Interior Designer Reawakens Tudor Revival

The green bench with a highly polished base contrasts with the wood, enlivening the space below the credenza.
The green bench with a highly polished base contrasts with the wood, enlivening the space below the credenza.

Before opening the door to a large Tudor Revival house, you may be under the impression that it will be freighted with Olde English heaviness and massive detailing.

Fortunately for the owners and visitors of a certain Tudor Revival in Summit, NJ, Creative Wallcoverings & Interiors (CW&I) designer Rachel Kapner got there first to make it far lighter and brighter while staying true to the home’s architectural origins. There is a freshening breath of artistic consciousness – Kapner’s, who pursued studies in art history years earlier, as well as the owners’ – that reawakened the first floor spaces and the second floor landing shown here.

Transom windows provide a sunny reading corner, complete with a pair of French chairs and a cowhide rug.
Transom windows provide a sunny reading corner, complete with a pair of French chairs and a cowhide rug.

However, this was not the first time Kapner had worked on the Tudor home, which was originally designed in 1908 by architect Francis George Hasselman of New York City. Her biggest challenge was that her clients’ active family wasn’t taking advantage of the large spaces on the first floor because they were so uninviting, so Olde English heavy. They asked Kapner to make those spaces, in their words, “relaxed as well as elegant.” If this sounds like a contradiction in terms, it is. Casual is casual and elegant is elegant, but that’s why you hire a really good designer – to make both these things happen at once.

Upon entering, we are greeted by an abstract painting of a man in the arched niche of the foyer. A bench upholstered in Kelly green picks up on the green airiness surrounding the abstract man, making it pop. The bench’s highly polished X-base turns the whole space into a greeting smile, making a welcome even more pronounced. Beyond the foyer at the foot of the stairwell is a ledge with matching Kelly green pillows. Thoughts of Olde English lugubriousness immediately begin to fade.

Beyond the foyer and at the foot of the staircase, a seating ledge with architectural Kelly green pillows offers a space to sit and put your boots on.
Beyond the foyer and at the foot of the staircase, a seating ledge with architectural Kelly green pillows offers a space to sit and put your boots on.

Through the door to the left is the living room, where another, larger bench brings home the idea of “relaxed as well as elegant.” A 27-by-16-foot space can feel too vast for a comfy conversation between two or more people, but by transecting the bench with it, Kapner created a more human-scale space in which people can face in either direction – toward the fireplace or toward the two French chairs by a cowhide rug in front of the double window. In either case, the Kapner’s beautifully coffered ceiling will help them get their bearings. Meanwhile, larger groups can gather at will with plenty of places to sit. “What ties the space together is a subtle layering of tones, which allows everything to blend,” notes Kapner. Similarly, in the adjacent dining room, the sheer wool drapery with beaded trim that runs across the width of the windows blends airily with the grasscloth wallcoverings. Here, a little darkness goes a long way – as in the burnished surface of the custom-sized and custom-made leafless dining table. “It anchors the whole room,” says Kapner.

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The coffered ceilings in the living room add dimensional warmth to a large space. The textural fabrics add chic coziness.

All the above spells relaxed but elegant, just what the clients wanted. If Henry VIII ever shows in this lightened, brightened Tudor home, we’ll expect him to dress accordingly – in tux and sneakers.

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A custom-sized and custommade leafless dining table anchors the elegant dining room. Wainscoting and grasscloth wallcoverings complete the handsome space. After purchasing the house, the homeowner commissioned one of the previous homeowner’s paintings, a brilliant oil that occupies pride of place in the dining room.

Though Kapner, whose client base is primarily in New York and New Jersey, with others scattered about from Utah to Florida, is frequently in Manhattan, she’s hardly dependent on its major design centers for resources; she’s got them in her office. CW&I, based in New Providence, NJ, boasts the largest library in the state, and we’re not just talking wallcovering resources. Though “& Interiors” may sound like an afterthought, it’s not. “We do it all – construction, interior architecture and window treatments, as well as furnishings,” explains Kapner.

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Photography by Wing Wong, Memories TTL

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