From the August/September 2011 Issue:

Family Dynamic

    Writer: Denise DiFulco | Photographer: Tom Grimes | Designer: A.J. Margulis, allied member ASID, of Deborah Leamann Interiors |

Simple formality is the key for designer A.J. Margulis when her in-laws move from a contemporary home to one with more traditional architecture

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enlarge | A private elevator leads directly into an elegant foyer. “The art tells you right away the home­owners are big personalities and that they’re fun, but it also matches the space,” designer A.J. Margulis says.
Pleasing your in-laws can be a daunting, if not impossible, task. But with the interior design of her husband’s parents’ new home, A.J. Margulis of Deborah Leamann Interiors in Pennington scored a perfecta, winning their personal and professional approval.

Balancing Act
With their daughter-in-law’s assistance, the Margulises customized their 4,500-square-foot unit, one of six in their building featuring an open layout and ceilings up to 12 feet. “It’s very open and flowing,” says A.J. Margulis, an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers. “All the spaces are large, but not ridiculous.”

The overall style of The Monmouth is traditional, which Margulis wanted to maintain for its elegance and formality—a quality that initially attracted her in-laws to the community. However, she wanted to reconcile it with their more contemporary style. Her father-in-law wanted to replicate the model for the unit, which had tray and arched ceilings throughout. “I said, ‘OK, this is not a palace,’” she recalls. “That was a fight but I won.” She did retain some of the dramatic architectural elements, such as a tray ceiling in the foyer, which she covered with metallic paper from Jacobsen and Balla.

Overall the home is formal, yet simple. In almost every room Margulis started the design with the lighting fixtures, which she made slightly more traditional. She then introduced cleaner, more contemporary lines with the furniture.

Margulis also was mindful of her mother-in-law’s preference for a monochromatic palette and a distaste for too much pattern. “The other house was very cold,” the designer says. “They were coming from a place with a lot of shine, a lot of laminate.” She warmed the look of their new home by mixing fabrics with lots of texture rather than pattern. She also visually softened the straight-lined surfaces, choosing matte finishes and furnishings with a patina. The floor-to-ceiling mirrors that flank the living room fireplace were a nod to her in-laws’ old home, but the custom, antiqued surface brought texture as opposed to shine to the spacious room.

“I felt really comfortable with her,” says Sheila Margulis, whose son, Brett, has been married to A.J. for 14 years. “I felt like she really knew me.”

Sheila Margulis and her husband, Barry, previously owned a contemporary four-story townhouse in Sea Bright with a boat and dock that required an enormous amount of maintenance. Ready for a lifestyle change, they zeroed in on The Monmouth, a luxury, 55-plus community in Manasquan. Inspired by the landmark Jersey Shore hotel of the same name, The Monmouth features penthouse-style residences averaging 4,000 square feet, each with a private elevator accessed through an elegant lobby and an underground garage. Homeowners enjoy the community’s lavish clubhouse with indoor and outdoor pools, a hot tub, sauna, state-of-the-art fitness facility, a ballroom, a reading room and an old English pool room. An 18-hole putting course meanders through the property.

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enlarge | The homeowners prefer a monochromatic palette, which is difficult to pull off in such a large, open space. Some of it is broken up with their bold choices in art. The rest is diffused with texture: the antiqued mirrors, the honed travertine around the fireplace and the wenge flooring.
Pops of Color
Although the home is outfitted in mostly neutrals—the custom carpets in the public areas, for instance, incorporate five shades of gray—some color was necessary with such large rooms and high ceilings. Fortunately, the designer says, her in-laws have vivid, graphic taste in art. They brought some pieces from their old home, including works by Peter Max. While much of it was reframed, they also purchased a fair amount of new art. “It was so much more wall,” the designer says.

Sheila Margulis says she couldn’t have done it all without her daughter-in-law’s expertise and intuition: “This house is so much more detailed than the other … I was getting so overwhelmed.” There are things she never would have considered had she shopped on her own—the starburst mirror in the dining room, for instance. And she says it has been exciting to see things her daughter-in-law chose for her appear in model homes or in Architectural Digest.

“It’s beautiful, not overdone,” Sheila Margulis says. “She knew what I wanted, and she captured it.”

Denise DiFulco, a regular contributor to Design NJ, writes from her home in Cranford.


SOURCES Overall: interior design, A.J. Margulis, allied member ASID, Deborah Leamann Interiors in Pennington. Foyer: ceiling fixture and table, Niermann Weeks in New York City; wallpaper in tray ceiling, Jacobsen and Balla in San Carlos, California; custom rug, Marc Phillips in Philadelphia; bench, Amy Howard through Robert Allen/Beacon Hill in Philadelphia; art, Orlando Agudelo Botero through Lavon Art Gallery in Monroe. Living Room: sofas, Henredon in Morganton, North Carolina, with Lee Jofa fabric; chairs, Baker in Chicago with Robert Allen/Beacon Hill fabric; cocktail tables and lamps, Baker; end table, Amy Howard through Robert Allen/Beacon Hill; sconces, Lalique; custom antiqued mirrors, Joseph M. Tiedemann for Saint Joseph Trim & Cabinet Co. in Chesterfield; window treatments, Lee Jofa; art above fireplace, Orlando Agudelo Botero; custom rug, Marc Phillips. Dining Room: chandelier, Niermann Weeks; starburst mirror, sideboard, tables and chairs, Baker; custom rug, Marc Phillips. Kitchen: cabinetry, Poggenpohl; pendant lights, Schonbek in Plattsburgh, New York. Family Room: all furniture, Baker; window treatments, Conrad in San Francisco; custom rug, Marc Phillips; built-in cabinetry, Saint Joseph Trim & Cabinet Co.; crystal lamp, Vaughan Lighting in New York City; bench, Amy Howard through Robert Allen/Beacon Hill. Bedroom: bed, Swaim through Robert Allen/Beacon Hill with fabric by Osbourne and Little; bedding, custom; framed art, Peter Max; window treatment, sheers, F. Schumacher & Co.; valances, fabric by Osbourne and Little; ceiling fixture, Niermann Weeks; chairs, Baker; bedside table, Diane Watts through Robert Allen/Beacon Hill; lamps, Vaughan. Study: built-ins, Saint Joseph Trim & Cabinet Co.; furniture, Baker; ottoman, Henredon; drapery fabric, Osbourne and Little.

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