A full renovation of a young couple’s Brielle home had to be completed before their firstborn child arrived.
Text by Marisa Sandora
Design by Yelena Gerts
Photography by Marco Ricca
Yelena Gerts was under the gun. The designer and owner of House of Style & Design in Holmdel had only five months to finish a whole-house renovation in Brielle, making structural changes and designing and decorating every room. The project had to be done before homeowner Brooke Senti gave birth to her first child. “Usually a project of this size takes nine months or more,” says Gerts. “But the homeowner has great taste and knew what she wanted. So she made my job very easy.”
First up was reworking the kitchen, which was opened up to flow into an eating nook and a sitting area, thanks to contractor Frank DiNatale of Cool Runnings, whom Gerts credits with helping her complete the entire project so quickly. “Before, there was a peninsula that was blocking the hallway, but we completely redesigned it and put in a freestanding island, and now it’s much more open and functional,” she says. Quartz countertops, contemporary hardware and a marble mosaic backsplash bring the space into the 21st century, but the distressed wood barstools and kitchen table soften the look. “Brooke wanted a feel that was homey,” says Gerts. “The distressed wood balances the modernity of the kitchen and gives it a more casual feel.” The homeowners can relax with a glass of wine in the adjacent sitting area, which features a bar with built-in cabinets beneath a gorgeous white marble brick wall fittingly decorated with wine bottles.
Because the home doesn’t have a large family room, the Sentis sought to make the basement a great place to entertain and hang out, and Gerts delivered. She created a focal wall with a large electric fireplace and stone running up it “to bring a lot of texture and dimension to the space,” she explains. She also used an eye-catching, large-format tile on the wall behind the bar, which contains a refrigerator and sink for easy entertaining. “I love our basement area,” says Senti. “My husband, son and I spend a lot of time down there. It’s a great family area for us and will be great for the kids as they grow older as well.” At press time, Senti was due with her second child, so the basement will soon be busier.
“A lot of people forget about their basement and don’t want to invest too much into it, but when the ceilings are high enough, it can be a wonderful space, more like a family room,” says Gerts. “This one came out really cool.”
The first-floor powder room is also a favorite element of the project for the designer, who says, “When you walk in there, you think, ‘Where am I, a hip, modern hotel?’ It’s not a typical powder room.” The unique wallpaper is grass-cloth with silk threads, which give it a little sheen. Gerts balanced that with a more masculine vanity featuring a concrete sink and wooden base.
“The house is very calming, which is what I was going for,” says Senti, who loves the gray, white and beige color scheme. “The styl
e and the colors we chose will hopefully be timeless.” If they do decide to change things up, they know they can count on Gerts to give them what they want—fast.
“This was my record,” says Gerts. “But things get done quickly if everyone is on the same page. I told Brooke, ‘You can come work for me any time.’”