Caroline and Paul Schiavone—she’s Swedish and he’s American—met in Paris, where he was working at the time. They eventually married and moved to London, where they lived for eight years and had their three children. Life in the U.K. was good, but the family eventually found themselves wanting to expand their horizons. On summer vacations they often visited Spring Lake, N.J., where Paul had spent many happy times with friends.
“We stayed at local hotels and fell more and more in love with the town, so just before our oldest child was to start first grade, we decided to leave London and move to Spring Lake,” says Caroline. “It’s a very safe place to live, and we now get to spend more time with Paul’s parents, who live only 20 minutes away.”
Not surprisingly, the transatlantic move presented as many challenges as possibilities, making it key to find the perfect design fit. “It was very important for us to choose a designer who would understand and help us with our own vision,” says Caroline, explaining that instead of a typical lake home decor, they sought to create one that reflected a contemporary Scandinavian feel.
After seeing her work online, the homeowners entrusted Jennifer Pacca of Jennifer Pacca Interiors in Hillsdale with the extensive renovation and design project. “We found Jennifer before we even found the house,” Caroline explains. Since time was of the essence, the couple traveled to Spring Lake to house-hunt while simultaneously interviewing interior designers. They had narrowed it down to five designers, and after meeting with them all, the couple knew Pacca was the woman for the job.
From there everything moved quickly. Shortly after hiring Pacca, they found a large contemporary colonial, bought it and began the mad rush to renovate and design all of the interiors.
“They were moving from overseas and staying in temporary housing, so everything had to be done quickly to settle them in the U.S.,” says Pacca of the six-month process. When her clients were still living in the U.K., Pacca and her team communicated via emails, sending ideas back and forth. Whenever Caroline traveled to the States, Pacca met with her client in her New York City hotel room to match samples, visit stores and even drive to the house—a 90-minute ride—to take measurements together. Everything was purchased new. Most of the furniture was custom, and all required handpicking of fabrics, colors and styles, then waiting for them to be made and delivered.
“They were very open to our suggestions as long as they functioned for their busy family of five,” says Pacca. “With three active children, they needed ample storage and space to play.”
Coming from London, where most homes tend to be narrow and connected to each other with almost no garden or backyard, the homeowners, who love to entertain, wanted to make the most of their 5,700-square-foot contemporary colonial home, which features five bedrooms, an attic and a basement with an additional 1,000 square feet.
Pacca and her team opened up a wall between the family room and the existing master bedroom, and the master bedroom was converted into the new dining room. They also took space from the old first-floor master to create a laundry room—featuring dark cabinetry and distressed wood floors—awash with sleek modernity. All four-and-a-half bathrooms were renovated, the original wood floors refinished and the walls painted. To tie everything together, Pacca stayed true to the homeowners’ preferences for neutral colors and simple designs with clean lines.
The living room is bright, breezy and beautiful, with large exposed windows, high ceilings and light gray, neutral colors. Pacca went for a less-is-more aesthetic; there are no pictures or paintings on the walls. Instead, she kept it to choice basics—some custom furniture, accent pillows and an oversized area rug—and the room is simply perfect. Creating visual interest, the white wool rug and dark stained wood flooring contrast, while the light armchairs and gray sofas offer a relaxed counterbalance. “There’s no TV; it’s purely a room to sit and enjoy one another’s company,” says Caroline, who adds that in addition to getting almost daily use by the immediate family, this favorite room hosts holiday festivities during which extended family from both sides gathers around 10-foot Christmas trees.
The family room thrives with the same spirit of livable charm. In a clear sight line of the kitchen and an informal eating area, it’s all about comfort and convenience, with features such as a kid-friendly suede sectional and recliner by Vanguard Furniture and a made-to-roll-around-in shag area rug, a custom design by G. Fried Carpet & Design. Sensible elegance is also apparent in the nearby dining area’s expandable table and additional chairs that easily accommodate extra guests; the Orient Express dining chairs, kitchen stools and Bernhardt benches in the family room are all in faux leather to stand up to wear in complementary style.
When it came to the children’s bedrooms, Pacca’s strategy was adaptable durability. Her Pottery Barn furniture picks—attractive, affordable, well-built pieces with stylish stamina—can be updated easily with new age-appropriate accessories to keep pace with the kids’ evolving tastes.
Accommodating the family’s changing lifestyle needs also influenced the renovation of the unfinished attic and basement, which were transformed into a playroom and game room, respectively. Dark hardwood floors matching the rest of the house were added to both. The toy room, enlivened with fun rugs and colorful pictures, was Kid Central when they first moved in, before it ceded pride-of-play rights to the basement. The latter, equipped with video games, pool table and air hockey games, has since grown along with the three siblings to become the place where they and their friends hang out.
“It’s now five years later, and we love the house more than ever,” Caroline says. “The furniture is still in top condition due to its high quality and durability. Yes, the floors are getting a bit scratched and we should probably freshen up the walls with a new coat of paint soon, but this isn’t just a house to us; it’s a true home, which we love and want to use.
“We would love for this to be our forever home, but if we do move, we would like to more or less replicate the rooms,” says Caroline. “We love everything about this house. It all blends so beautifully, perfectly and tastefully.”