From the February/March 2012 Issue:

Making an Understatement

    Writer: Iyna Bort Caruso | Photographer: Patricia Burke | Designer: Pat Starr |

A Monmouth County couple build a manor with quiet restraint

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enlarge | The owners eschewed a living room for a more intimate and practical gathering room. “I didn’t want things to be that formal,” the homeowner says.” It features a wood-burning fireplace, flush to the floor and authentic to the period.
The sprawling acreage in Monmouth County, shaded by towering trees and mature foliage, seemed a backdrop befitting one of Long Island’s Gold Coast estates or Newport’s Gilded Age mansions. And that’s what its owners had in mind when they built their home and styled it with the same elegant restraint.

“It’s hard to be understated today,” says Pat Starr of Pat Starr Interior Design in Manasquan, who worked with the family on a design plan before they even broke ground some six years ago. With her own preference for clean and classic over gratuitously ornamental, Starr was well paired with her clients. “This home was designed and conceptualized to be very much like a home built in the 1920s or ’30s. We took our inspiration from the wonderful estates of the North Shore of Long Island. That was kind of our guiding light.”

What those residences—and this five-bedroom, 10,000-square-foot grand manor—have in common is a command over the details. “It takes a lot more thought to hold back than it does to do something,” the homeowner says. That measured approach to construction and design resulted in a home endowed with an air of timelessness. “It’s the kind of home you could have driven by 40 years ago or drive by 40 years from now and still feel like it’s present and the way it should be,” she says.

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enlarge | Left The family room is the go-to room to watch television, play games and relax. The window treatments are made of raw silk that resembles linen. “There’s nothing showy about them,” designer Pat Starr says. “They’re just really good-quality fabric” marked by fine detailing such as small covered buttons at the base of each pleat and narrow, flat braids along the leading edge. The creamy taupe wall colors were inspired by the carpet. Right The game table in the family room is an English antique reproduction. The champagne-colored ceiling has a reflective quality that is particularly stunning at night.
Designed to Endure
In reflecting a purist’s approach to authenticity and historical accuracy, the home whispers its worth, never shouts it. Eyes are subtly drawn to details, and the details are never sacrificed for the sake of ease or cost. Shortcuts aren’t part of the home’s design vocabulary. Whenever a question arose about how something should be built or what materials should be used, the answer was always another question: How would it have been done in a fine home a hundred years ago?

The circular driveway of all white stone, for instance, is typical of homes built at the turn of the twentieth century. The foyer and dining room walls feature custom raised panels, not ones created from molding trim. Doorknobs are crystal, and the gathering room fireplace burns wood not gas. The banister on the center staircase is traditional wood not wrought iron, and the painted balusters in matte charcoal give it an elegance as appropriate to an earlier era as it is today. Authenticity always trumped any compromised version of practicality. “(The owners) said they would give up easy maintenance and lower expense in order to do things in an authentic way,” Starr says. “It takes certain kind of people to furnish a home with this kind of reserve.”

There was another objective the owners had in mind, and that was to make their home feel “warm and embracing,” the homeowner says. Given its grand scale, it was a challenge.

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enlarge | In the study, a kidney-shaped desk features crotch mahoney veneers with burled wood inlay and a leather top. A textured tobacco-colored wall covering gives the room a rich feel.
A Welcoming Palette
Color answered the call for intimacy—on the floors, on the walls and on the ceilings. “We looked for a general palette that had subtle color that was a little grayed down, not clear vibrant colors,” Starr says. You know it’s there, but its impact is gentle.

Painted ceilings contribute to an enveloping, even a cradling feel. Most ceilings, like those in the family room, are metallic and have a reflective quality. A bronze ceiling in the bar area of the study and a pewter ceiling in the tub area give the spaces an antique patina while accentuating the clean, simple profile of the crown moldings.

For the most part, the Persian-style carpets were the inspiration behind the color schemes. “That gave us our palette in terms of paints, upholstery, leathers and window treatment fabrics,” Starr recalls. Because many of the first-floor rooms open up onto each other, we tried different rugs in each area to see how they related. Five or six rugs were brought for the dining room alone. “We needed to work with a dealer that had good choices but also delivered that level of service,” she says.

The window treatments also contributed heavily to the low-pitched opulence. Drapes are sewn of luxurious dimensional fabrics, simply and elegantly designed. There aren’t a lot of layers, top treatments or fluff, Starr says. The details are subtle: glass-beaded fringe, silk-cord tiebacks, even frog-closure medallions to punctuate goblet pleats. “You don’t need overkill when you’re using wonderful materials.”

In a collaborative effort, Starr made her clients’ vision real, and that vision is a home that feels faithfully built and deeply rooted. “This is a home where real people live their lives,” Starr says, “and it has worked so well for them. To me, this house really feels like it has a soul.”

Iyna Bort Caruso, a regular contributor to Design NJ, writes from her home in Rockville Centre, New York.

Details That Make a Difference
Medallions similar to frog closures found on clothing punctuate the French goblet pleats. • The inverted pleat with fabric-covered button on this bathroom stool is indicative of the level of detail found throughout the home. • Lush fabrics used in the window treatments are richly detailed with glass-beaded fringe and tiebacks finished with silk cord. • Distressed edges, wormholes and mottled leather give this bar stool a broken-in, authentic feel.


Overall: interior design, Pat Starr Interior Design in Manasquan. Family Room: window treatments, Window Alternatives LLC in Jackson; chairs, Theodore Alexander in High Point, North Carolina; sectional, Century Furniture in Hickory, North Carolina; game table, Maitland-Smith in High Point, North Carolina. Gathering Room: sofa and cocktail table, Century Furniture; leather benches, Our House Designs in Hickory, North Carolina, sconces, Fine Art Lamps in Miami Lakes, Florida. Foyer: chandelier, Fine Art Lamps; piano, Freehold Music Center in Freehold. Kitchen: designer and cabinetry, Anthony Albanese of Brook Cabinetry in Union; appliances (Thermador wall ovens, warming drawer, cooktop and microwave), Gabowitz TV and Appliances in East Brunswick; table and chairs, Century Furniture; chandelier, Williams-Sonoma Home. Dining Room: chandelier, Fine Art Lamps; table and chairs, custom through Pat Starr Interior Design. Husband’s Study: leather-top desk, Maitland-Smith; leather ottoman, Our House Designs; club chairs, Century Furniture. Bar: stools, Our House Designs. Wife’s Office: rug, Nevada Exchange in Shrewsbury; writing table, Habersham Plantation in Toccoa, Georgia; spider-back chair, Our House Designs. Master Suite Sun Porch: linen chaises, Lane Venture Furniture in Conover, North Carolina; artwork, Zaksons Fine Furniture & Interior Design in Brick. Master Bedroom: leather sleigh bed and night tables, Harden Furniture in McConnellsville, New York; carved wood panels, designer’s personal collection; table lamps, Murray Feiss in New York City. Master Bathroom: tiles and countertops, Ital Marble & Granite in Manhasset, New York; cornering chairs, Century Furniture; sconces and chandelier, Fine Art Lamps. Red Bedroom: rug, Zaksons Fine Furniture & Interior Design; bed, Lexington Furniture in Thomas­ville, North Carolina; demilune cabinet, Century Furniture; bedding, custom through Pat Starr Interior Design. Coatroom: bench, Century Furniture; mirror, Harden Furniture; wall covering, F. Schumacher & Son in New York City; chandelier, Zaksons Fine Furniture & Interior Design.

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