The newest owner of a classic brick colonial in Saddle River can tickle the ivories for guests and fill a gallery wall with her own masterpieces. But what this original condition circa-1990 house cried out for was a designer to breathe new life into its classical style. Fortunately, home buyer Robyn Stevens is also the founder and principal designer at Silhouette Studio in Saddle River. She had the experience to make it happen.
“We started renovating immediately the minute we moved in,” says Stevens. “We updated everything.”
Yet she resisted the clean-slate, gut-it-all approach. The reno completed in 2019 would merge new and old elements, respecting the home’s architecture but starting from scratch with all the finishes, hardware and flooring, and—in some cases—wood paneling.
“We kept it in a classical style; it has a lot of symmetry, the proportions are great,” says Stevens. “It just needed to be brought back to life.”
In luxe textures, subtle patterns and nature-inspired hues, Stevens merged French 1940s elegance with fresh contemporary accents. The result is perfect for when it’s just the family (Stevens, her husband and their three dogs), but it can also be the life of a gala. Stevens admits a passion for entertaining—she loves a good dinner party, which this home can easily accommodate, starting with what she calls the piano room.
“It’s a comfortable room for cocktails and some good friends,” says Stevens. She didn’t have to shop around for the cubist-style paintings that adorn the gallery wall alongside the Steinway grand or the large abstract over the banquette. “I’m a designer, but I also do oil painting,” explains Stevens, who put her muse to work throughout the home. She then used gilded frames (gold leaf over wood) for balance, warmth and “a nice little shimmer, which is elegant,” against watery blue glaze walls, she says.
Guests can relax with a cocktail in hand on the pearl-colored, woven silk settee sculpted in the workroom of Genesis Upholstery in Passaic, or perhaps a Louis XVI chair with gilded frame and fox fur pillows. The traditional silk curtains (custom-made from Manuel Canovas fabric) are not only chic; they’re sound-attenuating—just right for a piano room.
Pursuing her passion for plaster, a pure art form “very popular right now,” Stevens illuminated the room with eight palm tree sconces procured through a private estate sale in Palm Beach.
Completing the look is an antique coffee table with églomisé glass over gilded metal, concrete cubic sculptures under the piano for “a bit of fun” and a Tibetan area rug in hand-knotted silk and wool. The rug’s abstract design “brings together all the colors in the room,” Stevens says. Just what you’d expect from a designer.
At mealtime, Stevens is not one of those people who save their dining rooms for holidays. “I wanted to make the room inviting and warm, so the first thing I thought of was to do a kind of fantasy-like wall covering,” she says. Custom-made to fit the room, the de Gournay Paris silk, hand-painted wall covering incorporates “mystical” elements—like peacocks and birds in flight set amidst exotic shrubbery, all in a soft color palette.
Stevens’ love of antiques can be seen in the ebonized Louis XVI table from Paris-based Maison Jansen, the rock crystal chandelier and sconces, as well as vintage candlesticks of various heights grouped like a centerpiece. And because she’s serious about entertaining, there are enough French-1940s-style leather chairs for the entire gang.
Even the books are antiques in the office/library, where Stevens works at a restored Louis XV desk, the star of this room’s décor. The mahogany wood paneling and metallic basketweave Roman shade add rich character, as does the fireplace with Dark Emperador marble, a custom starburst screen, selenite crystal logs and antique candelabras for the mantel. The marbleized paper lining the antique books was too pretty to be hidden away on a shelf, so it became Stevens’ inspiration for the ceiling, along with an empire-style chandelier.
“I like to do ceiling papers,” she says. “People always come in and ask what it is.”
How to master a fresh look with so many antiques? Stevens explains: “I try to incorporate contemporary pieces,” like the gem-shaped ottoman and abstract rug in greige, taupe, charcoal and gold.
In the master bedroom, Stevens accomplished her goal of serenity and restfulness with the help of watery blue hues for the chenille upholstery. Equally soothing are the round silk rug over bleached oak flooring and the ivory white sateen wall covering inside the millwork panels, not to mention the terrace view from the palladium windows.
“I wanted it to feel luxurious yet uncluttered,” she says. Stevens hit her mark with a happy marriage of antiques (bedside tables), contemporary (polished stainless-steel coffee table) and even plaster accents (console/table lamps). An architectural highlight, the barrel-vaulted ceiling met its perfect match with a starburst chandelier in Italian Murano glass. There’s also a feast for the eyes in the guest bedroom, where Louis XVI antique mahogany furniture comes together with mixed metals against a backdrop of pearl gray walls.
“I like planetary orbital concepts mixed with traditional,” she says of her choice of wall art, which includes metal sculptures. Guests may think they’ve stepped into a museum with décor that also features ammonite “like a giant fossil” on a marble-topped console.
Custom linen Roman shades with fabric stripes and tone-on-tone gray carpeting (Stark in NYC) complete the look.
Even the upper stair landing strikes a balance between old and new with a modern oil painting mounted above the Louis XVI mahogany commode. Inspired by a fashion photo, the artwork provides “juxtaposition of modernity and classicism,” says Stevens. “The upholstered accent chair and concrete sculpture are also contemporary accents, echoing the shape of the eye mask cutouts in the painting.”
Through Stevens’ efforts, here’s one colonial that has truly escaped the blahs with the clever mingling of antique, contemporary and pure art forms—like plaster. Yet it’s still a classic at heart.