Jeff and Kim Zagiel grew up in South Jersey but their roots are in Philadelphia. Maybe that explains the custom home the couple built 10 years ago a few steps from the Delaware Bay in Lower Township. With its immense two-story great room, aluminum staircases, plank floors, interior brick walls and eclectic furnishings, it feels more like an urban Tribeca loft than a beach house at the Jersey Shore.

"We always liked the loft, warehouse type feel like you see in the old bars and restaurants in the city, with exposed pipes and brick walls," says Jeff, whose family moved to Deptford when he was a child. "That's what we were looking for when we designed the house."

Kim and Jeff were staying at the summer cottage they owned in nearby Town Bank when they stumbled across the overgrown corner lot across from Shore Road in the township's Cape May Beach section. "We spotted it one day while we were out riding our bikes," Jeff recalls. "We snatched it up right before the housing market went crazy or we never would have been able to afford it."

For the next three years Jeff, who owns a Pepperidge Farms delivery route, spent his spare time clearing brush from the property, little by little. Then it was time to build.

"We bought a software program that lets you make your own designs," Jeff says. "We played around with it and made it the way we wanted it. Then we took it to the builder, who tweaked it a little."

This house has about 3,100 square feet of living space, not including the huge fiberglass rooftop deck which features a wonderful view of the vast Delaware Bay. Jeff, who is handy, did much of the finishing work himself including the staining, painting and brick work.

The lower level has two bedrooms, a full bathroom, a bonus room and a laundry room. A back door leads to a secluded patio shaded by mature shrubs and trees.

A wide aluminum staircase in the tiled foyer leads to the enormous second-floor great room that includes the living room, kitchen and dining room. The great room floor is made of wide plank distressed wood and an entire interior wall is red brick. There's also a wood stove and a two-story-high bank of 16 casement windows, all of which can be opened individually. Sliding glass doors open to a long fiberglass deck.

The kitchen has stainless steel appliances including a five-burner gas range, granite counters, a two-level island and custom cabinetry with many built-in features. It adjoins a spacious dining area, off which is an enclosed screened sun porch.

Another aluminum staircase ascends to a loft-style master bedroom with a mezzanine that wraps around the great room to Jeff's office. The master bedroom has its own wood stove as well as a walk-in closet and a private bath where there's a supersized, beautifully slate-tiled shower chamber. The master bedroom also has access to a small private deck from which a spiral staircase winds up to the rooftop deck.

Outside, a paver driveway leads through the rich landscaped yard to a heated two-car garage where Kim keeps her vintage 1971 VW Beetle convertible.

Other amenities include a built-in sound system, a three-story dumbwaiter, multiple sets of sliding pocket doors, custom light fixtures, an eight-zone sprinkler system. There's an enclosed outdoor shower and a public entrance to the beach directly across the street.

"It's nice and quiet here, even in the middle of the summer," Jeff says. "Sometimes we'll take a hibachi down to the beach, cook some burgers and watch the sunset. Nobody bothers you as long as you clean up after yourself."

While Jeff and Kim don't have children, they have entertained lots of family and friends over the years. But times have changed.

"Nobody comes down to visit anymore," Jeff says. "My one brother moved to upstate New York, my other brother bought a place in Rehoboth and my sister got a summer place on the Maryland Eastern Shore. My mom and dad are older now and don't want to leave the house. We had a dog, but we had to put him to sleep last summer. So it's just me and Kim in this big house."

When they sell the house Jeff and Kim plan to downsize to a smaller house in Cape May Beach or nearby North Cape May. "Ten years was fun but now we'll let somebody else enjoy it," Jeff says. "We have other interests. Taking care of a big house isn't one of them."

For more information on this property, which is listed for $619,000, call Heijung Park-Colameco of Jersey Cape Realty, 609-884-5800 or 609-602-8641 (cell).

Contact David Enscoe:

609-272-7087