From the June/July 2016 Issue:

River Reverie

    Writer: Janet Purcell | Photographer: Patricia Burke | Designer: Suzette Donleavy | Landscaping: Mike Cole |

Little Silver couple transform their property into welcoming spaces for their family and friends

Article Photo
enlarge | A tall willow tree shades a 60-inch round pedestal table and six side chairs where the family and guests can relax in peaceful comfort overlooking the Shrewsbury River.
“Grandma” and “Gramps” Napoli had worked with Suzette Donleavy of Well-Designed Interiors in Rumson for indoor transformations in their Little Silver home overlooking the Shrewsbury River. When they decided to blend the interior with the outdoors, they returned to her for guidance.

“The outdoor space needed to seat a growing number of grandchildren along with their parents and also provide intimate dining space for entertaining on a smaller, scale,” Donleavy says, adding that it had been the Napolis’ dream for years to create this space to accommodate their lifestyle.

They now have a total of four outdoor dining areas, two lounge areas and three areas dedicated to seated comfort in a landscaping design framed by a stone wall and softened by grasses, black-eyed susans, rose bushes, hydrangeas and lovely river views.

The uppermost level expanded the original deck to accommodate a cascading staircase from the back of the house and to incorporate the chimney’s natural stone into the design. Casual seating and dining areas on this level are convenient to the home’s interior. 

“On the west side of the house,” Donleavy says, “is the dock to Gramps’ boat that is often the scene of memorable afternoons tubing or water-skiing.”

Article Photo
enlarge | Sliding doors lead to the upper-level deck from what was once a screened porch. There, a rectangular pedestal table is surrounded by six more dining chairs. These are dressed with outdoor terrycloth fabric for ultimate comfort and practicality. The family’s blue-and-white porcelain collection, hydrangeas and a polka-dot runner juxtapose between formality and everyday living.
Low-Maintenance Design
Keeping in mind the continuity of all levels of the outdoor spaces, while at the same time being conscious of using low-maintenance products, all four areas were designed using Azek maintenance-free materials for staircase railings, granite for the main deck and Kool Deck textured concrete surrounding the pool. A strong textured concrete material, Kool Deck does not hold heat and allows poolside safety and comfort. 

The original furniture was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. To replace it, Donleavy chose coordinating furniture on each level to unify the whole in the embrace of the expansive outdoors. She says careful attention was given also to layering various materials to create interest “and to avoid the hotel syndrome.”

The outdoor terrycloth fabric used in the dining seating offers light-hearted but practical comfort while the graceful patterned fabric on the settee and arm chairs softens the setting’s hardscape.

Article Photo
enlarge | A granddaughter enjoys a plunge into the pool. A hand-formed hot tub overlooking the pool and river is a favorite perch for the family. An “on-the-water” ambience is carried through with chaise lounges that bring outdoor colors together in weather-resistant fabric, a bar-height table and chairs, and a fence with “glass” panels that offers an uninterrupted view while serving as a wind barrier.
Warm Welcome
Each level has its own welcoming personality. The pool and hot tub offer a place for splashing and swimming along with a collection of chaises for sunbathing. The dual-level bar in the outdoor kitchen is a fun gathering place while “Gramps” cooks everything from burgers to lobsters on his grill. And the lower level offers a dining area for relaxing conversation under the shade of a graceful willow overlooking the river.

Stairs that form the kitchen background lead up to a private deck off of an office offering a quiet getaway from the activity below. There, a retractable awning shelters a chaise lounge, sectional seating and an outdoor fire pit.

“It was Grandma’s dream,” Donleavy says, “to take an open backyard with fabulous views and create a multipurpose space that would be a fun location for family and friends to enjoy for years to come.” 

Janet Purcell is a Hopewell-based writer


Design, Well-Designed Interiors in Rumson; original landscape, Erich & Erich in Cranbury, additional landscaping and maintenance, Mike Cole’s Landscape & Lawn Care in Oceanport; pool, Jersey Pool LLC in Flemington; table, McKinnon and Harris in New York City; chaise lounges and chairs at round and rectangular pedestal tables, Grange in New York City; seat and cushion fabric, Kravet in New York City; table runner, Pottery Barn; bar table and counter chairs, Quinta by Janus-et-Cie in New York City; chairs on both sides of the orange ceramic stool, Barlow Tyrie in Moorestown; stool, Well-Designed Interiors; grill, firemagic; countertop and backsplash, Tiled Interiors, Red Bank; railings, Azek in Succasunna; pool surround, Kool Deck by mortex in Tucson.

Download the complete resource guide with contact information (pdf)