The year was 1884, and hotelier Charles Leland was in dire need of a respite from the hustle and bustle of the hospitality world. So much so, that instead of taking a standard vacation he decided to build himself a retreat on Long Branch, NJ’s Shrewsbury River. Modeled after the Cuban haciendas he so admired, his new home boasted a central courtyard and 11 fireplaces. Deemed “Content.” (yes, that’s a period), the decadent property shut him away from the world, allotting him the rest and relaxation he so longed for, and for years Charles enjoyed the space and its privacy. It was just what he needed.
Unfortunately, by 2014 the house was in foreclosure and in terrible disrepair. Pipes, running water and heating were nowhere to be found. Charles Leland’s dream home had definitely seen better days. The bones were still there though, and a special couple on the hunt for a beachfront house became enchanted by its old-world charm. That special duo was Courtney and John Achilli. It only took one glance for them to realize the value of revitalizing such a historic retreat.
At the start of the project both were working full-time, so renovating Content. took place on the weekends and late at night. After passionately chipping away the property for a bit, they both realized something quite extraordinary about Leland’s retreat. Its potential as a party venue and rental property offered them the unique opportunity to quit their jobs and focus on preserving the space full-time. And for the past two years they’ve done just that.
Through Courtney’s keen eye for design and John’s carpentry skills they’ve renewed the space while also playing into its heritage and roots, something the previous owners failed to achieve. Over the years, ex-owners had attempted to modernize the estate, bringing in jacuzzi tubs and switching up door frames and kitchen accessories. They were all poorly-planned and did nothing to amplify the house’s fabulous, vintage vibe. The clever changes Courtney and John have since executed make the home feel modern but not so contemporary that they seem out of place. Courtney says Goodwill and other secondhand shops are to thank for this new look.
Nowadays, with renovated bedrooms, bathrooms and a stellar kitchen fit for entertaining, Charles Leland’s home has been given a second life. Party planners line up to celebrate inside its walls and overnight guests luxuriate in crisp linens and bathe amongst vintage-inspired tilework. Overall, the pair has done a stellar job with the property and all of their hard work has definitely paid off. Click through to take a peek at the renovation, and be sure to check out Courtney and John’s site Content + Company for even more details on the estate. Enjoy! —Garrett
Photography by Courtney Achilli & Veronica Lola
Image above: The great room boasts two seating areas. While a luxury, this also proved to be a design challenge, and the Achilli’s had to play around with its layout for months. At the end of the day, this vintage-inspired mix of secondhand accessories situated around the fireplace is what did the trick.