From the August/September 2023 Issue  

Woodland Chic

Writer Ren Miller  |  Photographer Marco Ricca  |  Designer Elizabeth Guest  |  Location Mountainside, NJ

Wallpaper with forest scenes inspires a Mountainside bathroom

The scenic wallpaper seemingly continues to the woodland visible through the windows

Just like the greening of trees signals rebirth each spring, so does the mural wallpaper in this primary bathroom represent a new beginning for a home in Mountainside, New Jersey. The wallpaper captures forest scenes that echo the woodlands visible through the windows of the home, which interior designer Elizabeth Guest’s parents built in the 1970s.

Guest grew up in the home and returned frequently for visits after moving to Hunterdon County to raise her family and launch her business, Elizabeth Guest Interiors LLC. Her mother loved the home and, over the years, encouraged Guest to think about moving back someday. But the home had so much of her mother’s tastes and spirit that Guest couldn’t envision living there again.

That changed a few years ago when her mother passed away after a brief illness around the same time that Guest began to think her own now-empty nest was too large for just one person. With the encouragement of her family, she looked at her mother’s house through a new lens and decided she could, indeed, honor its heritage while making it her own.

A two-year, top-to-bottom redesign included a reassignment of space on the second floor. Her mother’s bedroom became a spacious primary bathroom with an expanded closet, spaces for a shower and a water closet on opposite walls, and a bathtub between two windows on the exterior wall. Wrapping it all is “Arcadia” mural wallpaper from Iksel Decorative Arts, an international brand with offices in Istanbul and London and available in the United States through Schumacher.

Old and new mingle harmoniously in the antique Dutch marquetry dressing table and the modern mirrored chest.

“I’ve always wanted to use Iksel wallpaper,” Guest says. “This bathroom was the perfect place for it because the room looks out onto woodland that is part of the New Jersey Green Acres Program. When you walk into the bathroom, it looks like the trees in the wallpaper keep going to the outside.”

The wallpaper was not without challenges. Guest spent an entire Saturday measuring the room, not only the height and width of each wall, but also the doors, windows and space between the windows down to the quarter inch. She sent the elevations to Iksel in Turkey, and the company’s experts planned the layout. The wallpaper series that Guest chose has 36 panels and, because it’s a continuous scene, she couldn’t randomly pick certain panels. She knew she wanted a panel that pictures a pond to be placed directly behind the bathtub, and the remaining panels flow from there. “It worked out really well because parts of the scene that were mostly just brown hills and roads fell behind a mirror or over a window and were cut out.”

The designer framed the wallpaper with crown, base and window molding painted deep green. She originally considered a white tile floor but then decided to refinish the existing wood floor and strategically placed rugs to protect it from water. To brighten the room, she chose a white oval tub and white vanity with a large mirror flanked by silvery sconces with white shades. On the opposite side of the room is an antique Dutch marquetry dressing table, a bench and a mirror, all of which Guest acquired years ago while working at Sotheby’s. She also added a mirrored chest that sits against the water closet wall, creating a subtle shimmer while reflecting the wallpaper. Above the chest is a custom stained-glass window that channels daylight from the water closet to the rest of the room.

Guest credits Richard Barr of Plumberry Designs for helping with the details of the cabinetry and the logistics of the room’s layout.

The finishing touch — literally the last thing she added to the room — is a mirror with an antiqued gold finish that hangs sun-like over the bathtub. “It was the perfect punctuation point for this room,” Guest says.