From the December 2017/January 2018 Issue  

Cherished Memories

Writer Denise S. Valenti  |  Photographer Christopher Delaney  |  Designer Byford & Mills with Lynda Berger  |  Location Rumson, NJ
  • Living Room | A skillful mix of old and new gives the living room a timeless elegance. The columns are original to the house, while the cabinetry was custom-built. The homeowners brought most of the furniture with them, though Byford & Mills reupholstered it.

  • Details | Byford & Mills created a fresh look by combining existing furniture with beach-elegant accessories available through its showroom. Creams and powder blues keep the décor cohesive.

  • The addition of polished countertops and a mirrored backsplash opened up an otherwise small and dim galley kitchen.

  • A well-appointed family room is a welcoming spot for the owners and their dogs: two standard poodles that avail themselves of the plush, velvet armchairs and sofa.

  • Master Bedroom | The master bedroom was designed with tranquility in mind. Custom built-ins fit the traditional décor and also make better use of the limited space.

  • Details | Lots of fine detail, including a custom embroidered and monogrammed pillow in the master bedroom, typify the attention given to every inch of the small home and exemplify its comforts.

Byford & Mills helps a client downsize while making room for treasured mementoes.

Nostalgia would seem to be a limiting inspiration for a completely new décor. But, in fact, using existing furnishings and accessories in a space—particularly when they were purchased for another home—requires enormous creativity and ingenuity, along with a fresh outlook.

Gail Steinberg approached interior design firm Byford & Mills in Little Silver, New Jersey with just this sort of request when downsizing from her family’s home in Middletown, NJ to a late 19th-century Victorian in Rumson, NJ. However, she had a problem getting rid of things. Steinberg is a memory person—everything has value for her.

Steinberg asked the design firm to reuse sofas, paintings, knickknacks—even her mother’s old curtains, which previously had hung in yet another house. The goal was set to reupholster furnishings and mix in fresh accessories with the old mementoes. Lynda Berger of the Byford & Mills team also accommodated the curtain request, having them cut and interspersed with a new fabric so they could be reimagined entirely as relaxed Roman shades.

One of the many upsides of working with and around Steinberg’s most-cherished belongings is that the house—which is in consideration for Rumson’s historic property list—feels like it was decorated and planned over many years. Of course, it wasn’t. When Steinberg and her husband, Neil, purchased the home, they both panicked over its small size. “We can’t do this. What were we doing?” Steinberg remembers thinking. “We all had a meltdown when we first moved in.”

The house is so compact that the dining room is at the front entrance in a railroad configuration that trails through the living room and into the kitchen. Columns that are original to the home separate the first two rooms; coordinating built-in cabinetry was added in the living room to make the best possible use of the space and to heighten its historic appeal.

The open aspect of the front rooms and their connectedness required a cohesive look. Berger proposed a palette of soft blues and creams to unify them, as well as the disparate furnishings. It’s a soothing palette that’s carried throughout the home, enhanced by luxe flourishes and lots of detail.

“We made every inch of the house usable,” Steinberg says. But not just for herself, her husband and their two adult children. The family also includes two standard poodles, who make themselves comfortable on even the smallest of seats. They especially enjoy the family room, where Steinberg wanted to incorporate a sectional sofa. The room is augmented with tufted armchairs, two of which came from the previous home. Originally upholstered in cranberry and gold brocade, the armchairs were redesigned in butterscotch velvet.

Steinberg says velvet is a forgiving fabric for pets. “It’s tough, nothing pulls,” she says. “They’ve jumped up with a wet paw or dirty foot, but you just wipe it with your hand.”

While some might have held their breath when the poodles jumped and sat on every piece of furniture as it arrived, these treasured family members received a special tribute in a wall montage in the family room that includes several paintings of dogs plus a Century vase draped with the collar and leash of one of the family’s deceased pets.

Even the master bedroom makes use of a nostalgic item—Steinberg’s grandmother’s ottoman. In addition, built-ins were installed for storage, and fine details such as embroidery, embossing and tufting were added to make the room feel homey and snug. Mirrored side tables and lamps with a glass base add a bit of shine for balance. Steinberg said she “wanted the whole place to be like a big fuzzy bear wrapping its arms around you.”

Steinberg wanted to display some keepsakes, but was encouraged to tuck them away, keeping them in her heart and mind instead.

But in general, Byford & Mills was able to accommodate her requests. The firm’s goals are to keep clients happy so they don’t rearrange everything later and to leave them loving the result of the design project.

For Steinberg, the melding of old and new was a success: “Everything was made to look like it belongs together.”