A family of jetsetters with several abodes finds that a brand-new Paramus house best reflects their cosmopolitan chic.
Text by Nayda Rondon
Design by Elizabeth Akguc
Photography by LuxQue Media
Letty Rivera and Manuel Castillo have multiple homes and travel often. So when they chose Bergen County for their latest dwelling destination, the couple opted for a new construction home in Paramus with all of the modern amenities they and their three children—sons Gino, 25, and Manuel Andre, 17, and daughter, Ximena, 22—were used to enjoying as part of their cosmopolitan lifestyle.
“They wanted a space that looked like the luxurious hotels they are accustomed to but that had the welcoming feel of home, even though it’s not lived in all year round,” says Elizabeth Akguc of Paramus-based Benchmark Interiors, who designed and furnished the family’s new home.
“We have several homes but this one, our latest, has proved the most special because it’s the first where we started from zero,” says Castillo.
“Working with a blank canvas can be as daunting as it is exciting,” says Rivera. “We could have had a lot of headaches along the way, but thanks to Elizabeth the whole process was virtually effortless and a pleasure.”
The fact that her jet-setting clients were sometimes hard to reach when quick decisions were needed did create some challenging moments. Fortunately, Akguc’s “dream clients” had total confidence in her design sense. “From day one, she captured our vision and style—clean, modern, simple, elegant,” says Rivera. “Every time we met, she was on target with curated samples and options that made the entire selection process very clear and easy.”
Another advantage Akguc had going for her was that she teamed with her contractor husband, Peter Akguc of Benchmark Builders in Paramus, and the architectural pros at Plan Architecture in Little Falls to create the home from floor-plan beginnings. “My working with my husband as the builder on the project allowed us to have a comprehensive design throughout the project,” the designer explains. “Everything looks and feels well thought out, and there is a cohesive aesthetic to the space.”
Taking primary inspiration from Rivera, whom she describes as a “glamorous and timeless beauty,” the designer sought to create a home that would survive the test of time while maintaining a graceful sense of space. Akguc chose a refined interplay of colors, textures, cleanlines and balanced proportions throughout the architectural and design elements to imbue the rooms with a unified aesthetic that seamlessly conveyed sophisticated simplicity and comfort. A muted monochromatic color story, subtly enhanced with soothing shades of blue and gray, adds to the harmonious flow, while strategic pops of color lend interest and contrast.
The formal living room offers a pleasing balance of elements—the soft, luxe fabrics of the upholstered furniture live alongside the smooth, hard surfaces and clean lines of a credenza and circular coffee table. Akguc selected a navy velvet fabric on the Interlude Home Ava sofa and paired it with two beige Cotier chairs for contrast. The Wendover Art Group piece on the wall completes the look with a strong dramatic punctuation.
With the luxury-loving lady of the house definitely in mind, Akguc went for a “hotel chic” vibe in the master bedroom. “My client loves velvet, so we upholstered the Interlude bed with a custom velvet fabric we selected together,” the designer notes. “I brought in the navy blue on the window treatments as well as the Worlds Away nightstands. I love the contrast of color and texture—the soft gray velvet next to the navy lacquer nightstands and the lush Jaipur rug—that unifies the space.”
In the daughter’s bedroom, the Jaipur rug, Bernhardt bed and the Worlds Away nightstands form the restful base, while decorative accents provide visual wake-up calls. “My clients wanted a fun and colorful room for Ximena,” says Akguc. “My inspiration for this space was the beautiful John-Richard Seville artwork with all the pinks and blues, which I also used on the pillows, bench and John-Richard lamps.”
In the great room, the softness of the charcoal gray Sunpan velvet chairs blends harmoniously with the textured plush light gray Interlude sectional. Custom walnut built-ins flank the fireplace and mounted flat-screen TV. Offsetting the imposing grandeur of the high ceilings, the rich wood tones, the luxurious-yet-comfortable furniture and the floor-to-ceiling sheers on the wall of windows all help to make the space everyone’s favorite central family hub.
The kitchen, another popular gathering spot, is as functional as it is elegant, with a streamlined utilitarian flow and sleek sophistication. The crisp white cabinets provide equal measures of storage and style, while the practical and roomy center island does triple duty as a prep/cleaning station and cozy eating area. To emphasize its importance, Akguc had the island painted in Sherwin-Williams Naval, an anchoring color that creates a grounding sense of comforting permanence and stability. Overhead, the Currey & Company brass light fixtures impart balance and a luminous glow to the cool colors in the space.
The kitchen—like the rest of the house—provides a feeling of warmth and relaxed well-being and fits the family’s jet-setter sensibilities. “Elizabeth gave us a home that perfectly reflects who we are,” says Castillo. “We travel here once a month. Sometimes it’s just Letty and me; sometimes it’s with our children and their friends. But every time we come it feels comfortable and inviting. It feels like coming home.”