From the February/March 2010 Issue:

American Dream House

  • Writer: Liz Smutko
  • Photographer: Rosemary Carrol
  • Designer: Lawrence-Mayer-Wilson Interior Design

He came from Italy at the age of two. He grew up with two brothers in a small apartment in the Ironbound section of Newark. He worked in the family pizza restaurant throughout high school, college, and law school at Seton Hall, just a couple of blocks away. After establishing his law practice, he built an idyllic seven-bedroom home on old farmland in Warren to raise his family.

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enlarge | Though the family room is airy and open thanks to double French doors and matching windows, the fieldstone fireplace and comfy furniture make it cozy. A leather-topped ottoman provides close-up sitting by the fire. It’s all tied together with a rug that captures the colors in the room.
While it sounds like a story passed down from Ellis Island, this is a thoroughly modern version of the American Dream. “I was at my brother’s house and noticed that the farm across the street had a ‘For Sale’ sign and something like 14 cows,” the homeowner says. “I bought the land in 2002.”

Later, stuck in traffic one day on the way to his family’s house at the shore, he saw the number on the Lawrence-Mayer-Wilson Interior Design showroom in Brielle and dialed it on his cell phone. Alice Lawrence met him at the shore that weekend to discuss work on that house. Then when construction began on the Warren house, he called on Lawrence and associate Mary-Jo Mantz, both allied members of the American Society of Interior Designers, to make his dream reality.

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enlarge | The homeowner wanted the living room to have a classic elegance that would also be comfortable for him and his growing family. Rather than relegate the bar to a basement, it holds a position between the living room, kitchen, and sunroom, making entertaining easy and enjoyable. “With the bar in the middle, the conversations and people can flow freely between all the spaces,” designer Alice Lawrence says.
Traditional Concept

“I wanted it to be grand but understated with a country feel,” the homeowner says of the new home. “Inside, I wanted it to be chunky and comfortable and to look great, but not so much that I’d be afraid to live in it.”

To prepare, he went to open houses and snapped pictures of features he liked and clipped ideas out of magazines. “With clients who have photos,” Lawrence says, “I try to figure out what in the photo they are responding to.” Through this process, clients can define what they like. Lawrence and Mantz then did their own homework, coming back with detailed renderings and fabric choices. “It was so detailed, we were down to the nuances of the trim work,” she says.

The paint color and cabinet choices came easily: traditional but not too stuffy. “He’s so warm and family-oriented — all that is reflected in his house,” Lawrence says. As the house was being built and designed, the homeowner was building his family as well. He got married, and his wife became involved with the design.

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enlarge | “If I could change one thing,” the homeowner says, “it would be to make the dining room bigger. It’s a beautiful room, but we always have more people over than it seats.” The bold wall color balances the rug and promotes energetic conversation during family meals. Wainscoting and applied molding on the ceiling add definition to the room, while a crystal chandelier and tall lamps on the buffet brighten the space.
Traditional Family

The homeowner’s brother and his family still live across the street, his in-laws live less than three miles away, his mom is often in from Newark, and other friends and relatives are scattered nearby. “It’s like ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ around here,” he says. “There are always about 10 people eating in the kitchen or somewhere in the house. At holidays, it can be 60 to 70 people.”

To help with entertaining, the home bar was located next to the kitchen, living room, and sunroom instead of being relegated to the basement. During family gatherings, everyone is on one floor and conversations and people can flow between the spaces, just as the homeowner wanted.

With seven bedrooms, there’s plenty of room for the family to grow, but the first stop is the nursery. It had to be appropriate for a boy or a girl. The chosen theme depicts the nursery rhyme “Hey Diddle Diddle.” The homeowner told Lawrence and Mantz he had a friend who wanted to paint the mural as a housewarming gift. “As a designer, the most frightening words you can hear are ‘I have a friend who …’” she says with a laugh. “But it was an absolutely beautiful job; I was so happy.”

The nursery has seen heavy traffic. “It held our first son, then he got kicked out for the second one,” the homeowner says. “Then he got kicked our for my daughter. She’ll stay in that room unless we have another.”

Part of the American Dream is giving more to the generation that follows; This house ensures that, even to the point of each of the kids’ bedrooms having its own bath. “After growing up sharing a bathroom with my brothers, that’s really kind of nice,” the homeowner says. He’s also grateful his own father, now deceased, lived long enough to walk through the house as it was being framed. “I can’t believe how lucky and blessed I am,” he marvels.

Liz Smutko
a frequent contributor to Design NJ
writes from her home in Doylestown, Pennsylvania.


SOURCES Throughout: interior design and window treatments, Lawrence-Mayer-Wilson Interior Design in Brielle. Family Room: cabinetry, Bausman & Co. in Ontario, California; sofa, Sherrill Furniture Co. in Hickory, North Carolina, with custom fabric through Lawrence-Mayer-Wilson; chairs, Century Furniture in Hickory, North Carolina; rug, Masterlooms Inc. in Secaucus. Living Room: upholstered furniture, Century Furniture with custom fabric through Lawrence-Mayer-Wilson; sconces and lamps, Chapman Manufacturing Co. in Avon, Massachusetts; rug, Asmara Inc. in Boston; artwork and accessories, Lawrence-Mayer-Wilson Interior Design. Bar: stools, Marge Carson Inc. in Rosemead, California; cabinetry, the homeowner and Wood & Laminates Inc. in Lodi. Dining Room: table, chairs, and buffet, Jeffco Furniture Inc. in Salisbury, North Carolina; chandelier, Hart Associates Inc. in Ruston, Louisiana; lamps, Chapman Manufacturing Co.; rug, Masterlooms Inc. Kitchen: table and chairs, Century Furniture with custom fabric; island chandelier, Currey & Co. in Atlanta; countertops, Elegant Stone in Hillside. Sunroom: furniture, Laneventure in Conover, North Carolina, upholstered with fabric by Lee Jofa in Bethpage, New York. Nursery: crib, Stanley Furniture Co. in Stanleytown, Virginia, with fabric by Kravet Inc.; chair, Century Furniture with custom fabric through Lawrence-Mayer-Wilson; rug, Stanton Carpet Corp. in Syosset, New York. Bathroom: sconces and mirror, Arte de Mexico in Burbank, California; tile, Mediterranean Tile & Marble in Fairfield.

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