From the December 2019/January 2020 Issue  

How This Morristown Home Theatre Gets Rustic

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Wing Wong  |  Designer Karla Trincanello, NJCID, Allied ASID  |  Location Morristown, NJ

To ensure coziness in the spacious theater, designer Karla Trincanello placed the “seating in the center of the room and created wide aisles to flank the chairs. This platform and seating anchored the large space.” The lens of the projector is visible above the seats.

It’s a design scheme interior designer Yelena Gerts knows well: creating the feel of “everyday luxury” for a young family with four children in Colts Neck. “[They wanted] a contemporary space that wasn’t modern or traditional,” says Gerts, an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers and owner/principal of House of Style & Design in Holmdel. “Many of my clients gravitate toward this style.” She describes the look as “elegant, luxurious, timeless and yet functional and practical”—stylish spaces that are meant to be lived in and enjoyed.

Does that exist? “Yes!” enthuses Gerts, who has an innate sense of how function and style can work together. “Having a big family myself, I understand the needs and desires of today’s modern families.” Finding the balance between elegant and approachable is more attainable than it was a decade ago, she says, thanks to the availability of fashionable high-performance fabrics that are durable and easy to care for, the services available to protect the furniture and the extended vendor support she is able to offer clients.

For this project, a 10,000-square-foot home on over 4 acres, Gerts took on the challenge with great pleasure for clients who are talented, design-forward and always open to new ideas and unconventional design, she says. Besides, it was a “clean slate…every designer’s dream,” she adds. “A beautiful canvas with an open concept, large windows and a perfect layout.”

The two-story foyer—divided into three zones for style and function —sets the tone for the home’s light and airy palette: tonal variations of gray and white, layers of texture, mixed materials and contemporary millwork to warm up the home’s grand scale. While the main spaces share a harmonious palette, each one has its own voice, which seems to greet you as you move throughout the house.

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In the formal living room, a mirrored coffee table and antiqued mirror above the fireplace reflect light from floor-to-ceiling windows dressed with “super lightweight wool drapes that create a sense of luxury you can see from every point in the house,” says Gerts, a member of the Window Coverings Association of America. “I love working with luxury fabrics,” she adds. “The way they drape and fall is just magical.”

Brushstrokes of abstract artwork in black and white lend a contemplative air in a space furnished with clean lines, hushed tones and minimal pattern. “I love all different kinds of art:” abstract, photographic, modern or other, she says. “To me it’s a conversation piece. It’s an unexpected element that finishes the room like an exclamation point.”

The more laid-back family room balances shades of gray, texture and comfort in a more relaxed setting with a hand-knotted wool-and-silk gray rug as the foundation. A textured light gray sloped-arm sectional accommodates the whole family comfortably, and swivel chairs and ottomans— upholstered in durable, high-performance crushed velvet or linen—provide versatile seating options. For extra measure, upholstery here and elsewhere was treated with a fabric protection system to guard against stains. “You can never be too careful in a home with four children, especially in high-traffic areas,” Gerts says.

Nearby, in the mostly monochromatic dining room dressed in elegant but understated white velvet drapes, “stunning light fixtures became the artwork in the room,” she says. “I took a non-traditional approach that I see a lot of modern families do these days. We didn’t add any additional furniture and accessories besides the [mahogany] table and chairs.”

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The calming, cohesive color story continues in the formal lounge/wine room, which seems to say, “Sit down, have a drink and stay awhile.” Guests can gather for drinks, appetizers and conversation around a waterfall-style bar or on lush velvet swivel chairs. Crafted with walnut veneer paneling and panda porcelain stone, the built-in wine unit has perfectly aligned pegs for her clients’ own signature line of wine. Carpenter George O’Reilly “helped us perfect all the angles to create a perfect three-dimensional unit, finished with contemporary walnut cabinets for storage,” Gerts says.

Overall, “I had so much fun working on this project,” says Gerts, who also designed many of the upholstered pieces, including the chic velvet bar stools in the wine room. She also cites a unique feature you can’t see in the room: a hidden door that opens to a small kitchen with a sink and refrigerator. The homeowner envisioned that feature from the start to serve the space without interrupting the flow. Says Gerts: “Brilliant, right?” The homeowner also weighed in on the collaboration. “Working with Yelena is always a pleasure. I love her design sense and creativity.”

“I love the wine lounge area,” Trincanello says. “As guests descend the stairs [from the first floor to the basement], they enter the lounge for pre-movie drinks and noshes. It creates a surprise element when the guests see the intimate seating area and the interesting rustic barn doors.”

Though the owners of this Morristown residence appreciate a good movie, when it came to their home theater, they steered clear of a traditional Hollywood aesthetic. “They didn’t want a formal or glamorous-looking theater and preferred contemporary rustic styling,” says designer Karla Trincanello, a state-certified interior designer, allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers and owner of Florham Park-based Interior Decisions Inc.

Because the space was large, Trincanello divided it into two parts: a sitting area and a theater. The clients wanted to incorporate wood and stone into both spaces, beginning with reclaimed wood sliding barn doors that separate the lounge from the movie room.” Reclaimed wood was used also for the shelving and built-ins in the theater and lounge.

Stone makes an appearance on the walls in both spaces. In the theater, stacked-stone pilasters are positioned at intervals around the room. Each features a wood panel that conceals linear lighting, providing subtle illumination and ensuring that the walkways can remain visible even when the room is darkened for movie watching, Trincanello says.

For the theater flooring, the designer “selected a planked, wood-look porcelain tile and had it laid in a chevron pattern for added interest.” The porcelain flooring was a practical solution for this below-grade basement, but it did create “an acoustical challenge,” Trincanello says. She ensured that sound quality would not be an issue by including “extra-thick padded walls, plush seating and area carpeting to balance the hardness of the other materials.”

The rooms feature a recurring pattern of X’s—on the barn doors, in the open shelving in the lounge and in the padded, tufted wall panels, which contain speakers. “It was the basis for a typical rustic pattern,” Trincanello says. “The X design is also repeated in the ceiling, which creates quadrants that retain acoustical balance as well.”

The varied materials and patterns add interest, she says, “while keeping a simplified and not overdone look. I wanted to provide a mixture of textures with hard and soft materials, and I feel this was accomplished.”