Returning to New Jersey from Los Angeles, the family wanted a house with a fun and free-spirited SoCal vibe—and that’s what they got.
Text by Leslie Garisto Pfaff
Architectural design by Hildie Lazar
Interior design by Hilary Hefner and Michelle Rosen
Photography by Vic Wahby
For the homeowners, a pair of New Jersey natives who’d moved from Westfield to Los Angeles and were now planning a move back, California had become more than a location. Like so many East Coast transplants, they’d learned to love the light, the casual kick-your-feet-up feeling, and the seamlessness between indoors and out that characterize everyday living in SoCal.
And they wanted to bring all of that back to the new house they were planning to build in Westfield. To that end, a year before the move, they flew architect Hildie Lazar to LA to show her what they loved about the West Coast so she could replicate it 2,400 miles to the east. Along with a dedicated team that included interior designers Hilary Hefner and Michelle Rosen, Lazar came up with a design that helped to quell the family’s homesickness for LA while welcoming them back to the leafy hills of central New Jersey.
The family—a couple and their three teenage daughters—had a strong sense of what they wanted in the new house. That included lots of room to spread out, a grand foyer on the first floor along with a dining room, a living room, a guest suite for visiting family, two powder rooms and a large kitchen adjacent to a spacious family room overlooking the backyard. On the basement level they asked for a wine room, a rec/TV space, another guest suite and a gym, and on the second floor, a large master suite plus a suite for each of the three daughters. They also wanted strong first-floor sight lines, as they’d had in California. “When you walked through the front door,” says Lazar, “you could look right through to the back, where they had a beautiful pool. That was my goal for this house too.”
The foyer, per request, is indeed grand. Entering through a pair of 8-foot doors, the family and their guests are greeted by a magnificent free-floating circular stairway leading to a second-floor landing. Attracting the eye upward to the 20-foot ceiling is a trio of large wooden light fixtures that have the look of hanging modernist sculpture. Beyond the staircase on the first floor is a large portrait of Andy Warhol set into a wall built specifically for the painting. “Initially, that space was going to be a door to a powder room,” notes Hefner. “But as the design evolved, the powder room was moved to be adjacent to the butler’s pantry, and the original space for it became a blank wall that we were able to recess in order to give the art prominence.”
The most prominent presence is the light itself. To ensure the bright, airy feel that the homeowners requested, Lazar installed banks of large windows throughout the house. In both the living and family rooms, there are four-panel sliding doors comprising four glass panels, two of which, in the center, slide to each side to create a broad opening—12 feet wide in the living room and 16 feet in the family room—to the outdoors. Echoing the multi-paned windows with their black metal trim is a glass archway that the designers created for the pass-through from the kitchen to the family room.
That dark window trim is a nod to the East Coast, where the light and vistas change dramatically throughout the year. Another contrast comes from the dark flooring. “In their California home,” Hefner says, “the family had whitewashed floors. Our vision for this house was lots of white walls to embrace the brightness, but set off with darker elements like the floors and window trim.”
It’s not just light that brightens the house. Vivid colors suffuse the design, a reflection of the fun-loving family and their collection of colorful art. In the living room, for instance, an aqua rug and upholstered chairs echo the predominant hue of an abstract painting hung over the fireplace. The portrait of Andy Warhol is set above a striking midnight-blue bench. And in the family room, the three large slabs of marble that make up the fireplace surround were chosen for their unusual coloration: white with prominent veining in green and soft pink.
But the family room is where the family really lives large: Though zoning requirements meant that the house couldn’t exceed 4,000 square feet, high ceilings—12 feet in the family room—and a layout that consistently draws the eye upward and outward offer a sense of endless space. A second tier of windows in the family room adds to the upward flow, and a large opening to the kitchen and breakfast nook gives the main living area an open-concept feeling that extends to the calming minimalist landscape design outside. It’s definitely New Jersey out there, but the Garden State greenery sets off an interior that, in its embrace of fun, sun and color, is pure Southern California.