From the October/November 2009 Issue:

Design Magic

  • Photographer: PETER RYMWID
  • Designer: JANA MANNING

A penthouse gets a glamorous renovation in keeping with its Atlantic City location

Article Photo
enlarge | A second-story loft overlooks the open living area, creating additional space and almost theatrical possibilities for entertaining.
If you’re going to own a penthouse in Atlantic City, it goes without saying the décor should stand up to the surroundings. Anything even remotely demure would be lost against the panoramic beach views by day and the neon skyline by night.

Incorporating casino-style glitz into the redesign of the penthouse at The Enclave, a condominium tower at the southern end of the boardwalk, proved no trouble for Jana Manning, owner of Manning Design Group. In fact, the homeowners, a magician and casino show producer and his wife, an actress and dancer, upped the ante on the dramatic possibilities. Having traveled extensively to resort communities around the globe, the couple wanted the 1,800-square-foot duplex to reflect not only their luxurious lifestyle, but also to include exotic elements from Southeast Asia. “I wouldn’t naturally walk into any space and say, ‘Let’s do a combination of Atlantic City and Thailand,’” Manning says. “The challenge was to make it work and make it feel like a home.”

Meeting the challenge garnered Manning a 2008 Gold Award of Excellence from the New Jersey chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. She pulled together the competing elements and ideas using furniture with clean lines and a mostly neutral color palette. The theatrics — and they are aplenty — come from the luxe materials chosen for their glamour quotient, as well as the custom furnishings, accessories, and decorative pieces made mostly from reclaimed Asian artifacts. “I found the clients to be very inspiring because they lead interesting lives and have experienced a lot of beautiful destinations,” Manning says. “They are very culturally aware.”

Article Photo
enlarge | The dark wood of the custom cabinetry in the kitchen and bar harmonizes with the home’s mix of contemporary and exotic furnishings.
Setting the Stage

The homeowners purchased the two-bedroom, two-floor condo in 2000 and lived there until 2007, when they enlisted Manning to assist with a complete gut and renovation. The original interior was conceived in 1985, around the time The Enclave was built, and so the space resembled something out of “Miami Vice” with its black-onyx surfaces and randomly placed mirrors. The redesign took eight months, during which the couple lived in another condominium in the building.

“At first it felt like a daunting task,” the homeowner says. But eventually, he and his wife were swept up in the planning. As a performer and show producer, he often has a hand in the creative process behind casino extravaganzas, even designing scenery. “This was fun for me because it was like designing permanent scenery,” he says.

Indeed, the home has many custom creations that could be considered stagy, but without appearing staged. Most notable among them is the shutter-style doors and awning that provide the backdrop to a daybed in the second-floor loft. Built from reclaimed Indonesian teak, they serve not only as a focal point, but also as a cover for storage — not that anyone would notice. “When you go into that room, you feel like you’re sitting outdoors at a Balinese villa,” the homeowner says.

Manning, herself, has traveled extensively to Asia, so finding inspiration — as well as sources — came naturally. “You give them a general design and they run with it,” she says of the various firms she has used in her work over the years. “It’s like commissioning a piece of art: You can’t fully anticipate the outcome.”

Above the living room sofa hangs a mirror set into an ornately carved piece of wood salvaged from a place of worship in Indonesia. The warmth of the weathered lumber acts as a counterpoint to the home’s sleek, contemporary styling and the double-height windows that Manning worried might come off as too cool and harsh in the open living and dining areas. “It always adds something interesting to the design not to have something new and polished,” she says. She also chose rounded furniture — including the sofa, ottoman, dining chairs, and table — for their softer lines.

There are, of course, nods to casino culture and to the beach throughout the condo. A crystal chandelier in the dining room was chosen for its Liberace-like decadence. In creating an accent wall near the dining area, Manning used flattened Balinese seashells, their mother-of-pearl iridescence heightened with accent lighting.

The building’s owners liked the renovation so much they commissioned Manning to redesign The Enclave’s lobby and common areas. She hopes to infuse those areas with similar drama. “It really contributed to the success of the space,” she says.


Denise DiFulco
freelance writer in Cranford
a regular contributor to Design NJ.


SOURCES: Interior design: Manning Design Group in Asbury Park. Living room: wall art with mirror, Hip and Humble Home in New York City (now out of business); table lamps, Designfront in Red Bank (now out of business); sofa and ottoman, Kroungold’s in Marlton; flooring, A.W. Eurostile in Shrewsbury. Dining room: mother-of-pearl tile wall, Bergamo (T) in New York City; chandelier, Schonbek through Capitol Lighting; dining table and chairs, Kensington Furniture & Carpet in Northfield; vase, Palecek (T); bar area, Design Studio Interiors in Linwood. Kitchen: cabinetry, Design Studio Interiors. Loft: armoire, daybed, Hip and Humble Home; mirror, British Khaki in New York City; pillow fabric, Donghia (T); coffee table, homeowners; wood doors and gazebo-like structure, custom through Manning Design Group; desk, swivel chair, Crate & Barrel; track lighting, Capitol Lighting. Guest room: sofa,; steamer trunk, homeowners; built-ins, Design Studio Interiors; wallpaper, Donghia; bed, bedding, and side chair, Brocade Home in New York City. Guest bath: sconces, flooring and wall tile, Ann Sacks; mirror, vanity, and faucet, Porcelanosa in Paramus. Powder room: wall tile and sconces, Ann Sacks; mirror and sink, Porcelanosa; vanity, Restoration Hardware. T=To the trade.

Download the complete resource guide with contact information (pdf)