From the April/May 2020 Issue  

Clean Lines and Open Spaces in Tenafly, NJ

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Michael Grimm  |  Location Tenafly, NJ  |  Architects Brad Engelsman, Egbert Miles Chu
Clean Lines in Living Room

LIVING ROOM | A wall of large windows in the living room offers a view of the wooded property. The colors of the lush landscape stand out against the neutral furnishings.


Egbert Miles Chu, AIA

Egbert Miles Chu, AIA
Attn Attn Architecture & Design PLLC
Manhattan | 917-725-0172 |

When the Chen family moved to New Jersey from Manhattan, they brought their modern aesthetic with them. In a sea of more traditional styles, the Chens chose a 1970s contemporary Tenafly home, though it was in need of an update. They called on the expertise of Brad Engelsman of Brad Engelsman Design Architecture PLLC (BEDA) in Brooklyn and Egbert Miles Chu, AIA, of Attn Attn Architecture & Design PLLC in Manhattan. Engelsman and Chu collaborated to revamp both the architecture and the interior design.

Design NJ: What was the objective of this project?

Brad Engelsman: The goal was to create bright, simple and open spaces as well as clean lines within the design. Because this was a remodel, we wanted to take advantage of what the house already offered while giving it a new and upgraded feel.

Brad Engelsman

Brad Engelsman
Brad Engelsman
Design Architecture PLLC
Brooklyn | 347-218-3813 |

Egbert Miles Chu: In terms of what the house already offered, one of the first things we noticed and fell in love with was the lush surroundings. The existing house had an abundance of windows and skylights that connected the interior to nature and provided amazing light throughout. We resculpted the interior spaces into large open areas that framed views and emphasized the home’s connection to the landscape.

DNJ: What did that resculpting entail?

Engelsman: It was essentially a full gut renovation down to the studs. We removed everything and were tasked with designing a new kitchen, formal and informal living spaces, bathrooms, laundry room, office, kids’ playrooms and a new master suite. These spaces are located on three floors, and we connected them with a new steel and glass staircase. Our goal was to get all these programs to work well together, providing separation between them while still having the feel of an open plan.

Clean Lines in Dining Room

DINING ROOM | A dining room light fixture composed of a collection of rods loosely mimics the metal balusters on the staircase. The custom live-edge walnut slab table seats a crowd. Custom hickory flooring coordinates with the table.

DNJ: What changes were made to the exterior?

Chu: The exterior of the house was very dated. There was a confused combination of stucco, wood siding and brick veneer, all in different colors. Several parts of the second floor popped out past the lower floor, which broke up the composition of the façade into lots of different pieces. We essentially started from scratch to recompose the façade, but within the parameters of the existing windows and doors. We used a restrained palette of French limestone cladding and black metal accents to smooth out the various “bump-outs” in the façade, creating what reads as two volumes connected by a sliver of metal and glass. We also had a bit of fun with the lower-level windows, giving each an angled recess for a unique overall look.

We were mindful of providing flexible spaces that feel intimate enough for a small group but that are open and connected enough to accommodate a large gathering — Architect Egbert Miles Chu

Detail of Exterior

DETAIL | Two wings of the home are connected by a glass and metal entry and stairwell. Recessed windows on the lower floors add interest to the façade.

DNJ: What were some challenges of the project? How did you address them?

Chu: The biggest, but also the most interesting, challenge was divid­ing the massive main space into a living room, sitting room, dining room and kitchen. We wanted to make sure that each of these spaces was well defined while still maintaining openness and connections among them. To accomplish this, we strategically composed a series of walls and openings.

Sitting Room

SITTING ROOM | The renovation included building a new wall to separate the sitting room and study from the entry and dining area.

Engelsman: The design is dependent on the placement of two main walls. The first separates the living room and kitchen from the dining area, and it also holds the new staircase. The second wall separates the sitting room and study from the entry and dining area. This wall also holds bookshelves.

Chu: It may seem counterintuitive, but we actually made the house feel larger and more dramatic by adding these two walls.

DNJ: How does the renovated home meet the needs of the family’s lifestyle?

Chu: The Chens are very social; they frequently host friends and family. When we were working on the layout—in particular the public living spaces — we were mindful of providing flexible spaces that feel intimate enough for a small group but that are open and connected enough to accommodate a large gathering. In response to the family’s way of living, the design aimed to emphasize communal cooking and dining.


KITCHEN | The homeowners cook and entertain often, so the team created large spaces for these activities.

DNJ: How did you furnish the interiors to reflect both the design concept and the family’s needs?

Engelsman: Elements such as the tile, flooring, sinks, faucets and lights were included in our scope of work. Because we were involved in everything down to the finish, fixture and furniture selection, we could make choices that were consistent with our intended aesthetic for the project.

Chu: We suggested items that are light, clean and modern. We strategically filled the large spaces without making them feel crowded. We aimed for the right balance between cozy and livable yet minimal and contemporary. Ultimately we think this works quite well and provides for a project that has a consistent feel all the way down to the details.

  • FRONT | A renovation of this Tenafly home included cladding the exterior in French limestone. “They were great clients to work with,” architect Brad Engelsman says. “They were incredibly collaborative, trusting our design direction and input while also bring­ing their own valuable thoughts and clear desires.”


  • DECK | Large windows and doors ensure a connection between indoors and outdoors.

    MASTER BATHROOM TUB | A skylight illuminates the shower and bathtub.


  • MASTER BATHROOM VANITY | The neutral palette and uncomplicated aesthetic continues in the master bath.


  • MASTER BATHROOM TUB | A skylight illuminates the shower and bathtub.