, when the Cohens bought the house, it not only possessed beach cachet, but it also included tennis courts, a sweet accessory and a key element for the family back then.
"We used to play a lot more than we do now," admits Irvin.
Richard Cohen, 59, of Blue Bell, the couple's son and a guitarist for the band Dixy Blood, notes wryly that these days the courts work to the advantage of his sister's dog. "He uses it as his dog run."
Ten years after they bought the house, Irvin and Lois added a TV room and two bedrooms to the first level. Complemented with infusions of blue and yellow, this level is mainly occupied by their four young-adult grandchildren. The couple's latest addition has been an elevator, for those who need a little help from the carport to the second level.
It is remarkable, Irvin says, that the house escaped the wrath of Hurricane Sandy, sustaining only slight damage to a waterfront walkway connecting the property to the beach.
With leisurely attitudes and laid-back styling, the Cohens intend to keep seashore life a tradition for many years to come.