From the February/March 2020 Issue  

A New Color Palette Balances Old & New in Rumson

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Peter Kubilus  |  Designer Robert Kaner  |  Location Rumson, NJ

“The ottomans can act as footstools,” designer Robert Kaner says of the caramel-colored pieces that border the central coffee table. They also act as additional seating for large gatherings.

In Rumson, NJ, an intriguing palette balances old and new

The décor inside this stately, early-20th-century home leaned toward the classic, as might be expected. However, during a renovation of some of the spaces, the owners decided there should be a subtle tweak. “They wanted to go a little more modern than in some of the surrounding rooms,” designer Robert Kaner says. Not too modern, though — “they still wanted the new spaces to connect nicely with the adjacent areas, which are a bit more traditional,” says Kaner, owner of Robert Kaner Interior Designs in New York City.

Shelves in the alcove hold accessories in colors that complement the adjacent great room.

Kaner used color to create that connection, a strategy encouraged by his clients. “The homeowners really like color in a very strong, exuberant way,” Kaner says. “It was very important to them. They definitely don’t gravitate toward neutrals.” That was music to Kaner’s ears. “Playing with color is really fun as a designer because, in New York City, we often do a lot of neutrals. I like to use color, although it’s usually in a pretty restrained way. This gave me a chance to use color in a bigger way.”

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The color story begins in the entry, where a cheerful yellow wall covering welcomes visitors. Equally vivid is a hand-knotted wool-and-silk stair runner. “We wanted to be a little more playful and strong with what was going on the stair to create a real design moment,” Kaner explains. The pattern on the runner “has a sense of historicism to it.” In addition, the size of the graphic demands attention:

“The scale makes the stair a stronger element and connects to the bold gesture of the newel post. It has a quality of movement that we wouldn’t have been able to achieve with a broadloom.”

Bright yellow wallpaper and a boldly patterned stair runner create a striking entry.

Carpet also plays a major role in the great room just down the hall. “We had a sense for where we wanted to go with that when we designed the room,” Kaner says. “It was a fairly complex color palette in terms of incorporating blues and yellows and some caramel-rust tones. It’s a little tricky to get all of those colors to work so well together.” Kaner made it work by incorporating a carpet that features each of those tones. The lively pattern became a unifying agent. “The rug was certainly a key element in tying it all together.”

In the master bedroom, a neutral carpet provides the foundation for the colors and patterns found on the furnishings. The room is swathed in soft-toned wallpaper with cabinetry stained in a coordinating shade. Similarly hued accents build on the theme, while the headboard fabric features show-stopping abstract swirls and eddies in deep, rich colors.

In the master bedroom, custom-designed cabinetry creates a niche suitable for a chaise.

The deft use of color ensures that the newly decorated spaces blend comfortably with the existing ones, which feature a similar palette. “Color became a really good way for me to link the new rooms to the more traditional ones,” Kaner says.

“The colors we played with in the great room work nicely with the adjacent living room palette. Even though we were going somewhat more contemporary with the furnishings, the strong colors give coherence to the space as a whole.”

The large-scale headboard looks “almost like a painting,” Robert Kaner says.

Creating that harmony — developing a “stylistic way to fit something more modern into more traditional surroundings and still have it connect — was a challenge,” he says. But he welcomed the task. “Design challenges are a good thing and something that excites me. Having a challenge spurs creativity. It pushes you to do something more interesting and more unexpected; a lot of times the most interesting design elements come out of the challenges.”

The stately Rumson home dates to the early 20th century.