A formal home gets an exuberant redo that reflects its youthful occupants’ sense of style.
Text by Leslie Garisto Pfaff
Design by Diane Durocher
Photography by Peter Rymwid
The Georgian house in Franklin Lakes, with its high ceilings and elegant moldings, belied its age of barely three decades. It also seemed to belie the age of the new owners, a pair of young professionals who wanted to breathe some youth into its grand but overly formal rooms. So they turned to Diane Durocher, a Ramsey-based designer, who had the perfect prescription: an influx of contemporary furnishings and a pastel palette of sand and pale blue that manages to at once feel calming and fresh.
“You can create a warm feeling with a cool palette,” explains Durocher, “by integrating texture and interest into the design.” She added textural elements such as a series of dramatic silk draperies in the great room, quatrefoil-patterned curtains in the kitchen and master bedroom and area rugs throughout to complement the original dark-wood flooring. As for interest, it’s evident in spades, from the kitchen chandelier, with its aged iron and seeded glass, to the painted “wallpaper” in the master bath, to the homeowners’ dark-wood pieces that Durocher softened— and, at the same time, allowed to pop—through the use of upholstered seating in cool pastels and other pale-hued elements.
“I love the strong silhouette that the case goods create against the lighter palette,” Durocher says. In the great room, for instance, two darkwood pieces—a large Sheridanstyle bookcase and a curving credenza—are balanced by a clean-lined contemporary sofa, originally brown but reupholstered in a creamy white velvet, and a pair of trellis-patterned chairs that flank the fireplace. And in an anteroom, a wooden sideboard is set off by airy Chippendale chairs with pale-blue upholstered seats and a pastel blue floral area rug. The sideboard’s shelves hold whimsical, informal pieces, such as cream-colored earthenware jugs and a pair of white planters bearing faux foliage.
In fact, the anteroom, situated between the great room and the study, represented something of a quandary for both the homeowners and Durocher. It didn’t instantly suggest a function and rarely was used. Given its access to the outdoor grilling area, Durocher created an informal dining area-cum-game room in the space, furnishing it with a round dining table and those Chippendale chairs, thus adding another youthful touch. “The homeowners now use it as an extended entertaining area,” she says.
In contrast to the undeniable grandeur of the great room, the anteroom feels welcoming and even cozy. The same is true—deliberately—of the kitchen dining and family room area, where a sand-colored chenille sofa and upholstered chair provide comfortable seating. The homeowners asked the design team to add pops of red to the room to warm it further, and they complied with a selection of accent pillows and the patterned curtains.
Fittingly, that sense of comfort and warmth infuses the master bedroom and adjacent sitting room. In both, blue plays a larger role than sand or white; it wraps the walls, and it’s picked up in the soft area rugs and a pair of upholstered sofas in the sitting room. The darker finishes on the bed, night tables and dresser also add warmth, and their modest scale keeps them from overwhelming the room’s softer elements—for example, a sand-colored upholstered bench at the foot of the bed. “Our clients wanted their master suite to be a calm retreat in the palette that they’re so fond of,” says Durocher. Both rooms, she notes, “are layered, textural and serene.” And like the furniture here, preexisting elements, such as molding, a mullioned glass door and the sitting-room fireplace, are smaller in scale, giving the two rooms a cozy, self-contained feel.
In fact, the only room in the house that doesn’t make use of original architectural details is the master bathroom. The homeowners weren’t fond of the green marble tile that lined the floor and rather than simply replace it, Durocher proposed a more extensive redo. She installed a new tub and gleaming Carrara marble tiles on the floor and shower surround and repainted the existing cabinetry, setting off the stenciled blue walls. Additional details—such as relaxed Roman shades, a delicate upholstered bench and a built-in makeup vanity and mirror—soften the overall ambience. The result is a room that blends seamlessly with the rest of the master suite.
Removal of that dark green tile swept away the house’s last stodgy detail, leaving it just as the homeowners and designer envisioned it: elegant for sure, but also as bright, young and welcoming as the couple who call it home.