From the October/November 2017 Issue

Marvels at the Mansion: Dining at the Abbey

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Phillip Ennis  |  Designer Barbara Ostrom Associates  |  Location Morris Township, NJ
  • Designer Barbara Ostrom loves “the contrast of dark and light, like the dark blue wallpaper with all the bright colors in it.”

  • Ostrom brought in “the most gorgeous flowers in the world,” which were replaced every three days, “so that everything was always fresh and fragrant. They filled the room with divine fragrances.”

  • Charming details add a sense of whimsy to the space.

This eclectic space is both uplifting and bright.

Barbara Ostrom’s first foray into this room was, to put it mildly, inauspicious. “The whole ceiling was falling off,” she quips when describing the state of the space. But Ostrom, owner of  Barbara Ostrom Associates in Mahwah, New Jersey, saw past the disrepair. “The beauty of this room was the original ceiling,” so her goal was to restore it to its former glory. “I knew this was a big undertaking,” she says. She sought assistance from the experts at the Brooklyn Museum, who were able to create molds from the remnants of the original ceiling and piece them together to re-create the look.

The ceiling wasn’t the only part of the room that was lacking its original splendor. “Half of the decorative floor border was missing,” says Ostrom, a member of the American Society of Interior Designers. She addressed that issue by bringing in another expert. Glen Ridge, New Jersey-based mural artist Andrew Tedesco used stain to match what was already there.

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Tedesco played a part in the wall covering as well. Ostrom explains, “I ordered a beautiful, hand-painted wall covering, but when it arrived, it was missing half the colors. So Andrew came in and for two weeks painted our colors onto it.” That was painstaking, laborious work, but it didn’t stop Ostrom and Tedesco from having a little fun with the room’s décor in the form of painted “mice” running across the baseboards.

That was an unusual choice, but this is an eclectic space. “It definitely has an English influence,” Ostrom says, “but it has the flamboyance of Chinese Chippendale.” Ostrom chose a primarily blue palette. “We had about seven shades of blue in there.” The varying shades—with some other bold hues thrown in—ensure the grand space is not overly staid.

“I wanted the room to feel sparkly and uplifting and bright,” she says. “I always try to make my rooms happy so that when people come in it makes them feel good.”

The 2017 Mansion in May Designer Showhouse and Gardens breathed new life into Alnwick Hall-The Abbey in Morris Township, New Jersey. The 20,000-square-foot Abbey was built in the first years of the 20th century and was inspired by several medieval English castles. For the entire month of May, many of New Jersey’s top designers displayed their talents in 41 of the estate’s rooms and 17 landscaped spaces. Eager visitors toured the spaces, where decorative styles ranged from whimsical to elegant, from understated to elaborate. All proceeds benefitted the Women’s Association for Morristown Medical Center (wammc.org).