The White House in Oakhurst

Welcome all Presidents!

The Presidents of the United States came up in the hallway of our White House in Oakhurst today. Yes, they are all there - all 44. Oh no, actually there are only 43, even though President Obama is our 44th President. How can that be? Do you know?

(Hint: one president served two non-consecutive terms. If you don’t know who he is, you will simply have to come visit our tea house to see for yourself!)

Hail to the Chief!

Construction Permit for Minor Inside Work

Without blaming anyone here (it would take pages to explain) it took our Township almost three months to give us a simple permit to do minor construction work inside our White House, so we could combine two small rooms into one, which will be our formal Blue Room tea salon and to build our tea bar and light kitchen. When we finally got the permit, it didn’t take Per long before the walls were down and the rooms combined. That was easy! But because we are required to have handicap accessibility we need to raise the floor (actually build a new higher) which is okay, BUT then the ceiling was too low and had to be raised as well. When taking down the ceiling little challenges were discovered. The old beam was extremely wide and wouldn’t allow us to raise the ceiling much. So Per changed all the (very old and almost rotten) beams and put in a row of new, strong ones facing the other direction. This will give us the height needed. We had fun getting into the back of the original wood siding from the old house and to learn how the walls were plastered (long before sheet rocks were invented) and to find a part of the old roof that was hidden under the new. All building material has been recycled at Mazza’s on Shafto Road - sorted and delivered by my minivan. Great feeling to know that nothing has gone in the landfill but will be reused properly. There is still some way to go before we can finish our Blue Room, but we are getting there.   

A Sign for our White House

Several people have stopped us when we are working on the garden outside our “White House in Oakhurst” asking what the house will turn into, and of course we needed a sign. When googling ‘sign NJ’ we got a lot of companies that would do industrialized, vinyl signs that look cold and distanced from our concept of bringing our 100+ year-old house back to its historic beauty. Reaching out to a good friend and networker, artist Pat Ellson of we got the best solution: naturally an old-fashioned wooden sign, fully handmade of sustainable wood! Our daughter, Maj ( designed the shape of the sign and to measure the necessary size we had our other daughter Lin ( hold up a sample print. And wow, how little it looked from the road. It looked huge at home on the floor! We learned that a 5’ sign wouldn’t be good. Pat got the wood, paint  and started working. Final phase is getting the permission from the township to set it up, get the posts down and screw it up. Soon ….

A truly Green Tea House

Tea 4 U is a totally green company and when we move into the White House in Oakhurst we plan on being 100% sustainable.

We reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose all resources in the company, and in the White House we will have containers to help you recycle certain items that your local township doesn’t accept for recycling. Tealeaves and vegetables are composted with biodegradable paper products and almost anything else is recycled.

We buy from local and most direct and sustainable suppliers. We prefer organic and fair trade products if at all possible. We believe that food and drinks should be made as close to the original ingredient as possible with the least amount of processing. Healthy foods should be fresh, nourishing and tasteful.

We use 100% renewable energy and are advocates of green living lifestyles.  A solar plant is already on the drawing board for the White House.

All cleaning products are non-toxic and made with natural ingredients (Get Clean products from Shaklee – same as they use in the White House, D.C!) During the renovation of the White House all efforts were made to use green products. Our paints are all water based, the trays biodegradable, brushes reused, trims of sustainable woods, and all demolished materials were sorted and recycled or given away on Craigslist or to thrift stores. We are proud to say, that we have had very little trash for the landfills and continue this goal.    

The interior of the White House in Oakhurst is to a great extend treasures from local garage sales or thrift stores. Especially ReStore (a division of Habitat for Humanity) in Asbury Park has supplied many of the furniture items, and like former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn we are happy supporters of this great association helping people live a better life.    

One of the first things we did in our White House was to welcome the outside world! After closing on the house on December 9th, 2010, we cut open the windows that were covered with sheetrock. Seven of the eight windows facing the street were totally closed and looked ‘dead’ from outside. What a difference to get the sunshine in.

Well, sunshine it might be - but having been covered from the world for so many years, has created quite a challenge. The windows are so dirty and have a layer of film from the street polution (and from when the siding was spraypainted) that made it almost impossible to clean. Still working on the obstacle.

Any good ideas how to penetrate the layer on the windows without toxins and  without scratching the glass?


We really found the house by a coincidence. My husband, Per and I had been looking for a location for my tea store for some months and nothing had been right. We drove around our own township just to see what was available locally. And there it was - 45 Monmouth Road in Oakhurst - on a beautiful late April Saturday afternoon with the 7-Eleven store to the right and a park owned by the township to the right. It looked so promising, but was just for rent. Well, these days, houses that are for rent, are usually also for sale - for the right price. So we spent the evening and Sunday googling all we could find out about the house. It had been listed 8 months earlier. We found a realtor who showed me the house (wow, was it dirty and messy inside - and no utilities on at all), but she would only rent it out. However, the 150-year old house immediately whispered to me. “Get me, please! I need someone to bring me back to my former grace and pride.” 

As a member of the American Red Cross gala committee I had previously met a fellow committee member, realtor Ray Stafford Smith, and at the next meeting, I asked him if he was a residential or commercial realtor. Indeed he was a commercial realtor and when asking about the property in question, what are the chances that he happened to be THE ONE realtor appointed by the U.S. Federal Government to sell this property?  The house was part of the Dwek Bankrupcy, but after we bid on the house in May (and had to be secretive not to create too much interest about it) we had to wait for the court to declare the house ready for sale. With no other bidders (and a lot of patience) we won the house in November 2010.

Why the White House in Oakhurst?

Well, after having seen the house outside I could not keep it a secret and had to tell my networking friends. Julie from Mary Fairy Angels, who is from Oakhurst, asked where exactly the house was, and when describing it, she said, ”Oh, the white house!” Something clicked in my head: Yes, The White House! It would be a perfect theme for my tea business, and excellent to incorporate programs based on first lady Michele Obama’s “Let’s Move” initiatives to prevent childhood obesity, which I had plans on doing for children anyway. (All this happened before I actually saw the house inside! It proved to absolutely be meant to be.)

So this is how the White House in Oakhurst was born.