Nick and Barbara Cuccarese loved their home near Barnegat Bay in Brick, New Jersey, sheltered from the ocean’s fury by the barrier islands stretching from Bay Head to Atlantic City. It was the second house they custom built in the town and they’d lived in it for 23 years.
They spent 25 years in their previous home in Brick. In 1971, the residence was featured in the Asbury Park Press’ version of Home of the Week. The article is framed and displayed in their current home.
In the early 1960s, the two New Jersey natives, met while students at Jersey City State College (now New Jersey City University). They married 52 years ago.
They were recruited for teaching jobs in the Toms River area and settled down in Brick. Barbara was a fifth and sixth grade teacher. Nick was a reading specialist and a college football referee in the Ivy League and in New York City. Since retiring, Barbara has become a referral real estate agent. Nick referees at West Point games. His favorite game was a Division III National Semi-Final Nov. 30, 1991 between Ithaca Collge Bombers and Union College. The Bombers won 35-23.
As Halloween loomed in October 2012, Nick was ready with his latest character for the neighborhood kids: a crazed Disturbo the Clown. Disturbo’s motto was “He is the clown ‘You Don’t Hire Twice’.” A strange papier mache mask was waiting to be donned to scare or entertain the kids coming to trick or treat. .
They heard a tropical storm might be heading their way, but, like many of their neighbors, they decided to stay put. By 12:30 a.m. October 30, 2012, the rain and wind stopped, so, thinking the worst was over, they went to bed.
At 1:30 a.m., they awakened to the sound of loud banging.
Boats and docks torn loose by the Hurricane Sandy were banging against their home. Downstairs, the house was already filled with two feet of water.
“All over our street, car doors were unlocking, horns were blaring, lights flashing,” said Barbara. “Everyone lost their cars. When the waters finally receded, there was debris piled 10 feet high.”
“At 12:30, everything was quiet,” said Nick. “At 1:30, it was Armageddon. A gas pipe exploded five miles away. The sky was orange and filled with flames.”
When a fireman drove his pontoon boat up their driveway after the sun rose, Barbara evacuated. The couple’s son drove up from Annapolis, when roads became passable, to bring a generator to his parents’ ruined home. Regular electricity was not restored for three weeks.
Goddess of the Storm
A few days later, as Nick was out collecting two years worth of firewood from the debris, he found a packing crate that had drifted into their backyard.
He opened it.
Inside the box was an undamaged statue of a young woman pouring water from a pitcher. The Cuccarese couple dubbed her the Goddess of the Storm.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the couple appreciated the teenage boys and girls from local high schools who turned out to help clear the storm’s debris.
A few months after the storm, their son John Cuccarese, who is a military housing builder currently at Fort George G. Meade, met his parents at the Gordon Biersch Restaurant in Annapolis Towne Centre and, over lunch, insisted they move south to the Annapolis area.
In addition to relocating to be closer to their son, a very important reason for moving south was Annapolis’ proximity to Washington, D.C. They are avid observers of the federal branches of government at work.
“Nick and I try to go in once a week to sit in on the Senate and House discussions, attend oral arguments at the Supreme Court, and visit museums,” Barbara said.
The two are tuned into politics at the local and national levels. While celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary, they were surprised to receive a congratulatory note on White House stationery from President Barack Obama and Michelle Obama. The envelope and note are framed and hung in a prominent spot in their home.
Once they packed, sold the house and moved, they spent two years in the Riva Trace neighborhood while they looked around and acclimated themselves.
Wonderful neighborhood, great people
They didn’t have to look very far. Figuratively speaking, Heritage Harbour is “just down the hill” from Riva Road.
The Cuccareses found a townhome on a quiet block within walking distance of all the community’s amenities: golf course, billiards, tennis, swimming pool, community center and more. Nick, who enjoys doing woodwork, is thrilled the community center has a two-room woodshop replete with all sorts of tools and machinery. It’s his Nirvana.
That and the other facilities were solid selling points for the Cuccareses.
Barbara is active with three tennis groups, is a member of the New Annapolitans and volunteers at the Gift Shop at Anne Arundel Medical Center.
Before moving in, their renovations took about two months to complete. The wall-to-wall carpeting in the living room, kitchen and family room, was removed and replaced with dark stained hardwood flooring. The formerly snow white walls were painted a mid-café au lait color, which made the home’s dentil moulding, wainscotting and other white wood trim much more visible. The bathrooms were updated.
The two-story brick front, nearly 2,000 square foot residence has two bedrooms and 2 1/2 bathrooms. The front room features a two-story ceiling. On the second floor, a balcony railing instead of a wall in the library the couple or visitors to peer down into the room below.
“We don’t feel confined. We’ve always had open homes,” said Barbara of the two-story entryway.
“This is a wonderful neighborhood and great people,” Nick said. “What a great town this is, with the nicest people.”
“The extensive renovation gives us the opportunity to show off our collections of arts, beach glass and rocks,” Barbara said. “We like the high ceiling, the large windows and the large bedrooms. It’s very comfortable.”
Their home is warm and welcoming and the art, rather than being off-limits, is welcome to touch, admire and inquire.
Upon entering the living room, one of the first things a visitor views is a large woven and embroidered tapestry from India. In the window sparkle several amber cut or molded glass pieces. The red leaves of a tree outside are framed in the tall arched window that stretches nearly to the ceiling.
In this room, and throughout the house, are unique wooden chairs, end tables, side tables and display pedestals. They were all crafted by Nick. Some of the chairs, like the side chairs in the dining room, are inspired by the architecture and interior designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. Those dining room chairs are placed at a table set with hand-painted Acapulco dishes lit by the glow from a Murano glass chandelier.
Other chairs have a very Art Deco vibe, while one in the upstairs library â utilitarian, simple and dynamic â is seemingly a 3-D version of a painting by Mondrian. It was inspired by works of Gerritt Rietveld, a Dutch architect, designer and painter â who also created arty furniture. In another room, chairs that are Chippendale copies have been placed. A wooden wine crate was repurposed as a pedestal for an artwork. And, yet another sideboard, inspired by African woodwork, features a tabletop finished with laminated pages of designs cut from an art book.
All of them â and more â are Nick’s handiwork.
A few pieces are not. They were crafted by Nick’s father, including a cabinet in the living room that once housed the senior Cuccarese’s stereo.
Displayed on the walls in the downstairs hallway is a collection of African masks, sculptures and art. One mask sports a gala, sparkly fringe of gilded peacock feathers.
Their son aided in the renovation. He refurbished and refinished all the cabinetry in the kitchen and stripped off the old countertops. The new counters are smooth, shining, mottled black granite slabs.
Two bookcases nestled near the kitchen bear some of the results of the couple’s frequent walks along the beaches of New Jersey, Maryland and the world. In tall vases, sorted by color, are the sand-and-ocean-tumbled beach glass they’ve discovered along the shorelines. According to Nick, the distinctive blue glass of Milk of Magnesia bottles are rare finds.
And, dotted throughout the house are vintage, hand-woven Gullah baskets from the islands off the coast of South Carolina.
Nearly five years since the fury of Hurricane Sandy, the couple is still watched over by the Goddess of the Storm.
She was lovingly moved to each of their homes after the storm. Now, Goddess occupies a shaded spot in their rear yard.
What’s it take to be a featured Home of theWeek?
Have you ever wondered if your residence could be a Home of the Week? We are always seeking homes to profile, whether it is a house, town home, condo, apartment, cottage or cabin cruiser. Contact Wendi Winters today for details at email@example.com.