Downtown Living in Montclair

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I almost bought an apartment in Montclair 12 years ago. The downtown area is unusual for it’s varied cultural activities, shops, and restaurants. It also features charming old apartment buildings, including my client’s, built in 1908, with a spectacular view of Manhattan. The high ceilings and large windows flood the space with light. I’ll cover the walls in cool grey tones and leave the windows free of coverings to showcase the luminosity. UV film over the glass will protect the furnishings from the sun. Multiple built-in cabinets will provide the storage most apartments lack. The design scheme will be contemporary, giving this 100+ year-old apartment a stylish, urban feel. Appropriate for a space located in the heart of the cultural mecca that is downtown Montclair.

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Quiet Please!

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Soft comfy chairs, rich wood paneling, an oriental rug, an ottoman to put your feet up, it all suggests an environment conducive to reading. Or soft conversation over a snifter of brandy. Or perhaps a thoughtful game of chess. To achieve the relaxed, unhurried aura I refinished the existing wood panels to enhance the reddish brown hue and pattern of the oak wood. The rug and English paisley fabric covered windows reinforce the oak tones, while the velvet covered chairs and ottoman provide neutral counterpoint. The impressionistic painting above the antique console table offers a hint of contrasting color and visual interest. The trick is to let the innate ambiance of the room speak. This room speaks in hushed, contemplative, unhurried tones.

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Small is Beautiful

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When I saw this pocket-sized space adjacent to my client’s master bedroom—a barren alcove with casement windows offering plentiful natural light—I knew I could create a jewel-like nook with custom cabinets and a curved window seat; a quiet, restful place perfect for reading or just lounging, housing charming mementos. The light now spills over the sea glass colored embroidered pillows and cushions, down to the shaped ottoman and round Oriental rug. The creams, blues, and greens of the furnishings work with the yellow and off-white wall colors, grounded by the rich tones of the polished wood floor and rocking chair. It is one of my favorite spots in this home; a small intimate alcove that produces outsized appeal.

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An Old Tudor Master Bath Becomes a Sybaritic Retreat

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My clients wanted to retain the feel of the original master bath in their restored Tudor, while adding the latest in comfort and convenience. Radiant heat was installed under the marble floor, and the state of the art shower (just visible on the right of the photo) offers multiple water sources. Classic touches include the large claw foot tub and étagère. The wall of elegant custom designed cabinetry in mahogany houses a marble topped counter and twin sinks with beaded oval mirrors. The casement windows are dressed in grey and cream striped roman shades, while a whimsical shag rug covers the floor. The convenience is modern, the look is traditional classic, and the result fits both my client’s lifestyle and their impressive Tudor restoration.

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Nerve Center

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This family room/kitchen/casual dining space is the nerve center for my client’s four adorable girls ages 4-15. Meals, homework, cooking, games, online time, TV, catching up with each other’s news and most everything else they do together in the home takes place in the nerve center. To make it as conducive to hanging out as possible, I positioned a communal sectional sofa around an ottoman with recessed trays and storage below. The girls can lounge with their feet up on the leather edges while using the flat tray surface for snacks, games, dolls, etc. Like the rest of this Tudor renovation I used a neutral palette to highlight the lovely wooden beams and windows, with red as an accent color in the roman shades. When I visit after school the space is a beehive of activity, a mix of studious concentration, animated discussion and high spirits. I like to think the design helps keep things humming.

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Restoring a Classic

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I’ve been involved with my client’s Tudor restoration from an early stage, working with contractors and craftsmen to create a new home in classically traditional style. You can see the living room in this series of photos from the rough beginning to finished surfaces to finished room. I used a neutral palette with red accents to lighten what can be Tudor gloom, as well as to highlight the multiple wood surfaces. The curving staircases provide entry points from the foyer, so you see the entire room from above. Two oversize lounge chairs and the sofa are covered in antique velvet, flanked by chairs in striped red fabric. Blue and white ginger jars border the fireplace, and an antique silver chandelier hovers above the Oriental rug and European carved wood cocktail table. There are a host of detail touches—the small burl box on stand table between the chairs on one side, complemented by the candlestick table on the other—that fit the Tudor theme and add visual elegance.

This project is a favorite because I love taking an older home and restoring it to better than new condition, dressed in timeless, traditional style.

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Not Your Mother’s Kitchen Sink

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I came upon The Galley at the Architectural Digest Design show, and it intrigued me on several levels. As I plan my client’s Manhattan apartment, the idea of creating a space-efficient and good-looking kitchen with this innovative sink design makes a lot of sense. Using an array of sliding cutting boards and purpose built tools (cutting boards, colanders, drain rack, etc) the sink becomes a compact workstation, where you do it all, from prep to clean up. In the confined space of a New York apartment, it’s a cook’s delight. Even in my more spacious kitchen at home it would be a wonderful addition, streamlining the cooking and cleaning process so that I could focus on creating the perfect menu!

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Into the Light

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New paint and refinished wood floors begin the process of rescuing my newest project, an English style manor home, from the dark, dour feel that prevailed. The trestle beams, wood framed windows and stone-faced fireplace of the family room are now the vibrant elements they should be. Furnishings will feature a palette of muted grays, and pale blues and greens.

A textured wool rug will be cut around the fireplace, and the durable fabric was chosen to survive the worst efforts of young children and pets. There will be two swivel chairs in front of the fireplace, fronted by an octagonal ottoman. Two large sofas and a bench fill out the seating, with an ottoman between them, serving as either cocktail table or footrest. A large flat screen will hang on one wall, above a custom made console with plenty of storage. Decorative bookshelves will grace the opposite wall, between two sconces.

The room will be light, airy and upbeat, emphasizing the bold architectural detail and warmth of this comfortable, inviting home.

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Spend the Night in Van Gogh’s Bedroom on Airbnb

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As part of a new exhibit at the Art Institute of Chicago, Van Gogh lovers can get closer to their idol than ever before. For ten dollars, including the price of admission, you can spend the night in a remarkably accurate recreation of the painter’s bedroom in Arles, France, where he briefly lived in 1888. His stay ended badly when, after an argument with Gauguin, Van Gogh famously cut his ear off.

The exhibit, Van Gogh’s Bedrooms, features the three versions he painted of the Arles room. Van Gogh led a peripatetic existence, never finding a true home, and the exhibit focuses on his yearning for a place of his own.

The room on Airbnb is listed by Van Gogh himself. He explains, “I’m charging $10 for no other reason than that I need to buy paint.”

The three-dimensional copy of the masterpiece is so compelling, the colors, furniture and furnishings match so closely, that you seem to physically enter the world of the picture.

I’ve had clients who want their spaces to house impressionist art, but this exhibit takes art placement to a whole new level.

Van Gogh’s Bedrooms is at the Art Institute of Chicago through May 10.

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The Woman Who Painted Marie Antoinette

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Saw a rare exhibit featuring the work of the French portrait painter Louise Élisabeth Vigée Le Brun (1755-1842), at the Met. Le Brun managed to succeed at a man’s game, securing the patronage of Marie Antoinette at the age of 22. She specialized in painting the leading woman of Louis XVI’s court, then fled France just as the revolution began. Her reputation allowed her to ply her trade in the leading courts of Europe, before returning to France when it was safe. She continued to paint portraits throughout her long life, dying in Paris at the age of 86.

The exhibit proves she was a brilliant portraitist, and while she did paint men, it was her work with the aristocratic woman of the time that dazzles. She offers an unusually intimate, revealing look at women who can seem so remote to us today, in their mountainous hats and impossibly rich, ornate gowns.

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