Warming it up in Warren - CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The family room’s playful old-world theme comes to life with jewel tones, a tole-painted chandelier and antique posters of court jesters and patrician partiers; Brooks’ “project supervisor,” Rockefellah, contemplates a dip in the master bath’s whirlpool tub.
Suburban Chic - Brooks updated the living room walls in a smoky grey-green and added updated chairs with an English profile, along with a lively mix of other furnishings from the 20th century and earlier.
Private Escape - The focal point of the monochromatic master bedroom is a mahogany headboard inlaid with ivory and upholstered in cashmere.
Big-City Style - Once a stark condominium, the River House residence is now awash in a luxe color palette with a subtle river-water motif. FROM TOP: Foyer walls are Venetian plaster covered with a wave-patterned treatment; an intimate media room provides ample seating with a sofa sleeper, telescoping side tables, and a nifty roll-away coffee table that also functions as an ottoman, built by Masters Interiors in Clifton; the Manhattan kitchen boasts glass and stone countertops, a Venetian plaster ceiling, and concrete floors in a tortoise-inspired pattern, all executed by New Jersey resources.
After working his magic on a family home in the garden state, Jeffrey Brooks of Jeffrey Brooks Interior Design in Long Valley was delighted to embark on a second, albeit very different, project for the same client. “About one year after I finished my clients’ spacious colonial home in Somerset County, they invited me to work on a unique assignment in Manhattan,” Brooks says.
The couple—a former CEO of a Fortune-500 company who now heads up an online business, and a passionate advocate for community-service initiatives—had purchased a home away from home that needed to reflect their love of the late 1920s era and the Art Deco movement.
When Brooks’ clients explained that their new 4,500-square-foot condominium was in Manhattan’s historic River House, the designer was immediately enthusiastic. “River House is an iconic East Side building highly sought after as a residence by political figures, prestigious publishers and others,” Brooks says. “Entering River House is like walking into a bygone era as you’re greeted by red-coated bellmen and surrounded by cobblestoned courtyards.”
Although the condo had a great deal of overall space and dazzling river views, at its core was a challenging maze of tiny rooms—a too-small kitchen, unserviceable butler’s pantry and three servants’ quarters. “Because we’d worked together before, I knew the family would want a more practical floor plan, with enhanced natural light. The rooms needed to be welcoming and comfortable so, although we were going for an Art Deco feel, we didn’t worry about making the space so period correct that it could become stodgy,” Brooks explains.
Country Home Somerset County
First, the Manhattan space was gutted, then the walls began their transformation. “My clients didn’t want stark white walls and a monochromatic look within this vast space, so I used color to make the place feel personal, and relied heavily on custom shades of paint, Venetian plaster, and unusual textures,” says Brooks, a past president of the New Jersey chapter of the Interior Design Society.
In the main entry gallery, he created an architecturally strong space and a modern aesthetic by finishing the walls with three panels of wave-patterned composite that had been skimmed, sanded by hand and lacquered. The glamorous wave design recurs in other wall and ceiling treatments throughout the condo.
“Because of the building’s location overlooking the river, the views from the residence are always changing. I wanted to flood the gallery with light and motion, to reflect the flowing river below,” Brooks says.
Next, he began filling the condo with vintage as well as updated Deco furniture and accessories. “French Art Deco tends to feel less heavy and dense than other Deco pieces, so I chose furniture that is light and lyrical. The living room, for example, is purposely designed to be more feminine,” he says.
The construction in the Manhattan condominium is by Richard Baronio of New York. Brooks collaborated with many of his favorite New Jersey resources as he transformed the River House space into a showplace for the family’s special possessions.
Old-World Elegance in Warren
The invitation to design the River House residence in Manhattan came one year after Brooks completed the family’s more traditional home in suburban Somerset County.
“Initially, the Warren project encompassed only the first floor of the family’s center-hall colonial. But, several months after we began working together, the homeowners asked me to design the upstairs as well,” he says. “The interior palette was a dated mauve, grey and white, so we updated the residence with smoky grey-green in the living room, pale warm colors in other areas, and playful jewel tones in furnishings and accessories.”
A sunken family room, with walls 21-feet high, posed a particular challenge, but Brooks focused on his clients’ preferences to come up with a solution. Because the couple’s home is surrounded by English-style gardens, and since Brooks knows they enjoy baroque art and architecture, he embellished the family space with regal chandeliers, huge pieces of stained glass art, and antique posters of life-size Renaissance figures.
“I had seen those court jester posters about three years earlier at a print show in Princeton, and knew they would be perfect for the family room. So I looked up the Montclair art dealer and, sure enough, he still had them,” the designer says.
“Since the front half of the house was traditional, and the back was spare and contemporary, we finessed the architectural detail, mediated all the spaces and chose a strong and engaging theme,” Brooks adds. “I was pleased to be able to help my clients transform their stark suburban house into a vibrant country haven.”
Brooks says he is delighted to have been invited to design two very different types of dwellings for the couple, who also maintain residences on Fire Island and Longboat Key, Florida.
Favorite New Jersey resources
Jeffrey Brooks Interior Design (908-876-4408; jeffreybrooksinteriordesign.com) executes works throughout the U.S. and consults outside of the country as well. Brooks is an allied member of the American Society of Interior Designers and a licensed home improvement contractor in New Jersey. Some of his favorite resources hail from the Garden State:
Paint and paint finishes—
PaintTek, Dunellen (732-968-4200; painttek.com)
Floor finishes—Top Coat, Fair Lawn (201-794-1597; topcoat-llc.com)
Countertops—Galaxy Glass and Stone, Fairfield (973-575-3440; galaxycustom.com)
Backsplash—Imaginative Design Center, Bedminster (908-781-9319; imaginativedesigncenter.com)
Appliance, Fairfield (973-575-8422; renosappliance.com)
Kitchen hood—Range Craft, Fair Lawn (201-791-0440; rangecraft.com)
Kitchen lighting—Estiluz, Moon-achie (201-641-1997; estiluz.com)
Interiors, Clifton (973-253-0784)
Carpet—J&S Carpet and Flooring, Morristown (973-605-5225; jsdesignerflooring.com)
Framing—Joyce Krieg, Mendham (973-543-7686; kriegprints.com)