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Name: Cherisse “Risse” Cruz Blizard, husband Dean, son Beau (son), and dog Ozzy
Location: Belmar Beach, New Jersey
Size: 1200 square feet
Type of Home: House
Years Lived In: 2 years, renting
I’m an interior designer as well as a real estate agent located at the Jersey Shore. To know a little more about our home, you’d have to know a little more about our story and how we got here! My husband and I met at random on a rooftop bar in Miami while we were both on vacation in 2012. He is from Australia, and I am from New Jersey. We hit it off right away, went our separate ways, but kept in touch. To make our long story short, I eventually moved to Sydney to be with him, and stayed there for five years. I loved the laid-back lifestyle of Australia, but was extremely homesick once I got pregnant with our son, Beau.
We relocated to New Jersey into my parents’ basement in 2019. I knew I didn’t want to go back to a “normal” job since I had a newborn at the time, so I started my interior design business as well as got my real estate license. We grew tired of living out of my parents’ basement and craved that laid-back beach lifestyle again, so we started searching for homes along the coast. This was the beginning of the pandemic, before real estate got wild, so homes on the market were struggling to sell. We saw this house was only one mile from the beach and walking distance to a lot of cafes and quaint downtown main streets (our dream!). We weren’t ready to purchase a home yet so we offered the sellers a rent-to-own deal — and they accepted!
We’ve made simple styling and DIY changes since we’ve been here, and even scored a free vintage sofa (the true star of our living room). We both are beach lovers, which is really reflected in the way we furnished our home. My family is from the Philippines, and Dean is from Australia, so we love island-inspired decor (some of which we got during our travels). The greatest compliment I got is when someone said our house reminded them of Hawaii — it’s where we got married since it was the midway point between our Sydney and New Jersey families!
My Style: A little bit coastal, a little eclectic, a little boho
Inspiration: I love Justina Blakeney! She’s a genius in the way she’s able to mix and match patterns, colors, and textures.
Favorite Element: My favorite room is definitely the living room with the vaulted wood-panel ceiling. The owner of the house actually wanted to classify this as a bedroom (they built a small closet in the corner), but we felt this was definitely a living room! We love the views that look out to our backyard and the sliding doors that go out to the deck. We have so many plans for the backyard this summer and can’t wait to get more use out of it!
Biggest Challenge: We are definitely on a super small budget. I started my own business just a couple of years ago so some months are great and some are not. This has definitely given me inspiration for clients who ask for budget-friendly ways to furnish their homes because I’ve done it myself! We thrifted a lot as well as waited for sales and shopped at more affordable home stores. There’s definitely no rule saying that you have to spend thousands of dollars to furnish your home in order for it to look beautiful!
Proudest DIY: I’m really proud of my husband and my dad for DIYing our wood-framed doorway and kitchen stairs! When we moved in, the house didn’t have stair railings. We didn’t have a huge budget to buy railings, so my husband and my dad installed a wood railing and framed the doorway with the wood as well. It changed up the space completely and gave it so much more character.
Biggest Indulgence: The biggest ticket item in our home is probably the gray modular sofa in the family room. It’s from Bob’s Discount Store, but no one ever believes me when I tell them that! It was worth it because our son and our dog make a big mess on it every single day. The covers are removable and washable so I wash and dry it all the time. Definitely kid/pet friendly!
Is there something unique about your home or the way you use it? Yep! I mentioned in a previous question that the living room is actually classified as a bedroom. We use it as a living room because it’s on the other side of the house closest to the backyard and we didn’t want to be too far away from our son’s room. We were given the leaf-printed modular sofa when my aunt and uncle moved to Florida. That sofa is almost 30 years old but looks brand new! It fits so well in this room and gives it a surf shack vibe that we love!
What are your favorite products you have bought for your home and why? I bought a Dyson vacuum and it’s worth every penny! It cleans up my son’s messes and my dog’s hair SO FAST.
Please describe any helpful, inspiring, brilliant, or just plain useful small space maximizing and/or organizing tips you have: Make use of vertical space if you want to maximize your room’s small footprint! I love open shelving or hanging ladders to store blankets or other soft furnishings.
Finally, what’s your absolute best home secret or decorating advice? If you’re someone who’s afraid of color — experiment with cushion covers and rugs! You can always have your neutral walls and furniture, but switch out cushion covers or your rug for some texture and color!
This submission’s responses and photos were edited for length/size and clarity.