The sea, the sea

The sea, the sea

When Marie DiManno got married in 1973, her new husband, Jerry DiManno, told her, “You have to love the beach.”

Fortunately she did. Because for the next three decades, Marie, who is now the director of the shop at the American Folk Art Museum in Manhattan, and Jerry, a lawyer, lived in a house in Breezy Point, on the western end of the Rockaway Peninsula in Queens, just 30 feet from the ocean. From March through November, Jerry DiManno swam twice a day, morning and night, and in the evenings Marie DiManno swam with him. She also began collecting nautically themed folk art. Over time, she amassed some 40 vintage sand pails, 75 pieces of pottery and dishware and 60 glass floats, among other things. “Jerry had such a love of the sea,” she said. “And I had such a love of folk art.”

In 2004, her husband died, and six years later she left the beach, buying a two-bedroom co-op on the Upper West Side for $925,000.“I wanted an urban prewar home,” Marie DiManno said. “I did not want a beach house.” Still, she hoped to bring her entire nautical collection with her, along with most of the furniture from the Breezy Point house.Dan Owens, her designer, who worked with Nancy Cromar, an architect, assured her, “You can take it with you, but it will look very different.”

At the beach, the nautical art was the focal point. Everywhere you turned, you were reminded of the ocean: wooden silhouettes of children in swimsuits were the centrepiece of the dining table; dozens of sand pails lined the walls. In the new apartment, the art is still present, but it is no longer front and centre. Instead, the designers opened up the tiny rooms, installing interior windows that create sightlines from one room to another, so the light and the expansive space are what you notice first.

They also reupholstered most of the furniture, adding a few new pieces in the colours DiManno loves: coral, aqua and chartreuse. In the living room, there is an eye-catching eight-foot-long wooden piece from the 1930s in the shape of a female swimmer (once the universal sign that a motel had a pool) hanging above the sofa. And the shelves on either side hold a selection of sand pails. But the strongest suggestion of the sea is the colour on the walls: an almost imperceptible blue called Sea Foam, by Benjamin Moore.

In the kitchen, the designers created a breakfast nook with coral-coloured banquettes. On the windowsill is a slender wooden tray of glass floats, in colours ranging from turquoise to amethyst. A Popeye-shaped hot-water bottle hangs on the wall nearby.
DiManno likes to sit there and drink her morning coffee, gazing through the hallway to the living room, where there is so much light that a philodendron she bought the year she was married is thriving nearly four decades later.“It had three leaves in Breezy Point,” she said. Now there are at least 16. 

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