A vintage Montclair home meets the 21st century in a modern redesign full of inspired touches—and lots of blue.
Text by Leslie Garisto Pfaff
Design by Nara Callanan
Photography by Lisa Russman
Styled by Charlotte Safavi
The town of Montclair is known for its graceful old homes and its creative, forward-thinking residents. And when the latter decide to spruce up the former, the result is often a design that pays homage to the home’s historic architecture but takes an innovative approach to its interiors.
That’s exactly what happened when Christopher and Miki Berardelli returned after several years in Florida to a 1942 brick colonial in Montclair that had been used for decades as a doctor’s office. They loved the house, built by celebrated local architect Francis Augustus Nelson, but knew the warren of rooms on the first floor weren’t conducive to 21st-century living. So they hired Montclair-based interior designer Nara Callanan to help them achieve their vision for it. Working with architect George Held, who gutted most of the interior, and large-space planner Claire McCreath, Callanan delivered a home that was a little bit historic, a little bit dramatic and exactly right for one hardworking couple, two teenage boys and a pair of rambunctious yellow Labs.
Berardelli, who has a career in the fashion industry, had a strong sense of what she wanted the house to look like. “I love a clean canvas and lots of white juxtaposed with a mix of metals and colorful abstract art,” she says—a look she calls “classic with a pop.”
“She wanted to bring an updated, modern vibe to the spaces,” says Callanan, “and to infuse the color blue throughout”—a nod to Berardelli’s love of the water and her days as a competitive swimmer (and, she says, “my Pisces personality”). In the living room, for instance, a blue velvet sofa is the centerpiece of the space, its cool, compelling color echoed in the room’s window treatments, throw pillows, denim-blue rug and a pair of ottomans upholstered in a blue-and-white quatrefoil pattern. A stunning blue marble shower wall and backsplash in the master bathroom set the tone for pillows, lamps and a blue velvet bench in the adjoining bedroom. And the same blue tones pop up in Berardelli’s office, in a velvet chair and ottoman and a pair of velvet-upholstered stools.
While blue flows throughout the design, its presence is minimal in the family room, which the Berardellis wanted to feel comfortable and casual—a spot for playing games, gathering with friends and watching football, a family passion. The large room, with one of its walls dominated by an expansive fireplace, was far from the “cozy and warm” space the homeowners envisioned. So Callanan chose a relaxing palette of grays, woods and greens, painting the walls a creamy white and the window trim and moldings a subtle gray.
Perhaps the most intimate space in the house is the dining room. As a nod to former employer Ralph Lauren, Berardelli opted to do three of the walls in dark wood paneling, which also helped achieve the “steakhouse feel” her husband was lobbying for. It’s an interior room with no windows, and yet it doesn’t come across as oppressively dark, thanks, in part, to a custom storage wall inset with a series of square mirrors. In addition, the live-edge table, designed in tandem by Callanan and the homeowners, features an inlaid gold band, which helps to brighten the space, along with custom lighting and a large, natural-fiber carpet. “An interior room can feel dark and cramped,” notes Callanan, “but this one glows.”
That same glow carries through to the foyer, where original architectural elements such as a gracefully curving banister complement more modern furnishings, including a similarly curvilinear leather console. The wall’s rectangular paneling adds a historic feel but was actually chosen by the homeowners. Underneath the console, a pair of rope-covered ottomans add a more casual note, picked up in the striped stair runner in hard-wearing wool (to withstand the inevitable pounding by the homeowners’ teenaged sons and their friends).
The kitchen was an addition, and it too was designed to hold up to frequent use—Christopher is a dedicated chef—though its finishes are as elegant as they are practical. The challenge for Callanan, she says, “was adding some softer touches that still tied in with the general design,” notably a set of ultra-comfortable counter stools upholstered in a soft gray leather.
While the first-floor space is generally expansive and open, the owners chose to keep the upstairs rooms small and cozy as originally designed, including the master bedroom, which Callanan brightened with white bed linens and trim and a grass cloth wallcovering. The room is far from one-dimensional, however. A blue velvet bench and an upholstered headboard with modern channeling give the space what Callanan calls “Hollywood glam.”
Glam rules the master bathroom, thanks to stunning blue marble in the shower and on the backsplash, a floating vanity and a strikingly modern, straight-edged soaker tub. The tub sits in a corner of the room under two large, traditionally trimmed windows overlooking the tree-lined streets Montclair is famous for—a reminder that even though the home has a bright, new aspect, it has an old soul.