AT THE HEART OF A RECENTLY RENOVATED house in Allendale is a surprise: an aquarium. It’s an unexpected feature for visitors to encounter, and it was also a surprise, originally, for one of the homeowners from his wife.
He loves fish, and so she imagined adding a built-in aquarium to the master bedroom as part of an extensive renovation they were planning. But the aquarium builders told her the tank would be better sited in the main living area. “Fish are social animals,” they explained, “and if you want them to come out when you’re around, they need to see you more often.” So the aquarium is now an intrinsic element in the first-floor great room, built into a partial wall between the living area and the kitchen.
As it happens, the homeowners, too, are social animals, but the colonial-style house they’d lived in for many years had never been sufficiently expansive—or comfortable—for ambitious entertaining. So when they embarked on the renovation, the idea of welcoming friends and family—including the friends of their two daughters, one in middle school and the other a high-schooler—was uppermost in their minds. With their input, architect and designer Mary FitzPatrick Scro of Z+ Architects in Allendale, helped them create a house that’s not only welcoming but also bright and warm in equal parts.
The kitchen is a perfect example. While all the walls in the open-concept living area, including those in the kitchen, are painted white, Scro thought an all-white kitchen wouldn’t suit the homeowners. “They’re very warm and down-to-earth,” says the designer. “They could have done anything they wanted, but they created a space that reflects their personalities.” Most of the cabinets are a matte navy blue, while the island and the cabinet enclosing the refrigerator are a light oak. “The wood really brings warmth and a casual feeling to the house,” says Scro. Thanks to white quartz countertops and a bank of large windows over the sink, the room is nevertheless light and bright. In an adjoining breakfast area, whose sliding doors open onto a back porch and provide an additional source of light in the already airy space, a round table of pale wood and dark painted-wood chairs echo the cabinets.
The living room is particularly warm and welcoming, with a large sectional sofa and built-in upholstered seating under two windows to the side of the stone fireplace. The built-ins are designed to accommodate guest overflow and to provide a comfortable place for family members to read or lounge—or, because the windows above them overlook the front of the house, to await the arrival of friends and family. They also incorporate cabinets that provide storage for blankets and other cozy essentials.
Scro notes that, in spite of its homey feel, the house incorporates high-quality materials, including the multicolored stone on the fireplace surround, which offers a warm counterpoint to the white walls and trim.
A sense of playfulness pervades the space. The first-floor powder room, for instance, is walled in shiplap, painted an arresting forest green that highlights a farmhouse sink housed in a custom pale wood vanity. On the wall across from the sink, an arrow-shaped sign announces “pool” and points to the pretty backyard just beyond (and yes, the pool).
A major element of the renovation, and one designed very much with entertaining in mind, was a new pool house. With its standing-seam metal overhang, this structure’s exterior mirrors that of the main house. But inside is a space that was designed as much for fun as it was for utility.
The kitchen area, for instance, features a mint-green, vintage-style Smeg refrigerator, and outdoor barn lights, painted a cyan blue, illuminate the sink and main food-prep area. Shiplap on the cathedral ceiling lends a beachy feel, and on the floor, bright porcelain tiles are slightly textured to provide some grip for wet feet.
The design of the bathroom/changing room, too, is a nod to the welcome that’s at the heart of the space. Vertical shiplap painted mint green continues the beachy ambience. But the floor says it all: Embedded in the vintage-style white tile is a message that perfectly sums up the house vibe: “SUN + FUN.”
TEXT by LESLIE GARISTO PFAFF
DESIGN by MARY FITZPATRICK SCRO
PHOTOGRAPHY by CARA POLIZZI