Haven: Summer homes in Australia, Jersey Shore

A fainting couch (right), a farm table (front) and curio cabinet in Diane Carter's office - the yellow room. The couple needed to do a lot of updating to the house, including pulling up yellow shag carpeting. They painted just about every room themselves.
A fainting couch (right), a farm table (front) and curio cabinet in Diane Carter's office - the yellow room. The couple needed to do a lot of updating to the house, including pulling up yellow shag carpeting. They painted just about every room themselves.
Posted: July 07, 2014

One day back in October 2012, Stokes Carrigan and Diane Carter were sitting in their part-time home - a cattle ranch in Mundubbera, Australia - watching television.

They were looking at images of a marauder named Sandy wreaking havoc on the Atlantic coast of the United States. Theirs was more than a passing interest: The focus of the report was on their other hometown, Beach Haven, N.J.

Carrigan and Carter had moved to Beach Haven in 2009, after years of summering there. They divide their time between Long Beach Island and Carter's native Australia.

"We were across the world, but there was our one town on the international news as we sat in the other - and what we saw was heartbreaking," Carter said.

As it turned out, the couple fared relatively well. Yes, their basement was flooded, some cherished family papers were destroyed, appliances were wrecked, and her beloved 1994 Ford Mustang was damaged beyond repair in the property's garage-apartment.

But they were luckier than so many, and they know it.

Carrigan and Carter met when they worked at what was then Smith, Kline & French in Philadelphia. They married in 1984, after both their first marriages ended. Their blended family consisted of his three daughters, her son, and then the family caboose, their own son, born in 1986.

Ten years later, in 1996, there was a brief stint in St. Louis, where a job opportunity had cropped up for Carter. A very profitable home sale there allowed them to apply the proceeds to purchase an expanded carriage house in Wayne and the Beach Haven property, a circa 1910 "cottage" in the town's historic district.

"But the Wayne house got too big for us when our youngest son finished college, and we sought a simpler life," Carrigan explained. So they moved to the Shore.

Their Beach Haven house sits on a corner just a short walk from the beach. Its inviting wraparound porch was definitely one of its inducements, and so was its vintage. It was a sturdy, solid home with three floors, which meant plenty of room for family.

The fact that it needed considerable updating didn't stop them.

"We tore up the yellow shag carpeting and ultimately painted just about every room ourselves," said Carrigan, a corporate executive, "but there were also lots of things we couldn't do."

That included updating the plumbing and electrical systems, redoing an outdated kitchen, and installing air conditioning, not because they worried about staying cool, but rather to preserve antique treasures from both their families.

The house is full of elegant English tables, side chairs, and a full dining room set inherited from the Carrigan family that includes a handsome drop-leaf table and china closet.

"We love having the things around us that we enjoyed in our Wayne home, and we use most of them all the time," Carter said. They even transplanted a stained-glass window from Wayne to a third-floor bathroom.

Overall, the look and feel is of fine things that are well-loved but not a bit intimidating.

In the living room is a custom-made shadow box containing a signed 1918 letter from then-Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt. It thanks the Carrigan family for the loan of a pair of early 20th-century binoculars used in World War I.

The binoculars also are housed in the shadow box, as is the $1 check tendered by the government as payment for their use.

On the couple's annual seasonal visit to Australia, almost always during the winter months here, when it's summer there, Carrigan and Carter do not have the luxury of the four bedrooms, 31/2 baths, and his-and-hers offices that the Beach Haven house offers.

"We go into what is basically a little cabin on a lot of land - 25,000 acres," explained Carter, a veterinarian. "We look after the ranch that we call a 'station,' and we live a very simple life."

When they return stateside, it's almost always to the warmer weather in early spring.

Carter loves to putter in the gardens she has managed to create despite the inherent challenges of the seashore. There's even a memorial garden for their late dog, Puck. (His successor is a lively, and protective, rescue dog.)

Did Hurricane Sandy give them cause to rethink homeownership at the Shore?

"Without a doubt, we wouldn't change a thing," Carrigan said. "We've learned in our lives that 'que sera, sera.' "

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