From the December 2016/January 2017 Issue  

Modern Makeover

Writer Meg Fox  |  Photographer Peter Rymwid  |  Designer Kingsley Belcher Knauss, CID, Professional Member ASID  |  Location Westfield, NJ
  • Covering the living room’s brick and wood fireplace surround with a horizontal-grained zebrawood veneer set the tone for the new modern style of the home. A calming neutral scheme is enhanced with a variety of textures, materials and pops of orange for warmth and visual impact. In addition, walls were opened up for better flow. “Frosted glass pocket doors between the living room and family room echo the rectangular recessed panels in the fireplace surround and allow the areas to be closed for privacy when entertain­ing,” designer Kingsley Belcher Knauss says.

  • Polished chrome and leather chairs—paired with a signature pop of orange—make up one of three seating arrangements in the living room that allow for intimate or group seating. Pinch-pleated silk drapery panels in gunmetal gray soften the space in modern style. Beyond the sliding doors is a home office and family room.

  • Dark-stained rift-sawn oak cabinets and contemporary hardware deliver the clean-lined feel the owners wanted in the remodeled kitchen. A glass, stone and steel mosaic backsplash creates contrast, and “playful Lucite seating and decorative lighting add personality to the space,” the designer says. The island’s dramatic waterfall top—in polished white quartzite—is juxtaposed by perimeter countertops in honed black granite with a leathered finish.

  • Incorporating a desk for daily planning and Internet use was a priority for homeowner Nicole Dossin. “I spend a lot of time in the kitchen,” she says. A multifunctional bar—equipped with a beverage center, microwave, sink and plenty of storage—frees up needed space in the tight dining room around the corner. It also functions as a snack prep space for the kids away from the cooking zone.

  • A built-in buffet made of zebrawood maximizes storage and serving space in a dining room niche. Magazine photos collected by the homeowner inspired many of the room’s custom features: channel-tufted chairs and the square rift-sawn oak table with book-matched top and hand-chiseled edge. A mica wall covering adds a bit of shimmer to the ceiling along with a vintage glass rod chandelier. Wall accents, such as a framed Kuba textile and ceremonial mask, reflect the husband’s South African roots.

  • The his-and-her dressing area “looks like our style and is so functional,” the homeowner says of the customized closet system made of wenge-look melamine. Lucite hardware echoes the translucency of the frosted glass panel doors. A center island and handy bench seating provide additional storage.

  • The repeated use of certain materials—in this case dark rift-sawn oak cabinets with flat panel doors in the master bathroom—helps to unify interior spaces. Each mirror is a functional medicine cabinet framed by LED-lighted Lucite panels. The undulating limestone backsplash adds textural interest to the serene scheme and ties in with the large-scale brick-patterned porcelain tile flooring.

Designer Kingsley Belcher Knauss transforms a Colonial-style home in Westfield to suit the owners’ modern tastes.

From the outside, Damien and Nicole Dossin’s center-hall Colonial fit right in with the other homes in the Westfield, New Jersey neighborhood, built around 1926. Inside is a different story, says Kingsley Belcher Knauss, a state-certified interior designer and principal of KBK Interior Design. “Inside, it has been transformed into a completely different space, but one that appeals to a wide spectrum of tastes.”

Modernists at heart, “We felt we could make it a little more modern and contemporary with clean lines and a more minimalist feel, Nicole Dossin says. She and her spouse grew to love the style in the place where they first met and lived: a modern apartment in Brussels, Belgium. “It was there we decided we liked modern and contemporary architecture and design.”

After relocating back to the United States, the couple purchased a house they outgrew after the birth of their two boys. They eventually purchased a larger home just up the street that gave them the space they needed, room to build a pool and the opportunity to customize with help from Knauss and associate designer Connie Henao in Westfield, NJ, architect Hildie Lazar of Lazar Architecture in Scotch Plains and builder Jim Peterson of Galaxy Building Contractors in Westfield.

Open Wide
“Even though the house had adequate square footage,” Dossin says, “it didn’t have good flow on the first floor and really needed a lot of updating.” Rooms within the center-hall plan were all dead ends with no connection to each other, she says. There also was no access to the main rooms from the back of the house.

Although a daunting task, the team united all of the first floor by dramatically enlarging the foyer openings to the living room and dining room and by changing the windows along the entire back of the home to single-pane French doors. “This created an open, light-filled gallery overlooking the pool area that connects the living room and kitchen,” Knauss says. The free flow from one space to the next also gives the feel of a much larger house. Traditional wood floors—refinished in a dark walnut stain—keep the house grounded by bridging the aesthetic divide between inside and out, she says.

For the interior design, “I wanted a minimalist look but not to the point of cold,” Dossin says. She favors straight lines and a soothing, monochromatic palette invigorated by texture. With family comfort a priority, and the traditional exterior to consider, “We didn’t want to go too modern,” she adds. “You wouldn’t put all “B&B Italia furniture in a Dutch Colonial.”

Clean & Consistent
Knauss, a professional member of the American Society of Interior Designers, honed in on the client’s vision of a serene, modern haven with a savvy mix of custom-upholstered pieces, sleek finishes and wood species ranging from dark rift-sawn oak to zebrawood that pay homage to Damien Dossin’s South African heritage. Those elements, which reappear throughout, combine with a palette of neutrals that share a common thread: layered gray tones, taupe and ivory along with pops of orange, one of Nicole Dossin’s favorite accent colors.

Because no rooms in the open plan are off limits to children and the family dog, practicality was key, says Knauss, who chose mostly commercial-grade textiles. Examples include the durable yet comfy chenille fabric that covers the armless sofas in the living room and the textured woven fabric on the tailored dining room chairs. Geometric-patterned area rugs—cut and bound from broadloom carpet—“gave the client the feel she desired without the expense of hand-tufted rugs,” Knauss says. Less vulnerable to kids and pets, and sized to accommodate the unique proportions of each room, it “made more sense,” she says, particularly in the oddly shaped dining room. “Square rugs can be hard to find.”

Going with the Grain
No longer isolated from adjacent rooms and central to the redesign, the living room helped set the tone for the new, modern style of the home. “Converting the wood-burning fireplace to gas was key,” Dossin says. So was replacing the traditional brick and wood surround with a sleek horizontal-grained zebrawood veneer. LED-lighted side panels accentuate the grain of the wood.

Furnished with multiple seating arrangements, “We use the living room quite a bit,” Dossin says. (There is also a family room/den, not pictured). “Kingsley was always talking about how you’ve got to be able to use and sit on the furniture and how it has to be comfortable.” The result is a room sophisticated enough for entertaining but easygoing and family-friendly. “It’s not a museum with velvet ropes.”

The reconfigured kitchen has a “minimal, slightly industrial feel,” Knauss says. Features include flat-panel dark rift-sawn oak cabinets and a glass, stone and steel mosaic backsplash. “The clean austerity of the kitchen is balanced with playful Lucite seating and decorative lighting that add personality to the space,” she says.

Besides the long center island—with a dramatic white quartzite waterfall countertop—the designer created two new functional spaces: a desk for daily planning and a multifunctional bar equipped with a beverage center, sink, microwave and more. It functions as a snack prep space away from the cooking zone, Knauss says, and also “frees up needed space in the tight dining room around the corner.”

Picture This
Magazine photos that Dossin collected inspired the dining room’s custom rift-sawn oak table and channel-tufted chairs. The square table—dictated by the shape of the small room—has a dramatic book-matched top and hand-chiseled edge that blends with the custom built-in buffet made of zebrawood. Sparkling mica wall covering on the ceiling provides a little shimmer, while the vintage glass rod chandelier completes the room like a piece of jewelry. “I wanted something really interesting…not just another drum-like fixture,” Dossin says. “Kingsley happened to be in Lambertville looking at antiques and found it. I love it. It’s like a throwback to the 1970s.”

Optimizing storage was a key consideration. “I don’t like clutter,” Dossin says. To that end, all drawers on the rift-sawn oak floating vanity in the remodeled master bathroom are functional and not impeded by existing plumbing. In the adjacent his-and-her dressing room, frosted glass doors on the faux wenge built-in closet system provide an orderly glimpse as to what’s inside without exposure to clutter. “It suits our style and is so functional,” Dossin says. “I have more drawer space than I know what to do with, and we don’t infringe on each other’s space.”

Reflecting on the renovation, “the interior turned out better than we expected thanks to Kingsley” and the team, who transformed their vision into a concrete design, Dossin says. “It was a great collaboration. “We are a happy family.”

Editor’s Note: For this project, KBK Interior Design won an ASID Design Excellence Gold Award for the best-designed residential space less than 3,000 square feet.