From the June/July 2010 Issue:

Home Sweet Home

  • Writer: Robin Amster
  • Photographer: David Van Scott

With an architect’s help, a Bernardsville family stays put in style


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enlarge | Renovation of the family room included removing outdated wood paneling; designing built-in seating, a television cabinet, and bookcases; and adding cornice trim around the perimeter of the cathedral ceiling. The old family room contained a tiny pass-through window to the old kitchen. Architect Susan M. Rochelle removed the wall to open the space to the new kitchen. Columns between the family room and kitchen (far right in photo) provide structural support and visual separation of the two spaces.
When Holly and Skip Orza and their two sons realized they had outgrown their older Bernardsville home they considered moving. They wanted a location close to downtown and the schools; a warm, friendly neighborhood; a convenient commute to Manhattan; and a house like their current one: gracious, charming, and filled with character.

They soon found that the perfect home was, in fact, already home. “We liked our neighbors and the proximity to downtown Bernardsville and the schools,” Holly Orza says. “We liked the architecture, the style of our house; the fact that it does have a style. The kids can walk to school, they can ride their bikes to the movie theater, friends are nearby. We really enjoy the neighborhood feeling.”

However, the less-than-perfect features of their 59-year-old home had to be addressed. The kitchen was tiny, there was no mudroom, and a second-floor bedroom/former nursery was inadequate, as was an adjacent small bathroom.

Enter Susan M. Rochelle, the Milford architect who came up with an expansion/renovation project that would give the Orzas everything they wanted and some features they didn’t even know they wanted. “The process is organic,” Rochelle says of her planning for clients. “What people say they want initially sometimes leads to discussions of other things that make sense, things that hadn’t occurred to them.”


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enlarge | The architect sought to give the new dining room, located in an addition at the rear of the home, as much character as the dining room it replaced. It’s awash in natural light with floor-to-ceiling windows, a windowed alcove housing a sideboard, and French doors that lead to an outdoor terrace.
The Wish List

Topping the Orzas’ wish list was a new kitchen. “The kitchen had been too small from the start,” Orza says. “It was a U-shaped, one-person kitchen with moderately nice finishes. It was almost as though the previous owners wanted to do something with it but ran out of money.”

The Orzas also wanted a mudroom because snow and ice collected at the side door to the house, its most popular entrance, she says. And while there were enough bedrooms (four) and bathrooms (three), the family wanted to enlarge the small bedroom/former nursery and improve the small bath next to it.

Rochelle, a member of the American Institute of Architects, came up with a plan for a spacious new kitchen — partly in space that had been a dining room and partly in space from a new addition at the rear of the house. Canterbury Design created the new kitchen, which includes a new food-storage pantry, an informal dining area, and a home office/desk area. The space was opened up to an adjoining family room by removing a wall between the two.

The family room itself received a makeover with the removal of outdated wood paneling and the addition of built-ins and cornice trim around the perimeter of its cathedral ceiling.

Rochelle created a new mudroom out of space that had been the informal dining area and enlarged the foyer by removing a closet.

The new addition — a bump-out at the rear of the house — enabled the architect not only to enlarge the kitchen but also to create a new dining room and a new butler’s pantry. The pantry separates the living room and new dining room.

The new dining room represents the Orzas’ wish — and Rochelle’s pledge — to retain the home’s special character. “One of the things the Orzas like about this house is it is unique; they and I felt it was important to capitalize on this attribute,” Rochelle says. “They wanted to make sure that when the renovation changed something, I would replace it with something equal or better.

“The old dining room was atypical; it wasn’t rectangular and at its end there was a bay-shaped exterior wall containing French doors flanked by floor-to-ceiling windows,” Rochelle says. “So I didn’t want to make the new dining room a rectangular box.” She designed a space that overflows with light from floor-to-ceiling windows, French doors that lead to an outside terrace, and a windowed alcove. It also features a tray ceiling with indirect lighting.

On the second floor Rochelle created a large new bedroom in the addition. In what had been the former small bedroom/nursery, she designed a laundry room. She combined a small bathroom (adjacent to the former bedroom/nursery) and a narrow guest bath into one enlarged bathroom. The addition includes a brand-new guest bathroom.

The master bedroom was completely redone with custom woodwork and built-in cabinetry. By eliminating a rarely used tub and poorly designed linen closet, the architect redesigned the master bath to include a large walk-in shower, two sinks, vanity, and linen storage.


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enlarge | The master bedroom got a new lease on life with custom woodwork and built-in cabinetry for a television, books, and storage.
Added Benefit

The contractor for the Orza project — who also did all the moldings, detail work, and built-ins (in the master bedroom and family room) — was the architect’s husband, Philip Rochelle of Philip W. Rochelle Building in Pittstown.

Having a husband-and-wife team, who often work together, was an added advantage for the homeowners, Orza says. “We had been referred to Susan separately. We then went out to bid on contractors, and Phil was one of them. Their relationship worked to our advantage,” Orza says. “I think it actually saved us money as they’d discuss our project over coffee in the morning. And Phil is a meticulous craftsman.”

Also influencing the house were interior designers Nancy Marcus and Jill Guzman, owners of Olcott Square Interiors in Bernardsville. The two were involved with the design of the new dining room, family room, and master bedroom. Marcus calls Holly’s design taste “traditional with pizzazz,” while Guzman says the homeowner is fond of including “a little something fun and unexpected” throughout the home.

The dining room, for example, combines dining room chairs with leopard skin upholstery and hostess chairs in a contemporary pattern with a Chippendale style table and traditional sideboard.

The result of the whole project: The Orzas got what they wanted and more. For example, the architect suggested locating the new laundry room on the second floor for convenience instead of on the first floor as Orza originally specified. Rochelle also came up with the idea for the new butler’s pantry, the storage pantry in the kitchen, the enlarged second floor bathroom, and the new guest bathroom.

Rochelle says the addition created a better flow while remaining in scale with this home and others in the neighborhood. The addition increased the size of the 3,000-square-foot house by about 850 square feet.

“We made a conscious effort to have the addition fit with the language the house was already speaking in terms of the roof pitches, the percentage of glass to wall, the different kinds of materials used,” Rochelle says. “Even though we added to the house, it seems as if it always looked this way.”

“The old and the new blend really well,” Orza agrees. “The old house had been a dead end; nothing really was connected. Now it’s all open; one room flows into the next. You can make a complete circle around the house.

“This is not a giant house but it has so much character,” she says. “And now we have all the room we need. It’s perfect for us.”