From the June/July 2012 Issue:

White Magic

    Writer: Mary Vinnedge | Photographer: Peter Rymwid | Designer: Ivee Fromkin, Allied Member ASID |

Ivee Fromkin conjures up a fresh, award-winning design for a Monmouth Beach condo without buying a stick of furniture

Article Photo
enlarge | Black and white dominate the living area of the condo—actually two units merged in 1994—with ocean views on three sides. Fromkin slipcovered the seating pieces for a clean, airy ambience. Paintings and collectibles add sparks of contrast.
To transform a Monmouth Beach condominium from its tired 1990s styling to millennium modernity, designer Ivee Fromkin overhauled the kitchen, upgraded the master dressing area, constructed one narrow wall and added crown moldings.

Most surprisingly, Fromkin purchased no furniture in creating the airy new look…but, sshhh, that’s a covert affair. Slipcovers made of durable Sunbrella outdoor fabric keep much of the homeowners’ furniture under wraps, but the high-quality, still-serviceable upholstery underneath is still intact so they can switch back if they wish.

“I’m a collector,” says Fromkin, an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers who works in New Jersey and Florida. “I understand that people may want to keep things because I’m that way. I got my first job to redo a bank when the president wanted to keep his office furniture, especially his desk. I told him I could do it.”

White dominates in the 3,650-square-foot condominium, two units the owners merged in 1994. But the white is relieved by the homeowners’ eye-catching antiques, such as a wicker settee in the master bedroom, an antique desk in a hall and a tea table and early twentieth-century green enamel refectory table in the living room.

“That green table was something many people would throw out,” says Angela Sgro, the designer’s longtime assistant. Sgro credits Fromkin’s ability to do a “completely eclectic look. She can pull it together and make it outstanding. She can take unusual pieces, even inexpensive ones, and put them together so they look like they cost a fortune. If you go into any of the rooms she designs, you’ll rarely see things that match; end tables may be the same height but they don’t look anything alike.”

In this condo makeover, the diverse pieces pop against the white backdrop: slipcovers, walls and window treatments. The window shades, which filter sunlight reflected from the water views on three sides of the condo, have a low profile that keeps them from intruding into the rooms. (Wall-mounted flat-screen televisions likewise take up no floor space in the three-bedroom, four-bath condo.)
White flows through to the bar, kitchen and dressing areas.

Article Photo
enlarge | Top: Designer Ivee Fromkin added cabinetry and moved the cooktop to provide more workspace near the sink during the kitchen renovation, which won her an ASID Gold Award. The 14-by-16-foot kitchen seems bigger because of a new tray-vaulted ceiling, glass-fronted cabinetry and a view that extends to the 1,100-square-foot terrace. Bottom Left: Everyone loves to touch the black granite countertops, which have a non-glossy Venetian finish. The honed marble subway tiles in the backsplash are non-glossy also. The homeowners enjoy the new appliances, especially the fast-heating halogen cooktop and warming drawer. Bottom Right: Just outside the kitchen, a transition zone from the dining room carves out space for a wine chiller and collectible model fire trucks from the 1920s, a nod to the homeowners’ firefighter son-in-law.
Kitchen Deception
The redesigned kitchen, at 14 by 16 feet, won Fromkin an ASID Gold Award. The room has a more efficient layout because of the repositioned cooktop. The footprint stayed the same but it feels larger, Fromkin says. Glass fronts on the cabinetry and refrigerator nudge along that impression, but the stars in the deception are the tray-vaulted ceiling and upgraded lighting, which boost the room’s boundaries to the max.

Those additions, carried out by Sam Fromkin, Ivee’s husband and the contractor half of I. Fromkin Interiors, literally give the kitchen a lift. Walls through­out the condo are just under 8.5 feet high, and the tray-vaulting treatment pumps up the height to nearly 9 feet. (Tray-vaulted ceilings elsewhere in the 30-plus-year-old condo were installed during a 1990s renovation.) The lights prevent shadows from claiming any of the volume.

The dressing area also received a functional as well as aesthetic makeover. Its previous appointments could charitably be labeled utilitarian: deteriorating laminate cabinetry and a dime-a-dozen drop-in sink. The new stacked-and-staggered cabinetry increases storage so the well-appointed space can live larger than its 5 by 9 feet; the vessel sink provides a hip crowning touch to Carrera marble countertops.

Article Photo
enlarge | Left: New Jersey artists painted the Sandy Hook scenes above the homeowners’ antique desk and clocks. Right: A 1940s wicker settee with its original paint complements a sleigh bed in the master bedroom. The homeowner crafted the needle­­point pillows on the settee.
Bedroom Sanctuary
In accomplishing the condo’s dramatic redesign, the Fromkins left the walls alone, with one exception. Sam Fromkin built a 5-foot-wide, non-load-bearing wall in the formerly open master bedroom. His wife planned the wall to provide privacy between the master bedroom and a hall that links with the kitchen, which is next door.

Knowing how much the homeowner likes to read in bed, Ivee Fromkin specified bookshelves along that new wall, and the master bedroom tweaks are a big hit with the homeowners.

“I love the new kitchen and dressing area,” the wife says, “but the master bedroom is my favorite space. It’s where I head to relax at the end of the day. I love to prop up in bed with a book.”

The couple wouldn’t change a smidgen of the redesign of the condo, which earned Fromkin a Bronze Award in an ASID competition in the Several Residential Spaces Under 5,000 Square Feet category.

The homeowners enjoy the pristine kitchen’s efficient layout, up-to-date appliances and abundant storage, a setup that makes entertaining a snap in the adjacent dining area, which can seat 12. And the guest bedrooms—with ample separation from the master suite—offer quiet sanctuary to visiting family and friends.

“The best thing about it is that it’s extremely comfortable,” the husband says.

Mary Vinnedge, who planned Design NJ’s first issues as its original editor in 2000, keeps in touch with the Garden State from her home in Denton, Texas. Find her on the web at


Overall: design, Ivee Fromkin of I. Fromkin Interiors in Monmouth Beach; general contractor,Sam Fromkin of I. Fromkin Interiors; floral arrangements, Sunset Florist in Allenhurst. Living Room/Dining Room: Donghia and George Smith furniture slipcovered in fabric by Sunbrella, Glen Raven, North Carolina; vintage fish prints, ormolu table, enamel-top table and pottery, homeowners. Bar: cabinetry, Ideal Kitchens in Point Pleasant Beach; hardware, Rocky Mountain Hardware in Hailey, Idaho. Hallway: 1987 sculpture by Sergio Bustamante and an antique chair, homeowners. Front Hall: paintings, Plein Air Painters of the Jersey Coast/Judy Stach and Anthony Migliaccio; moldings, Builders General in Little Silver and W.F. Sherman & Son in Manasquan. Between Dining Room and Living Room: mirror, Wendy Sands House and Estate Sales in Essex County; window shade, MechoSystems Inc. in Long Island City, New York, through Acme Drapemaster of America in Edison. Kitchen: cabinetry, Ideal Kitchens; granite, Ideal Tile Fabrications in Farmingdale; recessed lighting, Lightolier in Fall River, Massachusetts; cooktop, Wolf Appliance Inc. in Fitchburg, Wisconsin; microwave, GE; wine chiller and refrigerator, Sub-Zero in Madison, Wisconsin; window shade, MechoSystems Inc. through Acme Drapemaster of America. Office: cabinetry, desks and chairs, Herman Miller in Zeeland, Michigan; carpet, Stark Carpet in New York City; Natural Madagascar wall covering, Hinson & Co. in New York City; light fixtures, Artimede in Farmingdale, New York. Master Bedroom: bed, Grange in New York City; lamps, Hinson Lighting in White Plains, New York; settee, Wendy Sands House and Estate Sales. Dressing Area: cabinetry, Ideal Kitchens; carpet, Stark Carpet. Grandchildren’s Room: crown moldings, Builders General and W.F. Sherman & Son. Guest Room: area rugs and sisal-look wool carpet, Stark Carpet; sconce, Hinson Lighting.

Download the complete resource guide with contact information (pdf)