Doctors are known for having exacting standards, for themselves and others. If they didn’t, they would have chosen an easier line of work, right? Still, Pam Cooper, owner of Watchung-based Cooper Interiors, wasn’t a bit intimidated when a young physician hired her to design his newly constructed Georgian brownstone townhouse in Passaic County. In fact, she jumped at the opportunity to decorate the three-level, 2,100-square-foot space—despite receiving little direction from the good doctor.
“He did not have time to collaborate due to his hectic schedule,” Cooper recalls, noting that the homeowner’s sole instruction to her was to incorporate grays and blacks while maintaining a welcoming environment. Though he was a single man, he wanted a fun and inviting space to entertain family and friends. “He gave me the keys and said he’d like to move in within two months. I feel that since he gave me full rein, it put more pressure on me to deliver a product I was confident he would love.”
She started with the home’s focal point, the main level on the second floor. “It’s one open space,” Cooper says, “so my challenge was to connect it visually while defining individual spaces.” Creating a comfortable setting in the living area was a priority, as her client often kicks back with friends for Sunday afternoon games. This meant mounting a TV on the wall, but it couldn’t be any flat, ordinary surface. “I designed a plank wall to give a visual feature point while warming up the space with handpicked stain colors,” she says.
Cooper carried the color and comfort theme throughout the living area, using gray and brown stain on the natural wood floor and furnishing with a pair of distressed leather armchairs as well as a plush couch by Bassett. She added more optical appeal with a live-edge coffee table handmade at Freehold-based Ingrained Custom Cabinetry. “They FaceTimed me while they were at the wood-slab lumber yard, and I picked out the species and shape of the wood,” the designer says. “This is a beautiful walnut slab.”
During commercial breaks in the living room, the homeowner’s guests can appreciate another of Cooper’s design achievements: the staircase wall.
“I designed a paneled feature on the upper and lower staircase walls to draw the eye to the back of the room and create depth and space,” she says. “It was a mathematical feat for my master carpenter, Barry Pitchford of Jud Bar Construction, to lay out the grids so it looks as if it is one continuous wall.”
When the game ends, entertaining moves to the kitchen. Cooper had two things in mind when she planned this space: It should be conducive to the ebb and flow of larger gatherings, but also feel intimate when the homeowner wanted to unwind after a busy day treating patients. In the middle is an 8-foot island topped with a minimal-design, durable gray quartz counter. It provides the majority of the kitchen’s surface area for food prep and serving, while doubling as a comfortable sitting area to enjoy morning coffee and read the day’s top stories. The color marries well with the stainless-steel appliances, wood-veneer, Shaker-style cabinets and ivory subway tile backsplash.
The kitchen expands beyond the adjacent dining area, which is furnished with a handsome live-edge table from Home Trends and six black leather chairs by Nuevo. Behind the table, Cooper created a dry bar for her bachelor client.
“This was a blank wall, and I wanted to extend the kitchen to allow for a wine fridge, wine storage and a coffee bar,” Cooper says. “This was the ideal area, since counter space is limited in the kitchen.” Three floating shelves provide storage and are fixed to a custom-designed wall that matches the one in the living room. “We decided to marry the rooms by incorporating the plank wall in both the living room and over the dry bar area that we created,” she says. “Visually this ties the two spaces together.”
The designer gave the lower level family room a man-cave vibe and embraced earth tones when selecting and designing pieces. She created a rustic and “manly” bookcase to frame the homeowner’s new 58-inch television, which was mounted on another textured wall. “I decided stone would be a nice natural contrast against the wood-stained bookcase.”
The client’s penchant for lounging came into play when Cooper selected furniture and accents. “Masculine rooms are ideally about all-around comfort,” she notes. “Part rustic and part modern, there is a delicate balance in the theme. We chose comfortable, deep furniture and a leather ottoman that he can put his feet on or use as extra seating.”
The living room does showcase a piece of the doctor’s softer side— framed shells on a neutral linen canvas adorn one of the walls. “One of the things the homeowner told me was that he loved the beach, so I snuck in a couple of items that nod to that feel without being the traditional pastel color theme.”
The same masculine-yet-sophisticated theme is carried into the third-floor master bedroom. The bed features a black worn-leather headboard with brass trim, a color combo replicated in two nightstands and a light fixture.
“I love to mix metals, and this was the perfect combination of iron frame and hardware with hand-applied antique brass powder-coat finish,” Cooper says of the accent pieces. For added visual interest, she covered the wall behind the headboard with a gray and black earthy grasscloth wallpaper.
“I like when there is a common thread to the home,” she adds.
And she did more than that, the homeowner notes. “Pam certainly delivered the wow factor,” he says.