Working for My Favorite Clients

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When we renovated our apartment in Montclair, the bedroom required major surgery. In the bottom photo you can see an odd structure jutting into the room.  This misuse of space housed a narrow closet and one of the two entrances to the bedroom. In the second photo it’s gone, and work has begun on the creation of the discrete bedroom suite. Construction is almost complete in the next photo, with built-in closets done, the original wood floor refinished and plywood added as part of an effective sound proofing system. Off the left hallway is our master bath and the door to the suite. In the top photo the room is finished. The bed rests against the upholstered wall, covered in a subtle William Morris pattern, which is repeated in the mini-office and the lumbar pillow atop the bed. The palette is light grey/green, clean and unfussy, accented by the textured wool carpet and painted wood bed. Counterpoint is provided by the espresso colored night tables and bulls-eye mirror.

The sleek, uncluttered design, in harmony with the revised layout, create a master bedroom suite that fits my husband and I like it was made for us, which, in fact, it was.

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No Staircase for the Inebriated

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This hallucinatory staircase connects the basement bar to the dining area of a new restaurant in London. Hundreds of layers of wood veneer are laminated to create the curving, sinuous forms, so that the end product looks like solid wood. I’ve dealt with many new and renovated staircases on projects over the years, but I’ve never seen one as complex and ambitious as this. After a few martinis, I wonder how many guests never make it to the dining room?

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Bespoke Home Office

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At the top of my client’s home was an unused room with two intrusive dormers. Could a fully equipped home office live in this somewhat confined space? To make it happen the first priority was to create storage where there was none. Custom cabinets were built within the two large dormers, housing lateral files, making access easier. Between the dormers a custom cabinet adds to the storage.  A long black lacquer table under the window provides a platform for the TV. In addition to the ball and claw mahogany desk, there is a seating area with a round mahogany table and three chairs, two covered in Nobuck leather and one swivel rocker with a Nobilis striped fabric. Not visible in the photographs are a bookcase and closet.

Of course the look of the space is equally important as the functionality. The sienna color textured wallpaper and similarly toned carpet contrasts elegantly with the black cabinets and mahogany desk and table. The faux leopard covering on the desk chair provides a funky counterpoint to the more buttoned-down tailoring of the room. Tailoring is the right word, as this home office not only features everything the client needs functionally, but also has a look perfectly in tune with her style.

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Exploratory Surgery

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I’m working with long time clients in Short Hills on a two story addition to their 1920s home. We will be creating a new kitchen below with two bathrooms above connecting to existing bedrooms. It is an interesting challenge, working to link new construction to a house of this age. I have done a preliminary plan, but only now that we’ve opened the adjacent structure to the studs can the final design work begin. With plumbing, electric and structural beams exposed, we can finalize the placement of fixtures and furnishings. Anything goes plans are now grounded by practical realities. The good news is that nothing vital will be compromised. A state of the art kitchen and two similarly up to date baths will be integrated into a home with great character and charm. My clients will have the best of old and new.

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Pavlova

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I’ve always wanted to make this delicate dessert, and I took the plunge last weekend. Both Australians and New Zealanders claim to have invented the dish to celebrate the visit of a famed Russian ballerina in the 1920s. The key element is meringue, which can be finicky to make. If the egg whites are not whipped and then baked correctly the merengue will collapse. I had some ice cream on hand in case the worst happened. It did not. I kept a close vigil while the meringue cooked for over four hours. Then I carefully stuffed the mascarpone into an opening I’d created in the underside of the fragile confection. The individual portions all survived this operation with flying colors. I made a fruit syrup and covered the meringue with blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. The result is a light, crispy dessert that literally melts in your mouth. The revues at my dinner party were unanimous. Not a trace of the Pavlovas remained. And I’ve added a new dish to my repertoire.

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My Builder Client

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Of course I often work with contractors, for everything from a kitchen remodel to building a home from scratch. I’m now working with a contractor in a new role—as client. I designed an interior in Livingston and the contractor working on the home was impressed, and asked if I would partner with them on a series of new homes they’re building by the shore. So I’m in the midst of speccing  all the lighting, bath and kitchen fixtures, flooring and color choices. It’s been a fascinating, positive experience, as my builder-clients have proven excellent to work with.

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A Year in Montclair

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We’ve been settling into our Montclair apartment, and I’ve been experimenting with different accessories and final furnishings placement. These two photos encompass the kitchen/dining area, living room and library, a thirty foot open space with nine foot ceilings, which, combined with the oversize windows, give the apartment it’s plentiful light and character. We use the chandeliers sparingly, because of the natural light and Manhattan views. In the morning the sun rises behind the skyscrapers, silhouetting them as dark cutouts against the brilliant sky. We even derive some consolation from the winter, as the leafless trees improve our view.

The kitchen table opens to seat eight when necessary, and I love being in the center of things when cooking, not hidden away. The wood cabinets are quite dressy and non-traditional, fitting neatly into the scheme for the living room and library. A wafer-thin induction cooktop adds to the understated feel.

The custom sectional and chairs in the living area create an oval shape, encouraging shared conversation, much like a round dining table. Our antique armoire was dismantled to get through the door and then reassembled, and now does yeoman service as liquor cabinet and bar. The library houses a cherished book collection in custom cabinets, as well as the flat screen.

My husband and I have found our bliss in this old, stately building in Montclair, though of course I will continue tinkering. Occupational hazard.

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Kitchen and Bath Binge

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Lately it seems my clients have been on a kitchen and bath binge. I’ve been going from one kitchen to another, when I’m not doing a bath. In this case we’re in the middle of a complete master bath renovation, with double sink, dressing area, large shower for two, and custom cabinets for linen on either side of display cabinets. The floor has an elegant criss-cross pattern, with a border of thassos and ming marble, which is repeated on the vanity tops and in the shower. Cool feature of the shower is copious natural light through a window of glass blocks.

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Hidden Spaces

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Sometimes a room will have a little nook, a recessed space created by an architectural feature, the inside of a dormer, say, or an unused storage area. I find these hidden spaces inspirational. I love dressing them, much like a collage artist fills in a box. The top photo is a nook in our guest bath in Montclair. The second is the inside of a dormer in our former West Orange home. The final image is adjacent to a client’s master bedroom and bath. Different sizes and shapes, but all showcasing the art of making something out of a little, nondescript space. It’s no wonder I love working on the tiny, jewel like interiors of dolls houses. Small is beautiful.

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In Search of the Perfect Dinner Ware

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I’ve been on a mission for over a year, looking for the perfect dinner ware for my client’s home in Florida. During my trip to London I popped into Harrods, in Paris I visited the Galerie Lafayette, and my quest became a favorite web search. Finally, during a trip to Bloomingdales on another mission, I hit pay dirt: The Amazonia Collection by Villeroy & Boch. Here you can see the fabric sample I took with me, and several plates and a cup from the collection. The lively, elegantly hand painted design is lightly tropical, and full of fun. For my client it was worth waiting for; they’re delighted living with this magnificent dinner ware. And I can finally put the search to bed. It’s a small element of a large project, but it’s nice when even the small elements fit into the grand scheme.

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