The Staabs had plenty of ideas about what they wanted to build. “We wanted it very connected to the land and to feel like Sandy Hook,” Ms. Staab said. “We wanted to be able to live on one floor, because we hope we have the house forever.”
They also needed a separate area for guests, and terraced decks to host a variety of outdoor activities. But most important, they wanted to feel confident that the house would withstand a hurricane.
Raad Studio, the architecture firm they hired, conceived a modern cedar-clad house of two stacked boxes that would appear to sit on top of the sand dunes, almost 15 feet above sea level, with a boardwalk between concrete retaining walls running underneath, which would also function as a storm canal.
“We’re not just sticking it on stilts, but having it be one with the landscape, so that it’s meant to work with the water and wind,” said James Ramsey, a principal of Raad. “We wanted to restore the dune-scape that we imagined might have once been there, paying attention to the way that water might sluice back and forth through the site.”
There was just one problem: There were no dunes. “It was a tabletop, just a flat plane,” said David Kamp, the principal of Dirtworks Landscape Architecture, which designed the outdoor space.
Still, the architects directed the contractor, Lead Dog Custom Homes, to build a network of concrete walls and piers to underpin the house and decking. Then, a design by Dirtworks, built by the Todd Group, covered much of that structure with enormous mounds of sand planted with beach grasses and plants like serviceberry, bayberry and beach rose.
Completed in May for about $2.4 million, the 2,400-square-foot house is reached by an elevator or by a light-filled glass stairwell topped by skylights. The main level holds an open living room, dining area and kitchen as well as the master suite. Two guest suites are upstairs.
All the furniture and finishes are designed to be carefree, including porcelain counters in the kitchen that won’t etch or stain if wine is spilled, and indoor-outdoor upholstery fabric that can stand up to wet swimsuits and sun.
“We just wanted it to be comfortable, livable and easy to maintain,” said Meryl Santopietro, the couple’s interior designer.
From the living room, oversize glass sliding doors open up to a series of decks that descend to the river, while offering different functions: an outdoor living space with fireplace, a dining area, a plunge pool, a waterside lounging area, a fire pit and a place to store paddle boards. Another deck, connected to one of the guest suites, offers views of the ocean.
“We look like we’re deck-crazy, but we really use them all,” Mr. Staab said.
And whenever the next big storm comes, the Staabs have no concerns about their house. “It’s designed to handle it,” said Ms. Staab, who experienced flooding and tornadoes growing up in Texas. “The nice thing about hurricanes is you know they’re coming; with tornadoes, you don’t know if they’re coming.”
If there’s a hurricane warning in the future, she said, “We’ll lock it up and won’t worry about it.”