The couple’s 25th anniversary gift has become a permanent residence in Cape May County
When Thom Piecara and Nanci Brogan-Piecara first spotted the crumbling rancher in the Town Bank section of Cape May in 2012, they envisioned a charming cottage where they could enjoy glorious sunsets with their friends and family. family. Their decade-long renovation journey is now complete, their home lives up to its name, “Happy Bear”.
“It was a 25th anniversary gift for each other,” said Thom, a Cape Resorts Realty agent and member of cocktail jazz band Innuenduo. The couple met in 1986 while performing together on Broadway. Thom was a singer and Nanci a dancer.
When they first saw the house, it was “decrepit,” Thom recalls. “There was an in-ground pool that looked like the Black Lagoon, but the good news was that it held water.”
While it’s clear the house had been vacant for several years, it was only a few houses down from the bay beach on a double-width property, with two full bathrooms and a large back room. Thom had been coming to Town Bank since he was 7 years old and loved the area.
The couple, who lived in Medford at the time, wanted the house to be in good enough condition to enjoy that summer.
“We slept on air mattresses, worked nights and weekends tearing up carpets, laying floors, painting and remodeling the kitchen,” recalls Nanci, mortgage loan officer at Greentree Mortgage.
Then, three years ago, they decided to sell their house in Medford and move permanently to Town Bank. Architect Pamela Fine and FX Custom Builders remodeled the cottage into their 1,950 square foot dream home with two bedrooms, two bathrooms and inviting outdoor spaces. A colorful palette, including pale yellow, Caribbean blue, and lime green, is found inside and outside the home.
“At the beach, you’re allowed to have a sense of fantasy and fun, and home should make you smile when you roll around,” Thom said. “So color was a big part of that. We also wanted unique architectural details.
These details can be found in three types of coverings – planks and battens, Hardie shingles and clapboard vinyl – two different roofing materials and several humps designed to save space. Rafter tails, reminiscent of Key West homes, and palm-shaped cutouts in the railings add character. All custom windows roll out to welcome breezes, even on rainy days.
The facade of the house, which had been a fishing cabin in the 1930s, could not be salvaged. The rebuilt space, with a 20-foot vaulted ceiling, now houses the kitchen. An avid cook, Nanci installed an oven in the cabinetry below a five-burner cooktop.
“Cooking is what I love the most,” she said.
The couple created a new second floor for their master suite, complete with exposed beams, dark flooring, a fireplace, ceiling fan and grasscloth wallpaper. They wanted more of a cozy Tommy Bahama vibe than the rest of the beach house feel. Three sets of French doors open to the balcony.
“On beautiful evenings, those French doors are wide open, and we have breezes blowing,” Thom said.
The laundry room has a walk-in dog shower for Jazz, their 3-year-old wheaten terrier/poodle mix from a shelter.
Outdoor spaces include the pool, a small terrace with a seating area around a fire table, and a bluestone patio with a pergola for dining. This is where they spend most of their time, often having fun. Smart home lights and music are controlled from a phone app.
“After the sun goes down, we often come home to dine al fresco,” Thom said. “I’m going to dim the lights above the pergola, and I’m going to put on a misting fan to keep the bugs away.”
Their favorite spot is their homemade tin-roofed beach bar, built from a shed that was left on the property. Thom finished it with 80% recycled materials from Habitat for Humanity and moved 20 tons of sand — “one wheelbarrow at a time” — to turn it into a proper beach bar, he said.
Now living full-time in Town Bank, the couple enjoy all the town has to offer, including 17 miles of open water, uninterrupted natural beaches and spectacular sunsets.
“One of the things that’s so beautiful about Town Bank is that it has trees, and it’s not totally built up,” Nanci said. “It’s really warm and welcoming.”
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