At one end of my client’s generous sized kitchen, with pearwood cabinets and granite top, is a stylish dining area overlooking a well-tended garden. In the foreground is a bar that can serve gatherings in the adjacent family room. The dining area is anchored by a large clean-lined cabinet painted in antique gray. Stored in the side doors are phone chargers, laptops, and other electronic essentials, with the table as a convenient desk. Panels are a Jim Thompson fabric that gives a soft look to this light infused space that’s equally convenient for work or play.
Here I’m doing what I do virtually everyday—working with a contractor on architects drawings. With one big difference: these plans are for my dream apartment in Montclair. I’ve posted about our move here. It’s a novel experience, being the client and designer. I like it. We’ll be doing extensive renovation: two new baths, new kitchen, central AC. There will be built in bookcases by my master cabinet maker. Existing walls will be taken down, and by combining kitchen and dining room I’ll free space for a second guest bedroom and studio for my forays into painting. Challenges include rerouting heating pipes, which at the moment bisect my guest bedroom’s bed. My intrepid contractor has solved much weightier problems than this, so I’m not worried. Permits are being pulled as we speak, and I’ll share all the trials and tribulations along the way.
An inventive four poster bed generates the initial appeal in this transitional master bedroom. Made of tapering wood posts and curving metal tubes, the result is both unusual and attractive. The light tone of the upholstered headboard fits the palette of pale grey, green and white. Texture is introduced through the strie wallpaper, wool carpet and bench settee. The circular shelved stands on either side of the fireplace are elegantly thin, and with the four poster appear to be almost floating in space. Indeed the whole room has a weightless quality, as if entering it will lift all your cares away.
When I first saw my client’s renovated farmhouse I was intrigued by the unusual layout. A stone double fireplace juts into the living room like the prow of a ship. The hand-hewn beams on the ceiling and walls add further character, while the open plan offers interesting possibilities. In short, I couldn’t wait to get started.
The family loves the outdoors, and they wanted a useful, understated, attractive design using durable materials. Working in counterpoint to the colonial era framework, the design features a lively mix of the contemporary and traditional.
Upon entering you see an inset wood burning stove faced by four club chairs in textured wool with brown leather seats. My first nod to the outdoors is the animal skin-like fabric covering the chairs, and an animal skin rug that helps define the seating area. The trays atop the ottomans provide storage or, when flipped, allow for comfortable leg stretching. A more traditional skirted table and chair provide the link to the second of the three seating areas. This alcove, with the second inset fireplace, is dominated by the baby grand piano, with a large ottoman covered in another pattern of faux animal. There is one fabric used on all the windows, a linen with embroidered diamond pattern.
Across the room is the final seating area, with comfortable sofa, two oversized leather ottomans and quilted leather swivel chairs. The ottomans with their leather straps are evocative of a bygone age of travel, perhaps an African safari. The whole room has echoes of outdoor adventure, combined with an up to date elegance.
The large windows and polished wood floors of this cozy living area encouraged me to create a softly atmospheric haven, filled with pale gold, green, blue and cream tones. The Barbara Barry cocktail table, side tables and chairs add additional wood accents and sophisticated style. The light touch of the furnishings continues with the patterned wool rug and pillows, and the tufted fabric on the comfortable swivel chair. There is a sweet, subtle beauty to the space that’s irresistible.
We’ve made considerable progress on my client’s large, open plan kitchen. Walls have come down, a ceramic tile floor has been installed, and most cabinetry and countertops are in place. The ceramic flooring looks like stone but is easier to maintain, helpful given the habits of young children and pets. The island offers plenty of storage and will seat five; a dining table out of the photo will seat twelve. One cabinet in the rear of the top photo is the pantry, the other opens to a desk with plugs for multiple cel phones, iPads, etc. A wine cooler fits underneath. In the center next to the space for the fridge is a built-in Miele coffee maker with water supply piped in.
In the bottom photo four floating stone shelves will be set on a fully tiled wall with indirect LED lighting. The sleek Mieli gas range has a three in one oven: microwave, rapid cook and normal, plus a warmer drawer.
This state of the art kitchen will offer beauty and convenience in equal measure. I’ll post photos as soon as it’s done.
All of the wooden elements of this dining room—table, column, beams, side table—glow against the grey tones of the patterned rug and faux paneled wallpaper. The wood becomes richer and the shadow-like elements look sharper. The oversized sunburst mirror provides a focal point, with the bronze, French style chandelier and sconces adding delicate curves as well as a diffuse, soft light. The high contrast palette adds to the perceived height of the space. And provides an almost physical aura of calmness and tranquility that pervades the entire home.
My clients and their two young boys hang out in the family room when they need some R&R—watching TV or playing video games while sitting on the comfy sectional. The country table in the foreground is ideal for pizza parties or an old fashioned game of Monopoly. On either side of the breakfront are companion oil paintings of a particularly dignified Dalmatian. The four plants on the table add a splash of color. It’s a relaxed, carefree space for the kids and their doting parents to enjoy each other’s company.
Sometimes change can be liberating. My husband and I have decided to sell our home in West Orange and move to an apartment in downtown Montclair. No more snow removal. A short walk to everything from foreign films to restaurants, bookstores and interesting boutiques. The freedom to take off whenever we want just by locking the door. A chance to start with a clean sheet of paper to create my dream apartment, answering to nobody but my husband, who, it must be said, is very easy. The classic building has high ceilings, big windows and views of Manhattan. I fell in love with it while working on a project there, and my client, who happens to be a real estate agent, mentioned there was an identical apartment coming free a few floors down. The fact that it needs a lot of work makes it perfect. So I’ve become my client’s client. Hopefully we’ll embark on a complete renovation next month, and move next March. I really do feel liberated. Of course it’s early days, and there’s much work and uncertainly ahead, but that’s all part of the adventure. I’ll keep you posted on our progress.
My clients sold their impressive house in South Orange, and are dividing their time between a home in LA and an apartment in Montclair. The building in Montclair was constructed in 1901, with high ceilings, oversize windows and plentiful light. The views of Manhattan are dramatic, especially at night. I loved the opportunity to work in a space so full of character. Now that we’re almost finished it’s interesting to contrast the before and after views.
The design mirrors my clients’ sophistication, the elegant, contemporary feel accented by antique accessories from their collection. The large sectional has bench seat cushions for a sleeker look, opposite two swivel chairs covered in a Greek key velvet and linen fabric. The colors are pale grays against white moldings. Lighting includes a pair of ceiling fixtures in alabaster and antique torcheres. The dining table is a custom piece in glass with wood borders to reveal a decorative base. Dining chairs are covered in velvet and linen with a geometric pattern, a nice counterpoint to the fabric on the living area chairs. The custom cabinetry displays an antique dinnerware collection.
There are still significant pieces to come, but I think the overall design direction is clear. The Montclair building is a classic and I’d like to think my design will stand the test of time as well.