From the February/March 2012 Issue:

Tailored Fit

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

Designer A.J. Margulis personalizes a new Princeton-area spec home for its owners

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enlarge | The Georgian style of the home, along with its overwhelming size, called for a formal treatment in the front rooms, particularly in the living room. Designer A.J. Margulis achieved that formality sans the stuffiness, says the homeowner.
Buying a spec house—no matter how luxurious or well built—can be a bit like buying an off-the-rack dress. It probably needs some alteration to achieve the perfect fit.

A.J. Margulis of Deborah Leamann Interiors in Pennington proved to be an adept tailor for clients who purchased a 15,000-square-foot Princeton-area spec home. In fact, Margulis, an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers, earned a Silver Award from the New Jersey chapter of ASID for her interior design of the Georgian-style mansion.

Homeowners Michelle and David Richter purchased the ample abode in 2007. “It was bigger than I was ever accustomed to, and my husband, as well,” Michelle Richter says. “I was slightly overwhelmed by the size.”

The Richters lived in West Windsor for 12 years, but as their family grew—they have four girls ages 4 through 8—their previous house shrank. They also play frequent host to relatives who come from far and wide to visit. “We like having the space for guests,” Richter says. “That’s part of our life we embraced jointly.”

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enlarge | The stately design of the dining room began with the rug, which the homeowners chose with the designer’s assistance.
Making it Personal
Filling such a massive space was a challenge (along with their large floor plan, the rooms boast 10-foot ceilings). Margulis accomplished the feat in only six months, though it required frequent accessory runs with Michelle Richter to Princeton, Lambertville and the Marketplace Design Center in Philadelphia.

A far more difficult task was customizing—and, frankly, feminizing—the masculine design features the builder chose. “The builders did a beautiful job,” Margulis says, but nearly all the wood in the home, from floors to cabinets, was dark-stained cherry. “It was very beefy,” she adds. “Michelle is gorgeous, and she had these little girls running around. I thought, ‘We need a serious injection of femininity in here. We need to make this pretty for her.’”

Designing around such a strong element as the cherry floors was like working around a color. But Richter loves Margulis’ resolution. “A.J. was so good at picking out colors and fabrics,” Richter recalls. “She said the house calls out blues and greens and gold tones. And I love all those colors.”

The palette is used assertively in the front of the home to set a formal tone appropriate for such a traditional structure. “We wanted to make a statement in the front,” Margulis explains. The living room is especially striking with its contrast of a custom-painted blue striaé finish on the upper part of the wall against white wainscoting below.

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enlarge | Margulis made frequent accessory runs with the homeowner to fill the spacious rooms, including the family room with its double-height ceiling. In only six months, they were able to give the home the feeling it had been lived in for years.
Going Casual
Toward the rear of the home and in the private areas, the wall and fabric colors are toned down to reflect the more casual use of the rooms. Creamy neutrals replace stark white and the colors are lightened considerably—in some of the bedrooms they are almost blanched. The kitchen, however, was so dark, sleek and muscular that it required a different approach entirely. All countertops and backsplashes were constructed of a single type of granite, and all the cabinetry—including the kitchen island—had a cherry finish. Margulis softened the overall tone of the room by replacing the backsplash with an off-white glazed tile and refinishing the island in distressed black. She also replaced a number of fixtures, including the faucets and lighting. “If Michelle could have done it from the beginning with me, the kitchen would have been white,” Margulis says.

The upper cabinetry was a concern, not just for aesthetic but also for practical reasons. While the quality was exceptional, “There were so many glass cabinets that you wouldn’t be able to store anything that wasn’t beautiful,” Margulis says. The glass was removed in favor of mirrors, leaving only two cabinets for display.

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enlarge | Margulis feminized an all-cherry-and-granite kitchen by replacing the backsplash with glazed tile and refinishing the island in distressed black. She also installed new lighting and plumbing fixtures and chose the window treatments specifically for their delicacy.
Designed for Lifestyle
Richter credits Margulis with tailoring the home not only to fit the family’s aesthetic sense, but also its lifestyle. The living room is in frequent use because Richter’s stepsister is an accomplished pianist, and the family gathers there to hear her play. “A.J. was really good at adding pieces that would serve as additional seating,” Richter says. And despite its traditional styling, the furniture is quite comfortable and not as fussy as classic pieces can be.

To ensure the room would be enjoyed fully, Richter purchased the Fiber-Seal Fabric Care System to protect the soft furnishings. “People aren’t afraid to put their feet on the ottoman. The rug? I’m not afraid of getting it dirty,” she says. “As far as I’m concerned, this is not a museum. It’s like getting wrinkles on a face. Do I love it? No. But it’s a sign of a life lived.”

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


Overall: interior design, A.J. Margulis, allied member ASID, of Deborah Leamann Interiors in Pennington. Living Room: rug, Marc Philips in Philadelphia; arm chairs, O.Henry House in High Point, North Carolina, with fabric by Scalamandré and Nancy Corzine, both in New York City; Salvations coffee table and vases, Menagerie in Philadelphia; sofa, O.Henry House with fabric by Brunschwig and Fils in Bethpage, New York; window treatments, fabric by Cowtan & Tout and trim by Samuel & Sons, both in New York City; art, Irene Belknap through Deborah Leamann Interiors; sconces, Vaughan Lighting in New York City; desk chair, Julia Gray through Robert Allen/Beacon Hill Showroom in Philadelphia with fabric by Brunschwig & Fils; bench under window, Amy Howard through Robert Allen/Beacon Hill Showroom with fabric by Colefax and Fowler in London; clover ottoman, Avery Boardman through Robert Allen/Beacon Hill Showroom with fabric by Cowtan & Tout; bar table, Baker Knapp and Tubbs in New York City. Family Room: chandelier, Niermann Weeks in New York City; mirror, custom; lantern sconces, Vaughan Lighting; chairs, Sherrill Furniture through Hamilton House III in Philadelphia with fabric by Lee Jofa in Bethpage, New York; coffee table, Woodland Furniture in Idaho Falls, Idaho; rug, Helios Carpet through Deborah Leamann Interiors; console table, Niermann Weeks; window treatments, Lee Jofa sheer with trim by Cowtan & Tout. Dining Room: chandelier, Italian crystal chandelier; window treatment, fabric by Nancy Corzine and trim by Samuel & Sons; rug, Marc Philips; chairs, Louis J. Solomon in Hauppauge, New York, with fabric by Brunschwig & Fils and Scalamandré; wallpaper, F. Schumacher; table, Century Furniture in Hickory, North Carolina; candle sconces, Decorative Crafts in Greenwich, Connecticut. Kitchen: cabinetry, custom; island, refinished by Charles Dickey in Philadelphia; backsplash, Princeton Stone and Tile in Princeton; lighting, Heritage Lighting in Lambertville; window treatment above sink, Cowtan & Tout with trim by Lee Jofa. Breakfast Area: table, Fremarc Designs in City of Industry, California; chairs, Baker with fabric by Cowtan & Tout; window treatments, Colefax and Fowler linen with tape by Samuel & Sons; chandelier, Bella Figura through Lee Jofa; wallpaper, Cowtan & Tout; rug, Patterson Flynn and Martin in Philadelphia. Master Bedroom: bed, custom headboard with fabric by Lee Jofa; custom bedding, Nancy Corzine; bedside tables, Louis J. Solomon; chaise lounge, TCS Designs in Hickory, North Carolina, with fabric by Cowtan & Tout; bench, Louis J. Solomon with F.Schumacher fabric and Samuel & Sons trim; lamps, Robert Allen/Beacon Hill Showroom; carpet, Beatrice & Martin in Philadelphia; rug, Marc Philips; art, Irene Belknap over bed and Natural History by window, both through the designer; armchairs, Sherrill with fabric by Lee Jofa; side table, Decorative Crafts; window treatments, fabric by Kravet in Bethpage, New York, with Lee Jofa trim. Master Bedroom Office: ottoman, homeowners’ own with fabric by Robert Allen/Beacon Hill Showroom; wallpaper, Cowtan & Tout; swivel chairs, Sherrill with fabric by Lee Jofa; desk, Louis J. Solomon; chair, Fremarc Designs with fabric by Brunschwig & Fils; carpet, Beatrice &?Martin; pillows, fabric by Brunschwig &?Fils; window treatment, fabric by Cowtan & Tout; tufted stool, TCS with fabric by Cowtan & Tout. Guest Bedroom: bed, Louis J. Solomon; custom bedding, with fabric by F. Schumacher; bench, Chelsea House in Gastonia, North Carolina; side table, skirted in Scalamandré silk toile; lamp, Decorative Crafts; art, Natural History; window treatments, fabric by F. Schumacher.

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