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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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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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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Enabling the Blissful Slouch

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On either end of my clients’ super comfortable sectional are chaises that are, for the couch potato in your life, heaven on earth. They look as relaxing as they are, enticing you to flop into their embrace. The sectional has just the right proportions for the space, and the rich green color really pops. The tan oversize ottoman provides contrast and legroom, and the smaller cube ottomans offer extra seating in a pinch.The fireplace was redone in stone, with a special inset housing for the TV. A textured wool rug and sheers on the window mimic the design feel of the adjacent living room (see recent post). But really, the focus of a TV room is the seating area, and in this case five potatoes can sprawl on the sectional in a kind of blissful slouch while communing with the tube. 

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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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Loire Valley Chambre

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I have described my clients’ Montclair home as a classic hunting lodge in the Loire Valley, and all this bedroom needs are several hounds lounging on the rug to make the illusion complete. The dramatically tufted bed dominates the design, and the challenge was to find tables that carry the same scale. The tables feature antique mirror facades and the rug is a soft grey and cream design, with an upholstered bench providing seating and storage under the window. The delicate vertical lights fit the style and the narrow wall space beside the bed. The almost bleached palette adds a more modern patina to the traditional feel. We need to add artwork, perhaps some fur on the bed. My client does have French blood, though his ancestor fought on the side of Napoleon, which would not have pleased the Loire Valley royals one bit.   

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Timeless Style

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I chose a striking Farrow and Ball bee pattern wallpaper to set off the black lacquer armoire and dining table in my clients Montclair home. I described my initial thoughts about this project several months ago, and we’re now doing the final accessorizing and placement of artwork. There is a strong old world cottage character to the layout, and my choices for the project both accentuate and counterbalance this impression. Here in the dining room the traditional pieces work with the silk lattice fabric, sheer window covering and custom damask rug to impart a timeless style, not beholden to any era. It’s a look I often strive for.

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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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Infinity Rug

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I’ve worked on several projects that feature infinity pools, and my first thought as I surveyed the Atlantic from the terrace of my cousin’s apartment in Miami was to choose an “infinity rug”—the aqua tones of a hand-knotted asian rug against a monochrome palette would bring the vast ocean right into the room, just as an infinity pool blurs the horizon.

Atop this foundation is a low leather sectional, with cushions that move up and down for comfort, complemented by a cantilevered, travertine and wood laquered table that seems to float (that ocean, again) above the floor. Pride of place goes to a concert grand piano—the husband is a musician—and an integrated sound system brings an unlimited selection of music to every room. The walnut swirled dining table expands to seat fourteen, and the bowed seats are walnut backed. A Calder-like chandelier hovers over the table. The kitchen was redone in deep wood to echo the display cabinets in the living room, with a sleek look and minimal hardware for a distinctly un-kitchen like feel. Nevertheless, a 42” inch fridge, 36” inch cooktop and double oven and microwave makes this relatively compact space fully functional.

I spent several days last weekend placing art and accessories, and making a list of final touches for my next trip. But the apartment is near enough finished to be eminently usable, an ocean front space that is at one with the sea.

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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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