None of us has a crystal ball. Only time will tell. Ask a gardener, who won’t know until late summer if that Japanese anemone she planted in spring will bloom. Or the chef, who’s made a soufflé a million times, but still never knows until the oven is opened whether it will rise or not. The character of a home unfolds gradually, as well. A wall may come down one year, a sofa reupholstered the next. But it takes vision to remodel piecemeal. You don’t want to complete a big, eat-in kitchen and then realize that the dining room you redecorated two years ago is now redundant.
Designer Joan Enger spent several years, off and on, helping a client fine-tune a vintage townhouse in Hoboken, New Jersey. But the look is so unified, one would think the project had been executed in one fell swoop.
“There was a clear visual understanding and synergy throughout the duration of the project,” relates Enger, principal at J. Patryce Design & Company. “While our techniques, knowledge and breadth of resources continued to evolve, our design approach – timeless, well edited and intentionally layered – remained steadfast.”
The three-phase project began with a redesign of the master bath, picked up later with the parlor floor and garden level of the home, and concluded with an update of a guest room and the development of a suite for a teenage girl. Committed to respecting the architectural integrity of the property, the owners engaged Mowery Marsh Architects to restore and enhance the historic detail and add an addition that complemented the spatial essence of the 100-year-old home.
“I have a weak spot for classically informed architecture paired with more modern lighting and furnishings,” shares Enger.
“We love the visual tension that exists from mixing modern elements – like the custom smoked glass and tubular brass entry console and grey washed floating pendant – with the classical detailing. The imposing, carved mahogany staircase yings perfectly with the yang of our modern touches.”
Embracing process, rather than hewing to quick decisions, is key to successful design. While white seemed to be the way to go in the kitchen here, as the project progressed Enger introduced the idea of incorporating cerused finishes and brass to complement the wood tones of the cabinetry and flooring. Accustomed to injecting color into children’s spaces, Enger envisioned a citron accent wall in the homework/dressing room area that had been created for the teenage daughter. But the young lady chose blue, her favorite color.
“That accent wall is perhaps the brightest pop of color in the home. “We love using color,” explains Enger, “but prefer when it is a bit diluted – in a good way. That’s probably why we love European paint chips and textiles, because even with brighter colors, they remain chic versus trendy.” In the den, she observes, a window treatment in a moss and plum, hand-blocked Penny Morrison IKAT fabric pairs nicely with the George Spencer velvet on an armless easy chair.
For all its historic charm, this home is far from dated. The enlarged kitchen, with its abundance of storage space and a Calacatta Valli- topped island, is a study in functionality and the sleek bathrooms are anything but period.
The constellation of furniture pieces in the living room (including a Karl Springer-style coffee table and vintage Jens Risom chairs reupholstered in Claremont Toile Chenonceau ‘Gris’) project an air of restraint without going all-out minimalist.
And the homeowners’ antiques and vintage pieces have been placed in just the right spots throughout the house. In a guest room, a secretary and a tufted red- checked slipper chair form an easy partnership with a streamlined bed from Grange.
Fashioning a home in stages isn’t for everyone. Perpetual anticipation can be tough to endure. But for Enger and her clients, taking things slowly was its own reward. “With any solid designer/ client relationship, the trust builds,” suggests Enger. “When you work with great clients, it is a pleasure to work in phases. And you know you’ve reached a pinnacle when the clients say, “Whatever you think is best.”
If you enjoyed this project, be sure to check out the revival of this West Village Loft.
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