Providing architecture and interior design on LBI requires constant adaptation and innovation. Mike Pagnotta explores the evolution of coastal home design.

By Andrew Flack. Photography by Mike Pagnotta

On Long Beach Island it’s not all that rare to see a thirty-year old home razed and replaced by a new one, popping up with all of today’s technological advances, lifestyle conveniences, and creature-comfort upgrades. Like it or not, it’s the way of the world. And for those involved in the process, it’s an exciting fact of life.

Local architects are often privileged to participate in this work, and the best ones do their homework about which innovations are in the air and what products will deliver the highest style and greatest durability.

Mike Pagnotta, an LBI leader in this field, has been providing custom home design since 1987 and has seen the ebb and flow of trends come and go. For instance, he’ll tell you that interior finishes in the 1990s would have most likely featured pickled oak cabinets, forgettable berber carpeting, and the famously hard-to-clean Corian counter tops. But no more.

As he keeps up with today’s ever-changing environment, Mike is able to offer his clients a staggering assortment of innovations, for both inside and outside the home, tailored for new family configurations and lifestyles not imaginable thirty years ago.

“The home’s interior is where the greatest changes are occurring,” Mike says. “Beach houses have evolved since the early days of the fishing shack and seaside bungalow. Today’s designs need to be more flexible and adaptive to fit the lifestyles of their owners, since these homes are often the tangible proof of a dream come true.”

For examples of his architectural approach, Mike takes us on a virtual tour of this new world of beach house design.


• The creative use of space re-mains a design priority. Built-in custom shelving, under-stair storage, wet bars, window seating, and especially bunk beds have all become wildly popular.
• Bathrooms are becoming more elaborate, featuring an incredible selection of internationally sourced tiles and materials, as well as custom showers with frameless glass doors.
• The kitchen has been enhanced as the central hub of a beach home where family and friends like to gather. Owners are finding when hosting large groups, it’s often easier to stay-in and entertain than going out for a reservation. And the appliances now rival what you’ll find at your favorite lo-cal restaurants.
• Ceilings with recessed, indirect lighting add another dramatic dimension. Exposed wooden trusses in an open vaulted ceiling offer soaring visual excitement. And when paired with perimeter LED lighting — get ready for post-sunset drama!
• Wall surfaces have also been upgraded to shiplap, v-groove, or library paneling, replacing the knotty pine so often found in Cape Cods from the 1950s.
• While wood floors at the beach have always been popular for their ease of care, wide-plank engineered products — which will not warp or cup and are resistant to sand and moisture — are even better.
• COVID-19 has also resulted in design changes—home offices have become more important and are essential additions to the new home program.
• Utility rooms, once the least favorite place in a home, have enjoyed a resurgent in popularity with creative storage solutions and transitional spaces from the beach to the home’s interior.
• And last, but not least, the elevator has become nearly essential in this new age of reverse-living, where the primary gathering spaces are found on the uppermost floors.


• Low-maintenance Nu-Cedar is a cellular PVC product that looks just like cedar shingles, but without the staining or fading.
• Cultured stone and brick veneers are used handsomely inside and out.
• Solid PVC trim with stainless steel fasteners has replaced painted cedar trim and moisture-concealing, coil-wrapped pine fasciae, windows, and door trim.
• Fiberglass columns have replaced wooden columns with their propensity to decay.
• Vinyl guardrails now come in a multitude of colors, spindle styles, and accents.
• Glass panels and cable rails take the place of horizontal pipe column guardrails.
• Window improvements provide better energy efficiencies and vinyl cladding now comes in any number of colors.
• Roof decks are accessed from inside the home via fiberglass steps. Gone are the slippery and awkward exterior spiral stairs.
• Even garage doors — from carriage house style to contemporary overhead versions with translucent panels — have been upgraded to become works of art.

“Times change, tides change, and trends do, too,” Mike says. “Since opening Michael Pagnotta Architectural and Interior Design on LBI in 1990, we’ve been able to stay at the forefront of beach home design with constant adaptation and innovation. Today is no different, as it remains our formula for success.”

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