A Condo Tailored for the Two of You

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I’ve helped quite a few clients downsize as they look to simplify their lives after their children leave the nest. I know this transition well because I’ve been through it myself. My husband and I found our bliss in an apartment in Montclair. For my clients a spacious, multi-story condo in Morristown fit the bill, with none of the tribulations of snow removal or the constant upkeep an older house demands.

Once you’ve decided to fly the coop the question becomes what furnishings do you take and what do you toss? What pieces will work in the new space, and what will you need to add? My clients have a large collection of Roseville pottery, which had been sprinkled liberally throughout their old home. I convinced them it would be far more impactful as well as practical to concentrate the collection in a custom display cabinet. My favorite master cabinet maker, Jack Chong (you can see his work in our apartment here), built a lovely piece that not only houses much of their collection, but gives the room a wonderfully tailored feel. I finished the windows on the adjacent wall with sheers fixed above the windows, on a level with the custom cabinets, adding to the bespoke feel of the design, as well as taking advantage of the two story ceiling height. I reused the sofas from their library and the cocktail table from their living room, adding a comfortable swivel chair and large wool area rug.

Compare the two top photos with the third showing the space before, and you can see the dramatic change. My clients have no regrets about their move, and have settled in to enjoy the airy elegance of their new surroundings.


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Classically Elegant

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As in the other rooms of this Montclair cottage, my goal in the living room is to mix traditional and transitional elements to create a classically elegant look.

The sofa and loveseat are the same transitional design, covered in antique velvet with subdued contrasting piping on the cushions. The TV is hidden behind the mirror atop the fireplace, significantly adding to the character of the room without sacrificing practicality. A Jim Thompson fabric with a Greek key design (can’t get more classic than the Greeks) adorns the two swiveling club chairs. The rug is a textured wool sisal over the dark wood floor, adding a high contrast, traditional border to the floor design. A pair of nesting end tables in antique brass with a leather wrapped top add an airy sophistication, as do the pair of stone-based lamps. The white ceiling color is balanced by a very pale neutral tone on the walls, making the room appear larger. The inset bookcase is typical of the charming details of the space, and my clients’ icon paintings on carved wood and antique chest are perfect complements.

To come are accessories for the cocktail table and a very important painting for the wall above the sofa.

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Gallery Space

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A major architectural feature of the Miami apartment is a long hallway with a series of mahogany straight arches connecting the living/dining areas to the bedrooms. In the before picture you can see how claustrophobic and almost institutional the hallway was. I knew we had to open up the space as well as giving it a purpose. The purpose is a gallery, housing groups of themed images from my cousin’s collection. To combat the cramped feel I replaced the intrusive sconces with slim, flush fitting bronze pieces, and the suspended circular spot lights with simple glass ceiling fixtures. For subtle visual interest, I painted each succeeding section of the hallway a slightly darker tone of the same hue.

While the hallway is still primarily the way to get from point A to point B, at least the journey is a more pleasant one.

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Papering

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In the beginning phase of a new job and the paint and wallpapering is largely done. Without much in the way of furnishings you can see the impact well-chosen wallpaper can have.

In the foyer the light tones of this charming paper featuring bark and golden pears  has the feel of an enchanted forrest.

In the bedroom the large wall behind the bed needed a shot of color and pattern. The wheat tone works with many colors, and the charcoal pattern, like the swirls of an arabesque, definitely catches the attention.

 

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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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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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Ranch Restoration

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A few months ago I posted about a ranch restoration in the final stages.

This 60s ranch was the subject of a complete restoration, opening up the plan so the living room, dining room and kitchen share an airy, unfettered space.  The style is modern, framed by large picture windows that flood the space with light. I’ve worked with these clients on multiple homes, and the reused furnishings work quite well in this environment. The new wood floor has an ebony finish and the inset gas fireplace fits into the irregular stone wall below the flat screen TV. Sconces either side of the TV add ambient lighting and the cocktail table is wrapped in natural grasscloth. The effect is clean and spacious, the white and grey palette accenting the plentiful light and streamlined comfort.

The project is now completed. The different views allow you to see the dramatic effect of the lost walls and cathedral ceilings. The kitchen, in white lacquer, features a wine cabinet and bar area, adjacent to a refinished tulip table with chairs recovered in orange leather. Contemporary open spaces can be cold, but the use of wood, accent fabrics and colors, and the plentiful art work provide an warm glow.

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Family R&R

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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.

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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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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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