From the February/March 2010 Issue:

Formal Request

  • Writer: Judy Jeannin
  • Photographer: Peter Rymwid
  • Designer: Diane Durocher, ASID

A Bergen County family’s home was five years in the making


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enlarge | The great room with its 22-foot-ceiling and many windows is furnished almost entirely with pieces from the homeowners’ previous residence. Interior designer Diane Durocher floated the furniture to take advantage of the mountain views as well as the fireplace and the entertainment unit (not shown). She used molding to make the room more intimate. The homeowner found the chandelier that hangs from the tray ceiling.
In the 1948 film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, Cary Grant and Myrna Loy face setbacks and swindlers as they attempt to build a home in Connecticut. It’s been more than 60 years since the film’s debut, but the theme still resonates with anyone who has taken on a similar project.

Building a custom home is fraught with challenges, from finding the proper lot to hiring an architect who shares the vision. Then there are the thousands of decisions to be made, from room size and ceiling heights down to the knobs on the kitchen cabinetry.

A Bergen County couple were well aware of the pitfalls when they decided to build the home of their dreams, so they asked Diane Durocher of Diane Durocher Interiors in Ramsey to assist them. “I had worked with the clients on their previous home, and they hired us when they were planning to build this home,” says Durocher, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a state-certified interior designer. “We were involved from the conceptual drawings to the final installation.”

“These homes take a long time to build,” Durocher says of the 12,000-square-foot traditional house designed by architect Fred Klenk of Franklin Lakes, a member of the American Institute of Architects. “There was a lot of preliminary work to do before they could start construction.” This included preparing the rugged site, deciding on the orientation of the house, and working with the architect on plan modifications. The project began in April 2003 and the family of five moved in at the end of 2006. Final touches have been completed since then.


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enlarge | Above: Acanthus leaves top the plinths designed to add architectural interest to a library encased in mahogany. The designer included cabinetry to house an entertainment center, but the homeowner decided against installing a TV in the room that also serves as his home office and a quiet spot for his sons to study.
Custom Details

The sprawling three-level home is everything the couple desired. Built using the finest materials, it has stunning mountain views, a luxurious master suite, an elevator, and public rooms sizable enough to entertain large crowds. The lower level, designed with their three sons in mind, opens to a vanishing-edge pool that looks out over the mountains.

“They wanted the house to be very formal. That is their lifestyle,” Durocher explains. “They want to be in the home well into their senior years. When children are older you don’t have to worry about them running through the house with ice pops.” The couple requested custom moldings, mahogany doors and floors, and marble flooring for much of the main level. They also wanted this new house to accommodate the furnishings they had chosen for their previous home.

Because Durocher had guided many of those purchases, she had few problems creating new settings for them. “We designed the house from the inside out,” she says. For example, the great room with its high ceilings, elaborate moldings, and large windows repurposes furniture from the couple’s former home. The original dining room floor plan was rethought to highlight a cherished table and side pieces. The kitchen, the sunroom, and the master suite are the only areas with all new furnishings.

“We had a master plan and followed it,” Durocher says. “When a home is being built, the designer is responsible to stay one step ahead so the project runs smoothly. When you are doing a project of this size, the challenge is to stay super-organized right down to what trim is going on what fabric.”


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enlarge | The foyer sets a formal tone for this Bergen County home. With its sweeping marble staircase framed in custom wrought iron balustrades, marble floor, custom rug, and a glittering chandelier, the foyer forecasts the elegant touches found throughout the home.
Personal Choices

When the client found Venetian mirrors on a trip to Italy, Durocher made certain the dimensions were right for the room. The client also chose many of the chandeliers. “This is their home and it was important to my client to take an active role in purchasing some of the items on her own. She would get my opinion on things.”

The result of this collaboration is a home that exudes elegance from the moment a guest enters the front door. The foyer features a sweeping marble staircase with custom wrought-iron balustrades topped with mahogany. The marble floor is accented with a Persian rug woven in the jewel tones seen throughout the home. Corinthian columns frame the door leading to the formal living room. “The foyer sets the tone for the house. It lets the guests have a glimpse of what’s to come,” Durocher says.

The formal feel carries through to the living room, the great room, a stately mahogany-paneled library, a spacious dining room, and an expansive master suite that includes an elevated tub surrounded by goldleafed Corinthian columns. The kitchen is designed so most of the appliances are hidden in cabinetry. A small sunroom is done in shades of cream. The tiny first-floor powder room has Jerusalem gold fleur de lis insets in the mosaic tile topping the marble wainscoting.

The biggest challenge, the designer says, was to make a home with such large rooms feel comfortable. “You want to be able to appreciate the architectural integrity yet you want it to be warm and inviting,” she says. “I consider it a privilege when someone asks me to design their home.”

Judy Jeannin
a regular contributor to Design NJ
writes from her home in Hillsdale.