From the December 2023/January 2024 Issue  

Chic Retreat

Writer Meg Fox  |  Photographer Costas Picadas  |  Designer Veronica Pluta  |  Builder Gregg Heubach  |  Location Franklin Lakes, NJ

A go-to destination down under

A coffered ceiling with charcoal-painted insets distinguishes the lounge area. “The seating arrangement was meant for conversation and TV viewing,” designer Veronica Pluta says. Bold grass-cloth print wallpaper on the accent wall above the expansive custom storage unit “complements the fabulous upholstery on the brass-framed metal chairs.”

Seeking space for their whole family to enjoy and entertain friends, Carly Fink-Kamens and husband Seth Kamens sought to transform the unfinished basement of their Franklin Lakes, New Jersey, home into a “welcoming and fun space that did not feel typical,” Fink-Kamens says. “For this to happen, the basement needed an excitement factor that intrigued people and provided a reason to stay.”

Designer Victoria Pluta, founder of VP Interiors LLC in Wayne, New Jersey, took on the challenge by carving out designated areas within the 2,000-square-foot space for multipurpose use incorporating a billiard room, bar, TV lounge, gym, full bathroom and more. The style is a departure from the rest of their home, the designer says. She proposed a “Gatsby-inspired design concept that was elegant yet handsome and evoked a moody Deco-style lounge.” The design is “bold and avant-garde,” she says, while the upstairs spaces are more subtle or conservative.

“I wanted to create an experience when walking down the stairs,” Pluta says of the stairwell’s gold metallic geometric patterned wallpaper. It sets the stage for the basement’s elevated design scheme. Note the glass-enclosed gym off the adjacent TV lounge at right, which keeps sight lines open.

A heightened sense of arrival begins at the stairwell, which is covered in a wallpaper with a gold metallic geometric pattern, a recurring design motif that brings continuity to the entire floor plan in various scales.

Dramatic dimensional fretwork trim on the billiard room’s accent wall repeats the high-contrast charcoal gray and metallic gold theme, Pluta says. Low-maintenance vinyl flooring in a heavy wood grain “balances all the metallic elements and deep charcoal tones.”

Visible from the stairway is the billiard room, which amps up the geometric factor in dramatic fashion. There, an accent wall is trimmed in a large-scale dimensional fretwork application in high-contrast charcoal and metallic gold.

A coffered ceiling was an essential architectural element that Pluta used to define the adjacent TV lounge. Charcoal-painted insets pop against white beams, an effect that also accentuates the bold geometric pattern of the grass-cloth wallpaper on the main wall. With storage being a “huge priority,” Pluta says, she took advantage of the wide space with wall-to-wall lower storage cabinets. The charcoal-stained unit — topped in quartz — holds board games, kids’ toys, blankets and more.

Every detail was considered to create a cohesive, balanced design throughout the space, including pops of navy blue strategically placed throughout, Pluta says. “The felt on the billiard table draws your eye over to the luxurious navy blue velvet tufted sofas that flank the lounge space,” she notes. The blue continues in the bar’s navy Shaker-style cabinetry, where “beer on tap was a must” for the homeowner, a beer connoisseur, she says. Opposite the bar is a wine storage area with a black-framed glass enclosure that ties in with the glass-enclosed exercise zone, which keeps sight lines open.

Navy blue Shaker-style cabinetry at the sit-down bar houses a sink, mini fridge, dishwasher, ice machine and more. “Beer on tap” was also a must, the designer says. Bar stools are upholstered in easy-care but chic metallic gray vinyl. Repeating the stairwell wallpaper on the bar’s tray ceiling “helps provide a cohesive look to the space,” homeowner Carly Fink-Kamens says.

The bar’s black-and-brass backsplash tile visually harmonizes with the triangular shapes and tones of the wallpapered accent wall in the adjacent lounge.

A dedicated playroom is a “fun yet transitional space” designed to grow with the children, the designer says. When the architect on the project proposed a curved dropped ceiling to add architectural interest, Pluta ran with the concept by adding a large round rug to repeat the curves along with an oversized lounger where kids can cuddle up with a favorite book but still have plenty of room for play.

Elsewhere, the full bathroom is like a “little jewel box,” the designer says, a culmination of all the special details throughout the basement packaged in one space. Classic black and white marble chevron floors set the scene, coupled with metallic gold geometric wallpaper and an oversized Sputnik-style light fixture for a touch of glamour. The vanity also brings in that pop of blue plus a touch of gold in the hardware.

Opposite the bar is a glass-enclosed custom wine storage area that echoes the black-framed glass walls of the gym.

Giving credit to the project’s “dream team” (architect, contractor and designer), Fink-Kamens says the basement came out even better than she could have imagined. “Every detail is so well thought out,” creating the feeling of being “transported to an exclusive lounge or a trendy hotel,” she says. When it came to the design, “Veronica pushed me into unfamiliar territory and, as a result, created this unbelievable space.”

The bar is adjacent to the playroom, visible through the open door at right.


Rising Above
Lower-Level Challenges Curves & Clearance: As in most basements, “the low stairway was my biggest obstacle,” designer Veronica Pluta says. “I had to choose upholstery according to very specific measurements.” The large lounger went down with 1/8-inch clearance. For­tunately, the delivery team at White House Living in Wayne (where all the furniture was purchased), was “amazing,” she says. “I knew if anyone could handle this challenge, they could.”

Illuminating Gestures: “Due to the lack of natural light, proper above-head lighting with high hats was added as well as chandelier pendants for ambience,” Pluta says. Dimmers help “create quite the moody atmosphere for entertaining.”

From the black and white chevron tiles to the blue vanity, metallic gold geometric wallpaper and Sputnik-style chandelier, the bathroom “was put together beautifully and has that wow factor,” the homeowner says.

Shower walls, wrapped in polished black Marquina porcelain tile, “ground the room and create drama,” the designer says.

The multipurpose playroom is a “fun yet transitional space” that can grow with the kids, Pluta says. For now, the chalkboard wall with its removable letters and shapes “lets the kids be creative and brings a high-contrast element to the space.” Sculptural hand tables add a touch of whimsy, while the opposite wall contains a two-seated built-in desk for homework or crafts.