The Kitchen on Union Street

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Back in the day—1901 to be exact—our apartment in Montclair was designed to house a live-in servant in a small room adjacent to the kitchen. Both kitchen and servant’s quarters were located away from the plentiful light bathing every other room. This had to be changed. So I moved the kitchen into the light, displacing the dining room, the ex-kitchen becoming a guest bedroom with adjacent laundry and bath. Putting the kitchen front and center made it imperative that it look and feel like a seamless part of the living area. I used a sleek wood finish for the cabinets which rise to the ten foot ceiling, an induction cooktop which is almost invisible, and a country wood table, facing the picture window, that easily expands to seat 8. Choice of carpets, colors, textures and furnishings enhance the integrated flow. I’ve cooked for guests several times already, and the easy accessibility of the kitchen makes for convivial entertaining.

My husband and I feel we’ve been liberated by the convenience of our new apartment. And if I don’t feel like cooking, we can always choose from the abundance of restaurant choices within a few blocks that will, if we’re lazy, deliver right to our door. Montclair may be suburban, but there’s a strong accent on the urban.

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The Library on Union Street

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After months of renovation our apartment in Montclair is close to completion. The last major element—extensive built-in bookcases—is finished. Our books are finally liberated from their boxes, and the library, my husband’s favorite room, is ready to be enjoyed. He has alphabetized the books, and plays games with visitors showing how quickly he can locate a title. Of course I like books as well, but I also appreciate (as does he) the quality Jack Chong’s cabinetmaking, brought into the apartment in 20 pieces and reassembled. Light floods the space, which is why I’ve installed silhouette shades for my husband’s other serious pastime, TV. The chairs are super comfortable, and we create an ottoman with cushions stored under the cocktail table. The room has a magnetic appeal: we are inexorably drawn to the literary memories behind the rows of multicolored book spines, not to mention the latest episode of Better Call Saul.

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Made to Measure

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Sometimes the metaphor of a design fitting a room like a well-tailored suit is especially apt. This recently finished family room for my client in the Florida Keys is a good example. The L-shaped sectional hugs two of the three walls, providing comfortable, expansive seating to exactly the room’s dimensions. The oversize cocktail table/ottoman precisely fills the same facing area of both wings of the sectional. An area rug defines the boundaries of the non-existent fourth wall, which is an open hallway. Three side tables of different styles yet similar footprints face the three sides of the room, balanced by three low ottomans under the TV. The lighter shaded furnishings bring out the richness of the carved wood beamed ceiling and wall housing the TV. It just all fits together, pleasing to the eye and to the touch. As in the best made to measure clothing, this room shows off the benefits of bespoke design.

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My Favorite Cabinet Maker

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I’ve worked with expert cabinetmaker Jack Chong for many years. The list of my clients who have been wowed by his creations is long. Here he’s installing built-in bookcases at my new apartment in Montclair. My husband and I are bibliophiles, so it was important to have ample storage for our books. Jack has produced elegant built-ins that ring the room. All available wall space is utilized. Because our apartment is accessible by a  relatively small elevator, Jack designed these massive structures to fit together like an intricate puzzle. He’ll be returning next week for the finishing touch: crown molding that marries the top of the built-ins to the ceiling. Jack keeps threatening to retire. Of course I understand and wish him well, but I have several clients who will be very disappointed if he finally decamps to Florida. We’ll just have to make him an offer he can’t refuse!

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When Business is a Pleasure

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Some jobs are more fun than others. This condo in Aventura, just north of Miami, definitely goes into the fun category. First, I will be working with a dear friend and my husband’s cousin. Second, it is a spacious apartment, on the 24th floor, with spectacular views of the Intracoastal and the Atlantic. Third, it will give me an excuse to visit these lovely people more frequently. I spent a few days there last week, and a preliminary floor plan for the main living/dining area has been sketched out. Pride of place goes to a concert grand piano—the husband is a musician—and a sophisticated integrated sound system will be essential. The building is only ten years old, so while the kitchen will be redone and the crema marfil floor will be refurbished, additional remodeling will be minimal. The style will be contemporary, a sort of relaxed chic, with a light monochromatic color scheme merging the ocean with the space. 

In any interior design project the homeowner and designer must forge a partnership; the better the partnership, the better the results. In this case, the partnership could not be better. I’m confident the results will be spectacular!

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The Countertop Has Landed

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It took four burly gentleman to do the job, but the Caesarstone kitchen countertop is in place in our renovated apartment. The significance goes beyond the countertop: Now the plumbing of the sink can be finished, which means the town inspector can be summoned to give his blessing, providing us with the certificate of occupancy. D-Day for our move is rapidly approaching.

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Breaking the Kitchen/Dining Room Barrier

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How many times do you use your formal dining room? For most of my clients, the answer is rarely. For many families the kitchen and the eating area in the kitchen are the hub of family activity. So why not create a room that reflects the way we live now?

Our goal was to create an open, light-filled space combining a state of the art kitchen with a generous size dining area. Working within the footprint of the home, we opened the wall between the existing kitchen and dining room, added French doors, moved and enlarged the windows and placed an island parallel to the dining area. We chose sleek, dressy cabinets in a rich, dark wood that wouldn’t be out of place in a living room, and white Caesarstone countertops that provide an eye-catching counterpoint to the dark wood. The dining room table is expandable and fits the palette of the kitchen cabinets. To anchor each area we chose LED chandeliers that are truly modern sculpture that happen to emit light. The cooktop is a Miele unit that has all the advantages of a commercial oven in a slimmer, more attractive package. Also by Miele is the built-in coffee maker with its own water supply—a big hit with the family. The ceramic floor looks like stone but is much easier to take care of.

Natural daylight pours into the bright, airy room, bringing the beautiful grounds inside. There is a unified look and feel, yet neither the kitchen nor dining area are compromised in either utility or elegance. On the contrary, they lift each other up, providing the kitchen with a stylish presence and the dining area with a useful accessibility. My client is pleased that she can now cook dinner at parties without hiding away in the kitchen. It is an altogether amazing transformation. I like it so much, I’m combining the kitchen and dining room into one space in our new apartment in Montclair.

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From Ruin to Rain Shower

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Our renovated master bath has come a long way. While not completely finished, the Calacutta brick tiles are in place, along with the mahogany vanity with two towers on either side of an oversized mirror. The rain shower head and heated towel warmer are both bath fixtures I’ve used many times for clients so it’s about time I enjoy them myself.

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The Urge to Accessorize

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Just prior to exiting our home in West Orange to make room for its new owners, we shipped the furnishings we’re keeping to our new apartment in Montclair. We spent last Sunday delving into the jumble of boxes and assorted odds and ends that have been stored in our bedroom while the restoration is in progress. After three hours of mostly cleaning and moving boxes from one room to another, we called it quits for the day. As my husband took a picture of some boxes in their new temporary home, I had to place a flower in the frame, my accessorizing instincts too strong to resist.

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Just a Small Cement Factory Renovation

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When I look an an empty, perhaps derelict space, I can often see in my mind how it might be renovated into a beautiful, useful environment. Take that process to the max, and you have the idea Spanish architect Ricardo Bofill conceived after visiting an old, disused cement factory near Barcelona in 1973. He has created a home and work space in the 53,000 sq. ft. abandoned building that takes the breath away. The enormous silos, smokestacks and underground tunnels have been transformed into, well, the word home or office doesn’t begin to do it justice. The scale and boldness and sheer audacity of the project beggars description. In fact, the only way to begin to appreciate it is to view the photos and video. Next time I’m in Barcelona I will make certain to see it in person.

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