A Day At The Beach
For David Collins, designing a luxe oceanfront club and restaurant in Long Branch, New Jersey, was an absolute breeze.
Craig Kellogg -- Interior Design, 10/1/2006 12:00:00 AM
The site of Pier Village in Long Branch, New Jersey, was once a run-down strip of oceanfront ticky-tacky, a Bruce Springsteen ballad come to life. Or take the Irish view, courtesy of David Collins: "In pictures, it looked a little like Deadwood-by-the-Sea." Then the Applied Development Company bought the 10-acre property and cleared it. Today, thanks to a new-urbanist plan and neo-Victorian architecture, this three-block "village" on the Jersey Shore draws comparisons with Seaside, Florida.
Pier Village is mixed-use, so apartments pile on top of an arcade where shops selling pet portraits and gelato are tricked out in white stucco inset with cobalt-blue tiles. Across the street from the apartments, right on the oceanfront, stands the building where the developers commissioned David Collins Studio to design an upscale restaurant and beach club. Clad in rough-sawn cedar, the 16,000-square-foot structure wraps rather acrobatically under an Italian restaurant painted orange—a color that David Collins would seem genetically allergic to, if the restrained palettes of his London restaurants and bars are any indication. Indeed, he says, his two Long Branch interiors have a "feeling of the sea, with colors that are slightly washed out."
Visitors cross a narrow boardwalk to enter the low vestibule that the restaurant, Avenue, shares with Le Club. Avenue's entry is right across from the concierge desk, so the big, glamorous, urban-style café's bare oak tabletops are instantly visible. White marble mosaic tiles glitter underfoot. "I'm often disappointed by Hamptons houses with dark wood floors that negate the effect of the sun," Collins says. "Here, the idea was sand and water reflecting the light." Windows 16 feet tall overlook the ocean on one side and Ocean Avenue on the other. Window frames and other trim are silvery limed oak, like newly minted driftwood.
The room is fairly symmetrical, though you enter from the corner closest to the street. Two large bars—the wet bar and the raw bar—are off to the right, in the direction of the ocean. Both bars are backed by dozens of liquor bottles glowing on towering up-lit shelves. Backlighting enlivens pearly resin diffusers, set in the backs of the banquettes, as well as the oak horizontal louvers over the glass doors and windows.Between windows, lanterns are suspended on short angled "fishing poles" for, Collins says, a "seaside resonance." But the big lighting statement is a pair of industrial-looking bronze chandeliers fitted with Edison bulb replicas.
Walls ripple with waves of Venetian plaster, inspired by wet sand and halfburied shells on the Long Branch beach. A full-height plaster surround contrasts with the fireplace's massive rectangular bronze frame. Facing it, rawhide-laced lounge seating forms a conversational group. "Some people like to stay by the fire. Others will have their banquette by the bar," Collins says, perhaps sounding more restaurateur than designer. Besides booths and traditional tables, he provided bar-height refectory tables with leggy stools. "I'm bored with rooms just full of tables and chairs," he says.
Boredom isn't an option at Le Club, a members-only daytime destination that Collins outfitted for the fun-in-the-sun crowd. "I'm not a complete beach freak, but I do love beaches," he admits. Below the restaurant's terrace, the club's row of cabanas—complete with chaise longues, flat screens, and rain showers—spills right onto a fenced-off section of sand.
During the day, Le Club members can order food and drinks either in the cabanas or up in the top floor's party room, which opens to a rooftop pool. (Sybaritic men's and women's locker rooms are on the floor below.) As the sun sets, the daytime mood goes a little Goth, and the room becomes a nightclub open to the public. Hidden LEDs behind the bar start shifting from red through shades of turquoise, purple, and yellow, while the pool's underwater LEDs cycle through colors independently. A few lucky guests get to sprawl on sofas flanking the outdoor fireplace, as ocean mists swirl in the floodlights. Suddenly—with the dancing flames and the tropical cocktails—Springsteen's glory days seem a universe away.