From the December 2020/January 2021 Issue  

Romancing The Stone

Writer Marirose Krall  |  Photographer Marisa Pellegrini  |  Designer Jennifer B. Meyer  |  Architect Ezio Columbro, AIA

In Califon, a 19th-century home gets a respectful revamp

The homeowner says the renovated residence “looks as if, first one house was built, then another house was built and the two were connected by a mostly glass breezeway. That was the concept.” The owners retained the two front doors. “You see how deeply inset they are in the solid, 18-inch-thick stone walls,” says the wife. “You can’t build that way anymore.”

The Civil-War-Era dwelling charmed the homeowner at first sight. “I’ve always loved stone houses,” she says. “I just fell in love with it.” Jennifer Meyer, owner of Jennifer B. Meyer Art Advisory + Interiors in Short Hills, understands the appeal. “It wasn’t practical, but it was adorable.” Still, the residence was going to need a lot of work to become habitable.

It was just the kind of challenge the homeowner, formerly a professor of architectural history, could embrace. “It was very important to me to retain, restore and respect the original structure while updating it for contemporary use.” The homeowner credits architect Ezio Columbro, of Columbro Architecture in Oldwick, with developing a workable plan to expand the house. “We wanted to restore it without overwhelming it,” says the homeowner, “which was tricky because its scale is so petite. I think he did an incredible job.”

Once the architectural work was completed, Meyer and the homeowner began selecting furnishings. The homeowner sought “an eclectic mix of vintage and modern. I wanted everything to be warm and comfortable so this would be a place that would welcome you to relax.” “Casual elegance” is the term Meyer uses to describe the aesthetic.

Meyer notes that the homeowner “gravitates toward industrial” elements in her home, as evidenced in the kitchen by the iron stair rail, the counter stools and the pendant lighting. The Tiger painting is a nod to the husband, who attended Princeton University.

The homeowner wanted the addition to include “an open living space, because that allows for really nice gatherings. She chose the colors because “the rich earth and jewel tones create warmth and a sense of being inviting.”

The master bedroom embodies that look with its primarily black-and-white palette and sophisticated furnishings. “Our bedroom is the most elegant of the spaces,” says the homeowner. “It’s really a haven.” Elsewhere in the home, earth tones and neutrals share space with pops of color. “We both always knew this home was going to have color,” says Meyer.

The Murano glass chandelier, which the homeowners purchased in Venice, was the starting point for the décor in the master bedroom. “It’s so elegant. I wanted to go a little bit Fred-and-Ginger in there,” says the wife, who considers this room to be a haven. “Every time I walk into it, I kind of exhale.”

Because the house is built into a hill, the master bedroom has outdoor access even though it’s on the upper floor. The abstract landscape painting over the fireplace came from the homeowners’ former residence. Meyer “beefed it up with a fun, over-framed look.”

In the kitchen, color comes in the form of an orange-backed sofa with a multicolored, striped seat, a lively touch against the deep gray cabinetry. In the dining room, rose tones in the rug and an assortment of bright hues on the seats of the dining chairs “worked well with the earth tones that are naturally in the home from the stone and the wood,” according to Meyer.

Bold color juxtaposed with earth tones also comes into play in the office/studio space, part of a separate building previously used as a barn. “I wanted a riot of colors,” says the homeowner. She got her wish. A hot pink desk chair and stylized floral fabric on the sofa and ottoman infuse the old stone structure with kinetic energy. Meyer notes that “it’s an unexpectedly vibrant space.”

Meyer says the wife “knew she wanted pink and orange” in the office/studio, which is located in an outbuilding that was formerly a barn. “Jen and I went wild,” laughs the homeowner.

Perhaps the most striking element in the office is the art – a vivid piece discovered by Meyer, whose background includes a stint as a corporate art consultant. The brilliant colors in the artwork set the course for the rest of the furnishings. “We love living with art,” says the homeowner, who has a Ph.D. in art history. “We like things that are dynamic and engaging.”

Engaging art is, in fact, the first thing visitors see when they arrive. The entry courtyard features a stainless steel abstract sculpture that, with its base, rises to almost nine feet. The dramatic piece “took well over a year to find,” says Meyer. It was worth the wait. The homeowners “were thrilled to have an outdoor piece that anchors the courtyard and provides a focal point when you come up the drive.”

Meyer praises the homeowners’ finely-honed design sensibilities for the success of this project. “They have a great appreciation for materials,” she notes. “Every piece of furniture we chose is beautiful in its own right. Nothing was purchased simply because it matched something else. We loved every single piece and every piece was high quality.” The admiration is mutual. “It was such a fun collaboration,” says the homeowner. “Jen understood me. She respected what I liked. She has a great eye. I just love my home.”