Web Exclusive  

Accentuating the Positive in Essex County

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Genevieve Garruppo  |  Designer Lindsay MacRae  |  Location Essex County, NJ

A revamp freshens the look while preserving the drama

The great room “looks like one of those rooms that’s not used, but the clients use it a lot,” designer Lindsay MacRae says. “It’s so livable; they’re in there all the time.”

To infuse the great room with extra drama, MacRae hung Brunschwig & Fils silk drapery at the top of the transom, where the wall meets the ceiling.

At the time this home was built in the early 2000s, the owners had a specific aesthetic. “Though it was a new house, they wanted it look like it had been there awhile,” says Lindsay MacRae owner of Lindsay MacRae Interiors with offices in New York City and Windermere, Florida. It was built to look like a French country home with dark wood trim and very ornate interiors. Since then, the clients’ tastes had evolved and, MacRae notes, “they wanted something fresh.” Though the homeowners were looking to revamp the interiors, they didn’t want to lose elements that give the rooms character, such as the millwork and moldings. MacRae knew just how to introduce a new design that was compatible with those existing features. “Also, I’m not a waster. I wanted to work with what they had and enhance it.”

The millwork is a real showstopper in the double-height great room, which features a balcony along the perimeter of the upper level. “The dark trim was originally intended to make the home look authentic. The clients wanted to keep the integrity of the architecture during our redesign,” MacRae explains. To infuse a cozy vibe while maintaining the grandeur, the designer clad the walls in grass cloth. “It’s really slubby. It brings in texture and warmth.” Though the room is expansive, an abundance of seating options — with fabrics in varying colors and patterns — creates an intimate conversation area in front of the fireplace.

A piece of modern artwork — already owned by the clients — hangs above the piano. “I love it,” MacRae says. “It’s such a great contrast.” The custom rug is the largest MacRae ever had made. “It was a little nerve wracking, but it turned out beautifully. The neutral color is perfect since we brought in color and pattern with the fabrics.”

The dining room is a conversation piece in and of itself. MacRae and the homeowners selected a wall treatment that would hold its own against the existing wainscoting and ceiling millwork. The custom floral de Gournay paper features slender trees adorned with budding leaves and flowers, with an assortment of birds perched on the branches. The graceful, hand-painted design complements the garlands on the intricately carved crown molding.

MacRae chose an Art Deco-style chandelier for the dining room. “We needed to find a fixture that would complement the wallpaper, nothing too ornate. I knew it had to be this one.” The owners host weekly dinners for extended family and often have up to 40 people. “This is a highly used space,” MacRae says. The new custom, 124-inch console replaces two smaller pieces. “The client says that’s been a game-changer because of all the storage and service space she didn’t have before.”

A hitch with the wallpaper installation meant the panel behind the mirror didn’t match up to the adjacent panel. The manufacturer, de Gournay, recommended a decorative painter to remedy the situation. “He came in and worked magic and made it look like these panels went seamlessly together.” The painter added a few branches to the cherry blossom and, at the client’s and my direction, painted vibrant blue flowers on the panels around the room. “He made it more amazing than it already was.”

While the millwork and wall covering give the room a stately air, which is reinforced by the clients’ rich wood table, MacRae tempered the formality by incorporating simpler pieces. “We opted for chairs with a cane back. They’re still traditional and look like they belong in that room,” she says, “but the caning makes them more casual.” Similarly, MacRae chose a white sideboard to match the chairs rather than the dark tones of the table and floor. “It’s a very detailed, classic piece, but because it’s ivory, it’s more informal.” Ivory cotton sateen drapery is another laid-back addition to the space. “It’s beautifully pleated and trimmed. It’s fresh and casual and creates a balance with the ornate elements of the room.”

“I like strong patterns in small spaces,” MacRae says of the powder room.

In the powder room, MacRae went full-on opulent. “It’s located across from the dining room, which we knew was going to be a ‘wow,’” the designer says. “I wanted this small powder room to stand up to the dining room. I knew it could be a little jewel box of a space.” She began by painting the existing crown molding and vanity deep jade. Then she added wallpaper featuring lush greens, blues and white. “I like strong patterns in small spaces,” she says. “It creates such drama. In a large area, a bold wallpaper could be overbearing; you might get tired of looking at it. But here’s a room you don’t spend much time in. And it’s a surprise when you open the door. It turns what could be a boring space into something exciting and special.” Even more unique, MacRae chose light fixtures in a different palette altogether. “I’ve always wanted to use those sconces and I thought it would be fun to pick a contrasting color. The eggplant color really complements the blues and greens.”

The walls in the primary bedroom are covered in grass cloth from Thibaut. “The dark trimwork is not what I would usually put in a bedroom,” MacRae says, “but we were able to work with it. I chose the grass cloth because it has some of those brown tones.”

A small window seat in the primary bedroom leads to a dressing area. The light fixture is from Palecek. “I thought we needed something playful to mimic the playful shapes on the fabric,” MacRae says.

Likewise, the redesigned home complements the clients’ new aesthetic while maintaining its distinct character. “Previously, everything was a little heavier looking,” she says. “It had an Old World style with a lot of intricate details. This is quite a change, and it better reflects the vibrant young family that lives here.”

In a son’s bedroom, the Phillip Jeffries grass-cloth wall covering provides an ideal background for treasured sports memorabilia.