From the August/September 2015 Issue:

Modern Family

    Writer: Meg Fox | Photographer: John Ferrentino | Interior Designer: Tracey Butler |

Eclectic, fun and personal describe a visually exciting home with global views

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enlarge | Infused with modern art and a variety of textures and materials—grass-cloth walls, wood accessories and an artful display of metal orbs—the foyer sets the stage for the home’s eclectic design scheme. Wood ring sculptures are “reminiscent of circular spheres used in tribal art,” designer Tracey Butler says. Floors, here and throughout, are stained solid cherry—a look she calls clean, transitional and in keeping with the more traditional façade.
Traditional on the outside. Modern on the inside. That was the design impetus for a new Union County home designed by Tracey Butler, principal of b. home interior design in Essex Fells.

“The style of the home’s exterior is traditional Southern front-porch architecture,” Butler says, with farm-style wood planking, a large covered front porch and a center-hall colonial-style floor plan. The interior décor is more modern for a couple with three young children. “My clients [the husband a prominent surgeon, the wife an actor in local community theater] are an artistic, creative family who enjoy whimsical, colorful interiors infused with art collected from up-and-coming artists,” she says.

In the foyer, an artful display of metal orbs in copper, nickel and brass speaks to the homeowners’ sense of whimsy and calls attention to a stairway wall. Nearby, a piece of black-and-white art captures paint strokes in a mesmerizing wave motion—a simple concept that when blown out makes it different, Butler says. In an adjacent sitting room, the designer opted to leave art canvases unframed and to display wall art asymmetrically for a look she says is “more youthful and modern.”

The dining room, like other spaces, reflects the wife’s eclectic tastes and fondness for organic, nature-inspired influences. A live-edge walnut table is juxtaposed with a contemporary chandelier, custom made with polished nickel rings and shards of glass in topaz. “She also loves to gather pieces of different ethnicities, origins and time periods,” Butler says. Chinese sideboards in black lacquer pair with tortoiseshell mirrors and other natural touches, such as a conch-shell sculpture and a Tibetan rug in a graphic daisy motif.

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enlarge | Cobalt blue and chocolate brown pair in a sophisticated but fun mix of patterns in the first-floor den. A mohair velvet sleeper sofa, adjacent bathroom and ample closet space make it ideal as an overnight guest room. At other times the room functions as a homework center for the kids.
Color & Texture
Bright bursts of color and a great variety of textural details are omnipresent. “The color is obvious in almost all of the rooms, and texture is everywhere,” especially in the different choices of grass cloth: gold and pumpkin in the family room, russet in the dining room, bright cobalt in the den. Knowing her clients’ love of color, “I bounced from one color to the next, from room to room, in an effort to cover the whole spectrum,” finishing up with a neutral calm in the master bedroom and bathroom.

The kitchen, sleek and modern with colorful accents, may be one of the couple’s favorite spaces. Custom teak cabinets show off their distinctive grain in a high-gloss lacquer finish. Combined with whimsical bubble light fixtures and blue/topaz glass mosaic backsplash tiles, “The kitchen just wows,” Butler says.

Each room takes on its own personality according to function, but there is a design consistency at play in the selection of materials, color or pattern that becomes more than the sum of its parts. “I like there to be a flow from room to room, with some piece from the last room that speaks to the next so the experience is continuous,” Butler explains. Recurring features include glass mosaics, mohair velvet and wood grains in teak, mahogany or macassar ebony. Graphic and geometric patterns also figure prominently, from bold floral shapes to lattice and circle motifs. “I use circles a lot in my work,” but more frequently in modern homes, Butler says. “It gives you a geometric without being too edgy.”

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enlarge | Transitional and TV-less, the living room is a quiet retreat where the adults relax and read by the fire. The mahogany fireplace façade echoes accordion detailing in a nearby table, adding balance to the room. For a modern approach, Butler displayed art asymmetrically and left canvases unframed. The drum chandelier, with its cutout leaf motif, “throws a gorgeous pattern around the walls,” she says.
Family First
Beyond the sophisticated aesthetic, this home is built for family living. During the space-planning stage, Butler explains, the owners were not concerned with the sheer number of rooms, but more with the proportions or expanse of each so they could live in and enjoy each space. “It was a very pragmatic way of breaking down a large house. Fewer rooms but more space in each,” she says. They also incorporated some of today’s most sought-after design elements: nine-foot ceilings, en-suite bathrooms for the children and a spa-like master suite.

A first-floor den, which has ample closet space and an adjacent bathroom, moonlights as guest quarters when needed, courtesy of a comfy mohair-velvet sleeper sofa. Decorated in cobalt blue and chocolate brown in a fashionable but fun mix of patterns, the room also serves as the kids’ homework center. Vintage fiberglass chairs pull up to a built-in computer workstation made of macassar ebony in a high-gloss lacquer finish for durability. Blue grass cloth makes a handy bulletin board surface. “I use grass cloth a lot where kids will be because they can use push-pins, which don’t leave noticeable holes,” she says.

The mudroom/laundry zone has an industrial vibe with frosted glass doors that slide along a stainless steel track. “We wanted a playful utilitarian look,” Butler says. Lacquered paint finishes stand up to the wear and tear of family life, and savvy storage—in a combination of doors, shelves and drawers—manages the clutter and keeps the family organized.

In total, the homeowners couldn’t be happier with the house, says Butler, who started with almost a blank slate, minus a few pieces of art and furniture that immigrated to the roughly 7,000-square-foot house. “The clients worked closely with me on the broad strokes,” she says, but “there was an established trust and a language already understood” having worked together on previous projects. “The family spends a lot of time at home and enjoys all the visual excitement the home offers.”


Overall: interior design, Tracey Butler of b. home interior design in Essex Fells; architect, Thomas Conway, AIA, LEED AP, of The Rosen Group in Summit; builders, Diane and Dixon Peer of Peer Construction LLC in Summit. Foyer: table,; chandelier, ROOM in New York City; wallpaper, b. home interior design; metal orbs on wall, Forrest Scott Group in West Orange; circular objects on table, Arteriors in New York City. Living Room: ivory chenille sofa and chairs, coffee table and area rug, homeowners; side table, Global Views; sunburst mirror above fireplace, Forrest Scott Group; chandelier, West Essex Lighting Studio in West Caldwell. Dining Room: table, b. home interior design; dining chairs, Jonathan Adler in New York City with customized black mohair-velvet upholstery; area rug, Rugs Direct; sideboards, Worlds Away; custom chandelier, b. home interior design; conch-shell sculpture, Arteriors. Kitchen: custom teak cabinetry, b. home interior design; Icestone® countertops and glass mosaic backsplash, Arcade Tile & Marble Co. Inc. in East Orange; bar stools and lighting above table and island, Arteriors; breakfast table and chairs, homeowners. Hallway Overlooking Powder Room: chandeliers, West Essex Lighting; accent table, homeowners; vintage Saarinen chair, b. home interior design. Powder Room: custom vanity, Lauderdale Millwork in Berkeley Heights; wall tile, Virtue Tile in Summit; marble countertop and floor, Crema Marfil. Mudroom: built-ins, Lauderdale Millwork. Family Room: built-in wall unit, Lauderdale Millwork; sofas, Mitchell Gold Bob Williams; chairs, Barry Dixon Inc. in Warrenton, Virginia; custom coffee table, b. home interior design; cube/ottoman, Lee Industries; lighting, Arteriors; area rug, J&S Designer Flooring in Morristown. Den: built-ins, Lauderdale Millwork; sleeper sofa and brown leather chair, Mitchell Gold Bob Williams; ottoman, Lee Industries; drum tables, Global Views; leather stools, Pottery Barn; area rug, J&S Designer Flooring; desk chairs and wallpaper, b. home interior design; lamps and chandelier, West Essex Lighting Studio. Master Bedroom: bed, side tables, chaise and bench,; window treatments here and throughout home, LaMel Designs in Livingston; chandelier, West Essex Lighting Studio; urns on floor, Arteriors. Boys Bedroom: bed, desk and chair, ducduc in New York City; artwork above desk, Lumas in New York City; wallpaper, b. home interior design. Boys Bathroom: vanity; Lauderdale Millwork; sink and toilet, Moe Distributors Inc. in Morristown; floor and shower tile, Virtue Tile; sconces, West Essex Lighting Studio. Girls Bedroom: bed, ducduc; bedding and wallpaper, b. home interior design; ottoman, Lee Industries, chair, Room & Board; area rug, J&S Designer Flooring; window treatment, LaMel Designs Inc. Girls Bathroom: vanity, Lauderdale Millwork, flooring, countertop and backsplash tile, Virtue Tile; glass knobs, Restoration Hardware.

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